Rainbow Rainbow: Stories

Lydia Conklin. Catapult, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-64622-101-1

Conklin delves into moments of decision, loss, and self-discovery among a set of queer characters in this superior debut collection. In “Laramie Time,” a lesbian cartoonist agrees to pursue motherhood with her girlfriend and finds that the planning process defies her expectations. Conklin refreshingly illuminates the anxieties and longings of the early pandemic in “Pink Knives,” in which a nonbinary narrator in an open relationship navigates a hookup before having top surgery. In the collection’s most aching entry, “Sunny Talks,” a secretly nonbinary person chaperones their out trans nephew, who is a minor YouTube celebrity, at a convention for trans vloggers. Conklin brings nuance and compassion to the subject matter and displays a captivating interest in human contradiction. Conklin’s command of structure ensures that each story has a satisfying arc, but most impressive is the author’s precise and evocative prose. Striking images dot the collection like jewels, as in “A Fearless Moral Inventory,” about a sex addict who swears off an annual street fair: “The sun was a red rip on the horizon, gilding the doughnut of the sleeping ferrets in their cage.” This talented writer is brimming with skills and heart. Agent: Samantha Shea, Georges Borchardt. (May)