Book Review: Krakow Melt

Set in Poland in the late ‘90s, Krakow Melt is the story of Radek and Dorota, two counter-culture art snobs with a little bit of revolution in their blood, or in Radek’s case, a little bit of revolution in his nail polish.

Wherever Radek goes, he is pegged as a gay man and harassed, threatened and attacked for being one. Ironic, then, that at a gay solidarity march, his supposed queer peers are the ones taking issue with Dorota’s sexuality. The conversation goes like this:

“‘I know what you guys are up to,’ Tomek said, motioning to Dorota, ‘and there is concern that this is causing division in the community.’

I hoped I had misunderstood his slant. He pulled me aside, away from Dorota.

‘Your friend is straight,’ he continued. ‘Have you ever thought about how this makes some of us feel? And what do you think she’s really after?’”

This sort of bullshit is familiar to Radek, because it’s pretty similar to the attitude he faces from the rest of society on a daily basis—even though he spends most of the story in a relationship with Dorota, since he is, in fact, bisexual.

Since that sort of discrimination originates from an unfamiliarity with differing lifestyles, it’s hardly surprising that this unfamiliarity would lead to confused judgments. Daniel Allen Cox, the author, noted that this sort of mistaken discrimination was par for the course.

“I think the idea is to be resilient and comfortable in your sexuality, knowing that people are going to peg you however they want, and will often get it wrong no matter what you tell them,” said Cox.
Cox, who is gay, admitted that his choice of a bi-gendered couple as protagonists was not purely politically motivated.

“My stories always hold me hostage and demand to be told,” he said. “They break into my room at night with a gun.”

Still, he “wanted to show that allies are important to any human rights movement.”

“When I recently spoke at Columbia College Chicago for National Coming Out Day, I was blown away by the number of queer allies in the room and the warmth and love they channelled into an amazing force for change.”

On the other hand, Cox remains wary about becoming self-satisfied with progress towards equality and acceptance. At the end of Krakow Melt, things are very much as in turmoil as they were at the beginning. For all its manic energy, in the grand scheme, little has changed.

“I think we have to monitor [our] attitudes especially closely when we feel we have reached a position of safety, because complacency has a tendency to blind people. And it’s no time to be complacent.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 16, published November 30, 2010.