An excerpt of Climbing the Date Palm, the sequel to The Second Mango, featuring its two bisexual characters. Chef Aviva calls out Prince Kaveh’s casual misogyny while teaching him the fundamentals of culinary knife work, and then they commiserate over the similarities and differences in their experiences with biphobia.
“I’d much rather be in here, learning honest toil. Before I walked through that door, I felt completely useless, like a forlorn… I don’t know, a captured maiden in a legend.”
Aviva lifted a sunny face to his and asked serenely, “So feeling useless makes you a woman?”
“I didn’t mean it like that. I—” He picked up the knife again.
“Now we’re going to cut across,” she said in a low voice, wanting to make it clear she wasn’t finished with the other conversation. She began to demonstrate, and he followed her lead.
“Okay, so some real women aren’t like that. But women in legends — somehow in stories, it’s always—”
Piles of neatly diced onions gathered in the wake of their knives.
“Yes, women in stories. Here’s another onion.” She plunked it unceremoniously next to his pile of translucent white squares. “Tell me, Highness, the people like us in stories. What are they like?”
Kaveh grimaced, and he stared off into space for a moment. “Maybe you’ve made your point.”
“Then stick your point into that onion skin and keep going!” She flashed him a sparkling grin and fished another onion off the pile for herself.
“Why do they hate us?” Kaveh’s words fell from slack lips, and the rest of him was drooping morosely. “What’s the point? I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“They don’t hate me. They just like me for the wrong reasons.” There was a rare hint of sadness in her voice.
Illustration by Erin Ptah