This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us

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This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby (authors and editors) and authors Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Juntina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Mariama J. Lockington, Marieke Nijkamp, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, A.J. Sass, and Claribel A. Ortega.

Published October 2021 by Knopf.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation written by talented luminaries of queer youth fiction. This collection is perfect for tweens and will also be meaningful to adults who didn’t get to read this kind of representation in literature when they were middle-schoolers themselves. What’s especially meaningful about these stories is that the main characters’ gender and sexuality are merely part of their identity, and their coming out is not the whole story. There’s something for everyone, including realistic fiction, fantasies, science fiction, historical fiction, a story told in verse, and even two comics.

The stories work well with each other, and it is fun to have the variety and all the different writing styles from these bestselling authors in one collection. Friendships, family, identity, and first love are all focal points in these stories, just as they are in real life. The characters are not perfect, make plenty of mistakes, and they learn as they grow. It is impossible for me to say which story is my favorite. Just to give an idea of the range in content, here are a few quick synopses:

  • “The Wish and the Wind Dragon” by Katherine Locke is about a nonbinary young pirate who enlists the aid of a wind dragon to blow their ship and everyone aboard across the calm seas to an island in time to see their sister and her wife for the summer solstice.“The Makeover” by Shing Yin Khor is a graphic story (comic) about a nonbinary middle-schooler making new friends, who empower them by going thrift shopping together and finding clothes for their complete makeover.
  • “Petra & Pearl” by Lisa Bunker shows two transgender girls living on opposite sides of the world finding support for each other online, as they both write fanfic for the same anime. Petra is the only person Pearl is out to. They share stories about their lives and help each other navigate coming out to their parents.
  • In “Splinter & Ash” by Marieke Nijkamp, Splinter (AFAB) wants to be a knight, but lives under the ever-watchful eye of a powerful uncle/guardian who is exceedingly “traditional” and only cares about appearances. When a masked ball is announced to introduce a visiting princess, Splinter goes to the ball disguised as a knight in armor. At the ball, Splinter meets a girl who introduces herself as Ash, and is looking for her knight in shining armor.
  • “Balancing Acts” by A.J. Sass is about a former gymnast, Kai, who feels a genuine sense of sadness about leaving the sport, since gymnastics is very gendered, and e feels that changing pronouns wouldn’t be enough to convince people e isn’t a girl. Kai attends a gymnastics meet that eir former team is competing at, but doesn’t feel comfortable celebrating with the team afterwards. Thankfully, the kind gym owner lets Kai stay on and practice on the equipment after the meet mates leave, which leads em to meeting new friends and finding a new athletic outlet.
  • “Sylvie & Jenna” by Ashley Herring Blake explores friendship and forgiveness and the relationship between two friends, who had a mishap when they were very young and are becoming reacquainted again as middle-schoolers. One of the characters is bi. This is the final story in the anthology, and a perfect story to end with.

This is Our Rainbow cements itself not only as a valuable representation for young readers, but also as an extremely enjoyable and exceptional collection of short stories.

This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans board member Barb Shumer, who is a retired public librarian.

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