This story, from We Shall Be Monsters, is so intrinsically queer and—something I freaking adore—queerly empowering that I basically fell in love from pretty much the get-go. From the nonbinary lead POV, to the slow revelations of the narrative, this is a contemporary fantasy with the perfect amount of magic and fantasy to counter the reality without feeling like it sidesteps.
Specifically, the story begins around the idea of a store operating in cash only that opens after-hours and secretly for trans shoppers, run by a woman who seems, well, off. Rumour suggests she’s a vampire, or in some other way not to be trusted, but the main character persists in trying to figure things out, and in doing so, learns greater truths and ends up in the position to help this person do more good.
I talk about balancing queer stories a lot. I never want to downplay reality, as that often feels dismissive and makes the shiny-happy-rainbows ring false; I also don’t want to over-focus on the grimmer realities because, frankly, we live those and don’t need to have our “entertainment” be an echo chamber of the things we already know and have to deal with on a daily basis. There’s a middle-ground where hopeful and genuinely inspiring stories sit, and “The Patchwork Girl” is right there, dead centre.