Saundra Mitchell edits an empowering and inclusive anthology of queer historical fiction in All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages.
Queer people have always existed, but their stories, lives, and loves are silenced and disregarded in most mainstream history teachings. Due to this erasure, countless queer figures have gone unrecognized. All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages eases the pain of this loss. Featuring an impressive list of accomplished Young Adult authors from all across the queer spectrum, All Out aims to fill the hole in the hearts of queer youth who see nothing of themselves in history or in literature.
This collection of short stories spans several hundred years and as many continents as it does genres. Varying in content, form, and length, this expansive anthology contains something for any reader of any age. Drawing from medieval witch trials, the death of Kurt Cobain, to the lesbian subculture of fifties Hollywood, All Out leaves no setting unexplored.
Beginning with an interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood, “Roja,” written by YA author Anna-Marie McLemore, All Outreimagines the stories that consumed our childhoods. A trans male character takes the forefront of McLemore’s retelling, as well as in Elliot Wake’s “Every Shade of Red.” In Wake’s contribution, Robin Hood himself is a trans male. One of the most celebrated figures of English folklore is celebrated as a trans boy, giving power to the trans readers who are able to see themselves in the role of a legendarily masculine character.
But not every story in the All Out anthology is a reimagining of fantastical tales. Some are painstakingly accurate. In Mackenzi Lee’s short story “Burnt Umber,” a young boy navigates homophobia as an artist’s apprentice in Amsterdam in 1638. Unable to act on his desires—and nearly outed when his longtime crush models nude for a study in anatomy—Constantjin struggles with the realities of his situation. Lee’s detailed observations of an artist’s environment in seventeenth century Amsterdam must have required extensive research in order to remain historically accurate, a fact which does not go unnoticed. Similarly, Malinda Lo’s “New Year” includes references to a very specific queer subculture outside of Chinatown in San Francisco where “male impersonators” performed. Lo even includes an author’s note, providing her source material and suggestions for further reading and research.
From lesbian chambermaids in eighteenth century London to an asexual roller skater in Maryland in 1976, All Out is an inclusive anthology for any member of the LGBTQ+ community.
The inclusivity and imagination in this anthology is immensely empowering to any queer reader, especially queer youth, who with this collection, can finally see themselves as a part of history. Saundra Mitchell’s masterpiece is a celebration of queer identities and proves the positive power of representation.
Review by Jerakah Greene
Published by Harlequin Teen
Twitter: @SaundraMitchell @LAAnnaMarie @themackenzilee @malindalo @HarlequinTEEN @HarlequinBooks