You wake up at five in the morning, even though you set your alarm for six, feeling fully refreshed. Your body has decided to gift you an extra hour in your day, and the universe wrapped that gift with a big ol’ bow in the shape of a sunrise. You look out your window, holding a stiff cup o’ joe and think, damn, this is as good as mornings get. Sometimes the universe bequeaths you a hug, and there’s little you can do but hug back.
Valerie Halla’s Portside Stories is a lot like that cosmic hug. Everything about it breathes warmth. The plot, centering around best friends Alex and Nat and their adventures in gender fluidity, takes place on the intimate scale. Transitioning between genders is as much of an internal conflict—and initially, a literal dissonance—as an external one, and Portside Stories’s inaugural chapter concerns itself with the former, a struggle with the ambivalence lurking within. There are secrets revealed, hearts broken, and bras panickedly removed during Nat and Alex’s respective, four-years-separated comings out (coming outs?).