Across the Page: Short Stories and Lilac Mines


Best Lesbian Love Stories 2010 edited by Simone Thorne (Alyson Books)

This year’s Best Lesbian Love Stories 2010, edited by Simone Thorne, includes twenty short stories by writers from across the world. In the introduction, Thorne writes that “love comes in many forms,” whether it’s platonic, lustful or unrequited and the stories here capture all of these forms and more.

In “North Star Dyke,” by Cheyenne Blue, Sinead takes her lover to visit her aunt on the northern Irish coastline. When they arrive she is surprised to discover that her aunt is also a lesbian and living with a younger woman. However, bigger surprises are in store: as Sinead and her aunt get to know each other more closely, so do their girlfriends.

Lynne Murray’s “Gypsy Hill” begins with the narrator anxiously preparing for her first date with a woman, which turns into a long night where “nothing else matters. Nothing else is. Only her flesh. Only her soft, salty skin,” which then turns into an actual relationship.

In Miel Rose’s “Overflow,” the narrator states, “my heart is too easily influenced,” which is another way of admitting that she has bipolar disorder. The one place where she finds relief is with a woman named Tarn — “The kind of guy who stopped wearing girl’s underwear when she was three years old.”

Rose’s story is a powerful analysis of gender and sexuality. The narrator admits: “I also came into this world knowing who I was genderwise…It was obvious I was a girl, and everyone said I would like boys. That turned out to be true to some extent, if you ignore the fact that I only like boys with the same plumbing as me.”

Allison Wonderland’s “The Felicity of Domesticity” is a sweet story about a young couple who gets hitched when they are six years old and somehow manage to keep their relationship going — “My marriage to Teri outlasted our Ring Pops, partly because we thought that only adults could get divorced.”

It is not until high school, though, that the girls realize that their earlier nuptials were more than child’s play when one sends the other a note while they are on a double date — “On one side, the note read: I still think boys have cooties. On the other side, the note said: I know you think so, too.”

Jolene Hai’s “A Weekend in Santa Monica” examines the fine line between friendship and romance. When Meta invites Daria for a weekend away, expectations are misinterpreted until finally a long day of glances and gestures reveals the truth.

Many of the stories in this collection offer a good escape and Thorne presents a solid selection of voices and perspectives.

This One’s Going to Last Forever by Nairne Holtz (Insomniac Press)

Slated for a November 1 release, Nairne Holtz’s collection of short stories, This One’s Going to Last Forever, follows her novel The Skin Beneath, which won the Alice B. Award for debut lesbian fiction and was a finalist for Quebec’s McAuslan First Book Prize.

The collection is organized in three parts, including the novella “Are you Committed,” which is the story of a young college student working at the leftist newspaper the McGill Daily in the late eighties. As Clara works through her politics, she comes to terms with her history of sexual abuse and falls in love with a woman.

The title of the novella relates to each of Clara’s journeys: is she committed enough to the revolutionary spirit of the publication, which has its own contradictions, including that it’s run by a mainly all white male staff; is she willing to admit what happened to her as a child and how the abuse has impacted the way she thinks about herself and her family; and, lastly, what does it mean to fall in love with a woman from an emotional, physical and political perspective.

Many of the short stories here also examine the politics of sexuality and identity. In “When Gay is the New Straight,” a gay man who performs weddings dressed as Elvis officiates his first same-sex ceremony and is disappointed that he doesn’t feel more excited:

I thought I might be moved for a change, but it doesn’t happen. As I watch Nancy slip a silver band over Sylvie’s finger, I think, Just Assimilated. What will happen to desire when gay becomes the new straight? Am I being bitchy, or is it just that my first gay customers are such a tiresome cliché?

This realization opens him up to other truths in his life, mainly that his relationship with his dying father is the “closest I will come to having a domestic partner. Maybe it’s the closest I want to be.”

In the impressive “Different but Equal,” an interracial couple wants to buy a home but both the high price and the real estate agent’s disregard complicate the process. The story explores the duality of prejudice and discrimination that same-sex interracial couples experience from an insightful perspective and captures a couple’s ability to turn inward for survival.

Holtz’s work is rich and combines the personal with the political through characters that are engaged in real struggles and triumphs. Highly recommended.

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