Short Stories 366:357 — “American Christmas,” by Adriana Herrera

As is likely a surprise to no one given how often I’ve mentioned it this month, I freaking love queer re-tellings, and this novella from Adriana Herrera, “American Christmas,” is basically a queer re-telling of “The Gift of the Magi” (the characters even discuss it as such) and it’s both adorable and over-the-top in effect. We have Yin and Ari, two secondary characters from the Dreamers series, celebrating their first Christmas together in their own space that they’ve carved out with help from supportive friends and family and their own hard work. Neither of their paths to this moment were easy, holding to Herrera’s theme of Dreamers/refugees within the series, and while they trust their love of each other, they’ve both got instincts and baggage around things falling apart or not working out, and a hesitancy to think they can do enough for each other. Their psychology, then, leads to a brilliant series of good (yet terrible) choices.

Their gift exchange had rules (including a price-cap) and neither of them followed the rules. More, both of them did their utmost to keep their extravagant gift choices a secret—which meant, in a way, lying about what it was they were really planning to do with some of their time in the future. So when they both end up gifting each other something that is squarely impossible given the changes they’ve made to their future plans, well. It’s a “Christmas is ruined” moment, and threatens some real breakdown between them given they’re two people with a tendency to catastrophism (which is, I feel the need to repeat, 100% right for the characters and their backgrounds and history).

Now, Herrera isn’t going to deliver a breakup novella, right, so we all know this will work out, but I loved the way in which things shift back into a good place, which suits the theme of both the story and the series as a whole, and is certainly more satisfying than “The Gift of the Magi.” Ultimately, this was a lovely little visit—and there was a heaping dose of multiple moments of sizzle for those who prefer their romance with erotic content—with two side-characters who got to have a moment of their own to shine.

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