Sequoia Nagamatsu recommends Zach Doss’s Boy Oh Boy (Red Hen Press, 2020)

Boy Oh Boy (Winner of the Grace Paley Prize, Red Hen Press) is a collection of queer fabulist stories by the late Zachary Doss that had me laughing, crying, scratching at my skin, and thinking about the nature of relationships. Every story, many of them under two pages, is told in the second person, a bold choice made even bolder by the fact that every entry addresses “your boyfriend”: Your boyfriend living inside you, your boyfriend the robot, your boyfriend who wants to become the pope, your boyfriend who moves with you to the desert. The sheer genre range and experimentation of these stories is impressive and while many of them are contained with absurdist conceits, Doss never abandons his reflective gaze of people trying to discover themselves and connect with others, often with a poetic gut punch. An example of this is in his story, Embodied, where “your boyfriend”, who has taken residence inside your body, has stopped calling. But “you know from the warmth and pressure building along your tibia that he is still inside you. When you call him on the phone to ask why you haven’t seen him much lately, he says that he sees you all the time. In fact, he says he sees the parts of you that you can’t see, and from the inside, with the light shining through your skin, your body is a cathedral.” Clocking in at several dozen stories separated into eight sections (just under 200 pages), Boy Oh Boy took me on a journey through facets of “your boyfriend” and the human condition and is a tapestry of an immense and thoughtful talent who was taken from us far too soon.

SEQUOIA NAGAMATSU is the author of the forthcoming novels, How High We Go in the Dark and Girl Zero (William Morrow/Harper Collins and Bloomsbury UK) and the story collection, Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone (Black Lawrence Press). His work has appeared in publications such as Conjunctions, The Southern Review, ZYZZYVA, Tin House, Lightspeed Magazine, and One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories, and has been listed as notable in Best American Non-Required Reading and the Best Horror of the Year. He co-edits Psychopomp Magazine, an online quarterly dedicated to innovative prose, and teaches at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.