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Queers Who Don't Quit: A Collection of Queer Short Stories edited by G. Benson [review]

Hi bookish friends!

If you follow me on Twitter you'll know that I finished reading my eARC of Queers Who Don't Quit a few days ago. I was so excited to be approved for this one on NetGalley - thank you to the publisher, Queer Pack, for the opportunity to read and review it!

I've given star ratings to each individual story and taken an average for the collection as a whole. For a reminder of what my star ratings mean, please see my review policy!

Book Details

The cover of Queers Who Don't Quit, displayed on the screen of a digital reader. The cover image is a person in a raincoat with a black backpack, black jeans, and black converse running across a nearly empty road. There are high rise buildings on both sides of the road. Most of the image is in greyscale, but there is yellow where the sun is just rising or setting on the horizon between the buildings. The text at the bottom reads: "Queers Who Don't Quit", "A Collection of Queer Short Stories", "Edited by G Benson". The Queer Pack logo is in the top left corner (lowercase "qp" in a white circle, with five coloured squares coming out from the circle like an asterisk).

Title: Queers Who Don't Quit (Goodreads)

Editor: G. Benson

Authors (in order of stories): Cameron Von Sant; Evie Riojas; Tabitha O'Connell; A.P. Raymond; Eve Morton; James Penha; Elna Holst; Ayelet Enisman; G. Benson; Ashton Laviolette; Alexis Ames; Cal Benitex; Aila Alvina Boyd; Zoe Brook; Addy Long; Nyri Bakkalian.

Publisher: Queer Pack (Website)

Genres: Mixed - contemporary, historical, sci-fi, magical realism, military.

Pages: 270

Format: eBook ($4.99 from Smashwords)

Content Warnings: Listed with each story below.

Own Voices representation? Yes (see individual stories below)

Blurb (from the publisher's website): "There are times we all just need to forge onwards—or upwards. We can find that strength within ourselves, or people around us help. Sometimes, it’s both. In Queers Who Don’t Quit, queers across the spectrum hurdle the big, the small, and the unfathomable.

"A cowboy and his boyfriend flee across the Martian desert with their stolen robot. Back on Earth, two aromantics bond over their shared love of pop culture. A trans woman finds herself between a rock and a hard place when someone from her past threatens to destroy her future. Space Boy remembers what it’s like to be in love with another boy, and two women have more in common than they think as they fall in love while cosplaying their favourite TV show. Queer men frolic at a gay beach balanced on sands of time. A bisexual, a widow, and a murderer walk into a bar–just wait for it, there’s a punchline. An enby down on their luck gets an offer from a goddess too good to refuse. In 1930s London, split ends are queerly healed. A queer college student seeks to rekindle a dying friendship during a trip to Paris. A trans teacher takes a stand against bigotry and finds love in the process. Love is found amongst giddiness, hard edges, and a darkly passionate theater. An ace vows to finally come out to her sister, and back in space, an arranged marriage connects two queer men. A woman discovers opening a queer bookshop isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Adrift with her infantry company in one war, a trans warrior must face the ghosts of another. And on their first day back at work, someone can be the person we wish we’d met as a kid.

"Join us in these queer stories of hope, resilience, and perseverance!"

My Overall Review: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

This collection from #ownvoices queer authors is definitely diverse in terms of its LGBT+ representation.

I did a quick count, and here is a tally of how many characters are specifically referred to with each of the following labels (I haven't included characters who were only mentioned in passing):

  • Transgender: 5 (3 trans women, 2 trans men)

  • Nonbinary: 5

  • Asexual: 5

  • Aromantic: 3

  • Bisexual: 6

  • Pansexual: 1

  • Lesbian: 4

  • Gay: 10

There are several stories where the main characters' sexualities and genders are not explicitly labelled but this is not inherantly a problem, e.g. a story set in the 1930s where modern labels would be jarring. Most of the relationships without labels are sapphic. I also don't think anybody going into this collection would assume that cis and straight are the defaults!

