All the Pretty Girls

Are all girls pretty girls? And that “even amid squalor and chaos, true beauty is achieved through the simple act of reaching for something, anything, more” as the cover copy for Chandra Mayor’s collection of stories ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS (Conundrum Press, 2008) attests? I’m not so sure though I did find moments of rich, vivid writing, especially as Mayor untangles the troubled, conflicted inner lives of her narrators.

I just wish there were more, well, variety in her narrators. Young women grappling with poverty, children, abusive boyfriends (yep), and loss in just about every form–lost chances, lost hope, lost jobs, and yes, lost girlfriends–fill this collection. Struggle is a pretty powerful theme and Mayor paints moments that will punch you in the gut but after a few stories we didn’t seem to be breaking any new ground and I confess, I started skipping pages.

That said, Mayor clearly has talent and I’m glad to have stumbled upon this book though it wasn’t the little gem I’d hoped it would be. While it won’t go down as one of our favorite reads, it did raise a good question at book club: are all lesbian books downers?

I thought, no! And then, well maybe a lot of them are. And then, but isn’t most literature about pain and struggle and difficulty?

True, but there don’t seem to be enough lesbian books where being a lesbian is part of the story, not *the* story. As in Nicola Griffith’s book THE BLUE PLACE (Avon 1998). Aud is a hot badass former cop who has issues of the gun-toting assasin on her trail kind. That she likes women is a fact and not a big deal for her or anyone else in the book. Finally!

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