Book Reviews

Queer Cheer Anthology

Genre Gay / Lesbian / Contemporary / Romance / Holiday
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 13-September-2023

Book Blurb

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


Book Review

Let’s start by clearing the air (i.e., Shoveling the bridle path? Applying a choice of disinfectant?): Reading and reviewing a book of short stories, written by diverse authors, is much like wandering up to a buffet connected by chefs of little commonality. Or, as my dog might say: “Let’s nibble on some kibble.” Whatever the occasion or purpose, we may need to ignore ethnicity or gender, and forget styles/tastes resulting from the upbringing, religious views, elasticity of moral strictures. One usually starts at the beginning of the selections, picking through assorted plats délicieux, hopefully tasting here, consuming elsewhere with appetite, occasionally – and secretively – discarding an unpleasant remnant in an ashtray or secret pocket. Unless such ingestion is a function of earning a salary or justifying paid tuition, we freely enjoy or not.


Expressly, ‘Queer Cheer’ is a delicious olio of stories from many authors, bound by some relationship to what are often addressed as holiday tales. These quite practically hang together from many hooks: mixed explorations of contemporary gay and lesbian fiction; a grouping of this sort promises… what? Mixed views? A buffet from which to sample bites or find total satisfaction? The readers’ reactions are likely to be mixed, ranging from kvetch to quench. Before we start, I should note that I am an open, partnered gay man whose life journey has taken unexpected turns, including decades of heterosexual suburban marriage, producing several offspring. Now here I am, a mixed adult. As I matured, I loved reading grown-up gay literature, confirming my hormones. I favor fiction, ranging from historical to contemporary, from sci-fi to surreal. The best work appeals to both of my heads! While I applaud the various authors of ‘Queer Cheer,’ my personal taste still favors the well-bent presentations.


So, here’s a taste.


The title story, ‘Queer Cheer,’ by K.S. Trenton, is put forth in an antiphonal style, perhaps intending two voices, the purpose of which remained problematic for me. And the use of neutral gender pronouns, though oh so current, remains mostly odd for me. The story is a challenge, perhaps intending to be experimental for mature readers, or trying to recreate a modernism so popular in the early 20th century. Falling between novel and nuisance, my interpretation is off, and maybe this is a dialog between a gender-neutral queer cheer and a dead persona. So, a non-clue from nowhere – “Are you here for the party? Are you sure you’re at the right one?” And gender is intentionally confused! At best, form is successfully designed to mask substance – maybe all for mood.


‘Miles to Millicent’ by Pat Henshaw, concerns attorneys and holiday parties, and – as the characters exchange gifts and clever words, there is sufficient repartee. “And I have something for you. … Now go play with the other attorneys. Don’t let anyone overrule you.” Who is inane… the author or the characters?


‘Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire’ by R L Merrill, light on lesbian sex, appealed to my private curiosity, emphasizing how societal standards require conformity – until time and evaporating timidity open other choices for us.


‘Cassidy’s Return’ by Liz Faraim is another tale about lesbian attorneys and reflects romantic desire, focusing on being with rather than merely doing another.


Richard May’s ‘Garden Party’ details an invitation by a senior attorney for a younger member of the firm to join him on a holiday tour to a family estate in southern Mississippi. The family attending is huge in numbers, seems particularly tolerant of gay members and, oh yes, is owned by one who is the product of miscegenation – about which no one seems to care at all. (The hero meets the landowner’s grandmother: “She withdrew hers [hand] from mine gracefully and asked about family, which, black or white, is what Southerns do.”) It becomes ultimately clear that the presence of the young, white attorney has been arranged as a sort of house gift for the black estate owner – which, perhaps as these collected stories are for charity, is depicted with but little detail.


The collection offers several groups of poems. As I believe reacting to poetry is very personal, based on sounds, cadence and meaning (to the extent there appears to be any discernible meaning!), I choose to let each reader find a unique connection/rejection. And to ecumenicalize the totality of the book, one story, ‘Challah If You Queer Me’ by Allison Fradkin, details a sixteen-year-old girl’s coming out at Hanukkah: (“Mom, Dad,” I address my absurdly attentive audience, “I have some seriously super news to share: I’m gay.”)


Short stories are wonderful to fill a short time – such as commuting, or performing private bodily functions. This collection is nicely mixed so, think of your canine nature and come nibble on the kibble.




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by one of the anthology’s authors for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Anthology, 181 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 01-September-2023
Price $6.95 ebook
Buy Link