Today’s booklist includes ‘How Beautiful The Ordinary: 12 stories of identity’ edited by Michael Cart, ‘All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages’ edited by Saundra Mitchell and ‘Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined To Meet’ — all the three books are anthologies, mostly consisting of short stories.
They talk about discovering and understanding the different sexualities, beautiful, wild and magical romance, and most of all, choosing and standing up for and by our love, what makes us alive and happy.
‘HOW BEAUTIFUL THE ORDINARY: 12 STORIES OF IDENTITY’
This is an anthology edited by Michael Cart, consisting of 9 short stories, 1 longer short story/ very short novella and 2 graphic short stories. All of which inexhaustably explores the LGBTQ+ community.
This book has been the Lambda Literary Award Finalist for LGBT Children’s/ Young Adult Literature. Booklist also added the work to its Rainbow List 2010.
The first story, ‘A Word from the Nearly Distant Part’ by David Levithan is honestly one of the most apt opening stories I’ve ever read in an anthology. As the name depicts, the story is like a note from the ghosts of nearly distant past, who are no less present and no less absent. They watch over Neil Hayden cheerfully walking to his boyfriend’s house, and blue haired Ryan in a gay prom. They are glad all this is possible now, and because of them. But they apologize for remembering – “We cannot see you without thinking of ourselves, we were the ones who were dreaming and loving and screwing… the generation of like-loving souls that was cut down before you were born.”
The second story, ‘Happily Ever After’, a graphic story by award winning cartoonist, Eric Shanower takes a magical turn with a high school secret gay couple and a wish granting genie, who later declares all wishes to be null and void. But magic is still found at the end.
Next in the anthology is Ron Koertge’s ‘My Life As A Dog’. Noah has divided his life into human and dog. And how liberating he feels when he wakes up as a dog- running, jumping, moving from home to home at his own accord. As compared to his human life when the guys who beat him up become the blue van; and when Noah comes out to his father, Martin says, ‘This is the medication taking’. It is a highly imaginative story depicting the difficulties of coming out of gay teens, and how one distinctively copes with those difficulties.
Winner of Margaret A. Edwards Award, Jacqueline Woodsons’ ‘Trev’ is a story of a little girl, who is really a boy. The story takes us to Trev’s kindergarten years and boyish clothes, the summer his brother started avoiding him, till the dreams where he is actually a boy and no one looks twice at him. Trev thrives in his own identity superheroically, swooping down from over the world, his troop flying up to him and saving the world ‘from mortal disaster’.
The fifth story in the anthology, ‘My Virtual World’ World’ is by another Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner, Franseca Lia Block. In the story, blue boy and miss r.e. struggling with their own beings, meet online and find comfort and surprising satisfaction within each other. The story even provides answers to questions like ‘does being a girl and liking a boy who once was a girl, make one a lesbian?’
Inspired by the poem ‘The Highwayman’ , two time winner of Michael L. Printz Honor Award, Margo Lanagan’s ‘A Dark Red Love Knot’ is set in the early 1900s. It is a story of forbidden love. Of longing for a night in the past and another almost here. Of a drunken darling from the men’s army and a sober one with promises. Tactically detailed, this short story is absolutely dazzling.
Next is William Sleator’s ‘Fingernail’. Set in Thailand, it is a story very much present in this world. It is about the quest of love and lessons learnt, quite literally. The story of Lep, in his own unfiltered narration is extremely engaging.
Cartoonist Ariel Sehrag’s tiny graphic story ‘Dyke March’ is a funny and noticeably existential tourist eye view of a Dyke March where you get to see the smallest penis of the world and take photos with a topless girl.
‘The Missing Person’ by Jennifer Finney Boylan is the story where Li Fung went missing and Jimmey, fed up being trapped in the walls of his own home, decided to become Jenny instead.
Writer of ‘Luna’, a National Book Award finalist , the first YA novel to feature a transgender character, Julie Anne Peters takes us to Jesi and Nicolle’s explorations as they journey through the memories of their time together, the doubts and curiosities and their love during the ‘First Time’.
