It has been said that the nineteenth century was the century when sexuality, and sexual identity, was first invented, which is also when this collection of short stories, all detailing the sexual predilections of a selection of "queer" characters, was written. In his introduction in the book, Christopher Looby also contends that the short story was also invented in the nineteenth century, and in this 2016 collection of short stories, two new literary genres collide. The Man Who Thought Himself a Woman was written by an author whose identity is unknown, but other stories in the collection have far loftier authorship, including Louisa May Alcott and Herman Melville. Thematically they are all similar: explorations of gender identity, love and affection, and erotica.
The title story tells the tale of a man who likes dressing in clothes belonging to his wife and his sisters, because they are the only clothes that represent his real gender. He dies by his own hand, his dying wish to be buried as a woman so that he can be in death what he never was able to be in life. Another story details the short-lived, passionate summer relationship between a wealthy heiress and a housemaid in her home; a third is the story of a young woman who dreams of a world made of candy, where the people are all queer, and where she can spend her days flitting from one to another to another, licking them.
Christopher Looby, who penned the book's introduction, also edited the collection. He is currently Professor of English at U.C.L.A. specializing in nineteenth century American Literature. He also conducts a summer program based on the study of the stories curated in this anthology, and also leads exploration into the development of "queer literature" as a genre.