Author Archives: Amos

“CHURCH AND STATE”— Legalizing Gay Marriage in Utah

“CHURCH AND STATE”

Legalizing Gay Marriage in Utah

Amos Lassen

Holly Tuckett’s and Kendall Cox’s “Church and State” is a documentary about the surprise federal court ruling in 2013 that legalized gay marriage for Utah and that caused a fierce legal battle in a state where Mormon church values control the Legislature and every aspect of public life. It follows the story of a loud yet inexperienced gay activist and a tiny Salt Lake City law firm that came together to get rid of Utah’s gay marriage ban. The lawsuit is not widely known and it all probability should have failed but instead, it opened the doors for the Supreme Court decision  that legalized same-sex unions nationwide.

The battle between state and federal government is always intriguing and for many Americans the Mormon religion is an enigma. The filmmakers give us a  fair and accurate depiction of “The Church”. We see clips of their “prophets” as they provide statements on homosexuality condoning violence against LGBTQ people while at the same time one man shares his violent reaction to a homosexual advance for which he proudly said that he was not sorry for. We see a good deal of hate and meet heroic lawyers who take on the case. We also see many happy gay people getting married in Utah despite the adversity of the place.

The film shows us the reason we have the First Amendment and is for everyone who cares about keeping our government from becoming a theocracy.

The way that Utah history is covered is extremely well balanced as is Mormon history (LDS). We experience what went on in Utah through the eyes of the people living there and this is an important film for both for current and future generations to understand the difficulties that led up to the Supreme Court case requiring equality in the treatment of all human beings and the right to marry in all states. The film reduces misinformation about Utah and may help reduce the escalating suicide rate among young people in the LGBTQ community who feel rejected by their families, peers and faith community.

“SCUD: A COLLECTION OF HIS EARLY WORKS”— A Collector’s Edition

“SCUD: A COLLECTION OF HIS EARLY WORKS”

A Collector’s Edition

Amos Lassen

“This four-disc Collector’s Edition features four early films from acclaimed Asian director Scud, including “Amphetamine”,” City Without Baseball”, “Love Actually…Sucks!” and “Permanent Residence.” You can find detailed reviews of each of these films at reviewsbyamoslassen.com

“Scud (born March 20, 1967), is the working name of mainland China-born and raided film producer, screenwriter and now film director, Danny Cheng Wan-Cheung (云翔). He chose the name “Scud” to match his Chinese name, which translates in English as “Scudding Clouds”. He was born during the country’s Cultural Revolution . His films explore themes usually deemed too controversial for Chinese cinema including same-sex relationships and drug-taking, and include many nude scenes of Chinese young men, whose genitalia are fully exposed on camera. His film-making style eschews cynicism or gritty realism, and embraces an acceptance of the life choices made by his characters, rather than a search for “solutions”.”

Amphetamine

When a passionate, gay executive, Daniel, meets a straight fitness trainer, Kafka, attraction blooms and the two men fall fatefully in love. They believe their love can bridge anything, even Kafka’s sexual orientation and his drug habit. While Kafka tries to love Daniel, despite his romantic preferences, a traumatic memory from his past continues to hold him back. It turns out, an addiction to love proves more fatal than the drugs they use to explore the boundaries of their relationship.

City Without Baseball

In a city where baseball culture is non-existent, these athletes are a minority by choice. The experience teaches them to deal with love, friendship and their own sexuality, while also giving them the strength to conquer losing in a spectator-less sport. City Without Baseball features the real-life Hong Kong baseball team, who bear their bodies and souls in this fictional youth drama.

Love Actually… Sucks!

An interconnected group of people in Hong Kong experience the dark side of love in this ensemble drama inspired by real-life crimes of the heart. Siblings in love are caught by their mother; a married painter falls for his same-sex life model; the intimacy amps up between a dance school teacher and his older, rich student; a lesbian couple attempts to overcome one partner’s role-playing fears; and a love triangle ends in a dramatic turn of events. ~~Love Actually… Sucks!** celebrates the real sides of love, and those stories not often told.

Permanent Residence

Ivan has been searching for the answer to a major question: what comes after this life? Ivan falls passionately in love with a straight man, but when he realizes he is not ready to accept his bisexuality, his relationship implodes. Needing to make a change, he travels to the Dead Sea, where he finds a new community of friends who are also unlucky in love. Along his journey, he experiences new friendships, deaths and births, and designs a permanent residence for his loved ones, just in case there is an afterlife.

