Stray City

Andrea Morales, self-described member of the "Lesbian Mafia," is having an illicit affair. With a straight man. This simple construct provides the jumping-off point of Chelsey Johnson's Stray City, which explores the many ways friendship, love and sex intersect--and the many ways they do not.

Stray City is not built on a fast-moving plot: Andrea (Andy, to her friends) starts her affair with Ryan. She continues her affair with Ryan. She keeps the affair a secret. She questions what the affair means to her, but also what it means to her identity, to her queerness, to the life she has made for herself in Portland. The slow build of Johnson's debut is its best feature, giving Johnson space to explore not only the affair, but how it impacts Andy and the family she has found in Portland. Andy's reflections kaleidoscope inwards and outwards, filling the pages of Stray City with a cast of perfectly imperfect characters. Collectively, this group brings to life a specific place and time--queer, woman-centric, late-'90s Portland--in a way that is at once specific to that moment and yet universal in its truths: we are individuals and lovers and friends and family, and sometimes those things are the same and sometimes they are at odds.

Johnson writes with an energy and emotional intelligence that is at once unapologetic in its honesty and yet tender in its delivery of it. Stray City is a love letter to community, to a nostalgia-inducing era of Portland history, and to anyone who has ever gone looking for one's self and found it in an unlikely place. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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