This essay argues that the queer romances at the margins of Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille operate as sites of possibility for a happy, egalitarian social relation that is longed for but not otherwise accessible in the novel. The essay contends that this novel, read against Home to Harlem (1928) and Banjo (1929), offers one of the most sustained, nuanced representations of queer life in McKay’s archive and in early twentieth-century LGBT literature more generally, one in which same-sex-oriented characters are rendered as normal, integral figures in urban life rather than as outré characters whose primary function is to add spice to the narrative. As the novel demonstrates the continuing appeal of queerness as a site for imagining a more liberated, loving form of social organization—one that relishes the pleasure-in-difference that is a hallmark of McKay’s writing—it also anticipates formations within the queer liberationist politics of the decades that followed.

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