Across the Page: Short Stories

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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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