Monday 6 May 2024

Not/Coming Out Charity Anthology Book Review (Sent for review).

We all carry secrets, parts of our lives which we hide away and don't share. Not/Coming Out is an anthology of poems and short stories from people who have hidden away the biggest parts of who they are. Some of the LGBTQ+ authors or their fictional (semi-fictional?) characters tell us what happened when they did reveal themselves, some explain why they don't. For all of them it is a huge decision which is very often overshadowed by worry, even when they are amongst their closest friends and allies. 

Black and white line drawn image of a closet or wardrobe, containing various clothes and with a teddy bear sitting in front

This is a fantastic compilation which is honest and raw, but also very beautiful. The characters within are incredibly varied, and every story, like every author, is unique. All of the entries focus on the act of coming out as a gay or queer person, either to friends, family, romantic interests, or themselves. Some are written from memory and remind us of a past which was far less truthful and far less open. Some of the tales are those of young (and not so young) people here and now, still frightened about acceptance and rejection. Several of the stories and poems are written by people who held their true self hidden away inside for a very long time before feeling safe enough to come out, and some are still not ready or willing to make that step.

I read Not/Coming Out in one sitting. I didn't intend to, but once I started, it was very easy to keep reading on. Each short story and poem paints a vivid picture, without losing focus on lengthy background or detail. We see deep inside the human beings involved, in a rare way that is genuinely honest with no polish or fancy trimmings. At points you are making discoveries along with the authors or characters, including realising or accepting things about themselves which they hadn't ever examined before. It shows just how different an experience every LGBTQ+ person can have whether they choose to 'come out' or not, and reiterates the fact that coming out is not a one-time event - it begins with self-acceptance and continues from there.

My heart broke for several of the characters, and I cried for the lost time, the lives of secrecy and the failure of acceptance, but also for the understanding and support, and the hope. This is not in any way a negative book, it is a book about taking small steps in the direction and at the speed which suits you. 

I think there's a lot to be gained for anyone reading this book. Not/Coming Out offers support to people who are questioning or beginning to understand, or considering coming out. It offers insight to parents, friends and other people who spend time with members of the LGBTQ+ community. It gives a cloud-free view of why it's so hard to 'come out', even to those who you are 'almost' 100% sure will love and respect you just the same. It also makes it very clear that not coming out is a valid option, and in some cases the better option, at least at that time, if not forever.

I've had people 'come out' to me many times, and I've seen the fear, and relief, in their eyes. Not/Coming Out makes me wish I'd had a deeper understanding of just how terrifying that moment is, and how much of their world they are laying bare. I've always tried to stress how little a difference it made to me, you are after all just the same person, but in future I'll think far less of myself and my reaction, and be far more in awe of them. 

Excuse me, I have someone I need to go and give a belated massive proud hug to... 

Not/Coming Out is available to buy from 16th May in Paperback or Kindle (£3.99), including from Amazon (affiliate link). Compiled by Kenzie Millar, and edited by Amanda Shortman, Dewi Hargreaves and Lou Willingham. All proceeds go to support the charity AKT, which gives support to young LGBTQ+ people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness or a hostile living environment. 

I was sent a digital copy of Not/Coming Out to review. I was not paid, and my review is entirely my own. Amazon links are affiliate, which might earn me a few pence if you buy through my link, but never costs you a penny more. It helps keep the website running, and the book reviews free of charge to the authors.

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