Author Archives: Amos

“Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution” edited by Liam Warfield, et al.— A Subculture Beneath a Subculture

Warfield, Liam, Walter Crasshole and Yoni Leyser. “Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution: An Oral History”, PM Press, 2021.

A Subculture Beneath a Subculture

Amos Lassen

“Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution: An Oral History” is the very first comprehensive overview of a movement that defied both the music underground and the LGBT mainstream community. Through exclusive interviews with protagonists like Bruce LaBruce, G.B. Jones, Jayne County, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, film director and author John Waters, Lynn Breedlove of Tribe 8, Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division, and many more, we get a trove of never-before-seen photographs and reprinted zines from the time, tracing the history of a scene originally “fabricated” in the bedrooms and coffee shops of Toronto and San Francisco by young, queer punks to its emergence as a relevant and real revolution. This is a  firsthand account of the movement explored by the people that lived it—from punk’s early queer elements, to the moment that Toronto kids decided they needed to create a scene that didn’t exist, to Pansy Division’s infiltration of the mainstream, and the emergence of riot grrrl—as well as the clothes, zines, art, film, and music that made the movement  a testament to radically gay politics and culture and an important reference for those who wish to better understand this explosive movement.
The bookcenters on the wild, innovative, and fearless contributions queers made to punk rock, creating a subculture beneath the existing subculture. We see the intersection of Anarchists, the queer community, the roots of punk, the Situationists, and the other influential artistic movements. Here are the forgotten roots of queercore— the actual queer revolution came few and far between bands, scenes, and eras.

 

“The Exiles: A Novel” by Christina Baker Kline— Three Women

Kline, Christina Baker. “The Exiles: A Novel”, Custom House, 2021.

Three Women

Amos Lassen

In “The Exiles”, Christina Baker Kline introduces us to “three women whose lives are bound together in nineteenth-century Australia and the hardships they weather together as they fight for redemption and freedom in a new society.” 

Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline who had been seduced by her employer’s son is a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London who loses her job when it is discovered that she is pregnant and she is sent to prison and then sent to  Van Diemen’s Land, a penal colony in Australia.  While on the ship, she becomes friends with Hazel who was sentenced to seven years transport for stealing a silver spoon. Hazel is a skilled midwife and herbalist who sells herself prisoners and sailors in return for favors. Whenship arrives at Australia, the two meet Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of the Chief of the Lowreenne tribe, who has been adopted by the new governor of Van Diemen’s Land.

Kline gives us the beginnings of a new society in Australia from the perspective of Evangeline, Hazel, and Mathinna who find redemption, a new way of life and freedom there. This is a story “of grace born from hardship, the unbreakable bonds of female friendships, and the unfettering of legacy.” The book is both intimate and epic in scope.We read of the ugliness of the penal system and the courage and resilience of both the aborigines and the settlers who came after as they create new homes for themselves and their children.

Kline brings together fiction and tragedy and hope making this historical novel come alive. She has created compelling characters that make history accessible. The women face adversity and grief alongside love, courage and bravery and resilience.

I knew very little about the history of Australia before reading this and I learned so much through the  strong female characters, followingthem as they struggle to leave behind their old lives and adapt to the new ones.Themes of social justice, oppression, survival are part of the story. Set at a time when women were considered to be beneath men and faced discrimination, we learn so much. 

“Twilight Man: Love and Ruin in the Shadows of Hollywood and the Clark Empire” by Liz Brown— The True Story of Harrison-Post

Brown, Liz. “Twilight Man: Love and Ruin in the Shadows of Hollywood and the Clark Empire”, Penguin Books, 2021.

The True Story of Harrison-Post

Amos Lassen

Harrison Post was the enigmatic lover of one of the richest men in 1920s Hollywood. Liz Brown’s “Twilight Man” is the story of his battle for the family fortune.

