The book discussed in this post was gifted from the publisher.
Last summer, Stripes announced their new anthology, curated by the absolute queen of YA fiction, Juno Dawson. We went to see their cover reveal at YALC last year for the anthology and that definitely got us even more excited for the release of Proud. Myself and Sophie are huge fans and supporters of Stripes. They have some wonderful books and authors under their belt, and i am always excited to see what they’re releasing next.
After being invited to Stripes EqualiTea event at the end of Janaury, i couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Proud. The lovely Charlie from Stripes popped one in the post for us to promote at book club and read before the event, and i’m so grateful for the chance to read this absolutely wonderful book.
There’s something about anthologies that has never really stuck with me. I can name only a few that i’ve really loved and enjoyed (one being A Change Is Gonna Come by Stripes), and i’m so happy that Proud has made it on to that short list for me. I knew i was bound to love it with the theme of the stories, but i shocked myself at how much i love this anthology. There are twelve stories to delve in to with four new voice authors that Stripes found from short story submissions to the book. Each story is LGBTQ+ and has something to do with being proud of who you are. This has left a whole host of great stories, from fantasy to contemporary and everything in between. There are some real tear jerkers and some laugh-out-loud moments in this book. Stripes also got involved twelve illustrators to match up with an author for a story, leaving some stunning pieces of art in there too.
I obviously have quite a few highlights from Proud. I knew from the start that i’d adore Simon James Green’s story, Penguins. I have found all this books hilarious and his story in Proud is no different. Gay penguins is all you need to know about that. Also Alice Oseman teamed up with Simon to do the artwork for his story in her wonderful style. It definitely is a very welcome addition from me.
Another story that i absolutely adored was Tanya Byrne’s Almost Certain. It was so beautifully written and really drew you in to the characters within the short space of time you had. It’s difficult to really connect to a character in that time frame i feel, but Tanya did it perfectly. I’m so glad she was involved in this book to bring such a wonderful story to the table.
My final story that i absolutely adored was The Instructor by Jess Vallance. This was my first experience with Jess Vallance’s writing, and it made me want to pick up everything she’s ever written. The Instructor was absolutely hilarious and a little bit mad in places. It made me laugh out load and honestly reminded me a little of my driving lesson days. The story had a really sweet and lovely twist too. It’s everything you want from a short story and definitely drew me in to wanting more from those characters.
One of the highlights of this book for me is from the new voices that have stories in here. Kay Staples, Cynthia So, Michael Lee Richardson and Karen Lawler are all new voices that have stories in Proud. With some of these authors, i honestly had to check to make sure they were new voices because of how stunning their work was. I particularly enjoyed Cynthia So’s The Phoenix’s Fault and Michael Lee Richardson’s The Other Team. They were both incredibly different but stunningly written. The Other Team has humorous elements to it but definitely has a lot of messages that are worth learning about. Cynthia’s The Phoenix’s Fault was a stunning fantasy tale that i would love more from. The world she created in such a short story is absolutely stunning.
I make a habit of not rating anthologies, because i never know what to really rate them as. However, Proud is pretty much perfect. There’s truly something for everyone and there’s a whole bunch of representation for the LGBTQ+ community that i wasn’t even expecting in here.
There are only so many times that i can say this anthology is wonderful and the best i’ve ever read, but it’s true. Stripes do diversity incredible well but also incredibly subtly. Proud is about being who you are and standing up for that. It’s about wanting to be yourself without fear, and it’s so lovely to see own-voice authors share short stories with these themes. It’s truly an uplifting LGBTQ+ book.
As i said before, we love to support stripes and get involved with anything we can with their work. For their release of A Change Is Gonna Come we hosted a read-along on the blog that anyone could join in with if you felt like reading along with us. We loved it so much, we’re going to be doing the same with Proud!
The read-along will be from Monday the 11th of March to Friday the 22nd of March. That’s twelve days to read twelve stories in the book. We will be reading one a day every day for that time, obviously you can skip ahead if you want or work this however you want to. However on the blog we will be reading it chronologically during the twelve days.
We also are hoping to do this read-along with our book club as our March read for book club will be Proud! So there will be plenty of people to get involved and talk to about it. We really hope that you can join in with us. It’s a really fun way to read anthologies and it gives Proud the exposure it truly deserves during that time. Keep an eye on the blog and on our Twitter account for updates of the read-along and other fun Proud related things.