Kindred

Are There Lesbians? Yes

What Happens?
What does it mean to be queer? What does it mean to be human? In this powerful #LoveOzYA collection, twelve of Australia’s finest writers from the LGBTQ+ community explore the stories of family, friends, lovers and strangers – the connections that form us.

This inclusive and intersectional #OwnVoices anthology for teen readers features work from writers of diverse genders, sexualities and identities, including writers who identify as First Nations, people of colour or disabled. With short stories by bestsellers, award winners and newcomers to young adult fiction including Jax Jacki Brown, Claire G Coleman, Michael Earp, Alison Evans, Erin Gough, Benjamin Law, Omar Sakr, Christos Tsiolkas, Ellen van Neerven, Marlee Jane Ward, Jen Wilde and Nevo Zisin.

Includes a foreword by anthology editor Michael Earp, resources for queer teens, contributor bios and information about the #LoveOzYA movement.

cw: homophobia, racial slurs, statutory rape, mentions of police brutality

The Verdict:
Kindred was truly a fantastic read, and as someone who often struggles to finish short story collections I can safely say that the only struggle I had with Kindred was when I had to put it down! Each story raised the bar higher and higher. Even those stories written in a way, or with themes I might not usually read were wielded in such a way as to create a tale so well-crafted that it was hard to dislike it. Kindred has really raised the caliber I expect from multiple-author short story collections. I really cannot describe how absolutely blown away I was by all the stories in this book.

“Rats” by Marlee Jane Ward – The language in Rat was so unlike anything I would usually read, so it definitely helped that this was a short story else I would have been pretty overwhelmed. As is, I got into the flow of things pretty easily and would definitely love to know more about this world so similar to our own, and yet so different.

“In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” by Erin Gough – I was actually a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this story, because, if I’m honest, I haven’t enjoyed Erin Gough’s work in the past! Here, however, her writing really shines in a beautiful and lyrical tale of love, activism and discovering yourself.

“Bitter Draught” by Michael Earp – This is a story I would really like to see lengthened and extended into a whole novel. It has so much potential for a really fantastic fantasy story, a genre which really needs more queers! As it was, this was such a deeply moving story about how far we are willing to go for family and the ones that we love, and how sometimes, no matter how deep that love is, often our paths are only meant to converge for a little while before we each go our own way.

“I Like Your Rotation” by Jax Jacki Brown – Possibly because it is so completely different to my own experiences as well as anything I usually read, but this was the story that first got me really hooked in this collection. I could barely wait to start my lunch break so I could finish! I particularly loved that this one was about a queer friendship – the others up to this point had very much been romantic meet-cutes, so I was really excited that this one was more about finding your tribe (in this case, another queer disabled girl), than finding a romantic partner. I did enjoy that it really explored that awkwardness in queer friendships where maybe you’re attracted to each other a little bit but it’s probably not going to go anywhere, at least for a while.

“Sweet” by Claire G Coleman – Found family is my favourite thing in most stories, but especially in queer stories. There is just something so deeply lovely to me about a ragtag group who have no-one else and band together through thick and thin. It’s something I can never really get enough of and would happily inject straight into my veins if I could. What makes this story all the more fantastic is that is acts as a coming-out story, but flipped on its head by asking the question – in am Australia where gender and anything to do with sex has been outlawed, what does it mean to realise you are gendered? This is a wildly relevant question for me to ask myself at the moment, as my gender and gender expression have really been at the forefront of my mind recently. I think it’s an important question for people to ask themselves, no matter how sure they are of their gender, because interrogating societal ideals of representation and how we are as people is so incredibly important, not only to us as individuals discovering the deepest parts of ourselves, but as a way of recognising that a word or phrase does not always mean the same thing to others as it does to yourself. Like I Like Your Rotation,” “Sweet” really made me think about how I exist in the world and the parts of it that I take for granted. I have been meaning to pick up Coleman’s Terra Nullius, since it was published, but reading this story has just sent it skyrocketing up my TBR pile.

“Light Bulb” by Nevo Zisin – It took me a paragraph or two to get into this one, to properly work out what was happening, but once I did, I found a story beautiful, dark and as familiar to me as my own skin.

“Waiting” by Jen Wilde – I think part of why I liked this one was because it didn’t really involve a convention as such, but more the journey there. I don’t read books about conventions because I live through them and that’s enough. Honestly though, they’re never nearly as dramatic as depicted, and no-one’s nearly as exhausted as they should be! That all being said, this story was really easy to get into – almost immediately I was screaming at the page, hoping that – would get a better friend, and then super-shipping her with -. It’s a quick jump for me to go from skeptic to total fangirl.

“Laura Nyro at the Wedding” by Christos Tsiolkas – This was probably my least favourite of the stories if I’m totally honest. The writing was good and it dealt with complicated family issues and how we forgive which I enjoyed – it was just the issue in question that I objected to. 

“Each City” by Eleen van Neerven – The world of this story is haunting in its familiarity. This could easily be the Australia we live in now, without knowing, or next year when we all know. The aspect of this story that really gets me is the way that music is treated as something seditious, something that can bring us our family, something magical and coded in our blood. I’ve never really heard any Indigenous Aussie music other than the OG Yothu Yindi, but reading this story and “Sweet” really make me want to expand my music horizons!

“An Arab Werewolf in Liverpool” by Omar Sakr – Something about this story was so incredibly familiar to me. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Bankstown, a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Liverpool, and practically shrieked in recognition at the mention of looking at Liverpool Westfield, because even though it has been a very long time since I have gone there with my mum to visit the Myer (is it still even a Myer?), something about the journey to get there, and the visual of the bright red Westfield sign overlooking so many concrete high-rises, is ingrained into my bones. Maybe it has something to do with the friendships my mum made with the Egyptian, Arabic-speaking mums of my school friends, or with the squat red-brick bungalows on my street, exactly the same as my own, but I knew these homes and houses that – entered and lived in, I felt that I knew my way around them, and the smell of them, and the feel of them. I loved the fun and ridiculousness of this story, but I think even more than that I loved how it felt a little bit like home.

“Stormlines” by Alison Evans – This was such a beautiful story, and the world-building in particular was fantastic. Evans paints a beautiful dreamscape of a changed Australia, a world that exists far beyond the edges of the story they wrote. I would love to read a longer story set in this same universe, simply because I want to know so much more about the world and the characters, especially the cryptic Zaid, who is mentioned but never seen.

“Questions to Ask Straight Relatives” by Benjamin Law – At first I was a little disappointed that this wasn’t a fictional story (at least it doesn’t read like one!), because I was really hoping to see what Ben Law’s writing style would be like in fiction. Of course, I wasn’t actually disappointed because, as I always find in Law’s writing, his genuine humour and humanity shines through to make an absolutely lovely read. Questions to Ask… was the perfect cherry-on-top ending to an all-round fantastic collection of stories celebrating queer love of all sorts – romantic, familial and fraternal.

I was sent a free copy of Kindred from the lovely folks at Walker Books and the #LoveOzYA team as part of the Kindred Book tour. I am also giving away a free copy over on my Instagram.

Purchase Links:

Angus and RobinsonBooktopiaAmazon AustraliaFishpond, The Book Depository

If you purchase the book from The Little Bookroom you can have it signed By Michael Earp. All they you to do is mention in the order notes that you followed the Kindred Tour and would like your copy signed by Michael.

For people looking to find a bookshop near them: Find A Bookshop.

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