I love short story collections where the stories are interconnected and the reader has plenty of opportunities to get to know the characters in different settings. In Las Biuty Queen, Monalisa tells us of life for a group of Latinx trans women in New York City, trying to make ends meet by picking up clients in bars or the streets during the early hours of the morning; dreaming about finding love and winning beauty pageants. In and out of jail, persecuted by police and hiding from ICE. Beat by addiction and mental illness. Reminiscing about hard life back home, struggling with bullying, poverty and the uneven burden that patriarchy places on those who society deems as men, demanding self-sacrifice, bravado and toxic masculinity. Life is tough and their prospects scarce but at least they got each other. It sounds like a dark book, but Monalisa manages to make it feel lighthearted, funny and charming. He/she draws these characters based on his/her personal experience and those of his/her friends, inserting him/herself into these stories. He/she thus shows us vignettes of quotidianity full of feeling, resilience and hope.
I enjoyed this heartfelt collection where trauma and gender are not directly addressed, a sort of Sex and the City with far more endearing characters. Now excuse me while I try to find everything he has ever written. Monalisa has inserted him/herself into my list of authors to watch.