Book Review: It Felt Like A Kiss, by Leena Prasad

[Reviewed by Nicole Arocho]

As I read “It Felt Like a Kiss”, Leena Prasad’s words were a contagious rhythm of artistic truths, or I should rather say, statements, for she encourages the reader to discover his or her own truths just like she did. As an artist myself, I am constantly looking at art in different ways as I keep growing up and my different experiences mold my artistic senses and perspectives. Leena Prasad accomplishes a delicate fusion between a personal essay and informative text that drives us to imagine every single place she describes, every mural or piece of art that moves her to analyze her place in the colorful Mission district of San Francisco. Her personal discovery catapults the reader to question his or her perspectives just like the author did, to internalize the different artistic venues in their town and think of their impact in their lives. Art is an intrinsic part of the Mission District, and each type evokes different emotions and thoughts in the author, which she shares with us with transparency. Each experience is shared with insights of her life, and this makes the book very real and tangible, almost as if you could be right there with her, experiencing the magnetic appeal of art by her side. My favorite “essay” was Shut Up Honky because it showed me a new way of looking at graffiti stencils as “dialogue”, not as ill-intentioned messages. Thus, they become a way of having a conversation, of showing the varied opinions and nuances of this rich community.

You can contact the reviewer, Nicole Arocho, at narocho3@gmail.com.

For Prasad, art is an expression of “a meaning beyond aesthetic pleasure”, of something that not just makes you feel good, but that makes you think, analyze, discern an ulterior meaning of the artist. To me, art is not just an expression of emotions, but art, either intentionally or unintentionally, presents something of the artist. That can be personality, ideology, religion, political beliefs, etc. Outside people who can connect with these, who feel compatible with the artist, thus buy the pieces. Each piece of art has meaning, and Leena Prasad shows this with her book. All the murals mean something to her, and she realizes that these meanings are unique to each person. The discovery of this meaning is the mission that led her to the creation of this book, and she exhorts us to follow her footsteps and explore art around us. One of my favorite quotes is: “I look at these murals and think about how art can transport, connect, and open up our world… even as we sit eating a bagel and sipping a coffee in a neighborhood café.” This resumes the whole idea of the book. Leena Prasad explored through the art of the Mission District her place in the city, her connection to it and what attracted her to it in the first place. It sends her in a journey of self-discovery, of reliving her beginnings in art and why she was attracted to it in the first place. As readers, we are immersed in this journey thanks to Prasad’s beautiful language, cunning insights and honest voice, receiving a “kiss” of the Mission Districts’ unique culture through her eyes.

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