‘Invasions’ confronts experiences of embodiment with empathy and honesty

Calvin Gimpelevich, 174 pgs, Instar Books, instarbooks.com, $18

Amidst rampant heteronormativity, stereotyping and outright erasure, it feels profoundly meaningful to encounter nuanced and complex queer representation. To read queer stories by queer writers leaves one feeling seen — a feeling few and far between for many queer folks, particularly those who hail from small towns.

“When I was a teenager, the two options seemed: get straight or get out of town. I grew up rural, eyes glued to the computer, pirating dramas, stalking gay chats and gay message boards,” writes Calvin Gimpelevich in short story “Wolves.” Each of the 15 stories in Gimpelevich’s debut collection, Invasions, holds their own. These edgy investigations of diverse queer identities and connections dig deep, confronting various experiences of embodiment with empathy and honesty. Some stories are deeply speculative—Gimpelevich manifests Black Mirror-esque worlds with body-swapping technology and a character with psychic abilities.

Regardless of genre or form, Gimpelevich’s characters are alive, complex and ever-changing. Most are trans or otherwise queer. Some are anti-heroes — each equipped with their own unique blend of flaws, failings, and faulty judgement. It’s refreshing! In particular, “You Wouldn’t Have Known” follows a variety of differing and diverting trans folks’ experiences at a surgery centre, disrupt- ing one-dimensional narratives of trouble and triumph.

Invasions tackles boundaries and borders: of self, of the other, of space, and of bodies. Gimepelevich’s socially conscious and subversive stories are sure to stay with you.