“VOICE OF THE EAGLE: The Enigma Of Robbie Basho— The Voice of Cosmic Americana

“VOICE OF THE EAGLE: The Enigma Of Robbie Basho

The Voice of Cosmic Americana

Amos Lassen

“Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho” is a documentary about the life and visionary music of the American guitarist, singer and mystic Robbie Basho. He died early and in a bizarre way— at the hands of a chiropractor but before that Basho was sure that his compositions would die with him. As an infant, Basho was orphaned and, diagnosed with synaesthesia (a union of the senses that caused him to interpret sound as color). He later claimed to be the reincarnation of a 17th century poet. While he was Baltimore-born, he was based in  Berkeley and his musical output was equally as outlandish as his persona. In his short, troubled life he laid the foundations for radical changes to the musical landscape of America during the 1960s and ’70s but only had a small following during his lifetime. This documentary takes on a journey into the heart of his struggle. It features interviews with Basho’s former students, contemporaries and few close friends (including Pete Townshend, William Ackerman, Henry Kaiser and Country Joe McDonald) and brings together new information and stories about Basho with previously uncovered archive material and photography.

We see Robbie Basho as open-hearted and sincere, filled with religious conviction. Culture is often uneasy with Basho’s ideas even though he  was a guitarist of unparalleled innovation who magically “combined elements of Indian, East Asian, British and various other folk music to create near-symphonic odes to the American West and the human soul.” However in trying to get to the heart of Basho, Liam Barker’s documentary lacks balance. Nonetheless, it is the best we have and it is still excellent.

It is made up mainly from the video testimonials of the few people that knew Basho at all – his adopted family, a few fellow musicians, the students he taught guitar and his religious associates. We learn of details of his life and lifestyle unknown to most of his followers. The members of the California sect Sufi Reoriented are most prominently featured  and show Basho’s deep and abiding commitment to spiritual enquiry. Conversely, Basho’s status as an outlier guitarist is seen as self-evident in the interviews with his contemporary musicians. “There are some rather questionable comments from Pete Townshend – American Primitive enthusiast and also a follower of Basho’s spiritual leader Meher Baba (“I’m very influenced by Basho’s playing, you can hear it in my work”), whilst countercultural icon Country Joe MacDonald seem barely able to remember anything about his meetings with Basho.” Temporal distance seems to have been required for Basho’s genius to be truly appreciated as we see in the words of more recent musicians.

Filmmaker Liam Barker does an excellent job of shaping a narrative out of the diverse testimonials. “Similarly his cinematic depictions of the American wilds betray his deep love for and understanding of Basho’s music. Majestic depictions of the native landscape, flora and fauna are lyrically wed to the sound of Basho’s singing and playing, and it’s at these moments when he feels closest.” 

It is something of a surprise to hear that Basho was fond of wearing suits, loved meditation, and struggled with mental health issues and demonic visitations. It’s hard to imagine the very basic, very human pains behind the man, yet for all his eccentric codes of conduct and his Orientalist fascination with etiquette and self-discipline, he suffered loneliness, the feeling of being born out of time and had problems with drugs. 

The documentary struggles to give a definitive picture of Basho. There are very few interviews with Basho himself available in the public sphere, and likewise there are only three videos of him playing. From the various interviews in this documentary we can see that Basho’s idiosyncrasies left a mark on all who he met, but he allowed very few people to get close to him. The film creates a clearer image of Robbie Basho than we’ve ever had before but in the end he still remains an enigma.

ROUND HOLE SQUARE PEG 4—- International LGBTQ Photography Competition

ROUND HOLE SQUARE PEG 4—- International LGBTQ Photography Competition

A Biennial International Survey of the Queer Photographic Gaze

WHAT IS QUEER PHOTOGRAPHY?
Masculine, feminine, non-binary, gender-fluid – all perspectives tell our story.

ROUND HOLE SQUARE PEG 4 is a juried photography exhibition and competition conceived to discover a new LGBTQ visual culture for the 21st century. A special focus is on transgender awareness, people of color and underrepresented minorities in this biennial exhibition.

The exhibition is the only queer presentation at any of the major art fairs. Round Hole Square Peg first debuted at Photo LA in 2013. Curated by director Phil Tarley and associate curator Ruben Esparza, the exhibition is judged by a panel of five prominent jurors, and the director of Photo LA. As Stonewall 50 passes, LGBTQ persecution intensifies in Trump’s America. Art exhibitions enable LGBTQ photographers to voice their activism, proclaim their visibility and create a new wave of queer art and soul. Having a strong presence in front of a large audience helps the LGBTQ community defy and resist negative stereotypes.

This year, after debuting at Photo LA, 2020 January 30—February 2, 2020, through the support of the City of West Hollywood, the exhibition will move to the city’s gallery for a four-week run. Opening night in West Hollywood will feature a celebrity-driven, live art auction to benefit The Trevor Project: the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth and the ONE Archives Foundation: a vital resource for showcasing the trailblazing history and rich culture of LGBTQ communities through exhibitions that pull from the largest collection of LGBTQ archival materials in the world. The West Hollywood exhibition will run from February 8 – March 4, 2020.

