Tea Leaves by Jacob Budenz

Tea Leaves is an astonishing collection of fables for our time by a young writer of tremendous power and promise.

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Tea Leaves presents 16 speculative short stories that place queer characters in larger-than-life situations to emphasize the surreal experience of marginalization. A queer romance spans multiple incarnations, but only in doomed cities. A gay medieval scholar must testify for his life to the otherworldly octopus who traps him in a cafe bathroom. Ignoring their better judgment, a witch brings their mortal partner on a hunt for a dangerous sorcerer and must cope with the dire consequences.

Each of the stories within Tea Leaves explores the urgency of modern queer life in encounters between the otherworldly and the queer other. In juxtaposing queer narratives with new, larger-than-life myths, Tea Leaves both exalts and lampoons the queer experience while examining the sometimes surreal obstacles of marginalization.


“Budenz writes with an aesthetic and energy that jump off the page, narrating these stories with great care and curiosity. It’s funny, it’s queer, and it’s full of life.” —M.M. Carrigan, Editor-in-Chief, Taco Bell Quarterly

“The stories of Tea Leaves flit expertly between the numinous and the mundane. This collection by Jacob Budenz is both a charm against the banal and a come-hither to the hidden forces of the universe.” —dave ring, author and Shirley Jackson Award-winning editor of Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness

“These stories are fabulous, in every sense: beautifully queer fables set in a familiar world of food trucks and AirBnBs, but with just enough magic to set it all askew and show us the wonderful absurdity of the mundane—and the abiding miracle of love even amidst the uncertainty of our minds and the frailties of our ever-aging bodies. Budenz’s prose is quick and sharp, full of charms that whisk us into the darkest forests of the human condition. In Tea Leaves, we experience the fearsome joy of inhabiting the world in other bodies.”— Baynard Woods, author of Inheritance: An Autobiography of Whiteness

“You’re twenty-six seconds early, and you’ve found the right place. If anyone can kindle an unlikely spark into a lesbian food truck power couple and heckle bachelor party alligators to the surface, it’s Jacob Budenz. Tea Leaves wistfully transports us to a funny, improbable, end-of-the-road world. Come for the fairies; stay for the gay dimensional magic.” —Tucker Lieberman, author of Most Famous Short Film of All Time

Tea Leaves is such a fiercely and tenderly human set of stories. Jacob tells tales of longing—longing to be seen; longing to be loved; longing for definition, for certainty, or at the very least to be accepted in all our foible-filled uncertainties. These are unremittingly and exultantly queer stories, in every sense, but this is not a collection solely for the queer reader. These are stories of intense universality. Jacob Budenz is a magician.”Tad Bartlett, award-winning author of Marchers’ Season and managing editor of Peauxdunque Review


Jacob Budenz is a queer writer, multi-disciplinary performer, educator, and witch with an MFA from the University of New Orleans and a BA from Johns Hopkins University whose work explores the intersections between otherness and the otherworldly. A 2020 winner of the Baker Innovative Projects Grant for Simaetha: a Dreambaby Cabaret, Jake has work in journals including Slipstream, Taco Bell Quarterly, Baffling, Wussy Magazine, and more, as well as anthologies by Mason Jar Press and Lycan Valley publications.

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