I loved that Queers Who Don't Quit contains stories from a range of genres - I'd challenge any reader to not love at least one of them! There were a couple of stories which I wouldn't typically read and stories which I wouldn't personally reread, but I am glad that I read the whole collection anyway. There were some stories where I wasn't sure if I would like them at first glance and ended up giving them 4 stars!

I was planning to give this collection as a whole 4 stars anyway, and it turns out that's also my mean rating across the 17 stories, so I definitely think it deserves it.

I do wish that this collection included more BIPOC and disabled writers, and hope that future projects by Queer Pack will be more diverse in terms of race and ability. After all, Queer Pack is described on their website as being "home to the queer stories that don’t often have a platform", and intersectionality is crucial when discussing underrepresented queer voices.

I do also want to note that a serif typeface is used throughout the ebook, which might make this text less accessible to dyslexic readers.

Individual Stories Reviews

As I mentioned, there are 17 short stories in this collection, written by 16 authors. I've listed them here in the order they appear, with a few short notes as well as my ratings. A lot of these ratings are down to my personal reading preferences rather than anything inherantly wrong with the story, and I'm sure there are many people who would love the stories I didn't rate very highly! I have included content warnings where applicable; if anybody needs further information on the content, please do feel free to get in touch with me.

If the authors' pronouns, identities, and websites are freely available online I have included them here. For those authors whose identities are not listed please remember that although this is marketed as an Own Voices queer collection, all authors have rights to privacy, and their identities should not be assumed based on the stories they have written here.

Onto the stories!

A Government Sanctioned Marriage by Cameron Van Sant (he/him, trans & pansexual. Click here for Cameron's website.)

  • Sci-fi, dystopian future

  • Representation: trans male characters, MLM characters

  • CW: homophobia, lack of reproductive autonomy

  • This story is based on an interesting concept and I think that the author did a great job of exploring the social issues, especially considering its length. I would quite happily read a novel based on this, but still found it satisfying as a short story.

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

This is What You Get by Evie Riojas (she/her, trans Chicana)

  • Contemporary, crime

  • Representation: trans lesbian, PTSD

  • CW: graphic violence, mentions of drug use & addiction, mentions of infidelity

  • I found this story a little difficult to read. Although I don't mind occasional graphic violence in a longer story, I'm personally not a fan of stories where it's a major component.

  • My rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5 stars)

Actually by Tabitha O'Connell (any pronouns, agender asexual. Click here for Tabitha O'Connell's blog.)

  • Contemporary

  • Representation: sex repulsed asexual woman, bi man

  • This story about the main character trying to find a way to come out as asexual to her sister was lovely overall.

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

First Day Back by A.P. Raymond (they/he, trans & nonbinary & queer & bisexual. Click here for A.P. Raymond's Twitter.)

  • Contemporary

  • Representation: nonbinary main character(s)

  • This was one of my favourites from the collection. It's such a sweet story and I loved the writing style!

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

Werewolf Blues by Eve Morton (she/her. Click here for Eve Morton's website.)

  • Contemporary (not paranormal!)

  • Representation: sapphic, trans woman

  • CW: mentions of death

  • I'm not personally a fan of the relationship dynamic that comes with a romance between an employer and their employee, so this story didn't do it for me unfortunately.

  • My rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5 stars)

Crossroads by James Penha (he/him. Click here for James Penha's Twitter.)

  • 1980s

  • Representation: mixed race (half Puerto Rican) Jewish gay man, Christian gay men

  • CW: Explicit sexual content, implied sexualisation of minors

  • I might have rated this story more highly, but there's a short moment where a gay side character seems to sexualise the teenagers in the high school swim team he coaches without being challenged by the people he's talking to, and that's not something I'm comfortable with.

  • My rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5 stars)

First Cut by Elna Holst (she/her, queer. Click here for Elna Holst's website.)

  • 1930s

  • CW: sexual content, infidelity

  • Representation: I'm not going to put labels on this one, since I'm not sure whether one of the MCs would identify as a butch woman or trans masc in modern society! The other character is a woman, though. There is also rep for physical disability.

  • I liked this writing style and felt sympathetic towards the characters, too.

  • My rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

Version of Love by Ayelet Enisman (they/them, aromantic & asexual & agender, Israeli)

  • Contemporary, set in Jerusalem

  • Representation: aromantic asexual Jewish Israeli person; gay aromantic Mexican person.

