RELEASE DAY-Review: Bay Area 3rd Year Gay Anthology- Queer Cheer- Holiday Short Stories -K.S. Trenten, Pat Henshaw, R.L Merrill, Liz Faraim, Richard May, Traughber Meis,M.D. Neu,Kelliane Parker, Allison Fradkin, Wayne Goodman, Alexandra Caluen, Andrew Beierle, Sarah White

Queer Cheer Book Cover Queer Cheer
Bay Area Anthology #3
K.S. Trenten, Pat Henshaw, R.L Merrill, Liz Faraim, Richard May, Traughber Meis M.D. Neu,Kelliane Parker, Allison Fradkin, Wayne Goodman Alexandra Caluen Andrew Beierle Sarah White
Gay Holiday Stories, Short Stiries
Waynegoodman Books
Sept 1, 2023

This is the third annual anthology from the Bay Area Queer Writers Association. The theme is Queer Cheer, Holiday Stories with a Queer Twist. Contents include:
"Queer Cheer" by K.S. Trenten
"Miles to Millicent" by Pat Henshaw
"Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire" by R.L. Merrill
"Cassidy's Return" by Liz Faraim
"Garden Party" by Richard May
"Día de los Muertos" by Vincent Traughber Meis
"Thanksgiving Pie" by M.D. Neu
Selected Poetry by Kelliane Parker
"Challah If You Queer Me" by Allison Fradkin
"Krampusnacht" by Wayne Goodman
"View From the Bridge" by Alexandra Caluen
"Home Alone" by Andrew Beierle
Selected Poetry by Sarah White

Review by Ulysses Dietz

Reviewer for the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team

An anthology is both a single thing, and a bunch of things thrown together. The Bay Area Queer Writer’s Association has assembled a truly diverse group of writers and works for their third annual fundraising anthology. That makes for a challenging review job, since such a range of things defies the idea of pleasing everyone. Overall, I was pleased. Here I go:

K.S. Trenten’s Queer Cheer 4****, felt, to me, like a song without music. It is both narrative and poetic, evoking a mood, or a series of moods from exalted to wistful. A visitor finds themselves at a party celebrating the historic work of Magnus Hirschfeld in Europe. For me, it expresses the experience and hopes of the LGBTQ generation of my children’s age, a bandwagon my generation (child of Stonewall) is still adjusting to.The lingering flavor was hopefulness.

Pat Henshaw’s Miles to Millicent, 5*****, was touching and funny. A tight story line focuses on Valentine’s day, and the gifts that a couple of young gay lawyers give each other after several years together. There is a sense of fun, of surprise, and of extended chosen family surrounding Zack and Miles. It is a rich little treasure.

R.L Merrill’s Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire 5***** melted my heart, although the F/F genre is not one I frequently find myself reading. Two middle-aged mothers, one divorced, one widowed, friends since childhood, discover what they really mean to each other. It is clear-eyed, but very romantic, yearning, hopeful. Oddly enough, its second part is also sitcom hilarious, and warmed my heart completely.

Lis Faraim’s Cassidy’s Return 4**** is an elegant, cool incident in the life of two childhood friends, one who turned to a hometown marriage, the other of whom – the narrator – chose a career far away. As the old friends reconnect at a 4th of July picnic, we learn about who they are and how their lives separated over time. Although set today, it felt like a clip from a 1950s Hollywood film, with a kind of detached stylishness supported by the country-club setting. You know (at least in your mind) that the story is not over at the end.

Richard May’s Garden Party, 5***** knocked my socks off. I guess I’d have to say it deals with a certain kind of reality of being gay in the Deep South, even today; and yet the focus is not so much on sexuality as on race. We are transported into a Eudora Welty story, but one unlike anything she could ever have written. A handsome young Memphis lawyer, ostensibly straight, takes his younger associate home for a family holiday in rural Alabama. There they meet a cousin who is not like the rest of the family. I can’t really say more because it is a forthright, emotionally precise, culture clash. The Old South and the New South at the same gala weekend. Wonderful.

Vincent Traughber’s, Meis’s Dia de los Muertos, 5 ***** is a shivery short piece that gives us a thirty-year-old Latino man, Marcus, still grieving over the loss of his still-young father. Feeling alone and adrift, Marcus and his friends try to create a Dia de los Muertos event that will help him through this emotional hard place. A chance meeting with a handsome fellow-traveler during the festivities is a surprising paranormal gift that brought tears to my eyes.

M.D. Neu’s Thanksgiving Pie 5***** is purposefully short and sweet, not so much fulfilling a romantic fantasy as a story offering hope, with all the happy glow that hope can give us. David, a young IT guy, newly transplanted to San Jose from his hometown of Salt Lake City, is feeling isolated and alone – no new friends, far from family, recently dumped by his boyfriend. A meet-cute moment might have been ruined by David’s bad mood and frayed nerves – but Fernando’s forgiving nature and the offer of a fresh-baked pie turn this tale of woe into one of possibilities.

Wayne Goodman’s Krampusnacht 4**** is a little paranormal gem that left me off-balanced. Krampus is not well known in this country, but is sort of the Northern European anti-Santa. He (they?) is out on Christmas Eve doing what he does – gathering up bad children. But, lost in his solitary thoughts, Krampus meets another other-worldly vision – Peter. Neither we nor Krampus ever quite understand what Peter is, but we do understand that something other than darkness and punishment is in the offing.

Alexandra Caluen’s View from The Bridge , 5***** is a lyrical maybe-love story, focusing on two middle-aged (!!!) Asian-American men finding each other by chance just before Christmas in San Francisco. The gentle power of this tale is in its description of who these men are, how they have found their way, quite happily, to where they are in life; but also allowing that each of them might be open to something new, something more. Here’s a prime example of a short story that doesn’t give you everything you want – but gives you just enough.

Andrew Beierle’s Home Alone 5***** is a heartbreaker. The narrator is a man older than I am, who has, somehow, managed to survive a miserable childhood to have a productive, comfortable life. It might be taken as a bleak tale, and I truly felt that way about it; but it is also a tale of acceptance, of endurance, and a reminder that not everyone gets the kind of happy ending we imagine to be universally desired.

Sarah White’s Selected Poetry 4**** pulled me into an unfamiliar place. “Midnight Blue” feels like a quiet paean to self-liberation from a bad relationship; while “Never Have I Ever” is an equally gentle song of a triumphant self-discovery. Modern poetry is not something I read much, but as someone who loves language and the use of words to paint pictures and emotions, I can embrace it and be grateful.

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