Though it may seem that there is an anthology for everything these days, Building Fires in the Snow is truly unique: a collection of short fiction and poetry by LGBTQ Alaskans. However, to recognize this book for its novelty alone would be to sell it short. The real pleasure of this engaging anthology is in its depiction of the gay experience out of the typical milieu, showing the rich diversity of gay life throughout the world.

While things are getting better, the literary epicentre of the LGBTQ world is still firmly located in New York City. As the public heartbeat of publishing and gay life for years, it deserves the attention. Still, LGBTQ lives and art exist everywhere, and Building Fires in the Snow beautifully represents that variety. The book’s stories and poems deal with the typical LGBTQ experiences such as coming out, first love and societal rejection, and these stories are still important to tell. But there are also ruminations on the environment, spirituality, rural life and isolation, which makes the collection unusual and unexpected.

An introduction by editors Martha Amore and Lucian Childs perfectly outlines the collection and presents a kind of thesis statement for the book’s scope. Readers see the breadth of subjects Alaskan writers cover on an individual level; the writers showcased are not easily categorized, and that is clearly something to be celebrated.

Yet this diverse strength also leads to the anthology’s most significant weakness: it simply includes too much. Most of its writers are represented by multiple pieces, which results in a number of poems and stories that feel superfluous, even distracting from the book’s overall quality. Ironically, some of the book’s worst prose and poetry comes from the same writers responsible for the book’s best material.

Still, this is a small problem in light of what otherwise works so well. Of particular note, it’s satisfying to see Spanish-speaking writers represented in an anthology celebrating diversity. Many LGBTQ collections fail miserably when it comes to inclusivity both outside and within sexual orientation, as gay males are often included far more than others. So it’s a pleasure to report that the editors don’t make that mistake. Instead, the work collected here spans writers and subjects from a wide variety of racial, religious and economic backgrounds, even within its Alaskan purview.

Books like Building Fires in the Snow have an important impact on society. As different sexual orientations become more visible, it becomes increasingly vital to show the range of experience that exists within the community. Amore and Childs succeed completely in that regard, only falling short when it comes to editing the collection down to each writer’s best pieces. Still, that criticism is outweighed by the book’s many examples of absolutely stunning and surprising work. It’s a beautiful reminder that there is more to the LGBTQ world than can ever be dreamed of in white New York alone.

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