Gay Dwarves of America by Anne Fleming

There are a lot of great writers in Canada, yet there seems to be little meritocracy. While some great writers are widely promoted, others rarely get the attention they deserve. This is the case of the inventive, unique and moving Gay Dwarves of America (GDA) by Anne Fleming.

True, it could be that GDA is a collection of short stories, not always the first thing people reach for when they read. Or, as the title suggests, some of the stories are unconventional, even outlandish, maybe not exactly what everyone might be in the mood for. Nevertheless, the reader will be generously rewarded with this refreshingly original collection of short stories. Fleming strikes that fine balance between humour and realism, reeling us in with a few laughs only to show us a more serious issue we might never have considered.

The nine-story collection contains a wide variety of tales, from the stellar and almost mainstream "Thorn-blossoms" about an eccentric hockey mom who must contend with her once ambitious journalist mother now stricken with Alzheimer's, to the experimental and self-explanatory, "Thirty-One One Word Stories."

In the middle of the spectrum, there are stories about a boy on a unicycle, a bearded parasitologist named Edna and a musical about a bunch of wannabe artists working in inventory at the back of an outdoor equipment store. This story includes a chorus of cashiers and of course (?), a love triangle with the cuckold in a coma.Yes, this is a laugh-out-loud book, but it also elicits a range of other emotions.

The title story, "Gay Dwarves of America," is about two college roommates who, on a whim, set up a chat room for gay men with dwarfism. However, when one of the roommates receives a serious email from a mother who suspects that her son, a little person, is gay, a distance develops between the two friends.

My favourite, "Puke Diary" is about the funny and harrowing events surrounding each family member's experience with vomiting. This even includes an entry on Sarah, the family cat. My least favourite was the "Backstock: the Musical." Although original, I found it long and had to restart it a few times.

GDA is not a quick read and is best enjoyed over an extended period of time, and preferably not on your commute to work. The conspicuous lime green jacket attracted quite a few smiles and inquisitive looks on the metro. Or was it my giggling?

Anne Fleming's stories have been widely published in literary journals, and she has been shortlisted for both the Governor General's Award for Fiction and the Danuta Gleed Award. That said, although GDA might not be considered mainstream fiction, I'm still surprised that it didn't generate more buzz. Fleming is an original talent that shouldn't be missed.

This review has been cross-posted at Rover Arts.

Other book reviews:
One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston
The World is Moving Around Me by Dany Laferrière
The Return by Dany Laferrière
The Goodtime Girl by Tess Fragoulis



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