One of the ways that society oppresses people is by silencing their stories. This creates a narrative that promotes a particular lifestyle, group, or perspective while denying the existence of those who do not fit that norm. Therefore it is a revolutionary act when a marginalized person is able to speak their story, and it is essential that those who live with privilege listen and actively make space for those stories.
This is why I am so excited about the recently released book, All Out. Edited by Saundra Mitchell, All Out is a collection of short stories about queer teens throughout history, written by queer YA authors of various backgrounds and ethnicities. Some of these tales are re-imagined fairy tales, and some of them feature famous historical figures. The main character of all of the short stories is a queer teen, and, since these tales are told from so many different perspectives of culture, gender, ability, and sexuality, All Out is a testament to the expanse of teen expression that exists in the world.
While many of the stories focus on the ways that society has forced these queer characters into the shadows, it is not all gloomy. In fact, I would describe this collection as a celebration more than anything. Even in the darker moments, the characters find empowerment in the communion with others who are similarly marginalized. Also, not all the stories feature an antagonistic society, and these are wonderful reminders that many points in history and geography do not present the same landscape of oppression as our own.
This hopeful message is ideal for the book’s teen target audience, especially for those experiencing something similar to All Out’s characters. All Out gives voice to tales that are often erased from history as well as literature, and this is essential for teens (and adults!) to read. These characters may be fictional, but their stories are real.