By Lydia Conklin

My rating: 4 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.07

Genre: LGBT Short Stories

Format Read: Ebook

Goodreads summary: A fearless collection of stories that celebrate the humor, darkness, and depth of emotion of the queer and trans experience that’s not typically represented: liminal or uncertain identities, queer conception, and queer joy.

In this delightful debut collection of prize-winning stories, queer, gender-nonconforming, and trans characters struggle to find love and forgiveness, despite their sometimes comic, sometimes tragic mistakes.

In one story, a young lesbian tries to have a baby with her lover using an unprofessional sperm donor and a high-powered, rainbow-colored cocktail. In another, a fifth-grader explores gender identity by dressing as an ox—instead of a matriarch—for a class Oregon Trail reenactment. Meanwhile a nonbinary person on the eve of top surgery dangerously experiments with an open relationship during the height of the COVID crisis.

With insight and compassion, debut author Lydia Conklin takes their readers to a meeting of a queer feminist book club and to a convention for trans teenagers, revealing both the dark and lovable sides of their characters. The stories in Rainbow Rainbow will make you laugh and wince, sometimes at the same time.

Find the book: Amazon | Goodreads

Content warnings (highlight over below line to read):

Pedophilia, Sex with and between minors, addiction, homophobia, rape, transphobia, death , dysphoria


Review

Rainbow Rainbow is a series of short stories written by Lydia Conklin. Each of the stories are unrelated from each other, with the common thread holding them together being the fact that they’re all about queer people at various stages of their lives. I was skeptical about reading a book of short stories at first; although I enjoy the occasional short story, my fiction interests typically stay more firmly in the arena of novels. This book completely changed my mind. Conklin managed to create a universe that was so complete and real and unique in each story that I couldn’t stop reading even after one of the stories ended. I loved their writing style, and that similarity was enough to draw me through each story.

Although the protagonists of these stories vary greatly in age, their demographics tended to fall into one of two camps– cis woman or nonbinary person who was assigned female at birth. As someone who fits into these categories, the characters were relatable to me in that way, but I did see a couple of reviews saying that they expected the stories to showcase a wider array of the queer community, so I wanted to acknowledge that.

The characters also all tended to be either in denial or closeted about one thing or another. There was the teenager who didn’t want to admit that she was in love with her (kind of mean) best friend. There was the woman who refused to see that her relationship was dying, and there was the nonbinary person who didn’t tell her partner that the way she was touching them made them uncomfortable.

These stories are not about queer joy. They’re stories of how queer people are living their lives despite all of the struggles (some related to their sexuality/gender, some not) that they face. There are people who accept themselves fully, and people who aren’t there on their journey yet. There is suffering and people who are deeply unhappy and yet, in spite of all that, there was something oddly comforting about the words that Conklin wrote. They have a way of writing about people that makes you feel less alone as you read about them. The people in their stories became my friends.

I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy short stories or if you’ve read something by Conklin before and enjoyed it. There was only one story in the entire series that I felt ambivalent about, and the rest I loved. This is going to be a book that I think about for years to come.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own. Rainbow Rainbow comes out on May 31st

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