In the 1920s, William Andrews Clark Jr. was one of the richest, most respected men in Los Angeles. His father was the mining tycoon known as The Copper King of Montana and Clark, himself, launched the Los Angeles Philharmonic and helped create the Hollywood Bowl. He was a man with secrets, one of which was his male lover, Harrison Post. Post had been a salesclerk who enjoyed a lavish existence among Hollywood elites. Clark’s homosexuality made him a target for the district attorney, his employees and his own family. When Clark died suddenly, Harrison Post inherited a fortune and a lot of anguish. This is the story of an illicit love and the battle over a family estate that would destroy one man’s life. It spans the era of  Prohibition in Hollywood, Nazi prison camps and Mexico City nightclubs,.

Harrison Post was forgotten for decades, but after a chance encounter with his portrait, writer Liz Brown, Clark’s great-grandniece, began to learn his story. This  is so much more than just a biography. It explores how families shape their own legacies, and what they go through to do so.

Brown did extensive research to write this. Clark was forgotten and had she not found a picture of him this book probably would never have been written. Brown

traces the history of the Clark fortune and the powerful men that built it. through journals, diaries, notebooks and scrapbooks provided by a family member and extensive research and interviews. We get to know Harrison Post and get a look at the ‘twilight’ gay world of the 20’s through 40’s in California and elsewhere.

“Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir” by Brian Broome— Blackness, Masculinity and Addiction

Broome, Brian. “Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir”, Houghton Mifflin, 2021.

Blackness, Masculinity, and Addiction

Amos Lassen

Brian Broome’s “Punch Me Up to the Godsis a total experience that had me laughing and weeping at the same time. Filled with truth and emotion, Broome takes us into his soul as he shares his  earlyyears growing up in Ohio as a young Black boy who had crushes on other boys. He becomes the “other” always trying to fit in and feeling the pain of not being able to do so. We feel the vulnerability of young Black boys throughout the memoir. 

Broome examines the pressures that Black men face to exhibit a certain kind of masculinity, the same masculinity that he found damaging as a Black, gay boy growing up in rural Ohio. He tells his story through a series of episodes that he has organized by theme around Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool” as he looks at what was considered necessary to “be a man”  and these damaged his relationship with his family, made it difficult to find queer community, and brought about struggles with anxiety.

Broome is brutally when he writes about his experiences with racism, homophobia, and physical and emotional abuse. He is open about how he was excluded,  abused and humiliated. His father punished and beat him for minor offenses; his black peers bullied him and chided him for not fitting in; he was used for entertainment by his white friends.

Wanting love from others while not conforming to their expectations is the main theme here. All of us who have ever felt that we are “other” will relate to what we read here.

The book opens with his father refusing to accept him since he is not “tough” enough.  Later a classmate tells him that he is not man enough when he was just ten-years-old. We feel the harassment that he felt as a young boy. Broome is forced to mature quickly because his survival depends on it. As a gay black man, his life only becomes even more difficult.

This is both a difficult and eye-opening read and perhaps one of the most important books that has come my way in a long time.

“All the Rage: A Partial Memoir in Two Acts and a Prologue” by Brad Fraser— Coming Into His Own

Fraser, Brad. “All the Rage: A Partial Memoir in Two Acts and a Prologue”, Doubleday Canada, 2021.

Coming Into His Own

Amos Lassen

In “All the Rage”, Brad Fraser, A Canadian playwright shares his rise to fame during the AIDS era. Having lived through a childhood of poverty and abuse, Fraser grew to be one of the most celebrated, and controversial, Canadian playwrights with his work produced all over the world. We are with him here as he breaks with his past and becomes a performing arts student. He comes onto the Canadian theatre scene with great promise even while facing challenge after challenge as he dealt with his sexuality. He managed to form a  combative personality and challenged the establishment in ways that others dared not do. He was soon notorious because of his abrasiveness as he polarized many.

Fraser’s story is of his journey as a queer man coming into himself during the time of  the Gay Liberation Movement and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. The terrors of the disease and the death and sickness that was everywhere around him influenced him greatly.

This is both the story of not only his evolution and an important look at gay history from a Canadian perspective.  Fraser is brutally honest in what he writes yet he does so with wit. This is a thrilling read and one that stays with us long after we close the covers of the book.

“Films of Endearment: A Mother, a Son and the ’80s Films That Defined Us” by Michael Koresky— Movies and Mother

Koresky, Michael. “Films of Endearment: A Mother, a Son and the ’80s Films That Defined Us”, Hanover Square, 2021.

Movies and Mother

Amos Lassen

In Michael Koresky’s “Films of Endearment: A Mother, a Son and the ’80s Films That Defined Us”, we are taken on a journey offamily, grief and resilience through the eyes of a young man as he remembers his mother and movies they shared together. Koresky’s memories are linked to the movies that he and his mother watched together. He and his mother rewatchedten films that she first introduced to him as a child, one from every year of the ’80s, each with women leads. He states that these films represent “The Decade of the Actress” and represent important and what was popular at the time. It is through these films that we get his meditation “on loss and resilience, and a celebration of the special bond between mothers and their sons.”

Alongside of the commentaries on the films, we learn about Koresky and how he sees himself. I think that many of us will remember our experiences through COVID-19 through the films we watched since there was not much else for us to do during the pandemic and as we do, no doubt we will find similarities between he author’s life and our own lives. Koresky’s memories are actually quite simple while what happened during the times that he and his mother shared while watching movies together is somewhat more profound. Spending this time together, he learned about his mother and became aware of the values she was trying to instill in him.

Michael Koresky’s most formative memories were simple ones. A movie rental. A bowl of popcorn. And a few shared hours with his mother. Through the films they watched together, he gained insight into his mother’s perspective and the values she hoped to instill. Through the movie sessions, Koresky and his mother not only forged a bod but he also became more conscious of himself as a gay male later.

During the 80s, I was living outside of the United States and only saw half of the movies in the book but I certainly see how those movies affected the author alongside the beautiful time that he and his mother spent together. I could not help but notice the similarities between the author’s life and my own. I, too, live in Boston now and am a Jewish gay male whose mother was the stereotypical Jewish mother. I also faced struggles with faith and my sexual identity absorb much of each chapter so that this book became personal for me. My mother is no longer here but I will always cherish the time we had together even though we rarely saw movies together. While there are problems with editing here, I found this to be a beautiful read.

HBO Max’s Legendary Host Premieres in 1st LGBTQ Weekly News Show on Revry

HBO Max’s Legendary Host Premieres in 1st LGBTQ Weekly News Show on Revry
LGBTQ+ News, Politics and Pop Culture on CULTURE Q May 6th
On May 6th, global LGBTQ TV network, Revry, will premiere it’s first original weekly news program CULTURE Q, an innovative entertainment, pop culture, lifestyle and politics news series. Emphasizing the queer millieu, CULTURE Qstands to be the leading, weekly forum for boundary-pushing LGBTQ discussions and commentary.
Hosted by digital news influencer pioneers, Shira Lazar and Andy Lalwani of the highly successful WHAT’S TRENDING (36 million monthly impressions), CULTURE Q features an ever-changing cavalcade of celebrated and thought leading guests who help capture that X-factor which defines queer culture. The weekly series will premiere Thursday May 6, 2021 at 5pm PST / 8pm EST, and continue every Thursday eve at the same time on the Revry News channel or On-Demand on Revry.  
“CULTURE Q represents an opportunity to celebrate LGBTQ culture and highlight the stories that matter to our community,” says Damian Pelliccione, CEO of Revry. “Revry is committed to inspiring exploration of authentic LGBTQ stories.”
The first guest will be HBO Max’s LEGENDARY MC and phenom, Dashaun Wesley – an iconic figure in the ballroom world, and most well-known by his appearance in America’s Best Dance Crew on the Vogue Evolution team, including acting on FX’s Pose, Magic Mike XXL and BET’s Hit the Floor.
“I’m personally excited to be a part of a show that represents a huge community that deserves exposure,” says co-host Andy Lalwani. “A lot of LGBTQ media gets swept under the rug. It’s important to highlight the intersectional voices among queer communities that can be marginalized and sometimes forgotten about. For myself, I’m proud to represent people of color in the media. I want people to see a face they can trust and feel comfortable with, and authentically represents who they are, as well.”
“Having created and hosted WHAT’S TRENDING for the past decade, it is an honor to be able to partner with Revry to bring our news expertise to the LGBTQ community,” shares co-host Shira Lazar. “It’s more important than ever before to report LGBTQ stories consistently to audiences as we continue the fight for rights and equality across the country.”
This weekly news show features top entertainment talent, current LGBTQ politicians and tastemakers leading queer culture. CULTURE Q can be found only on Revry, featuring hundreds of hours of original and licensed LGBTQ movies, shows, music and news.

“Things We Lost to the Water” by Eric Nguyen— Staying Connected

Nguyen, Eric. “Things We Lost to the Water: A Novel”, Knopf, 2021.

Staying Connected

Amos Lassen

Being a native of New Orleans, I try to read whatever I can about my hometown so when a book comes along that knocks me out of my chair, it is, as we say in Nawlans, “lagniappe”. Yet Eric Nguyen’s “Things We Lost to the Water” is so much more than a beautiful read as it explores how we attempt to remain connected to each other as our lives change. Huong leaves Vietnam and her husband and comes to New Orleans with her two sons. She never loses hope that one day they will all be reunited. However, as time passes, she understands that this will not happen and she has to deal with the loss as a result.

Huong’s sons, Tuan and Binh, grow up haunted by a man and a country in their memories and imaginations. As they move ahead, they each adapt differently to American life. Huong becomes involved with a Vietnamese car salesman who is, like her, new in town; Tuan holds on to his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, (who becomes) Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and deals with his sexuality. As they search for identity–as individuals and as a family, disaster in the form of Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans and they are forced to find ways to come together and respect the concept of family. To the Vietnamese, love is paramount and it is because of love that they are able to survive.The family is distinguished by love and what the three experience in New Orleans lets us see new ideas about immigration and what being an American means.

Nguyen’s prose is lyrically gorgeous as he gives us details about our three main characters as they face survival and each other.  I, too, experienced Katrina and among the loss and devastation, I learned new meanings of life and love, about what united us and what pulls us apart. Using the metaphor of water throughout the novel, Nguyen shows us how to survive even when we all have to do so differently. I had to leave New Orleans after the hurricane and find a new home somewhere else. Something that was not in my mind at the time. I easily identified with how the homes we find can become as dear to us as the ones we leave behind and while the memories of a different life are always present, the memories and actualities of a new life, somewhere else, become very important.

We are with this family over the course of thirty years and as they experience trials, we do so along with them. Because I am from New Orleans, I can assure you how difficult it is to capture the city’s flavor on paper. In order to do, Nguyen shares the journey of Huong, Tuan and Binh as he takes on their individual quests to find themselves and each other. I grinned and I wept as I read of familiar places, the Riverwalk, Winn-Dixie, Bourbon Street and the bars there that I used to visit. The French quarter comes to life and the humidity of the city has us sweating as we read. Saigon is not forgotten but stands in strong contrast to the new home. Here we have the concept of home—what is was and what it becomes. Our characters are both close and distinct making them appear to be paradoxes of who they are. We feel their emotional conflicts and their senses of longing especially with Ben and his internal war with who he is. As important as his arc is, it takes a backseat to defining the meaning of home, a term we may never fully be able to understand. Ask yourself what you think of when you hear the word “home” and you understand that it is a changing idea. Today home for me is Boston, but it was once Little Rock, once Israel and once New Orleans. As we change homes, we also change. Loss is always present in our lives yet we are able to accept or, at the least, deal with it. We learn, as they did, to face what comes and find a home in it. Home is not always where you live—it is what lives within.

