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Book project to curate LGBTQ narratives from the Shenandoah Valley

Zan Ready via Flickr

LGBTQ people in or from the Shenandoah Valley are invited to submit their personal stories for a new collection to be published later this year. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The Out in the Valley collection will serve several goals, as editor Lorraine Dresch told me – including increasing the visibility of queer and trans people in the valley.

Lorraine Dresch image.jpg
Lorraine Dresch
Lorraine Dresch is a high school English teacher and the editor of Out in the Valley.

LORRAINE DRESCH: Because just having that representation is so important, so we can imagine ourselves as part of a place, and so we can more clearly feel like we belong.

But they explained it goes beyond just being seen.

DRESCH: I also see this book as a form of resistance against the repressive anti-LGBTQ laws that we are seeing across the country. There's been a lot of attempts to silence queer authors by banning their books from schools or libraries. In Virginia there's been an attempt to ban a book from Barnes and Noble. Just normal booksellers! Because their authors are queer and have written about their experiences of romance or sexuality or gender identity.

The book is being produced through a collaboration of the Friendly City Safe Space, the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center, and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board. It will feature 10 first hand stories, and each author chosen will receive $400 for their work. Dresch said they're looking for a diverse pool of authentic voices, and writers are not limited to just telling their 'coming out' stories.

DRESCH: They are autobiographical creative nonfiction pieces, which means they could really go in any direction. There's limitless possibilities in how people choose to tell their stories and what aspects of their lives they choose to focus on.

Entries should be 3,000 to 6,000 words, and the deadline to submit is July 31st.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.