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Stripes Publishing
ISBN: 9781788950602

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself" [Song of Myself, Walt Whitman, 1892] Proud is a triumph. It is a timely LGBTQ+ anthology which celebrates and sings of diversity playing on the readers' senses like a beautiful concerto. The collection, selected by Queen of Teen winner and best selling author Juno Dawson, who writes the thought provoking foreword, is a joyful celebration of identity which will appeal to readers who appreciate sensitive, romantic, emotional, lyrical, poignant and amusing prose. Each piece is carefully chosen with an accompanying illustration in perfect harmony with its content.

A feel good vibe radiates throughout the book from its symbolic cover with a fist signifying rainbow power to its nuanced storytelling. A galaxy of talented Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer+ writers and artists capture the complex emotions involved in understanding your identity. They talk of anxiety, fairness, fortitude, justice, love, strength in solidarity, the freedom to be who you want to be and the courage to celebrate [to borrow a quote from Oscar Wilde] 'the love that dare not speak its name'.

Poetic, powerful and heartfelt phrases used include, "Be a beautiful thing. Be the moonlight too", "Be the glitter that shows up in unexpected places", "love is love" and "singing is best when it shines with truth and love".

Each story deserves its place in the anthology with particular standouts being: Dive Bar [its vivid imagery freeze-frames the feeling of being restricted and constricted and the sense of relief and release at finally expressing oneself]; Love Poems to the City [Moira Fowley Doyle paints exquisite pictures with her words and evocative imagery promoting equality and solidarity]; Almost Certain [which has an emotive spirit of tentativeness and longing]; The Phoenix's Fault [which is about acceptance that love can take any form]; The Courage of Dragons [which challenges stereotypes while incorporating the fantasy genre]; and Atta's poem How To Come Out As Gay which includes the important line 'try to understand that she loves you and is afraid'.

Significantly, four debut authors, who contribute a Chinese fairy tale, an LGBT version of Pride and Prejudice, stories about a diverse football team and a tale of runaways with a choice to make, also feature.

Proud seeks to break down barriers of prejudice and discrimination and preconceived notions of what family means. It promotes understanding and empathy and revels in its range. Stripes and Juno Dawson are to be commended for collaborating on this amazing anthology which encourages LGBTQ+ teens on their different journeys, delivering the message that they "have the right to be proud" and that it's alright to choose whatever skin you want to be in. As the Bookshop Manager of Gay's the Word commented, "It's wonderful to see publishers like Stripes nurturing emerging voices because implicit in that is the message that no matter how different we might feel, everyone has a voice and that our uniqueness is a gift and strength".

The welcome inclusion of author and artists' biographies and LGBTQ+ support resources complete the sense of bibliotherapy that LGBTQ+ teens will experience when exploring Proud, which can be read all at once or in happy segments. It is about embracing life and love. Different styles of art are also showcased which will encourage budding artists to create their own reading responses to Proud. This is a must for every library and wherever books are sold.

352 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Tanja Jennings, school librarian


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