The anthology Deviant: Chronicles of Pride, complied by Samhitha Reddy, is a collection of nine stories and twenty-seven poems by twenty-two authors who belong to different parts of the globe, and is a fitting volume to celebrate the wonderful diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, especially during LGBT History Month (even though it ostensibly is a work of fiction, and not history per se). The collection begins with broad sections titled Spectrum Stories, Identities Beyond Boundaries, and Envision Transition, before focusing on specific stripes of the LGBTQ+ rainbow: Sapphic Classics, Gay Pride, Bi Visibility, Trans Narratives, Queer Factor, Asexual Confessional. One important lesson of the earlier sections is that the colors of the rainbow typically bleed one into the other—we are never just one identity; many of us experience an intersection of marginalizations and identities.
As noted above, this collection combines both prose and poetry, with a marked emphasis on the latter. The prose tends to be mostly autobiographical in nature, with a couple of obvious fiction contributions: “The Feathered Folk” by Amy Sutton (a delightful fable and a favorite of mine) and “Pardon me, do you do Weddings?” by Adam Gaffen (an excerpt from his science fiction series The Cassidy Chronicles, which follow the adventures of Aiyana Cassidy and Kendra Foster-Briggs, describing their wedding).
Among my favorite poems are the invocational “All Flowers Belong” by Deborah Mejía, which appropriately opens the book, and contains stanzas to numerous aspects of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, including non-binary, asexual, and trans members. Another favorite is “Our Queer Thoughts” by The Queer Community and Lily Rosengard. (Originally started by Rosengard, she later crowd-sourced material for the latter two thirds of the poem.) Like a piece of ancient wisdom poetry, it contains multitudes of paradoxical statements as well as back and forth questions and answers:
Queer means am I queer enough?
Queer means you have always been queer enough.
Queer means who is the gatekeeper of queerness?
Queer means there is no gatekeeper of queerness!
Queer truly does mean you are queer enough –
you have always been not just queer ‘enough’ –
but queer abundant
Another stand-out is the poem within Trans Narratives, “I am a Trans Woman and I am Tired,” by Christy Pineau. The narrator describes an LGBT film festival she attended, meant to celebrate LGBT heroes, only to discover that the “T” was represented by
The story of Brandon Teena.
The young trans man who was raped
and murdered by his friends
when he was discovered to be trans.
I re-read the poster on my way out of the library.
“Come witness the legacies of the pioneers of the LGBT movement!”
The “legacy” is one not of courage, but rather, loss and erasure. The dismay, anger, and fatigue expressed by Pineau is underscored by the fact that this is the only trans narrative in the collection.
As Reddy notes in her introduction, it would be impossible to represent every possible permutation of the LGBTQ+ spectrum (especially in such a slim volume); nevertheless, you may be surprised by the variety of voices contained herein. So if you are, say, an asexual lesbian you can find yourself represented here, and celebrate it; and just as important, if you are not an asexual lesbian, you can read her story and learn from her perspective.
Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske