An offbeat collection of well-told stories with LGBTQ themes.

SLASHED AND MASHED

SEVEN GAYLY SUBVERTED STORIES

A set of seven familiar folktales, retold with gay characters. 

In Peters’ (Irresistible, 2018, etc.) anthology of what he calls “gayly subverted” tales, readers encounter gay protagonists in folkloric settings. In “Theseus and the Minotaur,” for instance, the Greek mythological hero Theseus winds his way to the center of the Labyrinth only to find a half man/half bull with a heartbreaking life story who isn’t the monster that many people claim him to be. In the story of “Károly, Who Kept a Secret,” a boy must hide the fact that his sword sings to him, even if it turns people that he loves against him. Fumihiro and Aito, in “The Peach Boy,” encounter a giant peach with a baby inside it, and Adalbert must overcome his own selfish ways in “The Vain Prince.” In “The Jaguar of the Backward Glance,” René encounters an unknown tribe in the jungle while on an expedition, and its shaman informs him of a curse on René’s ex-lover. An Egyptian merchant living in New York City encounters a jinn in “Ma’aruf the Street Vendor”; the man wishes for a new life elsewhere, but trouble finds him there, as well, In the final tale, “A Rabbit Grows in Brooklyn,” Ramon meets a strange man named “Rabbit” who seduces him and disappears, leaving him with nothing. Peters offers versions of seven classic tales that all receive his own unique spin, which often involves playing with his audience’s expectations regarding happy endings. Not every story ends happily; however, all of them feature love between two men. The collection’s title suggests a passionate romantic romp, but the author takes a relatively low-key, literary approach to his tales. His prose is clear and fluid, which gives the stories the traditional air of their original inspirations; as a result, aficionados of all kinds of folktales may be interested in putting this book on their shelves.

An offbeat collection of well-told stories with LGBTQ themes.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-951057-25-1

Page Count: 351

Publisher: NineStar Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2019

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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