Books with bisexual main characters are underrepresented in my reading life. It’s one of my goals this year to remedy that, but when I look through the dozens of novels I’ve enjoyed so far this year, a negligible percent are by and/or about bi folks. Last month, though, I stumbled upon a review in Bookmarks magazine…
Passing Strange is an engrossing story about a circle of queer women in San Francisco, 1940. The novel opens on an elderly Helen Young, the last surviving member of her group of friends. She leads us through the alleys of Chinatown, on a mission to retrieve an invaluable object.
The novel then shifts back to 1940, where we meet Emily, (a college drop-out with all the right night moves), Helen (a Japanese-American lawyer who moonlights as a dancer in Chinatown), Haskel (a painter whose chalk strokes bring lurid magazine covers to life), and others.
Events quickly unfold, flowing organically from one section of the story to the next. Though the novel centers on Haskel and Emily, San Francisco is reflected through the other women’s lives. When shit hits the fan, each woman must draw on their talents and make difficult decisions.
It’s wonderful tale of friendship, love, place, seasoned with subtle infusions of magic. I couldn’t put it down. Ellen Klages’ vivid depictions of the City by the Bay and the high stakes involved with living queer lives in the 1930s and 1940s, enthralled me from cover to cover.