There has been a rise in LGBTQ representation in the book and movie industries recently. With movies like Love, Simon on the big screen and plenty of novels to choose from when giving Pride Month book recommendations, we can see the tide changing when it comes to opinions about LGBTQ characters and their stories. In a sea of rainbow labels and diversity declarations, I was drawn to the cover of the 2018 book All Out: The No Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages. Its stunning images of rockets, roller blades, and a ship hint at the adventures the many characters have in this LGBTQ anthology. However, it was the inside jacket that truly won me over. With blurbs about transgender soldiers and asexual rollerbladers, I found an anthology that not only catered to a handful of stories, but truly embraced a variety of LGBTQ experiences.
“Tell me the story you wish you had when you were sixteen and write that story for me.” This was one of three governing rules laid down by Saundra Mitchell, editor of All Out, when she approached authors to be a part of the anthology. The other rules? No story could take place after 1999 (though one story comes very close to breaking that rule), and the main characters had to identify as queer. What resulted is a wonderful combination: identity discovery at a 1970s roller disco, an eye-opening retelling of Robin Hood, a kiss shared during the Y2K hysteria. This anthology spans identities across the queer spectrum, but perhaps what really sets it apart is its attention to different cultures, races, and experiences within the LGBTQ community.
As a bisexual Latina, I am seeing a growing number of characters that represent one aspect of my identity, but never both. Yet the first short story in this anthology, “Roja,” revolves around a young Mexican woman using her skills and a curse to avenge her lover. She also happens to be queer. Her identity isn’t an integral part of her story, and it isn’t the conflict of the story. It isn’t a limitation or a problem to work over, but an inspiration. Each author was given the opportunity to write a note at the end of their story. “Roja” author Anna Marie McLemore writes that she inspired by fairy tales, along with her drive to see Latinas in these stories, and queer Latinas most of all. As a queer Latina, I’m glad she was.
As it turns out, that was the entire point. The term intersectionality has been defined as an overlap of the various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, and class, that contribute to discrimination and oppression. The theory was created by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights advocate and a professor at the UCLA Law School and Columbia University, in 1989. The term is now being used in discussions about representation in the media and the importance of showing a myriad of experiences, not just one. For editor Saundra Mitchell, intersectionality was about more than creating an anthology of queer characters. “There are so many different queer experiences and I wanted it to be for queer kids period. Not just some,” she explained while speaking at Porter Square Books’ Betwixt & Be Teen Book Club in Boston this June.
Mitchell’s search for stories led her to practiced writers of queer YA such as Malinda Lo, author of A Line In The Dark, and Anne-Marie McLemore, author of Wild Beauty and the upcoming novel Blanca & Roja. Other writers were new to the genre, including Nilah Magruder, whose short story “They Don’t Kiss At The End” was her first experience delving into YA; illustration is her usual medium. The different writing styles, author experiences, and time periods all blend together artfully so that each story is more surprising than the last.
With queer and historic being the only limiting markers for the anthology, All Out contains a remarkable blend of subgenres that that we rarely see in similar titles. For some, the prompt inspired vengeance stories with magical realism components; for others, it was an excuse to write a comedy. For Mackenzi Lee, best-selling author of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, writing historical fiction was nothing new. “I feel like historical fiction gets pretty heavy, and I wanted my story to be pure comedy,” she explained at Porter Square Books’ Betwixt & Be Teen Book Club. Her short story “Burnt Umber” takes place in Amsterdam in the 1600s and involves a human anatomy art class.
Readers will be swept away by the seventeen stories in this anthology, each with its own unique tale to tell. All Out is a book that shows what truly diverse literature can look like if given proper attention. Because of this, I was able to read about my own experiences and the experiences of others, all under the label of rich storytelling. So this Pride Month—or any month—if you are looking for a taste of magic, LGBTQ themes, and history, look no further than All Out.
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