Alan Cole is Not a Coward by Eric Bell
The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy
A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner
Alan Cole is Not a Coward by Eric Bell
The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy
A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner
All historical, all queer, all out! This new anthology, edited by Saundra Mitchell, just released from Harlequin Teen and contains a host of queer historical stories by so many faves! (And also me!) Thankfully, many of those faves agreed to share a little about their stories here, so check it out, make good use of those buy links, and enjoy!
(Photographs are mine.)
Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.
I’m delighted to have a number of the contributors sharing a bit about their stories!
Anna-Marie McLemore, “Roja”
“Roja” began as a reimagining of the story of Leonarda Emilia, better known as La Carambada, the legendary Mexican outlaw who flashed her breasts at the rich men she robbed, so they would know without a doubt that they’d been bested by a woman. But along the way, my imagining of La Carambada wandered, as my stories often do, into the realm of fairy tale. My Emilia became a Mexican version of Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf emerged as a transgender French soldier who garners his own fierce reputation. The forbidding woods became the hills of Mexico in the 1870s, a country in the aftermath of a brutal war.
Maybe the Frenchman the real Leonarda Emilia loved wasn’t a transgender soldier. Maybe most people don’t think of a Mexican girl when they imagine Little Red Riding Hood. But for the time it took me to write “Roja,” I got to imagine both Red and La Carambada as both queer and Latina. Writing “Roja” made these stories feel like they belonged to girls like me.
Natalie C. Parker, “The Sweet Trade”
I am a life-long fan of pirate stories, historical and fictional. As a kid, I believed that the only people who became pirates were boys and men. This was certainly what I’d learned from history—Blackbeard and Calico Jack—and definitely what was reflected in fiction—Long John Silver and Captain Hook. When I finally discovered that girls and women were also a part of the historical narrative (Anne Bonny! Madame Cheng!), I immediately wanted to find their reflection in fiction. They are there, but those who land in the adventure tend to find themselves sidetracked to the adventures of boys and are rarely queer in any way.
I wrote “The Sweet Trade” because I wanted to see queer girls choosing adventure and choosing each other. I wanted to explore the origin story of two girls breaking away from the expectations of others and striking out on their own. In that way, it’s sort of a pre-pirate story, the opening gambit in what will surely be a grand adventure.
Nilah Magruder, “And They Don’t Kiss at the End”
It’s all in the title, really. I wrote “And They Don’t Kiss at the End” because I needed a story with no kissing. Romance and sex always made me a little uncomfortable, not just in practice, but in theory. I ran from declarations of love and admiration from friends. I scrunched my face and turned away when the guy got the girl in movies. I thought I was a “late bloomer” when this aversion persisted into adulthood. I kept waiting to meet “the one” to cure my indifference, and they never came. This story is an exploration of asexuality in the 1970’s, at a time when terminology to describe asexuality was still being formed. It was a chance for me to imagine different choices than the ones I made in my youth. Getting to gush about Pride & Prejudice with roller skating as a backdrop was also a plus.
Dahlia Adler, “Molly’s Lips”
I used to fear writing short stories because I didn’t know how to make them feel like a complete story without death. I’ve grown since then, but death is still very much present in “Molly’s Lips”— specifically, that of Kurt Cobain, deceased frontman of my favorite band, Nirvana; the story is set at his big vigil in Seattle on April 10, two days after his body was found. And it isn’t about girls falling in love; they’ve already fallen. It’s about finding the voice, the confidence, the words to share those feelings, and the bravery they were given by someone who had the courage to push back against bigotry in his fandom. It’s also a love story with its own built-in soundtrack; what could be better than that?
Mackenzi Lee, “Burnt Umber”
My family is from the Netherlands–my dad grew up in a Dutch farming community in Iowa, my last name (which is not Lee) is very long and starts with a Van, and I have a fondness for all poetry from Delft. When this anthology invitation came my way, I was about to go to Amsterdam to research a different writing project. While there, my already-existing fascination with Dutch art from the Golden Age became an obsession. I wanted to know all about painting, why these paintings existed, what it took to become a master painter and the commodification surrounding art and masterpieces. Art that, in its day was considered commercial trash is now hanging in galleries people from all over the world visit. It was all a lot of information that had no place in the book about flowers I was researching, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to use it. But when I visited Rembrandt’s studio in Holland, I knew I wanted to write something set in the Dutch art world and this story was a perfect opportunity.
One of my favorite things to do in my writing is take the tropes of historical or genre narratives and give them to queer characters. This story is “draw me like one of your French girls” from Titanic. It’s Girl with the Pearl Earring. It’s the Vincent Van Gogh episode of Dr. Who. But it’s two boys, an artist’s studio, a significant lack of clothing, and a whole lot of awkward teenage crush.
Alex Sanchez, “The Secret Life of the Teenage Boy”
“The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy” takes place in 1969, when I was a teen bursting with romantic yearning. Although I was aware of my attraction toward other boys, I had no positive words to put to those intimate feelings—only negative slurs. People rarely spoke openly or honestly about sex. Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. Acting on it was a criminal offense. I didn’t know of any openly gay people. The term “gay” had barely even come into use. In my teenage isolation, I fantasized for hours about a strong handsome young guy who would swoop into my life and carry me away to a place where we could be free to love each other. This story is a reminiscence of what it was like to live in that time and place, yearning for a life and a world that would take years to come.
Kate Scelsa, “The Coven”
Since I started working on my theater company’s adaptation of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” back in 2010, I’ve done a lot of reading about Hemingway and his peers in Paris in the 20’s, and something that’s always fascinated me was Hemingway’s relationship with Gertrude Stein and this whole community of lesbians that he used to hang out with. The vision of Gertrude Stein as a kind of den mother has always appealed to me, so I wanted to give her that role with two young women who were still figuring out who they were to each other. And then of course Hemingway himself needed to make an appearance. And, yes, there are witches.
Tess Sharpe, “The Girl With the Blue Lantern”
I grew up in Gold Rush country, in the shadow of a mountain that has many stories and myths attached to it. I also grew up writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy instead of the contemporary mysteries and thrillers I write now, so being able to create a historical fantasy piece was a special treat.
People still make a living pulling gold from the water and dirt in my childhood county. I’ve panned little flakes and tiny nuggets out of the creek that snakes through our homestead myself. Gold has been a strong motivator for many things throughout our history: war, destruction, greed, murder, exploitation, exploration, colonization.
But in “The Girl with the Blue Lantern,” gold leads us to a very different place: love. A story of escape and acceptance, of gold sprites, and of one very silly dog named Virgil.
Kody Keplinger, “Walking After Midnight”
“Walking After Midnight” is, at it’s core, a love letter to the trope of “two strangers meet and walk around talking all night.” I’m a sucker for stories like Before Sunrise, and I thought it would be fun to explore that sort of narrative between two young queer women. Betsey is an actress who hasn’t quite made the leap from child star to leading lady the way someone like Elizabeth Taylor did. Laura is a waitress at her family’s diner and isn’t sure she’ll ever escape her small town. I loved exploring these girls’ opposing situations, their hopes and fears. And getting to write about Betsey, whom I’d describe as gray-asexual, was a joy. Plus, I mean, I got to use all the things I’ve learned from the You Must Remember This podcast to good use!
Tessa Gratton, “Three Witches”
As a queer “recovering” Catholic and occasionally practicing witch, I’ve for years been aware of the threads of desire that can be found in medieval Catholic writing. Usually it’s desire for heaven or Christ’s touch, especially to the nuns considered to be “married” to Christ, but often this desire surpasses the flesh in queer ways, especially in the writings of the female mystics like St. Teresa of Avila. In “Three Witches” I wanted to explore the desire embedded in the prayers and explorations of medieval nuns, as well as the inherent conflict between desire and purity in the imagery and words associated with the Virgin Mary. The Inquisition was the strongest political force in Spain during the 15th century, hunting predominantly Jewish people and Muslims, but also available to excise anything unwanted from the Church. Including “unnatural” desire.
That’s all to say: I wanted to write a sexy, difficult story about two girls falling in love (and in lust) while grappling with what they’re told they should desire. And I wanted to write about witches.
Sara Farizan, “The End of the World as We Know It”
I know 1999 is a year that should not belong in a historical fiction anthology, but it was almost twenty years ago! I wanted to write a story that took place at the end of the twentieth century and encapsulated some of the hopes and fears people had going into the new century. Ezgi and Katie, two life- long best friends who have a strained relationship, also have their own hopes and fears for the future that come to light on New Year’s Eve while watching MTV’s countdown to midnight. When you think the world might come to an end, and tomorrow might mean the end of civilization as you know it (Y2K, man. What a trip), you have to hold on to the people you care about most, no matter how scary or daunting that may seem.
Shaun David Hutchinson, “The Inferno and the Butterfly”
I love magic. And what’s more magical than finding love in an unexpected place? “The Inferno and the Butterfly” was a story I’ve been dying to tell. I’ve always been fascinated by stage magicians, and though Alfie and Wilhelm might be the assistants, they’re the ones performing the real magic.
During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Lynn Charles, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson, and Lilah Suzanne share their stories about the magic of the season.
“Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree” by Killian B. Brewer
Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.
“True North” by Pene Henson
Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.
“Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille” by Erin Finnegan
As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.
“Halfway Home” by Lilah Suzanne
Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.
“Shelved” by Lynn Charles
When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.
Buy it: Interlude Press
The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.
At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.
To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.
If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.
The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.
Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive, and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.
Buy it: Entangled
Zacriah Trovirn is concerned with two things in life: hunting and dodging Petrer, the boy who broke his heart.
Heartbreak becomes a distant concern when Zacriah is taken to the Elven capital of Thessolina, where he is forced into King Dalior’s new legion of shapeshifters. But Zacriah isn’t a shapeshifter. In truth, he doesn’t know what he is.
Zacriah joins forces with new friends and they soon find themselves embroiled in a clash between the three Elven continents. With war looming on the horizon, Zacriah must learn to use his latent power to fight and protect those he loves before they are destroyed.
Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.
Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.
Revolution is nigh, and one seventeen-year-old girl stands at the head of it all.
Jae used to be a slave, laboring with the rest of her people under a curse that forced her to obey any order she was given. At seventeen, she found the source of her people’s lost magic and became the only person to break free—ever. Now she wants to use her power to free the rest of her people, but the ruling class will do anything to stop her.
Jae knows that breaking the curse on her people would cause widespread chaos, even unimaginable violence between the castes, and her caste would likely see the worst of it. Many would die. But to let them remain shackled is to doom them to continue living without free will.
How is one girl, raised a slave and never taught to wield power, supposed to decide the fate of a nation?
(Note: this is a sequel to a non-LGBTQ book, and contains f/f romance)
Accountant and financial advisor Lacey Chamberlain doesn’t consider herself a control freak. She’s merely a planner—orderly, neat, and content in her tidy little life. When a marketing firm moves into the empty office next door, the loud-music-playing, stinky-food-ordering, kickball-in-the-hall staff make Lacey crazy.
Marketing expert Alicia Wright is spontaneous, flies by the seat of her pants, and lives in the moment—all the things Lacey is not. She’s also gorgeous, thoughtful, and seems determined to make Lacey like her.
They say opposites attract, but for how long? And is that really a good idea?
Miniature artist Ian Meyers has one week to rebuild his damaged set. Needing help, he goes to End o’ Earth, the local comic and gaming shop. Owner Simon Derry pushes all of Ian’s buttons, and he also has steady hands and the skills Ian needs.
Before they can even grab a beer, Ian meets Lydia Derry, Simon’s wife. If Ian had any interest in women, he’d suggest a threesome, but then Simon explains that he and Lydia are polyamorous, and if Ian wants Simon, neither of them will complain. If anything, Lydia encourages the relationship.
Ian’s all in, and it’s fantastic working with Simon to piece together his set and then take each other apart at night. His friendship with Lydia grows too. The only problem is, the more time he spends with Simon, the more he wants everything Simon already has with Lydia: A house. A cat. A commitment. So Ian runs, and shatters the trust he has with them both—right when they need him the most. Piecing their relationships back together might prove harder than a smashed set.
Buy it: Riptide
These top YA authors tackle the much-debated trope of the love triangle, and the result is sixteen fresh, diverse, and romantic stories you don’t want to miss.
This collection, edited by Natalie C. Parker, contains stories written by Renee Ahdieh, Rae Carson, Brandy Colbert, Katie Cotugno, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagan, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, EK Johnston, Julie Murphy, Garth Nix, Natalie C. Parker, Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, and Brenna Yovanoff.
A teen girl who offers kissing lessons. Zombies in the Civil War South. The girl next door, the boy who loves her, and the girl who loves them both. Vampires at a boarding school. Three teens fighting monsters in an abandoned video rental store. Literally the last three people on the planet.
(Note: this is not an LGBTQ anthology, but a significant number of the contributions are. Representation includes but is not limited to lesbian, bisexual, genderqueer, and polyamorous.)
Queer lit by great authors for zero dollars in easily devourable slices? Totally accessible whether you’ve got funds and/or a credit card or not? Helllll yes. Please enjoy the authors providing the goods for free, and consider checking out what else they’ve got where applicable!
Alison Evans, author of Long Macchiatos and Monsters, Ida, and more (scroll down for links and brief descriptions)
Brandon Taylor, Assistant Editor at Electric Lit, as posted on Catapult
“They Called Us” and “Little Shop of Superstitions” by Natalie Parker, via The Hanging Gardens
“Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live” by Sacha Lamb, via Book Smugglers
“The Cure” by Malinda Lo, via Interfictions