Emma Donoghue’s ‘Dear Lang’ is by far the most emotionally heavy one out of the 12 stories. It is written in the form of a letter from an unbiological mother to her unbiological daughter from whom she has not heard for the last fourteen years.
Last one in the anthology is Gregory Maguire’s ‘The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck N.H.’ It is a short novella without any bounds of time, moving from past to present and back. A story of an ‘accidental’ summer romance; the love from which never really ceased flowing.
Although ‘Fingernail’, ‘A Dark Red Love Knot’, ‘Dear Lang’ and ‘The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck N.H.’ has been my absolute favorites with details, that are usually thought impossible with stories of this length; each of the stories in this book are beautiful with elements so unique and identities so wonderfully explored.
‘ALL OUT: THE NO-LONGER-SECRET STORIES OF QUEER TEENS THROUGHOUT THE AGES’
Edited by Saundra Mitchell, this book consists of 17 short stories set in the vast range of years from the late 14th century till the end of the 90s.
As the name suggests, all the stories are about queer teens- how they lived and loved and shaped the world. Apart from romance and incidents of coming out, there’s a ton of magic in the collection. And the diversity of time just adds up to the charisma.
It opens with the tale of ‘Roja’ by Anna-Marie McLemore from 1870. Inspired from the real story of Leonarda Emilia, McLemore has added a dash of magic, so powerful that can poison one’s own existence. And the result is a beautifully crafted story – precise and bold.
Natalie C. Parker takes us back to 1717 with ‘Sweet Trade’ where two teen girls, each running away from their respective weddings, meet on a sloop and plan to take over the sea under starlight.
Nilan Magruder’s ‘And They Don’t Kiss At The End’ explores the less spoken-about sexuality, where a teen does not find giggling coyly while talking about kisses and touches amusing.
In Mackenzi Lee’s ‘Burnt Umber’, a lovely romance is built up gradually and unknowingly in the painting classes in 1638 whole reaching for the wrong people.
Robin Talley writes a fun story set in 1726, Kenington Palace in his ‘The Dresser and the Chambermaid’ – their first meeting, first laugh and first kisses.
In Malindo Lo’s ‘New Year’, a teen girl understands her sexual preferences while gazing towards the block lined with clubs, where a glamorous ‘male impersonator’ performs.
Dahlia Adler’s ‘Molly’s Lips’ is set when thousands have gathered to mourn Kurt Cobain’s death. Just as we find ourselves in one song or the other, so did two teen girls; and now they would never forget the moment Cobain killed himself.
‘The Coven’ by Kate Scelsa, once again stirs the ageold debate of the existence of witches. When Dean is finally light again, a kiss from the beloved is all that is needed.
We go back to the late 14th century with Elliot Wake’s ‘Every Shade of Red’, which does have a little semblance with the tale of Robin Hood. But the love and grief portrayed is unique and deeply felt.
‘Willows’ by Scott Tracey is set in an island cursed by the witches. But can two boys go to back to the ones who cursed them, to save their love?
Tess Sharpe’s ‘The Girl With The Blue Lantern’ is another magical story of a mundane girl falling in love with one, whose world lies beneath the surface of water.
‘The Secret Life Of A Teenage Boy’ by Alex Sanchez is a story to be deeply understood where secrets untold are felt with welcome warmth.
Kody Keplinger’s ‘Walking After Midnight’ is a fun little story of two girls- one tired of trying to find a home and another of being stuck at home.
Sara Farizan’s ‘The End Of The World As We Know It’ is set in December, 1999 where the apocalypse never comes, but love does find it’s way.
Tessa Gratton’s ‘Three Witches’ set in 1519 is a story of a girl sent to get better after committing a sin of loving another girl.
‘The Inferno and The Butterfly’ by Shaun David Hutchinson is a story of two young lads working in the circus, full of secrets. But is magic really just a truck on the eyes?
The book ends with another magically powerful story, ‘Healing Rosa’ by Tehlor Kay Mejia, caressing the longing if love — being timid, helpless and ferocious all at once.
All the characters portrayed in this book are extremely lively. Making us live through all the centuries and smiling through their happiness, tearing up at their loss. ‘All Out – The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer teens Throughout The Ages’ is a very strong and beautiful book. A must read to understand the dimensions of love and that really, love is love.
‘MEET CUTE: SOME PEOPLE ARE DESTINED TO MEET’
This is a collection of 14 short stories by beautiful writers. Each of the stories describe the first meeting or the first felt spark leading to romance.
Unlike the above mentioned books, not every story in ‘Meet Cute’ explores the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, the stories collected are rather diverse -be it sexuality, financial problems, social class, body images and even a bit of magic. As for emotions, though love is prevalent in all the stories, grief, betrayal, comfort, insecurities also play important roles.
Where the other two books are set in times a little older than us, most of the stories in this one is set in the present times with a few being in the pro future.
The book starts with ‘Seige Etiquette’ by Katie Cotugno where in a party raided by the police, the reader being the protagonist trapped in a bathroom with the usually unnoticed Wolf, which results in unveiling a sad past and an uncertain future in both parts.
In Nina Lacour’s ‘Print Shop’, we are filled with the soothing aroma of ink and paper with a lovely gay couple and a chance meeting of two teen girls as a beginning of romance.
Next, we explore different body types and skin colours – the insecurities and acceptances in Ibi Zaboi’s ‘Hourglass’.
Katherine McGee’s ‘Click’ presents to us a future we can almost now see – where finding a date who matches you to the T is just a click away. But can online statistics really find love?
‘The Intern’ by Sara Shepard tells us a tale of how a stranger’s company and a look in their eyes tells us to trust them with such ferocity that we open your locked out heart and spill our grief and share our lamest jokes with them.
A beautiful expectant love story in between a confident transgender girl and a scared insecure lesbian is painted by Meredith Russo in her short story ‘Somewhere That’s Green’.
Dhonielle Clayton’s ‘The Way We Love Here’ is set on the magical Isle of Meridian where live is predetermined by marks on the skin that disappear and reappear with the probability of meeting the ‘soulmate’. But what happens when a pair of teens want to see places where love can be chosen at will?
‘Oomph’ by Emery Lord is a delightful girl-meets-girl story set in an airport with delayed flights and airport s’mores, and finally, finally asking for her number before she boards.
Jennifer L. Armentrout’s ‘The Dictionary of You and Me’ is a romance, slowly built over the library phone and the final reveal has a rather festive mood.
Jocelyn Davie’s ‘The Unlikely Likelihood Of Falling In Love’ had me grounding fir the success of a statistics project – a romance built on data probability.
‘259 Million Miles’ by Kass Morgan is set in the far future where going on a oneway journey to Mars isn’t entirely unusual. It is a rather good mix of this-wordly unpleasant affairs, betrayal and later reassurance. This story did remind me of the YouTube original series, ‘Origin’.
‘Something Real’ by Julie Murphy starts with the reel of a reality show where two girls competing to date a celebrity, end up kissing each other.
Huntley Fitzpatrick’s ‘Say Everything’ deals with financial problems, a beautifully meaningful first date and a house by the bay filled with memories of childhood.
And last but not the least, Nicola Yoon’s ‘The Department Of Dead Love’ explores the four, coloured buildings dedicated to heart break. It is set in a future where the narrator wonders “What did the people do before the Department of Dead Love existed? Did they just live with uncertainty, never quite knowing why love ended? What a cruel time that must have been? “
14 stories, perfectly balancing the collection with their uniqueness and diversity was actually a brilliant read.
The LGBTQ+ community, though is being represented and understood more and more in the recent years, it is still not enough.
And the existence of these wonderful books dedicated to love of every kind, through adventures and magic, from past till future are excellent tools to encourage the understandings.