Out There brings together work from over 25 writers – some professional and some very good not-professionals, united in a shared sense of both queer-ness and Scottish-ness. The unique interactions between these two identities are central to each work included in this anthology.
The foreword states that, “neither queers nor Scots are naturally equipped with a stronger moral fibre than everybody else”. Scotland was the late to decriminalise homosexuality (in 1980) and therefore late to celebrate queerness, with it’s first Pride march in 1995, but was a frontrunner in the debate about equal marriage. This book allows these two interconnected, but sometimes conflicting identities to be explored and celebrated. As someone who is constantly on the look out for authentic queer, Scottish literature I was not disappointed.
Out There is a compilation of beautifully written literary works: from its presentation, to its composition it reminded me of a big story book, like one your mum would read you as a child, only gay-er! A slow-burn read, I read it straight through, but in retrospect should have take the time to dip in and out as it is rather epic in size.
The book includes both poems and short stories, the majority in English but one writer includes Gaelic translations, and many use dialect which made me feel a strong sense of location. It balances stories which are incidentally queer, with those which are explicitly so. It examines themes of identity, family, homes, love, lust, as well as darker topics of child abuse, mental illness and marriage breakdown. Written with creativity, sensitivity and rawness, each work is beautiful and individual and covers a range of peoples’ stories – some populated by characters ambiguous in their sexual or gender identity, others explicit in their representations of all the identities of the rainbow – LGBT and beyond.
My favourite works:
1. ‘The Fine Art of Finding A Safe Place to Pee’ (Jo Clifford) – from the moment I read the title I knew I would love this story! A simple but brilliant story of negotiating spaces as a trans* person, Jo Clifford writes with beautiful sensitivity about the very real problem of finding the compromise between feeling comfortable and feeling safe whilst travelling abroad.
2. ‘Cartography’ (Katherine McMahon) – a beautifully crafted poem about the kind of relationship that sweeps you off your feet, not simply with sweet romantic gestures ,but by drawing a heart-warming picture of love that increases self belief, celebrates identity, and strengthens self-worth. In velvety tones this poem describes the kind of relationship that I think everyone would love to have…
3. ‘Grace and Rose’ – Jackie Kay doesn’t fail to deliver in this beautiful story. A 20 year old love story, the women (each telling their own story) describe their experiences of being the first lesbians in Shetland as akin to the first woman on the moon! Their story ends in an idyllic wedding for the island!
Well worth a read, it is very rare that we get a publication of purely queer Scottish literature…
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