“Glass Slippers Aren’t for Everyone” by Cathy Tenzo (656 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is getting their first queer haircut, and it is a big moment. Too bad the stylist doesn’t seem keen on giving them what they want. The piece looks at both the danger and the need for expression for the narrator—their coming out in ways great and small, and the kind of...procedural power that they draw from it. That coming out is often a process, and that some smaller steps help to fuel the larger ones by giving the person the confidence and comfort to actually tell their truth to the world. Here the stage for that is very clear_the narrator wants a crew cut. Not a pixie cut, not a bob, not bangs. A crew cut. And like the crew cut is armor against their fears and doubts, once they have it, they are able to wade into a deeper and more widespread battle, but one where they don’t have to hide.
Keywords: Hair, Coming Out, Queer MC, Disguises
Review: This is a really cute and fun story about a young woman coming out as a lesbian, and really it does capture so much about the process of coming out, at least for some people. The way that there are times when you feel like you need something to help, something to sort of visually say without saying that yes, I’m queer. A way of making that visual statement so that people can’t really help but “get it.” And the story does a great job of capturing some of the small ways that people are discouraged from doing just that. Because making that visual statement has the added benefit of making some people uncomfortable by rightly dispelling the illusion that the world around them is straight. That queer people are rare and that they keep to special places that are meant for “those people.” And the stylist here is basically trying to police the narrator’s choice to be out. Which might be for a lot of reasons. Maybe the stylist doesn’t want to get a call from angry parents. But whatever the reason, it has this definite stifling effect, and I love how the narrator deals with it, how they need at this moment to hide. But the moment that they have the hair cut they want, the moment it is done, they are able to say with growing and resounding volume that they are queer. That they aren’t going to hide. And come what may from their people in their life, they are taking these steps. It’s cute and empowering and I really like the way it shows how for many people coming out isn’t always an all-at-once kind of thing. That sometimes it needs to build momentum, and needs to clear hurdles, before finally reaching a place that feels right. A wonderful read!
“The Finger” by Tara Lazar (961 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is working their job in a book store when a man rushes in, having severed some of his finger in a car door. And one, Ouch! But more than that, it requires the narrator to step into a role they bristle at—caring for someone else in a situation they didn’t choose or want. And perhaps because of the dynamics of the situation, they are expected to save the day, supposed to want to help, when they’re dealing with their own issues and really in no place to be helping out in this dramatic situation. It’s a piece that bowls forward at full speed, not really giving anyone the chance to figure things out as people sort of fall into their default roles, with some rather notable rebellions.
Keywords: Fingers, First Aid, Magazine Articles, Employment, Gulls
Review: I really like how this story looks at roles and at the ways people are pressured to conform to certain expectations, certain concessions, that often mean a lot more than they might seem. The narrator here is someone who is already dealing with a lot. With a job that is beneath them, probably with other economic worries, with being treated not just like a child, but as a woman, and by extension as a caregiver and servant. It’s something pushing in at them at all times, in the magazines they read, in the stories that fill the store all around them. Never benign, but always actively trying to convince they that they are a certain way. Secretly. Without even their choosing it. That deep inside they are exactly the girl everyone sees when people look at them. When really they are not eager to please. And when this guy runs into the store having just severed a part of a finger, it’s not that she completely hates him or isn’t willing to help people in need, it’s that there seems to loom this powerful feeling inside them that pushes back against the cage they have been forced into. And so when this guy bursts in, they help because they’re a good person, but can’t help but bristle at how they are treated, like it’s only right that this doof guy should want his mommy and that they have to be it. So they push back. Kinda hard. And as much as it sucks for the dude, I completely understand that urge to resist, to throw off the expectations, and to essentially give everyone the finger. Which, in this case, is rather literal, and it makes for a funny and fun and surprisingly deep and complex read that I very much enjoyed and think you should check out immediately!
“Grandmother’s Satchel, Full of Tongues” by Rebecca Birch (1000 words)
No Spoilers: Siopi is desperate, and desperate people have a way of making their way to Glossa’s home. People know Glossa is a witch, and that alone keeps most people away. But those who truly need help. And Siopi has a series of problems, problems that she needs help with, problems that are actually one problem that she can’t quite name. Not yet. And the story settles on the balance of magic, the bargain of it. And how the use of magic exacts a price, but not always one that person seeking the magic can’t afford. It’s a dark but still hopeful read, of desperation, yes, but also of people finding what they need.
Keywords: Witches, Crows, Rats, CW- Abuse, Bargains
Review: This story follows a certain pattern that fairy tales and similar kinds of stories often employ. A desperate woman goes seeking magic because something has happened. Her family might starve if the crows can’t be deterred. Or the rats. But throughout there is a different kind of statement as well, that these women are also facing abuse for things they can’t control, are being blamed for things they have no part of, and in order to try and live by the impossible standards that the world and their intimate partners impose on them, they have to seek out magic. Knowing that there is often a price to be paid, but that the alternative is so terrible that they will pay anything to avoid it. Normally that means opening themselves up to dark forces that will destroy them. Or hurt them. Here, though, the story is tweaked a bit. Because the witch in question isn’t some agent of evil. Instead, she’s a woman who herself was desperate once. And who paid the price of magic so that other women wouldn’t have to. And that’s really what I love about this, that the price isn’t unfair. That it’s not setting magic up as some sort of bargain with the devil, but rather that it might be part of a balance. One that can be used to counteract the gendered violence that people and especially women face. The abuse that they endure because they are under the power of a terrible man. And so the story isn’t about the horror of Siopi seeking out this witch, an act that would normally condemn her to a horrible fate, which would only reinforce that the desperate deserve to be taken advantage of and further abused and hurt. No, instead the desperate here can actually get help, and through that help get to a better place for themselves and their families. A great read!