Outside the XY edited by Morgan Mann Willis
Published by: Riverdale Avenue Books
Genre: Queer Literature
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: Transformational, own-voice, bite-sized exploration within queer black and brown experience via writing of the highest quality.
Plot: Outside the XY: Queer, Black and Brown Masculinity is an anthology of more than 50 stories, memories, poems, ideas, essays and letters–all examining what it looks like, feels like, and is like to inhabit masculinity outside of cisgendered manhood as people of color in the world. Read these passionate, complex autobiographical glimpses into the many layers of identity as the authors offer olive branches to old and new lovers.
This anthology is designed to be uplifting, as it considers and explores our masculine identities as non cis-gendered males, or those traditionally born with the “XY” chromosome. It is a radical act of self-love and affirmation. Outside the XY is a labor of love.
Review: This book is stunning — genuinely stunning. I usually tear through books in a single sitting but this one just wouldn’t let me. It’s like eating cheesecake or truffles or something rich, dense, and smooth with layers of nuance and flavor.
So many things struck me about this book. The first quote that comes to mind is the last line from the title poem: Outside the XY, Why Not by Chino Hardin: I am the warrior who carries the message no matter the weight.
This book is full of warriors who carry the message.
Gay voices. Lesbian voices. Trans voices. Gender queer voices. Intersex Kink voices. Disabled voices. Voices of siblings and relatives — some whom are better allies than others. Some authors delve into their sexual/gender identity all while erased or abused by the straight community. Many of them talk about the experience of being erased by the caucasian community. Those of mixed race discuss not fitting anywhere.
There are love letters to childhood selves and memories of how childhood bodies transformed into something that felt unfamiliar. There was an untitled poem by Maya Thompson who shares the shock of identifying herself an oppressor and an abuser of those of who share her sex — and how that shaped who she is now.
Victoria Carmen White is a memoir told by Parker T. Hurley that I wish would be read in every school. He speaks eloquently of growing up in a school with one other trans person. One was quiet, the other outspoken. The former lived to tell their story. There was a part near the end when Hurley describes losing the support of the queer community once he looked like the man he knew he was, of the fear-response others had of him just by his walking down the street, and of how he assimilated these aggressions, knowing the response couldn’t be toward him personally but deeply feeling the effect of them. The entire piece was one of the most lucid examples of writing I’d ever read.
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: If you are impatient (or unwilling to take your time in reading this book), you might get frustrated. These pieces are meant to take up your time and thoughts and heart. The writing is exceptional across the board. I can imagine it being adopted in universities in departments beyond queer studies — literature or comparative literature, for sure — but it is not at all required to read this book as an academic in order to enjoy it. It is fantastic and gets my highest recommendation.
What you will love: The writing is superlative. I just cannot say enough how beautiful these pieces are. I loved being able to flip to an essay, a memoir, a poem, a short story and getting something unexpected and wonderful every time.
Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.
Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra