Go into any book store and browse the shelves. What do you find? A lot of books featuring white, able-bodied, straight, cisgender (i.e., not trans) people. Most of the literature assigned in schools runs along those lines as well (though that’s improved, judging by what my 11-year-old brings home).
For so long, other stories have been used to “soften” our realities. We’ve had to find ourselves in the metaphors of white, able-bodied, straight, cisgender men, even when our realities look nothing like theirs. It’s been assumed that if a story has “universal truth,” then anyone can see their experiences reflected regardless of the characters’ identities. What that does is set cisgender, white, heterosexual male experience as the default normal and everything else as outside, different, and alien. But what if it were the other way around? What if white, able-bodied, straight, cisgender people could find themselves in our stories too?
I’ve seen it happen. Both of my children are avid readers, and their book lists have been full of stories about a wide range of people. They’ve been encouraged to see themselves in the children in their books while also respecting and understanding their unique experiences.
In writing “The Artist as an Old Man,” I was interested in two things: the difficulty of caring for an aging partner and living through grief and loss. Those are both experiences that happen to many couples, but sometimes, lgbtq people have to extrapolate to find ourselves in parallel versions. I like to hope that people could just as easily read a queer story and see themselves in it.
There are some natural differences, of course. At the beginning of the story, Kenny is reluctant to tell the nurse—someone he doesn’t recognize—that Aaron is his partner, not his father. There are ways that would look distinctly different for an opposite-sex couple. Even so, there are also ways in which many people could relate to their situation. Many people understand the heartache of caring for someone who doesn’t remember their own name, let alone their loved ones. And since this is a collection of May-December stories, a couple with a wide age gap could easily face some challenges if one partner needs long-term assistance—including having others pass judgment.
It’s fairly unlikely that the majority of readers are going to be 83-year-old gay or bisexual German-Jewish men (like Aaron). How is that any different than when I read about a middle-aged white man in Michigan or a twelve-year-old girl from Mexico? There will still be ways in which their stories resonate, and I can learn about how their lives are different from mine.
The more we see ourselves reflected in each other’s stories, the closer we become to opening our hearts and minds to the vast and beautiful diversity that is humankind.
Excerpt from The Artist as an Old Man
The negotiation had been scheduled for three p.m. on Wednesday. Mr. Rubenstein’s neighborhood was a bit challenging to navigate, and Kenny arrived at two minutes past the hour. He knocked on Mr. Rubenstein’s door, his stomach in knots at meeting the artist himself.
When the door opened, Kenny was met by a short, muscular man with dark hair, graying at the temples. He looked far younger than his fifty-three years. He had a long, sloping nose and John Lennon-style glasses. His face dissolved into a deep scowl, and Kenny sucked in his breath, stepping back a few paces.
“You’re late,” Mr. Rubenstein snarled. “Come back tomorrow, and if you show up on time, I’ll consider letting you in.”
He slammed the door, leaving Kenny standing on the stoop, staring. Malcolm was going to kill him, and then he was going to fire him. He might bring him back from the dead just to do it all over again. Kenny gripped his hair in his hands. Nothing for it but to go home and call Malcolm. At least Mr. Rubenstein had left room for him to try again.
Which ended up being exactly what Malcolm told Kenny to do, right after he threatened to not only fire him but put him on the three a.m. trucker shift. Malcolm didn’t explain how Kenny could do that if he were fired. Not in the mood for either outcome, Kenny promised to be on time the next afternoon.
About the author
M. Leibowitz is a spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. Ze keeps warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing romantic plot twists and happy-for-now endings. Hir published fiction includes hir first novel, Lower Education, as well as a number of short works, and hir stories have been included in several anthologies. In between noveling and editing, ze blogs coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, and hir family at amleibowitz.com.
Young Love, Old Hearts
A Supposed Crimes Anthology
Editor: C. E. Case
Stories by: A. M. Leibowitz, Adrian J. Smith, Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese, Geonn Cannon, Helena Maeve, Kassandra Lea, Lela E. Buis, Ralph Greco Jr., & Stacy O’Steen
Everyone hears “He’s too young for you.” “She’s too old for you.” Not between these pages. This anthology crosses the age gap with nine enchanting stories of cross-generational relationships. Some are sweet, some are sexy, some are heartbreaking. One is downright murderous. The protagonists are gay men or women searching for true love or trying out what’s right in front of them.
Verso and Recto by Geonn Cannon
Discovering their mutual love of reading leads a literature student and her professor to take a step neither of them expected.
A Blizzard’s Blow by Adrian J. Smith
Lollie dashes from the house in the middle of a blizzard in search of something she’s not sure she’ll find, but she hopes to never again see the same cold, blank stare Kimberley gave her.
Slice by Ralph Greco Jr.
When Germane relinquishes her more-than-slight kinky relationship with Lila to begin a new one with younger A.J., she finds a flirty, fun and wholly different “Slice” of life opening up for her.
That December by Lela E. Buis
Celia finds that older women and the politics of genetic engineering aren’t what they seem.
The Arrangement by Helena Maeve
When he is summoned into his Dom’s study after a mutually satisfying scene, Cyril knows he’s in for something worse than the play they normally get up to.
New York Minute by Stacy O’Steen
Stuck in his depressing hometown for far too long, Colton jumps at the chance to return to his beloved New York City. But when some odd coincidences click into place, he needs to find the truth hidden in the lies.
The Artist as an Old Man by A. M. Leibowitz
1985 is a big year for Kenny Anderson. Sent to interview artist Aaron Rubenstein, making a grand reappearance after a three-year absence, Kenny digs beneath the surface to understand Aaron’s life—and maybe his own.
Adjunct Hell by Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese
Phil may be in his 50s, but he’s still a student, and the fact that Carl—who’s barely 30—is dating him would bad enough even if Carl wasn’t waiting for good news from the tenure committee.
Say You Do by Kassandra Lea
Keegan Bancroft is hoping to avoid a complete meltdown before his date. But there’s something he really wants to ask Richard.
About the Publisher
Supposed Crimes, LLC publishes fiction and poetry primarily featuring lesbian characters and themes. The focus is on genre fiction–Westerns, Science Fiction, Horror, Action–rather than just romance. That’s how we set ourselves apart from our competitors. Our characters happen to love women and kick ass.
“Supposed crimes” refers to the idea that homosexuality is outlawed, and that our authors are being subversive by writing. As times change this becomes more tongue-in-cheek, but can still apply broadly to our culture. Christians writing lesbians and men writing lesbians are also subversive ideas in this industry, and we promote people bending the rules.