“Rebel Yell: Stories by Contemporary Southern Gay Authors”– whistling Dixie

Quinn, Jay. “Rebel Yell: Stories by Contemporary Southern Gay Authors”, The Haworth Press, 2001.

Whistling Dixie

Amos Lassen

I came across this collection of Southern short stores by chance. A friend of mine was cleaning out his library and thought it would appeal to me and it did. “Rebel Yell” is diverse and dark and so typically Southern.  There are 14 stories some of which are only fair but there are a few that are very good. Almost all of the authors write about why the South is different and then point out that Southern gay men are unique. Being a Southern gay man myself, I take issue with that stereotype. I have lived all over the world and being unique s not really a quality I find in gay men. No matter where you go in the world, gay bars and bathhouse and their patrons are basically the same. The authors in this volume claim that Southern gays place emphasis on family and that there is more prejudice against difference in the South. He also says that Southern gays identify with masculine men and are more prone to stay in the closet and lead double lives. I have to totally disagree with all of these generalizations.

Putting that aside, the best story in the volume is by the editor himself, Jay Quinn. His story “465 Acres” deals with Steve who recently lost his wife to cancer and now lives with his two children with his mother. He once loved a guy named Robin whom he has not seen in 22 years.

There is also “The Preacher’s Son” which is a sad look on how much a religious family will do to protect their name even if it involves letting the man who murdered their gay son go free. Another good story follows the idea of “you can’t go home again”. “Hometown” is a love story that reminds us that once away from home, it is hard to return if not impossible.

I am not sure that this is a book of stories, It reads more like memoirs and essays and almost all of the stories deal with the teenage years of the authors. Therefore there seems to be a lot of repetition and the book basically is an evocation of a time and place now gone. The gay man is the outsider. Herein lies the problem with the book. What is here is well written but what is missing is variety. It is a thoughtful and well conceived project which is honest and real—so real that it reads like biography. The plus of the book is we get to hear about the southern rural experience in gay literature.

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