My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Tales from Perach, a set of five supplemental short stories taking place in Shira Glassman’s delightful Mangoverse, promises more of the lighthearted fantasy we’ve come to expect from this sweet but significant and engaging series. And these bite-sized adventures deliver. Each one is a wonderful blend of easy entertainment and humor, irresistible optimism, and important gender, sexuality and religious representation. I can’t speak on that last one, since the Mangoverse is Jewish fantasy, including Hebrew words, and Jewish culture and concepts consistently built into its world – the last story centers around a Purim play – and that’s outside my frame of reference or commentary. But everything else I recognize rings incredibly true and sweet. If you enjoy pieces you can easily zip through in ten minutes each – wonderful if you, like me, are low on energy/time/’spoons’ for disabled readers – and all of the above, pick these up. Previous Mangoverse experience is definitely not required, as each stands just fine on its own. (They’re also really fun. Like, super fun. I laughed out loud a couple times; been a while since I’ve actually done that reading. If you enjoy laughing, and warm fuzzy feelings, I suggest picking them up as well.)
The first story, ‘Your Name Is Love,’ following an adorable and artistically-inspiring scavenger hunt, should ring true for anyone who’s ever suffered creative block. Sometimes a day out with someone you love is all the inspiration you need. This one also had one of my favorite interactions, in which one of the ladies, a member of the city guard, made some rude guys back down through nothing but will and the sheer virtue of who she was. Not her status as a guard, or a friend of the Queen’s, just a woman. She deserves respect simply because of her personhood.
The second, ‘No Whining,’ a return to Yael’s restaurant from the main book The Olive Conspiracy, showed the dilemma of loyalty to a friend, when that friend is connected to clods who really don’t deserve it. My favorite part about this one was the unabashed adoration (albeit snark-flavored) and sensuality between Yael and Aaron. It’s rare to actually see this between older couples in fiction, particularly when one or more of the parties is transgender. It’s refreshing, important, and generally awesome to see mature trans people flirting and being genuinely in love.
The third is short and incredibly sweet – a prince, his partner, nightmares, and comforting silliness and cuddles. Another thing that’s much too rare in fiction, LGBT and otherwise, is diversity in body shapes and sizes, and especially heavy characters being shown as attractive, desirable and loved. Farzin (the prince’s companion, dedicated machinist and irrepressible jokester) is described as “three hundred pounds of comfort and love,” and while he might have some hilarious lines as he cheers up his partner (remember when I said I actually LOL’d? This guy), we never laugh at his expense. His and Kaveh’s relationship isn’t a joke either. Life without each other is “hunger, emptiness, missing a hand.” Like in the above story, the love between them is given respect and clear affection, and it’s so important and wonderful to see. Sweet dreams are made of this.
Next we have some cute teenage kids (one trans, one not, effortlessly included) on a quest to make a big sister’s wedding day super spectacular. With some unexpected help. This one had some more body positivity, and a very nice detail of depicting a variety of natural Black hairstyles in a clever way. I don’t feel like spoiling exactly how but like most of the best points in these stories, this kind of consideration is sadly hard to come by in many other fictional worlds. (As always, here, the inclusion is positive and complimentary.)
Lastly, the Purim rehearsal and performance. There’s more here I don’t want to spoil because you should really just enjoy… but the story collection ends on a simply wonderful note of affirmation for a variety of different kinds of family. Two moms, two dads, mom and dad, blood family, found family. They’re all good. And you don’t have to give any of them up, not ever. Like all of the above incredibly important, encouraging and positive messages, this is such an affirming and comforting one for readers, particularly young, LGBT ones, to have. Heck, it’s a good reminder for all of us. I’m so glad I read these. I think you will be too.
(“My soul is fed.” – Halleli)