  • The friendship that develops between these characters is beautiful, and I love their enthusiasm for their project! I'm also a fan of musicals, which are a large part of this story.

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

Punchline by G Benson (she/her)

  • Contemporary, set in various European countries

  • Representation: bisexual woman of colour and a dark skinned nonbinary person of colour

  • CW: alcohol use, sexual content, death mentioned, grief & depression

  • If you like complex main characters on a personal journey to recover from loss (and its associated mental health difficulties), this is an excellent story for you.

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

Help Wanted by Ashton Laviolette (he/him)

  • Contemporary, magical realism

  • Representation: nonbinary character

  • CW: unemployment & poverty

  • This is a feel-good story overall and made me smile. I love magical realism, and I was so excited when this story took a magical turn.

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

Under the Valley of Stars by Alexis Ames (she/her, queer. Click here for Alexis Ames' website.)

  • Sci-fi (with Western vibes)

  • Representation: Male main characters, implied to be in a romantic relationship but no labels used.

  • The way the author blended elements of sci-fi with a good old fashioned horseback pursuit through the desert was really intriguing. This story kept me guessing and made me smile.

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

Space Boy by Cal Benitex (he/him, queer)

  • Contemporary, mystery?

  • Representation: possible disability rep (MC is diagnosed with prosopagnosia, a.k.a. "face blindness", but doesn't seem to agree with this)

  • CW: Drug use (LSD), body horror

  • I wasn't sure how I felt about this story when I first read it, but parts of it did intrigue me and I wanted to know more. I definitely felt for the main character, who seemed to be coping with quite a lot of trauma.

  • My rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)

The Path to Truth by Aila Alvina Boyd (she/her. Click here for Aila Alvina Boyd.)

  • Contemporary

  • CW: transphobia, alcohol use. Mentions of past suicide, addiction, overdose

  • As a queer woman working in a school, I could really relate to the difficulties of feeling the need to stay closeted while wanting to make a change - and I have the privilege of being cis, working in a country with legal protection from workplace discrimination. This story is an important one, and I felt it was well written. I didn't really feel the romantic connection between the characters, though.

  • My rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

So She Chose by Zoe Brook (they/them, queer. Click here for Zoe Brook's website.)

  • Contemporary

  • Representation: this story is told in the first person and doesn't mention the narrator's gender or sexuality, but the love interest is a woman.

  • This story was beautifully written. The author also writes poetry, and I think it shows (in a very good way) in their descriptions!

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

Some Things Are More Important by Addy Long (she/they, nonbinary lesbian)

  • Contemporary

  • Representation: So much! Pansexual woman, nonbinary person, trans man, bisexual couple, lesbians, asexual character... If it's queer, it's probably here.

  • CW: homophobia, mentions of conversion therapy

  • If I had to choose a favourite story from this collection, I think this would be it. What better setting for a story than a bookstore? And I definitely wish a certain bookstore from this story existed! This is a hopeful and inspiring story full of the queer community banding together to make things happen despite adversity.

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

All That Remains by Nyri Bakkalian (she/her, queer, Armenian-American. Click here for Nyri Bakkalian's Twitter.)

  • Contemporary, paranormal

  • Representation: Japanese-American trans woman

  • CW: military, war, violence, genocide

  • I'm not generally a fan of military fiction, but I feel the way this story shows the reality of genocide (specifically the Armenian genocide of 1914-23, which led to the deaths of 1.5 million people) is really important. I also don't think it necessarily glorifies the military in the way lots of military fiction does.

  • My rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

Travelling Companions by Tabitha O’Connell (see above - any pronouns, agender asexual)

  • Contemporary

  • Representation: aromantic asexual main character (possibly nonbinary), gay male character

  • CW: toxic friendship (the main character is increasingly aware of this and it is at least partially addressed), alcohol

  • A wonderful story about friendship, even though not all of the friendships in it are wonderful!

  • My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)

Which story sounds the best to you? Or, if you've read this collection, which was your favourite?

Happy reading!

Maisie Rose x

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