Nothing like a book called Proud for Pride month.
Proud is a short story collection compiled by Juno Dawson and features several different stories and art pieces accompanying them. All of the stories focus on characters of the entire queer spectrum (gender and sexuality). Some are fantasy, most are contemporary, and there are some by POC authors so we have that representation as well.
Of these stories, a few have stuck with me more than others. The first one I want to talk about is Penguins by Simon James Green. This story is about Cameron and he is trying to tell his parents that he’s gay when his friends bust in and tell him about the two male penguins at the zoo who have chosen each other as mates. They go to the zoo and Cam sees all the people cooing and supporting the penguins and he thinks that maybe things will be OK. I don’t want to give too much away as it is just a short story, but it has a happy ending and I want you to read it lol.
The next one is The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So. This one is a fantastical tale about a girl named Jingzhi and her Phoenix. The Emperor is looking for a wife and they will determine who it should be based on the connection a phoenix has to his dragon. In this story we explore friendship, love, and connections between individuals. I thought this one was beautifully written and told, the imagery was so clear and distinct. Of the stories in the book, this is the one that I would want a full length novel of the most.
The last one I’ll mention is On The Run by Kay Staples. (I’m just realizing now that these all take place near the beginning of the book, but I promise you I did read the whole thing.) This story is about Nic and Dean and the mysterious reason for why they are on the run and apparently wanted. Here, we explore gender more than sexuality. There is a great internal conversation about what this person feels they are, what they like, what they don’t like, and what it all means to them. I, personally, feel like this is a great primer for children and adults who are questioning their sexuality or who may like things that “aren’t for them.” An additional thing that I enjoyed about this story is that it doesn’t come from a perfect suburban home. It’s not a white picket fence story, it’s about someone who is poor and doesn’t have the money or security to be who they are or have what they want. I just think it’s great to have that representation.
All in all I think this is a fabulous short story collection and I encourage you all to pick it up. I know that it might be hard to get access to it in the states, I know I got it on a trip to England, but if there is a way for you to get your hands on it, please read it! If you have any recommendations for queer anthologies, leave them in the comments! I’m always down to read more queer short stories.