The sequel to the World Fantasy and Locus Award-nominated anthology Long Hidden, Hidden Youth focuses on children: underage protagonists marginalized in their time. 22 excellent stories ranging across nearly 2,400 years and spanning the globe, Hidden Youth reveals the stories of young people whose lives have been pushed to the margins of history.
An enjoyable anthology of stories about marginalized kids. Would have liked more than a single story about a disabled kid, especially with the cool image on the front of the book with a kid with running blades but... good stories.
Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke, is a companion volume to the Rose Fox edited Long Hidden, also published by Crossed Genres, the sadly defunct publishing house that, in its short life, nurtured some remarkable authors and released some important volumes of speculative fiction.
The focus of this anthology is marginalised youth - narratives of children and adolescents from many settings and time periods who share the experience of being outside, oppressed, ignored, othered, and sometimes worse. They represent those who exist in the margins of history and society.
Evocative as most of these stories are, not all reach the same heights of overall craft. Some deal in familiar times and places, others unveil pieces of history not often explored in fiction, or for that matter, in factual narratives. And as always in any collection, some touched me deeply, and others, even if technically admirable, were less engaging. Among my personal favourites are:
“A Name to Ashes,” by Jayme Goh, which tells a story I was not aware of, that of Asian workers pressed into slavery in Cuba under Spanish colonial rule.
“Trenches,” by Sioban Krzywicki, about a young trans person who magically comes into her own reality after leaving home to fight in the trenches during WWI.
“The Girl, The Devil and the Coal Mine,” by Warren Bull, in which a 12-year-old black coal miner’s daughter takes on the Devil in a battle of wits to save her brother.
“How I Saved Athens from the Stone Monsters,” by Erik Jensen, is a bawdy yet heroic tale of two child prostitutes in ancient Greece, a cityful of animated phallic statues, and Isis’ interest in a new penis for Osiris. Not recommended for folks with castration anxieties.
“North,” by Imani Josey is the story of a young black woman who moves north during the Great Migration, where she is given a choice between comfort, and love.
These and other stories collected here shine a light on times, places and people that history tends not to care about, letting us see into hidden lives. There is fantasy, and magic, and strange creatures, but there is also truth and history.
*There are 22 short stories in this anthology, 11 written by women, 10 written by men, and one written by a person who chose not to indicate their gender.
For me, this was a more uneven collection than its predecessor Long Hidden. But Hidden Youth also included many lovely stories! My favourites were:
A Name to Ashes, by Jaymee Goh (Cuba, 1874) Feet of Clay, by A.J. Odasso (Byzantium, 1st century) How I Saved Athens from the Stone Monsters, by Erik Jensen (Athens, Greece, 415 BCE) Nelly, by Kate McCane (Edmonton, Canada, 1909) Purple Wings, by Nitra Wisdom (Georgia, USA, 1934) The Promised Land, by J.S. Hawthorne (Scotland, 1836) The Mouser of Peter the Great, by P. Djèli Clark (Tsardom of Muscovy, 1704)
Alas, the copyediting in my ebook version was not top notch. Too many typoes and glitches, felt distracting (I've done professional copyediting so I'm a bit more picky about this than most people!).
As with Long Hidden, I would've loved to see more stories set in an earlier time period - so many were set in the 19th century or later. But I know that the further back in history you go, the more challenging it is to create an accurate setting...
I would have loved this more if it had been a bit tighter edited. There was a surprising number of typographical errors, and some very odd sentences that final proof readers (if any) missed. Things like, "despite the heat the women wore gloves up to their elbows despite the heat". The stories are good, there were ones I loved and ones I didn't, like any anthology.
Overall I'd recommend it if you have patience for bad proof reading.
I love these anthologies by Crossed Genres because I get to read the work of authors I wouldn't otherwise discover and the stories blend historical aspects with fantasy elements, which often work extremely well. Since it's an anthology, Hidden Youth is a bit uneven in the quality of the stories, some of them are great, some are good, some just plain ok. But overall it works very well and the stories have a nice variety to them, proving the great work the editors have put into this book.
Favorite stories in the order they appear in the book:
Throwaway Children - Jessi Cole Jackson (US orphan train) A Name to Ashes - Jaymee Goh (Chinese slaves in Cuba) The Bread-Thing in the Basket - K.T. Katzmann (Jews in 18th century Poland) The Paper Sword - Alec Austin (19th century China) Genius Jones and the Rolling Rifle - Michael Ezell (steampunk American civil war) The Ostrich Egg Girl - JM Templet (19th century Liberia) North - Imany Josey (black protagonists in early 20th century Detroit) Acclimating Fever - Peter Medeiros (19th century Liberia) In His Own Image - E.C. Myers (early 20th century steampunk Korea) Nelly - Kate McCane (early 20th century Canada, protagonist with Down syndrome) The Ship that Brings You Home - Camilla Zhang (Chinese slaves in Peru)
This anthology offers a fantastic variety of stories, with settings ranging from Scotland to Korea to the American Civil War. Including some authors' debut works, the collection showcases a diverse range of talents and voices, with characters equally diverse.