Pride Reads 2024: “The Woods All Black” by Lee Mandelo

The Woods All Black by Lee Mandelo
The Woods All Black by Lee Mandelo

The Woods All Black, a historical horror novella about revenge and bodily autonomy, tells a riveting story about a trans man navigating an environment that disapproves of his appearance and demeanor. Set in Appalachia during the late 1920s, Lee Mandelo’s novella fantastically blends the supernatural with the irrational fear of queer people corrupting society.

Leslie Bruin, working for the Frontier Nursing Service, is assigned to the rural town of Spar Creek. Although his work involves ensuring safe childbirths and vaccinating the residents, the people of Spar Creek, particularly Pastor Halliday, treat him with suspicion. Leslie’s masculine wear marks him as a “mannish woman,” his unmarried status making him unsuitable for midwifery.

During his mandated stay at Spar Creek, Leslie finds out about Stevie, an assumed tomboy that Pastor Halliday insists should be fixed. Stevie, a trans man like Leslie, rebels against his mother and the church, running away into the seemingly ominous woods. When the town threatens and persecutes Leslie for his “degenerate nature” and potential for corruption, he searches for Stevie in the woods and discovers the hope of fleeing not only the town’s ignorance but also the church’s theft of bodily autonomy.

One thing about this novella that has stayed with me after the last page is the setting. The author does an excellent job of making the woods its own character, implementing vivid imagery and suspense. During scenes where Leslie watches or explores the forest, the descriptions depict feelings of dread and peculiarity. The attention to detail complements the significance of the story’s setting.

Another highlight of The Woods All Black is the eventual romantic relationship between Leslie and Stevie. The two are trans men fighting their way through a society that doesn’t understand them. The dynamics and erotic details add to the theme of bodily autonomy. Leslie and Stevie both want out of the cultural and social restraints of Spar Creek.

The Woods All Black is a remarkable narrative that expertly holds its breath until reaching its peak.

The Woods All Black is available from Macmillan and TorDotCom.

You can check out the author’s website here.

You can read more Pride Reads on The Geekiary here.

Also, please read and support works by queer and trans creators (indie and traditional), not just in June.

Author: Bradda M.

Bradda M. currently lives in Virginia. He teaches ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) at a public school and spends his free time reading and watching movies each night with his partner. For The Geekiary, he writes about webcomics and SFF media.

Help support independent journalism. Subscribe to our Patreon.

Copyright © The Geekiary

Do not copy our content in whole to other websites. If you are reading this anywhere besides, it has been stolen.
Read our policies before commenting. Be kind to each other.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *