Review: Proud anthology
I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to tell you that this collection of LGBTQ+ stories was just as delightful as I’d expected it to be.
I’m going to share my thoughts on each of the individual stories, as that’s how I’ve worked out my overall rating for the collection, so if you’d rather pick up your copy of Proud without knowing too much about the stories included I’d suggest looking away now!
Dive Bar by Caroline Bird:
Dive Bar – the first inclusion in the collection – is a poem that I just really didn’t understand? I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry though, so I’m probably missing some aspect of it that would make it make more sense to me… But as it stands currently I don’t have strong feelings about it either way. 3/5
Penguins by Simon James Green:
Absolutely glorious. Accompanied by art by Alice Oseman, Penguins is one of my favourite stories in the collection. I haven’t read any of Simon James Green’s other novels yet, but I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points as Cameron’s attempts to come out were constantly thwarted by the gay penguins at the zoo. 5/5
On The Run by Kay Staples:
Kay Staples spoke at the Stripes event, so I’d already heard her read the first page or so of On The Run, but it still made me chuckle when Nicky shared the story of how they ended up running away from home… to a Travelodge. Glamorous! 4/5
The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So:
Another story I was already slightly familiar with was The Phoenix’s Fault, the concept of which grabbed me when Cynthia So introduced her story at the Stripes event. This is a world in which the phoenix and the dragon are the marriage symbol, and Jingzhi is expected to audition to marry the prince – searching for a wife based off of whether their phoenix responds to his dragon. I had an idea in my head of how this story was going to go, so I was pleasantly surprised when it went a completely different direction! I’m hoping that So will revisit the world she creates in this short story, because there is so much more potential here. 5/5
As The Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’… by David Levithan:
Not a fan of this one. I can see what David Levithan was trying to do – each characters innermost thoughts are justified slightly different on the page, so you can read the piece as a whole or read each character individually – but it just seems a bit too artsy, taking away from the impact of the message that he’s conveying. 1/5
Almost Certain by Tanya Byrne:
Another brilliant story. Orla is painfully cool – obsessed with music, constantly hanging out at her local record store and getting personal recommendations from the owner – but she’s also plagued with anxiety. When Mal introduces her to the music of Reeba Shah, she knows she has to get past her apprehensions and go to the gig, but although she gets to meet Reeba she still doesn’t get to see her perform. Almost Certain is a great reminder that having an LGBTQ+ identity is just one facet of a character and doesn’t have to be their whole story. 5/5
The Other Team by Michael Lee Richardson:
When a team are told that they can’t play in a league match because of their transgender teammate, they decide to play anyway – even if it they won’t get any points and it won’t exactly ‘count’, it’s the principle. A funny cast of characters from a new voice who’s certain to have a bright future ahead of him. 4/5
I Hate Darcy Pemberley by Karen Lawler:
A lesbian Pride & Prejudice retelling? Yes please! I really enjoyed the over-dramatic high school scenes and how brilliantly they mirrored the high society drama of Jane Austen’s novels. I’m glad that Karen Lawler decided to take the prompt of what pride meant to her so literally. However, if a reader hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice yet it might go right over their heads, as the supporting cast of characters aren’t thoroughly introduced.4/5
The Courage of Dragons by Fox Benwell:
I’m sad to say that The Courage of Dragons was my second least favourite story in the collection. I absolutely loved The Last Leaves Falling and have been looking forward to reading more of Fox Benwell’s writing, but this story just didn’t appeal to me. I loved the concept – a non-binary kid and their group of friends overthrowing the school’s gender-conforming bathrooms and legislation – but the Dungeons and Dragons aspect of it just didn’t translate well (and I love D&D, so I can’t believe I’m saying that!). However, it was accompanied by the most beautiful piece of art in the entire book, so that was a redeeming feature. 2/5
The Instructor by Jess Vallance:
The Instructor is a predictable story, but it’s so very cute. A girl’s father is a plumber, and he gives one of his clients a reduced fee in exchange for his daughter getting free driving lessons from the instructor. 4/5
Love Poems to the City by Moira Fowley-Doyle:
My favourite story in the collection, and I would give this 10/5 if I could. Moira Fowley-Doyle’s language is beautiful and poetic, and the story that she tells – of two girls who aren’t necessarily in love, both with separated parents, campaigning for the right to marry – is passionately told. I cannot recommend this one enough. 5/5
How to Come Out as Gay by Dean Atta:
Another poem to round out the collection. How to Come Out as Gay is far more straightforward than Dive Bar and I enjoyed it a lot more. 4/5
So there you have it! Overall, Proud gets a rating of 3.8 (but I round my ratings up, so that makes it a four star read!).
I’d like to say another huge thank you to Stripes, for allowing me to read an early copy of Proud in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the second anthology they’ve curated (the first, A Change is Gonna Come, being just as successful) and I’m looking forward to finding out which gap in the market they’re going to be tackling next. Keep up the good work!