"My family had no rules."
"There are certain rules you learn early."
Corinne Manning's nuanced debut short story collection is bookended by these two statements, both straightforward in concept but complex in execution. The first entry in We Had No Rules is a story of the same name; it follows a queer teen girl as she runs away from home to live with her older sister in 1990s New York City. She recalls a childhood in which rules seemingly didn't exist--that is, until her sister broke them and was kicked out of their home for being queer. Then the rules are glaringly obvious, intrusive and oppressive. Only through leaving everything she's known does she find out what it truly means to live without rules--and how confusing that can be.
Each story is told in first person and approaches rules, identity and relationships in a different way. At first glance, these characters and their stories seem unconnected, but as the collection progresses, minor figures from earlier stories reappear in their own narratives or in those of their daughters, friends or ex-lovers. Rather than embracing the modern idea of the gay nuclear family, the characters in Manning's stories are messy and far from perfect.
These stories do not subscribe to the idea that to be properly queer one must live out loud, with a partner and within the framework built for them by modern codes of respectability--but they do not deny it, either. At times funny, sad and frustrating, We Had No Rules is a collection of modern queer stories that embraces ambiguity over order. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels