LGBTQIA+ Short Story Collections
By Carly Bennett, Emily Myhill, Rhys Wright and Becca Binnie
This issue, we’re shouting out some of our favourite LGBTQIA+ short story collections, which are perfect to dip into if you want to squeeze in some reading on your commute or feel an itch to jump into multiple worlds in a single book. Whether you’re looking for fantasy, romance or literary fiction – or a combination of all three – we hope you find your next queer read in the recommendations below.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Published in 2017, and the recipient of several awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, Carmen Maria Machado’s short stories are described as “queer and caustic, comic and deadly.” Blending contemporary storytelling with fantasy, comedy, horror and everything in between, Machado has created a truly genre-bending collection that examines the queer body in stark detail.
Like all short story collections, Her Body and Other Parties can be savoured one story at a time, but there is so much of interest that it’s a tricky book to put down. Stage directions, surrealism and experimental narrative structures are par for the course, while more traditionally constructed stories also feature for those who prefer their reading without a side of absurdism.
‘The Husband Stitch’, ‘Mothers’ and ‘The Resident’ in particular are highly recommended, but there is such a mix of genre and form in Machado’s work that there truly is something for everybody in this unabashedly queer collection of weird and wonderful tales.
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
With sharp emotion, poignant insight into lived experiences and a healthy dose of gritty humour, Afterparties is a collection of short stories focusing on Cambodian American children of refugees and their attempts at carving new lives for themselves in California. Masterfully dealing with the complexities of race, immigration, generational trauma, sexuality and family, everyone will find a story that speaks to them within this incredible book.
Sparkling with queer love, tragedy and intimacy, these stories glisten with a raw honesty only present in semi-autobiographical works. Thought to be taken from his own experiences and those of his family, these works have a clear thread linking them that weaves a warm sense of community.
Unfortunately, Anthony Veasna So passed away in 2020, prior to the release of Afterparties. His second book, Straight Thru Cambotown, was already in the works; it is being adapted to include a selection of his non-fiction essays that appeared in The New Yorker and will instead be published under the title Songs on Endless Repeat in 2023. A truly unique opportunity to experience more electric writing from an immense talent taken too soon, it is undoubtedly going to be just as unmissable!
Variations by Juliet Jacques
Some people’s stories are lost to history and some are only told by others. The debut collection of Juliet Jacques, author of Trans: A Memoir, seeks to reimagine the lost histories and untold stories of trans people and subcultures throughout the last two centuries. Jacques’ eleven short stories map the evolution of trans identity and societal change (and lack thereof), stretching from private rooms with blacked-out windows in Victorian London to present-day Belfast.
Variations presents a multitude of characters with their own distinct identities and tells each story in a different form, ranging from diaries and interviews to blog posts and articles. ‘Reconfiguration’ is a particular highlight; presented as an essay on the complex relationship between a fictional sexologist and a trans man in the 1920s, it illustrates how early scholarship on transness could exclude trans men entirely.
Another standout story is ‘The Twist’, a short screenplay about trans authors reclaiming their own narratives in the midst of a film industry that sees their lives as something to exploit. Across all eleven stories is a common yearning to live publicly and authentically, no matter the danger.
Desert Boys by Chris McCormick
Published by Atlantic Books, Desert Boys was released in 2016. Chris McCormick writes a series of interconnected short stories that explore the life of young Daley Kushner. Whilst family, friends and a sense of community have shaped and formed Kushner, McCormick explores the constraint that follows as a result.
These linked and well-crafted stories unearth the development of cities, the theme of masculinity and how the two overlap. They highlight what life is like in the desert for people who cannot conform. Kushner’s sexuality is not always at the forefront of the plot – rather, McCormick focuses on the dynamics and developments of place and familial or platonic relationships.
Desert Boys is a poignant work which maps out the conflict between fighting the desire to escape and the need to belong. The winner of the Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award, Desert Boys is a fascinating read for anyone looking for vivid LGBTQIA+ literary fiction.