Book review: Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie Griffin

crooked-letter-iGriffin, Connie, ed. Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South. Montgomery, AL: New South Books, c2015. 207 p. paperback. $25.95. ISBN 978-1-58838-313-6.

This anthology of coming out stories includes many moving and even entertaining stories, with only a few rather pedestrian ones.  Most of the writers are in some way professional writers, and that shows in their expert ability to tell a good story, even if often sad and sometimes tragic.  There are 16 stories, half by women, half by men, including two transgender folk, both moving from female to male or in between.  Everyone is white, except for one about Louie Crew’s Black lover, growing up in north Georgia.  This story, “Ben’s Eyes,” is one of my favorite stories.  It was told by Louie Crew, my former Rutgers colleague.  Another is Jeff Mann’s “Southern (LGBT) Living,” about coming out as a macho gay Bear in Appalachia.

My favorite female stories are ‘The Third Time” by Beth Richards, about her involuntary, then violent, then hopeful three coming out experiences.  Also “The Gay Kids and the John’s Committee” by Merril Mushroom, about the notorious “anti-American activities” committee set up by the Florida legislature and it’s witch hunt for homosexual faculty and students in Florida universities.

The unusual title comes from a children’s rhyme to help them spell “Mississippi.”  The ‘s’ is a “crooked letter” and they are followed by an ‘i’.

The stories are well written, although like all anthologies, some are better than others.  Most are in the first person, as they tell their own stories.  The volume is well-worth reading and should be included in collections of gay literature or collections specializing in Southern life and culture.

James Doig Anderson
Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University

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