My rating: 5 of 5 stars
With issue 11, Jonathan diversifies from fiction written by gay men to fiction written “by self-identified queer writers from all across the LGBTQ spectrum.” I haven’t read the previous ten issues, but the quality of the stories in issue 11 convinces me to purchase the back issues and also look forward to upcoming issues.
Many of these stories are about acceptance and transformation. “Skylark” by Lucy Jane Bledsoe is about a song that needs to be sung, and it sets a tone of affirmation for the entire issue that I just love. This first story leads into “The Wilderness” by Norman Belanger, one that captures coming-of-age in the 1970s, and a different kind of affirmation. I love how the tone and mood changes from story to story, providing a variety that led me eagerly from one story to the next.
Some of the stories lead to danger. “Bird Bones” by Calvin Moen abruptly confronts the dangers of violent bigotry near the end, and I held my breath while reading how it turned out for the protagonist. “Going to the Grampas” by George K. Isley is even darker: what begins as a beautiful, idyllic fairy tale setting and circumstance is eventually revealed as something evil and stomach-turning. Not every story can have a happy ending.
For whatever reason, I was expecting realistic fiction, but I was delighted to read both realistic and fantastic stories, including
magical realism fabulism, fairy tale, and supernatural. I also appreciate how these stories explore the complexity of their characters rather than just their queerness. Stories like “Pilgrim Soul” by Trebor Healey is about pain and death and human connection, with a protagonist that just happens to be gay. Whether these stories are specifically about LGBTQ-related experiences or explore more universal topics, they are all wildly successful. The editor obviously took great care in selecting these stories and arranging them in a fascinating order.
I’m eager to read more issues!