What: Kindred edited by Michael Earp
Who: Walker Books Australia
When: June 1st 2019
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Walker Books Australia for review.
What does it mean to be queer? What does it mean to be human? In this powerful #OwnVoices collection, twelve of Australia’s finest queer writers explore the stories of family, friends, lovers and strangers – the connections that form us.
Compelling queer short fiction by bestsellers, award winners and newcomers to the #LoveOzYA community including Jax Jacki Brown, Claire G Coleman, Michael Earp, Alison Evans, Erin Gough, Benjamin Law, Omar Sakr, Christos Tsiolkas, Ellen van Neerven, Marlee Jane Ward, Jen Wilde and Nevo Zisin.
Kindred was something I’d been excited about since I learned it was going to exist. There is a general lack of queer fiction in the Australian YA world, and to see 12 queer authors writing #ownvoices (or at least #ownvoices adjacent) stories in one anthology is incredible. And yet. I wasn’t a huge fan. I ended up giving this two stars because I honestly felt like giving it two stars, and then when I did an average of my ratings for each individual story it was 2.4, which rounds down to two. Now, rather than review every single story, I’ve got three reasons why I felt Kindred was a two star read for me.
1) There was no consistent theme
To me, the cover screams contemporary. There is absolutely nothing about the cover that made me think there would be anything but contemporary stories in this anthology. The blurb also did not indicate that there were going to be range of genres in the anthology. The marketing didn’t, either. For me, I went into Kindred expecting a contemporary Australian anthology and I didn’t get that. I was confused when the first story seemed to be some kind of dystopian. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, and then every other story jumped around in genre, as well.
This is a ‘me’ thing, as I did go in expecting one thing and never could acclimate to Kindred being another thing. But I still think that the lack of cohesion to the stories wasn’t great. I think they could have been broken up into sections depending on genre. That would have made a lot more sense than it jumping around everywhere.
2) Not all the stories were YA
Look, when your title literally says #LoveOzYA in it… you’d better be YA. And yet three stories weren’t YA. There were two stories about characters in their twenties, which are definitely in the NA age range, and then there was a memoir at the end that wasn’t fiction or YA. I honestly think that a YA anthology should be, well, YA only.
3) Two of the stories were problematic
Two stories in this anthology were inherently problematic, meaning that they were problematic at their core. The first problematic story used reverse oppression as an education tool. I feel like this was not necessary in an anthology meant for queer teens. Yes, everyone always has something to learn, but this story felt like it was meant for an entirely non-queer audience, or, at the very best, uneducated cis people. Either way, I don’t think it had a place in this anthology because of the young readers that could be harmed by seeing themselves as oppressors when in the real world they are the oppressed.
The second story (which also features a non-YA protagonist) features a character with a father who went to prison for having sex with his high school student. This paedophilia was never addressed. Even if the character himself had no issue with it, I still think it needed to be addressed by someone else in the context of the teenage girl whose teacher abused his position of power. I was very uncomfortable with this story being included because of that issue of ambivalence.
In addition to what I’ve mentioned there were positives to the anthology, like the range of queer identities in the stories, and the intersectional diversity. I did actually enjoy the majority of the stories, but the two I mentioned above really impeded my enjoyment overall. I can’t say whether or not I would give my stamp of approval to Kindred. I think it’s one that I’ll let you make a decision on because for me it was overall a miss.
© 2019, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning paedophilia (student/teacher relationship), queerphobia, racism, ableism, reference to suicide of sibling, bullying, use of ableist language, suicidal ideation, depression themes (please note this is not a complete list, there were too many to list as I went along, but these are major ones that stood out to me)
paedophilia (student/teacher relationship), queerphobia, racism, ableism, reference to suicide of sibling, bullying, use of ableist language, suicidal ideation, depression themes (please note this is not a complete list, there were too many to list as I went along, but these are major ones that stood out to me)