Across the Page: Short Stories

For some reason I have
always struggled with short stories. I read to be transported to a different
world, and I find that escape is often easier with a novel. The following collections,
however, are filled with complex stories that are moving, engaging and
absolutely transporting: Hear Us Out! Lesbian and
Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present
by Nancy Garden; The
Best Short Stories of
Lesléa Newman by Lesléa Newman; Come to Me by Amy
Bloom.

Hear Us Out! Lesbian and Gay Stories of
Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present
by Nancy Garden
(Farrar, Straus Giroux)

From the author of the classic young adult novel Annie
on My Mind
comes this collection
of stories that
depict life for gay and lesbian teenagers over the last
six decades. Hear Us Out! also includes essays to illustrate
and explain what was happening at each moment in history.

Nancy Garden begins the book by describing her
experience as a 16-year-old in the early 1950s, when she turned to Collier’s
Encyclopedia to look up the word homosexuality. As expected, the
definition was far from comforting. Directed to sexual pathology, she
discovered that "homosexuality is commonly found in regressive mental
disorders" and "psychopathic personalities."

By the early ’70s, the American Psychiatric
Association had taken homosexuality off its list of mental disorders. But as
the characters in Garden’s stories show, this did not eliminate other forms of
denigration: self-hatred, parental rejection, religious denunciation, schoolyard
bullies, suicide and, in the ’80s, AIDS. The teens in Hear Us Out! struggle
to prove their worth not only to other people but to themselves.

But it isn’t all bad. There’s also love, discovery,
fortitude, determination, hope. That’s what teenagers do, right? They fall in
love. They rebel. They evolve.

Garden captures all of this with stories such as "Dear
Angie, Sweet Elizabeth," about two young women in the ’50s who admit their
love in a series of letters. The correspondence is interrupted by Elizabeth’s mother, but
that doesn’t stop either of them from pursuing a relationship.

In "Cold Comfort," the daughter of a
preacher man refuses to believe there is anything wrong with falling in love
with another girl: "[S]he had looked carefully through her Bible and had
not found anyplace where Jesus himself condemned love, not even the kind of
love she now understood she felt for Andrea."

The essays in Hear Us Out! are just as
interesting as the stories and provide a brief but compelling overview of LGBT
history in America.
Garden has also written several other books for young adults and children,
including Molly’s Family and Meeting Melanie.

The Best Short Stories of Lesléa Newman by Lesléa Newman (Alyson Books)

The
Best Short Stories of
Lesléa Newman features stories from six of
Newman’s books, including A Letter to Harvey Milk and She Loves Me,
She Loves Me Not.
Each collection is represented by three well-chosen
stories that capture Newman’s impressive range as a writer of lesbian fiction.

Whether it is about the joys and challenges of
being a lesbian parent or fighting breast cancer, Newman does not shy away from
painful and delicate subjects. A significant theme in her work is the lesbian
family or the "gayby" boom — what it means to be a lesbian mother
(both biological and non-biological) and what it means to be a child raised by
a lesbian parent.

In "Of Balloons and Bubbles," a single
woman debates whether or not to have a child. To help her with this decision,
she takes her friends’ daughter out for the day. The outing is enlightening — "being
a mother isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I realize" — but leaves the
narrator with just as many questions, if not more.

In "Right off the Bat," a young girl
introduces herself and explains why it’s important that everyone understands
that her mother is a lesbian. After recently losing her best friend as a result
of this discovery ("’Go away, my mom says I can’t talk to you anymore. Your
mother’s a dyke’"), she’d rather face the rejection up front.

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