Chicago through the lens of queer novels | Sponsored | David Jay Collins (sponsored advertising) | Chicago Reader

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COURTESY DEL NAKAMURA
  • courtesy Del Nakamura

Pride season in Chicago usually means celebrations, parades, vendors, and other public displays of LGBTQ freedom. This year, for many reasons, Pride looks different, but staying in quarantine doesn’t have to mean depriving oneself of the Chicago queer community. For those who are extra nostalgic for strolling the rainbow-flag-lined streets of neighborhoods like Boystown and Andersonville this month, local author David Jay Collins has two LGBTQ novels that transport readers precisely there.

Collins is a Chicago resident, writer, and artist who works at Northwestern University, and for him, creating work centered around the city isn’t even a question.

“The neighborhoods are characters. I want the reader to feel a sense of Chicago, whether or not they've been to Boystown or Andersonville. I couldn’t have set my novels in any other city, and I couldn’t have invented such richly layered communities in which to tell these stories.”

Boystown is the backdrop for Gaybash, a novel that tells the story of Matt Tompkins, a reserved gay man, comfortable but unfulfilled in life. The boldness of his friend Greg begins to make Matt jealous, so when he is confronted by two attackers, Matt channels Greg, resulting in a split-second reaction that changes Matt’s life in good ways and bad.

According to Collins, “This novel is centered on gay characters who rise to extraordinary circumstances. Every reader can identify with the main character’s emotional journey, and anyone can relate to feeling excluded from a community or a family, as these characters do. Gaybash is about trusting yourself and believing in yourself, no matter who you are.”

Heading north to Andersonville, the Swedish, queer neighborhood plays host to Summerdale, Collins’s work of LGBTQ horror. It features four gay men and Mr. McGreevy, the sociopath landlord of Summerdale House, as they confront pressing issues in the gay community, including racism, misogyny, substance abuse, and domestic abuse.

The work is social commentary, which Collins feels is horror at its best. He’s excited by the potential of the genre, especially as an LGBTQ writer: “Readers of horror have told me that they crave diverse stories and storytellers. As a vendor at summer festivals, I can tell you there’s no way to predict who’s going to get excited about an LGBTQ horror novel. Readers give horror writers a lot of latitude because they want to be taken on a surprising journey. I’m especially proud to center Summerdale on characters who are gay, and that by doing so I offer something else fairly unique in the genre—a horror novel where it’s men, not children or women, who are terrorized.”

Gaybash and Summerdale are available now, and the second Summerdale novel will be released in October, 2021.
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