“LAST DAYS” Dealing with Faith

 

“LAST DAYS”

Dealing with Faith

Amos Lassen

 

 

“Last Days” is  the winner of Best Drama at the Toronto International Nollywood Festival and Best Feature at Kenya’s Lake International Pan African FF, This Lagos-Set Drama is Also Available

It is the story of Grace Ikedia, a woman of faith, and a beloved shop owner known as “Mama Peace”, a devoted single mother to her children, Peace and Nathan. Soon after being widowed by her alcoholic husband, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and struggles to make ends meet and raise the money necessary for her cancer treatments. With help from her local church, she gets the money for the initial operation, a lumpectomy. All through her life, she is anchored by a devoutness to and faith in God but she begins to question her Christian faith when she experiences a re-occurrence of the cancer and her family’s survival is threatened.

Set in modern day Lagos, Nigeria, the film looks at class divides, disparities in modern medicine and conversations with God, as seen through a trial of faith.

 

 

 

An Official Selection of numerous international film festivals, including New York African Diaspora International Film Festival, Black Star International Film Festival (Ghana), Rhode Island Black Film Festival 22nd African Film Awards (UK)and Christian Family Film Festival, LAST DAYS was a festival favorite, capturing numerous awards at the Great Lakes Christian Film Festival including Best Narrative Feature, Best Actress and the African Continental Award and Best Drama at the Toronto International Nollywood Festival.

“Eva and Eve: A Search for My Mother’s Lost Childhood and What a War Left Behind” by Julia Metz— Then and Now

Metz, Julia. “Eva and Eve: A Search for My Mother’s Lost Childhood and What a War Left Behind”, Atria, 2021.

Then and Now

Amos Lassen

In “Eva and Eve: A Search for My Mother’s Lost Childhood and What a War Left Behind” is Julia Metz’s account of her late mother’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Austria and the parallels she sees in present-day America. 

Metz’s  mother, Eve, was the quintessential New Yorker. She rarely spoke about her childhood and it was difficult for her daughter to imagine her living anywhere else except Manhattan, where she attended concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera or enjoying the restaurant scene. 

In truth, Eve had endured a harrowing childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna. After her mother passed, Julie discovered a keepsake book filled with farewell notes from friends and relatives addressed to a ten-year-old girl named Eva. This long-hidden memento was the first clue to the secret pain that Julie’s mother had carried as a refugee and immigrant, shining a light on a family that had to persevere at every turn to escape the antisemitism and xenophobia that threatened their survival. Metztraces her search for her mother’s lost childhood and as she does, she shows us the resilience of our forebears and the sacrifices that ordinary people had to make during the worst times in our history. As she went through some of the things that he mother left behind, Metz discovered her mother’s past—two worlds— one ofher family’s escape from the Nazis, and the other, the present-day world. 

We meet three generations of women—grandmother, mother, daughter whose lives come together. We read of her mother’s escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna to New York City and see how it had echoed through her own life through today. Metz mixes research with imagination and she brings Eva, her mother back to life as she discovers her family history. We read of the emotional connections of a middle-class family to its home and of the complicated connections that Metz shared with her mother and her own daughter.  This is a family history of loss, escape, and refugee life as seen through her  mother’s childhood and that was lost to her.

Here are the ways history shapes a family. As we explore the past, we find a warning for the future. We are presented with what it is to the stressful life in this country today and see its relation to Nazi Germany. It is important for us to know our pasts so that we can better understand the present. In her mother, Metz shows how a victim of circumstance did not allow her life to be dominated by what she and that she was able to rise above it.

We are pulled into the Metz’ family history, reading how they dealt with their situation and how this affected the family. We then find the same feeling as we read of the author’s present life.