“THE SOUTH” as a geographic designation is apparently expanding. In the face of climate change and sea level rise, the region is reaching beyond old Mason-Dixon borders and the Gulf of Mexico as far as Ellis Island—or perhaps Canada. That, at least, is the impression one might get reading Manywhere, a remarkable collection of nine compelling stories that author Morgan Thomas views as rooted in the South. At the same time, the book’s restless seekers, living in pockets of Virginia or Louisiana, Georgia or Alabama, rove beyond conventional boundaries, taking fresh approaches to asserting identity through connection.
Thomas, who was born in Little Rock and grew up in Florida, holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Oregon and is currently a Southern Studies Fellow in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The writer identifies as “genderqueer and queer,” and Manywhere is their first book. Thomas has said that questioning “the rules determining who and what can be loved, in what ways, and how much” is “part of the work of queerness,” and these stories take up the task with attention and verve. Manywhere brings to mind such classic short story collections as Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson, and Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find. However, Thomas delves deeper than loneliness and steers clear of grotesquerie, adding empathy to a narrative mix in which ordinary queer and trans persons work to build fulfilling lives in tough circumstances.
Rosemary Booth is a writer and photographer living in Cambridge, MA.