Shades Within Us, edited by Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law

[As a warning: The story “Superfreak” by Tonya Liburd contains a scene of attempted rape.]

Shades Within Us is an anthology of short stories that celebrates all kinds diversity — from ethnic, to mental, to gender, etc. There are 21 excellently written stories. None of them stand out above the others, but they all shine bright nonetheless.

The stories range from sci-fi to fantasy to magical realism and everything in between. We read about a girl and her mother trying to get to the other side of a wall, led through Wonderland by a Cheshire Man. We see a woman trying to escape the horrors of WW2. There is a young man who has chosen a more aquatic life, complete with gills that have been surgically installed. We meet people and families from all over the world — the US, Canada, England, Ireland, Nigeria, China, Japan, Mexico, South America, etc. There is a young boy who wears skirts and hears voices. There is a young man who prefers to live inside a game to escape the torturous pains of his physical disability. More still, there is a girl who makes a deal with a Reaper in order to become more adept at Japanese.

This collection also features a variety of POVs — from 3rd person limited to 1st person, and even a handful of 2nd person POVs. This only adds to the stories and makes this collection stand out.

If there’s one thing that bothered me, however, it’s that nearly all of the stories took a bit to get me hooked. In the end, I can comfortably say that I really enjoyed them all, though. Something I truly liked is the ordering of the stories. It feels effortless how the stories just flow right into one another.

Shades Within Us is a speculative anthology that is both enjoyable to read while also making you think. Susan Forest compares diversity and humanity to a rainbow in the Afterword. The colors stand out, but the borders are fuzzy. These stories taken together are tough to fit into a nice, singular box — much the same as people. This is a collection that needs to be read by all.

[I received a digital copy from the publisher via NetGalley.]


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