"Queer Voices: Poetry, Prose, and Pride," edited by Andrea Jenkins, John Medeiros and Lisa Marie Brimmer; Minnesota Historical Society Press (218 pages, $18.95)
For 26 years, the monthly Queer Voices reading series has given Minnesota's LGBTQIA+ writers a safe space to experiment. So it's appropriate that this collection from 44 of the series' writers, almost all of whom are as identified as "award-winning," is a mixed bag. Poetry, essays, fiction and autobiography mingle in "Queer Voices: Poetry, Prose, and Pride," which is organized alphabetically by author name. Perhaps, like many of the writers, the pieces themselves resist labels?
For instance, several poems assume the form of prose and John Medeiros' assured "Losing Dylan" starts like an autobiographical essay until a turn toward magical realism identifies it as fiction. Others are easier to peg: Rachel Gold's "Kissing Kate Bornstein" is a tart remembrance of Gold's journey to becoming a "gender outlaw." Venus de Mars' "Late Night" is a horrifyingly beautiful tale of gender dysphoria-fueled self-mutilation. And Catherine Lundoff's "Strange, but Not a Stranger" is a droll but instructive response from a woman who has been told, "I've decided to stop hating you for being bisexual."
In general, the nonfiction pieces are the surest, but the diversity of the collection makes it stronger, just as it does the LGBTQIA+ community that will soon celebrate Pride.