Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity (YA)

Cart, Michael. editor. 2009. How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity. HarperCollins. 350 pages.

"An array of gay, lesbian, and transgender characters explore the common theme of identity..."

It features short stories from these authors:

  • A Word From the Nearly Distant Past by David Levithan
  • Happily Ever After by Eric Shanower (graphic-novel-type-short-story)
  • My Life As A Dog by Ron Koertge
  • Trev by Jacqueline Woodson
  • My Virtual World by Francesca Lia Block
  • A Dark Red Love Knot by Margo Lanagan
  • Fingernail by William Sleator
  • Dyke March by Ariel Schrag (another graphic-novel-type-short-story)
  • The Missing Person by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • First Time by Julie Anne Peters
  • Dear Lang by Emma Donoghue
  • The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck, N.H. by Gregory Maguire
My thoughts on this one:

I found it interesting that this collection of short stories featured two comic strip/graphic novel stories. (I felt weird calling these "graphic novels" since both were so short. But calling them "graphic short stories" doesn't work either because that doesn't seem quite clear enough.)

I'm not always big on short stories. I can have a hard time connecting with the characters in such a short amount of time. But there were a few stand-out stories in this collection. Most notably "A Dark Red Love Knot" by Margo Lanagan. This short story is inspired by the poem, "The Highwayman." I was very impressed with this story, and I can think of a few blogger friends that would probably love this one as well.

Other highlights for me included Jennifer Finney Boylan's "The Missing Person" and Emma Donoghue's "Dear Lang." In "The Missing Person" readers meet Jimmy/Jenny. At the start of the story, we hear about a young girl (a teen?) that goes missing--vanishes from her room without a trace. It isn't until the very end of the story that we learn her fate and how (emotionally at least) it parallels the main character's. I just have to say this one was powerful. It had a few wow moments for me. "Dear Lang" is the story of a woman writing a child she hasn't seen in fourteen years. Since she broke up with Lang's mother, she hasn't been allowed to see the child she loved, the child she considered her own. It's a heartbreaking story.

My least favorite story was the Gregory Maguire one. It didn't make much sense. I suppose I'm not "smart" enough to piece everything together. Michael Cart writes that it is a story "moving backward and forward in time."

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


She said...

ah, love love love francesca lia block! good to know she's writing short stories too.

Anonymous said...

FLB has written a couple books of just short stories, actually. Psyche in a Dress, The Rose and the Beast, Blood Roses, Girl Goddess #9 (just to name a few). I really loved her in my teenage years and the lyrical way she spun her words. It's hard to take her seriously now, which kind of fascinates me. I never thought I'd tire of her stories. Now, I guess, I just have to be in that sort of flighty lyrical poetic mood. How did you like the FLB story?

I tried to read Wicked once and only got half way through it. I don't know how much I really liked the way Gregory Maguire writes. Someday, I'll try him again, I think. Just to see. I can empathize with you when you say you couldn't put the pieces together. I felt like that too.