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BOOK REVIEW The Island of No Secrets and Other Stories
by Julia Hale
2019-10-01

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By Lou Dellaguzzo. $13; Lethe Press; 243 pages

Island of No Secrets and Other Stories is a book of short stories that aim to portray what it meant to be queer in the United States in the 1970s.

While the time period in which the stories all take place isn't mentioned until the third story, "Sorry I Kept You," context clues ( such as the lack of cell phones ) let readers know that this collection isn't focused on the contemporary. Most, but not all, of the stories take place in New York City and have an LGBTQ+ focus.

While Island of No Secrets is a book of short stories, some of these stories intertwine. The draft-dodging protagonist of "Pegasus on the Turnpike" is mentioned as a secondary character in "Trail of the Prankster," and the adventures of two young boys are followed throughout the chapters "The Prince Who Disappeared," "His Own Secret Sharer" and more.

I love short stories, due in part to the low level of commitment, but this collection left me feeling hungry for more—and not in a good way. The stories "All of a Suddenly" and "Sorry I Kept You" served as idle page-fillers that didn't deeply address anything major at all. With a pill-popping mother and a sex-working daughter, I truly expected more from the desultory third story, one of the only ones that didn't contain an LGBTQ+ theme. These stories ( among others in the collection ) felt as though they were leading up to something big and meaningful—but just ended abruptly.

In addition to being full of painfully corny cliches—such as an 18-year-old runaway farm boy spending one night with an older and wiser trucker—Island of No Secrets and Other Stories also has some concerning use of language. For example, in the first story ( "All of a Suddenly" ), there is a strange fixation on using the identity "Puerto Rican" to describe how people look. This not only doesn't make sense ( as people of Puerto Rican descent can have a range of skin tones and facial features—but can also be construed as offensive or ignorant.

While Dellaguzzo is detailed and descriptive in his writing, it doesn't always read easily. Throughout the book I frequently found myself getting lost in Dellaguzzo's abstruse ideas, which moved faster than his words and left me feeling disconnected and confused. Island of No Secrets and Other Stories, while a good collection in theory, unfortunately was lacking in its execution. However, it's still a good book if you're looking to get lost in another world.


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