I’m getting on reasonably well with my NetGalley reads as well as the print ones I’m reading for 20BooksOfSummer2021 and various review books – this is the second of the five published this month that I have read and reviewed. I’ve struggled a bit with reviewing this one because it wasn’t really what I’d thought. Even though the description stated it was short stories:

In Our Words: Queer Stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Writers is a thoughtfully curated collection of short stories at the intersection of racial and queer identity. Comprising both the renowned and emerging voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color authors, across multiple countries, and diverse in style, perspective, and theme, In Our Words reflects the complexity and diversity of human experience.

… I managed to miss that aspect of it and thought it was, a bit like “Common People” (which, ironically, I’d thought WAS a collection of short stories) a set of memoir pieces about people’s lived experiences on the intersection of race and sexuality.

“In Our Words: Queer Stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Writers” – stories selected by Anne Shade and edited by Victoria Villaseñor

(08 May 2021)

So it’s short stories, and the first one, “Sweet Potato” by Briana Lawrence, was pretty good – a churchgoing mum sticks up for her gay daughter and what seems like an Act of God might just be something else … That was a good story with a twist, and then we were off whizzing through the genres, all of the main characters LGBTQIA+ in some way, and all Global Majority or Indigenous People, which was refreshing, I’d imagine (I’m not a big short story reader to be honest, but I presume representation, and especially intersectional representation, is as lacking in this field and in these genres as elsewhere). I’m not really a genre reader so I’m probably defining these wrong but we run through the mild paranormal, urban romance, a bit of (gentle, thank goodness) horror, some sci-fi and fantasy, and some straightforward erotica, really. I liked the positive wish-fulfilment aspect of some of the stories – body positivity, women taking power for themselves, good advice on clearing negativity from one’s life.

I got a bit stuck with a few of them, if I’m being honest. Not being a genre reader, I didn’t really get hugely interested in the sci fi and one of the fantasy pieces and skimmed them. Some, I just plain didn’t understand, there was one with two chaps in a flat and one of them seeing weird stuff in the mirror I could not make out (probably completely my fault). One of the fantasy pieces about a mermaid sent to help a human in distress was nicely done to an extent but then relied on the heroine’s family being wiped out mysteriously, giving her a reason to grieve but sort of weirdly glossed over.

And quite a few of the stories seemed just to be about making it to the erotic encounter, with no other story than that. That’s a bit much for me – I don’t mind a bit of erotica in its place and I accept these weren’t high literary fiction (I don’t normally enjoy high literary fiction short stories, anyway, more basic ones telling, you know, a story, are preferable, and I am certainly not sneery about genre fiction; I just don’t know its tropes well) – but when it’s just a stub of a story that leads to a lovingly described erotic encounter, I just feel uncomfortable (just to make it clear: I would be uncomfortable if this was straight, cisgender, White, middle-aged, non-mermaid or shape-shifter erotica-only stories that matched my gender and sexuality and other attributes, nothing to do with the protected or fantasy characteristics of the characters and their authors. I had a big think about this to make sure, believe me).

One thing I did find interesting was the insertion of coronavirus themes into several of the stories – in terms of social distancing, online working and mask wearing. It’s fascinating to see it working its way into things all over the place.

So I’m not going to be rushing out to buy lesbian mermaid erotica but I’m glad it’s out there for people who want to read it. I’m glad books are being published in which people of all different genders, sexualities and races and the intersections thereof can see themselves represented. It wasn’t for me – but then also it really probably wasn’t for me, as such. Kudos to the editors and writers for putting this together and the publisher for putting it out there.

Thank you to Bold Strokes Publishing for making this available to me to read in return for an honest review.

Book Serendipity

One for Bookish Beck, who likes to collect these: the first story in this book featured (many) sweet potato pies, and on the very day I read that short story, I came across a sweet potato pie in Maya Angelou’s “Gather Together in My Name”.