So I thought I’d wrapped up with The Literary Others event after Annabel, but I realized I had time to sneak one more into the group! And what better to do than add one that someone else suggested. Tom, one of the editors, filled out my lovely comment form and offered me a review copy of The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard and I figured why not add it to this month’s event. And it was at this point I realized I’d read at least one piece of work from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Intersex, but hadn’t read one primarily for Trans and though it was a great addition! I did not receive any sort of compensation and below is my honest opinion.
As with most collections of short stories you have those you love and those you don’t. And with this collection I really felt it was hit or miss. Some were great and others were difficult to read, not as well written, or just too bizarre for me to truly appreciate. But with that being said the editors did say in their introduction
“We hope that these stories make your life better, either by showing you something new, or by showing you something familiar in a new way or from a new voice. Above all, we think [sic] that you find the stories that follow enjoyable, inspiring, and thought provoking.”
And they definitely achieved this in my opinion. Léger goes even further into this in notes from the publisher publishers discussing uses of this book in a classroom,
“…a talented professor will push them [students] beyond this interpretation, beyond a reading of any book that isolates the work into a comfortable bubble, discrete from the decisions they make in the ‘real’ world…the luckiest students are those whose professors force them to ask ‘What do I want the world I live in to look like?’ and ‘What can I do to realize that world?'”
As I said, many of the stories were hit or miss for me, as they would be for anyone reading a collection of short stories by numerous authors. We all know I’m somewhat prudish and squeamish when it comes to stories involving sex and there were a few that I my only thoughts were ‘oh wow’. My favorites, by far and large, were the ones bordering on fantasy/science fiction, the authors of those pieces just had a way about their writing that I loved! If highlighted a few stories and why I loved them below:
- Saving by Carter Sickels – This one was the first that really stood out. I thought it was well written and even though it’s sad, it had charm about it. It didn’t hurt that its southern fiction and it defintiely had a little hint of the southern gothic that I love.
- The Café by R. Drew – I loved this story because of the seeming OCD of the main character, Sam. But I think what I enjoyed most was that everyone in the story was an ‘other’. There were no normative people and those that were only minor characters that made brief appearances.
- Greenhorn by K. Tait Jarboe – I flagged this one for two great quotes: “After I took my ‘leave of absence’, I called my mother. I have to do this regularly or she will email me asking why I haven’t. I have nothing against it; I just don’t like feeling like I have to.” (126) – Isn’t that just everyone’s life some days? – AND “For a long time, I think I resisted labels because I felt that surely I was more than words could hold, but then the only ones which stuck were the ones other people threw at me. The marker on the forehead at camp and all that.” (148) – Both quotes show great human insight.
- Masks of a Superhero by Mikki Whitworth – I adored Perry Moore’s Hero and felt like this would’ve been a great addition to the superheroes in there! And this one is a great story about adoptive families, self acceptance and what you make of them.
- Ramona’s Demons by Susan Jane Bigelow – BY FAR MY FAVORITE! This one had me laughing out loud and smiling and getting angry. I would love for this world to be turned into a book or series – I’m definitely going to have to check out more of her writing! The best line by far of the entire collection appears here: “Okay, let’s be clear. This boy was not tan-inna-can Jersey Shore orange. He was bright fucking pumpkin orange with green hair and fangs. He looked like an escapee from a Halloween cartoon. I wasn’t expecting that.” (258) – It’s amazing how a strategically placed swear word can make a line hilarious.
There were other stories I enjoyed and other quotes, but these were the ones which stood out for me as being most eloquently written or having the best characters or just striking a tone with me.
Literary Other Synthesis
It’s a small point and appeared in a few of the stories, but I’m just going to do a quick response to my thoughts on gendered pronouns. Throughout the stories there were uses of gender neutral pronouns (ze, hie, zer, hir, and others) and I’d encountered most of these and yet I still wasn’t sure how to pronounce them. So of course ze and hie came across sounding like ‘he’ and zer and hir came across sounding like ‘her’ – I wish there were a pronunciation guide in the book for those so I could see if I was totally butchering them.
In theory the idea of gender neutral pronouns is awesome and I mean ‘they’ is a gender neutral pronoun as far as I’m aware, but it’s not very flexible or usable. And as I’ve highlighted above, my major problem is connecting the gender neutral pronouns to gendered pronouns I’ve always used. However, there is a great example of a gender neutral pronoun that I think was excellent and I’ve always wondered why it never caught on. In her 1976 novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy uses the pronoun ‘per’ – as in person. I thought this was an interesting and innovative back-formation of the word. It negated the patriarchal man in ‘human’ and although it does sound like ‘her’ it is from a word of its own. I can’t remember what the other version was, but that word has stuck with me for a very long time.
Recommendation: Definitely read this book! I think it accomplishes what the editors wanted and for me it made me think about experiences completely foreign and yet universally connected to all of us.