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Tiny Love Stories: ‘Queer in Appalachia’

“Family Size” was written in an aggressively large font on my Cheerios box. As I poured myself a second bowl, alone at 4 p.m. on Easter Sunday, the message reminded me that I don’t have a family (and, therefore, little need for such a big box). Divorce can cause this cynical perspective to descend at surprising times. My ex-husband and I met three weeks before my mother died when I was 22. I saw our love as security. Her death broke me — our divorce transformed me. I’m not afraid anymore. Rather, I’m filling myself up with self-love, self-reliance and Cheerios. — Amy Culleton Leslie

My Iranian mother’s love language is poetry. Once, we were discussing poetry in Farsi with so much gusto that my American husband thought we were fighting. Thirty years ago, Maman saved my life with a poem. When most countries slammed the door to Iranian refugees, she said a prayer and submitted an original poem with our visa application to the Indian Embassy. The ambassador must have liked her poem; he granted us a precious visa to India. I then found refuge in the U.S. My mother and I don’t say, “I love you.” Instead, we whisper a verse of Rumi. — Ari Honarvar

In my Appalachian family, love tastes like apples. Each teenage woman goes through a family tradition: mastering a signature apple-based recipe to feed her future husband. (There are a lot of apples in Ashe County, N.C.) My great-grandmother made tarts; my grandmother, pies; my sister, cakes and strudel. My cooking fails were not so laudable. I burned dozens of desserts before I came out as gay. Fortunately, my family accepts me, and we still cook together. Being queer in Appalachia can be sour, but also sweet. My family saves their apple cores and peels, and I ferment apple cider vinegar. — Laken Brooks

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We broke up on Friday. But on Saturday you wanted to go for a walk. We left our apartment and headed west, over the Manhattan Bridge. I wanted won ton soup and by accident we ended up at Noodle Village, the site of an early date. As we drank salty, shrimpy broth, we sobbed, alarming Chinatown’s tourists. Being able to mourn our love together, I realized, is love. — Hannah Beattie

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