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‘The Color of Always: An LGBTQIA+ Love Anthology’ (review)

The Color of Always: An LGBTQIA+ Love Anthology
Edited by Brent Fisher and Michele Abounader
Written and Illustrated by Various
Published by A Wave Blue World


Billed as a “collection of personal stories, testimonies, heirlooms, evocations, and evangelisms for queer creators and readers,” The Color of Always rises and falls on its attempts to cover the full spectrum of LGBTQIA+ experience. Luckily for us, it mostly rises across 14 stories trying their best to artfully advocate for people just trying to live their lives who often are under attack and threat.

It can be a fine line at times, to create art as advocacy.

We’re used to messaging in our art, and these days it’s easier than ever to incorrectly place one’s own messaging into a work of art rather than engaging the art for what it is.

The Color of Always clearly states its advocacy, and that’s necessary.

In America, for example, look at the daily onslaught of Republican bills trying to stamp queer people out of public life and beyond. The 21st century’s highest-selling author, the nation’s most respected newspaper, and the country’s most popular comedian all spread anti-transgender bigotry.

Some of the stories are delightful in their brevity.

“Sea Change,” by writer Lillian Hochwender and artist Gabe Martini, adds magical realism to depict a shipmate’s journey into realizing a non-binary, perhaps even intersex, identity in short order. Martini’s use of shadows and color truly set it apart.

“Tethered,” by Mario Candelaria and Laura Helsby, reads like the gay rom-com short film that I’d love to see. “Letting It Fall” by Priya Saxena and Jenny Fleming takes a coming-out story and runs it through tarot cards. (It’s not the only time the tarot appears in the anthology, but it’s the best time.) And “Extra Pages” by Brent Fisher and Rachel Distler artfully lays out a life of love, chosen family and togetherness when a gay man befriends a straight man one day in Amsterdam.

Other stories could stand more time to breathe.

“Both Sides” by Brittany Gonzalex and Elizabeth Malette, follows a young lesbian woman going through a very tough breakup and trying to reach the ex, but the ex isn’t having it. But therapy-speak replaces knowing much about the couple’s story. The hints at living a life of traumatic defense of oneself as a queer person and feeling unmoored and unlovable are very real, and those themes could create a truly soul-baring work.

Other stories come together as a happy fantasy.

“Ever More Myself” by Kaj E. Kunstmann provides a sweet story in which two people reveal that they each come from often-neglected parts of the queer community. My favorite story, “Long Away” by Tilly and Susan Bridges and Richard Fairgray, is a dynamic, beautiful tale of family and loss through the eyes of a transgender woman looking back at the past of a father and the cisgender son who never truly was.

Queer people and queer love are protests in a world set against them. Love and all that goes with it – attraction, companionship, betrayal, sex, self-regard, rejection, heartbreak – is a fundamental thing.

The Color of Always wants to showcase the full spectrum of queerness, but I didn’t notice any aromantic, asexual or demisexual stories across these 14 tales. But I hope that readers don’t get bogged down in counting the representation.

Rather, I’m ready for volume 2, some graphic novels based on these stories, and more.

Grade: A-


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