Color Outside the Lines
When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.—Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines
With stories by:
Samira Ahmed | Elsie Chapman | Lauren Gibaldi | Lydia Kang | Michelle Ruiz Keil | Lori M. Lee | Sangu Mandanna | L.L. McKinney | Anna-Marie McLemore | Danielle Paige | Karuna Riazi | Caroline Tung Richmond | Adam Silvera | Tara Sim | Eric Smith | Kelly Zekas & Tarun Shanker
The stories vary in genre, time period, and the makeup of the couples, but many of them remind readers that you can't simply play colorblind when your partner is from a different ethnic group than you. When you do, you also don't see the discrimination they face and don't see them as the whole person they are. Though this is best highlighted by the two embarrassing Thanksgiving celebrations in "Sandwiched in Between" by Eric Smith, it's an undercurrent throughout the book.
The strongest among the stories are as varied as can be. L.L. McKinney's "Your Life Matters" throws together a Black girl superhero, her girlfriend's racist cop dad, and a bank robbery that's taking advantage of a protest; "The Boy Is" by Elsie Chapman is comparatively light-hearted but still sees a Chinese girl burned by a racist ex-boyfriend who only dated her because she's Asian. Holly is struggling with the contradictory things her mother wants for her but is also a bit torn between a white boy and a cute Chinese boy. That romantic dilemma isn't lingered on, however.
Then Samira Ahmed's "The Agony of a Heart's Wish" and Tara Sim's "Death and the Maiden" just knock it out of the park. The former is a historical snapshot set in colonial India with the meeting between an Indian girl and a white Irish boy. Their one encounter has historical implications anyone familiar with Irish history in the 1910s may quickly see coming, but it's a gut punch nevertheless. Sim's brings together a vengeful Indian girl Parvani and the Greek god Hades, who Parvani gives herself up to as a bride in hopes of destroying the tyrant who ruined Parvani's life. Of course, Hades is a woman in Sim's story, and quite the ethereal one at that.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
Even the weaker stories, like Lauren Gibaldi's "What We Love", balance out the good (copious references to Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi) with the bad (a ridiculous, flat Christian mean girl). It's a surprise that just two or three of the anthology's sixteen stories feature queer leading couples, but perhaps I've been spoiled by particularly diverse books like Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood's Toil & Trouble.
Though the subject matter can be heavy at times, Color Outside the Lines affirms that love is love and it's best found with eyes wide open, seeing one's partner in every shade they are.