It’s pretty rare I step into the world of nonfiction. When I do, I generally read biographies, and try to read biographies about people whose lives follow lines very different from my own (and I try doubly hard to find biographies about people whose voices aren’t as often heard). It’s not that I don’t find nonfiction enthralling, it’s actually quite the opposite – the reality of nonfiction makes it hit me all the harder.
Case in point, I purchased The Up Stairs Lounge Arson by Clayton Delery-Edwards and I am inching my way through it because it disturbs me so. It is important history. It’s brilliantly written. It’s heart-crushing.
So, if you wonder why I rarely talk nonfiction, that’s the answer.
That said, nonfiction can also bring joys.
I’m willing to bet that if you’re an LGBT reader and you think you don’t know who Elisa Rolle is, you actually do – chances are someone in the LGBT world has linked to one of her reviews about their work. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been on the lucky receiving end of that honour. Rolle’s reviews are complete, honest, and – even when critical – provide a reader with enough information to know whether or not the book is something for them. She’s a force for awareness in the LGBT literary world, and we’re the richer for having her.
This book is a collection of true stories about LGBT relationships spanning back from Alexander the Great and the purported love he shared with Hephaestion to relationships that began in 2012. Each page is a couple, telling of their meeting (if known), the progression of their romance (again, what details might be found), and their ultimate ends.
Organized as it is in a chronological sense, something happens as you page your way through these stories – you find a continuum.
Now, I’ve said this over and over, but one of the things about being a queer is that you don’t inherit a queer cultural lineage from your biological family. Those who have come before are almost surely strangers to you. It is quite likely you know nothing of queer history (because, if we’re honest, it’s just not taught in any mainstream way). The individual stories that make up queer culture are out there – yes – but that’s exactly it: they’re out there. A brand new queer kid has to go looking.
Books like this are invaluable. As I read the stories, I found myself moving through eras, seeing – achingly slowly – the progression queer culture has made, the gains and losses and victories and pain. Near the end of the collection, entries are full of queer couples marrying after decades of being together without that right. It is a hopeful collection.
We have to share our stories. It’s the only way we’ll continue to have our culture, this strange and wonderful queer culture that is made of individuals that begin in so many different places. Every single love story in this collection, whether joyful, painful, or ongoing, is a story worth knowing, and telling, and celebrating.
See you next week (and keep it short!)