January 5, 2012 | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Best of LGBT Chicago

‘Windy City Queer’
By Kathie Bergquist
University of Wisconsin Press
$24.95/246 pages

 

The beach is sounding pretty good right now.

You’ve survived the holidays, the crush of shopping, the insanity of parties and family get-togethers and a year’s worth of weird weather. You’ve lived through downsizing at work, upsizing at lunch and the changing of the middle class.

This new Chicago-based gay anthology makes an interesting beach read. (Image courtesy University of Wisconsin Press)

Now the New Year is calling, and the beach is beckoning.

Since no sand-sit is satisfying without a book, what to take is the next big question. The answer may be “Windy City Queer,” edited by Kathie Bergquist.

“What distinguishes LGBTQ writing from Chicago from its well-documented counterparts in New York or San Francisco?” asks Columbia College Chicago teacher and editor Kathie Bergquist.

In seven basic sections, Bergquist answers that question by pulling together more than 30 contributors of “national renown and distinction,” winners of awards, and writers for whom Chicago is a “vestige of a past life.”

And that past life might’ve been filled with mistakes. In “Marriage and Commitment” by Owen Keehnen, an off-hand volunteer gig brings a young man face-to-face with painful memories and a horrifying possibility.

Strength arrives in the back of a taxi in “Cold Cab” by Byron Flitsch. When a cabbie spots two men making out in the back of his vehicle, he overreacts and tries to kick them out. The date is quickly over, but the war has just begun.

As the saying goes, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But what if Mama is listed as Daddy?  In “I Am My Daughter’s Dad” by Coya Paz, the distinction is both hilarious and irritating.

In “The Mudroom” by Nadine C. Warner, the presence of a toddler enriches his mothers’ lives but causes “lesbian bed death.” Can feng shui, a sense of humor, and paint restore their dance together?

And sometimes, you really have to relax and learn to remain unfazed. That’s especially true when you’re the passenger in a car driven by someone who was born male but is transitioning and dressed to kill, and you’ve just been stopped by a serious-looking state trooper. In “Darla Speeding” by Deb R. Lewis, you’ll see why life is much more interesting when you roll with the flow.

Like so many anthologies, “Windy City Queer” is a mixed bag.

There will be stories in here that you won’t like. There are poems you might not understand. A few of the contributions will seem too long, while others will make you growl in frustration because of their brevity. Some will make you laugh, some will make you hate and some will break your heart.

The good news is that you don’t have to read everything. Editor Kathie Bergquist has pulled together a nice variety of works to fit a variety of readers and moods, which makes this an easy book to browse for five minutes or for five hours.

And there’s the beauty of a book like this: when you’re busy, restless, or you’re packing for vacation, you want a pick-up-and-put-down kind of read. A perfect fit, “Windy City Queer” probably sounds pretty good right now.

 

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