Ruben Esparza, associate curator, said Phil Tarley organized the show in 2013, to dialog with the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles’ exhibition of the erotic work of Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland. Round Hole Square Peg is meant to tackle the paradigm of 21st LGBT visibility—to contrast the white male-centric presentation of the Mizer-Tom of Finland show. RHPS’s exhibition manifesto tackles the demanded visibility of female, people of color, and transgender LGBT identifiers.

Participating artist Stuart Sandford feels that his work is innately queer. “The queerness of my work, other than simply being produced by a self-identifying gay man, comes from the intention to question the prevailing norm,” he says. “The taboo, the (gay) male gaze on the (gay) male body in an unbridled manner, something once lost and now reclaimed. But will this, or any art, help save us in 2020? No, of course not, the artist’s role is to ask questions and provoke debate.”

RHSP Competition Judge, Paul Bridgewater, shares “Queer identity is not simply a sexual one. Queer artists have a perspective and an experience to contribute to society that is wholly our own and it’s a rich and worldly one. Having been marginalized and alienated for so long has helped us develop a unique view of self-worth, self-image, spirituality, and companionship. We can look at the world and mirror it back to the human condition with insight, style, glamour, and fun.”

“The world is changing for LGBTQ people,” Tarley says “In 2019, dark Trumpian clouds are forming and threatening to roll back hard-won civil rights. The religious right is ramping up its homophobic and transphobic attacks. By showing positive, sincere images that reflect our true queer lives, we can stay visible in a world that wants us to disappear,” said Tarley, who is also a fellow of the American Film Institute, a member of the Photographic Arts Council, and writes a critical photography blog for Fabrik Magazine.

Check out some of the photography for the 2020 Exhibition, or photos from the Past Exhibitions. Visit the website to get entry details, read more about the exhibition and the history of LGBTQ photography.

ENTER THE COMPETITION
Visit: roundholesquarepeg4.com

Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century” by Sarah Abrevaya Cohen— Ties 

Stein, Abrevaya Sarah. “Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century”,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux ,November 19, 2019.

Ties

Amos Lassen

In “Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century”, Sarah Abrevaya Stein tells the true story of a frayed and diasporic Sephardic Jewish family preserved in thousands of letters.

For hundreds of years, the bustling port city of Salonica was home to the Levy family. They were leading publishers and editors who helped chronicle modernity as it was experienced by Sephardic Jews across the Ottoman Empire. However, the wars of the twentieth century, however, changed the borders around them and, in doing so, transformed the Levys from Ottomans to Greeks. Family members soon changed boundaries and hemispheres and the family became located in Greece, Western Europe, Israel, Brazil, and India. The Holocaust nearly ended them as it destroyed many members of the family. 

Sarah Abrevaya Stein uses the family’s correspondence to tell the story of their journey across the arc century and the globe. The letters share grief and reveal secrets, propose marriage and plan for divorce. They wrote letters to maintain connection; because they were family. Stein discovers that it was the letters that held them together. Through the Levys’ letters she shares the history of the Sephardic Jewish community

Stein “has produced a superb and touching book about the frailty of ties that hold together places and people.” Stein follows the Levy family over five generations through their. Letters, memoirs, and interviews and we read of love and hate, success and secrets. Sarah Abrevaya Stein is a historian and a master storyteller as we see in this intimate portrait of Sephardic Jews.

“TWIN FLOWER”— Two Runaways

“TWIN FLOWER”

Two Runaways

Amos Lassen

Two teenage runaways who are haunted by their pasts take a dangerous journey of survival through Southern Italy in director Laura Luchetti’s “Twin Flower”, a dark coming-of-age drama.

Anna (Anastasiya Bogach) is eluding a human trafficker for whom her father worked, and Basim (Kallil Kone) is a refugee from the Ivory Coast in search of gainful employment. They team up and embark on a dangerous trip across the tough terrain of Sardinia in the hopes of overcoming their personal demons.

The film unfolds like a dark fairy tale. Both young people are being hunted, but for different reasons. The relationship between the two teens develops slowly and poignantly in the face of dangers. “Twin Flower” creates its own world connected to but somehow apart from any political issues. Long passages take place in silence, questions go unanswered, people watch each other carefully, and the landscape is filled with beauty and menace as the two pass through. Little by little, flashbacks shed light on Anna’s showdown with a sinister a psychopath pursuer who is now on Anna’s trail. Basim tries to protect Anna and survive in a strange land as he faces racism and something even darker.

The film is artistically and beautifully shot and scored, and above all else it has intense emotional power. We want a better fate for the lonely and troubled teens. We feel real despair at the shadows falling across the possibility of a better fate.

Anna and Basim are similar:  they are both fragile teens brought together by chance and stronger as companions in navigating the world. Anna is left dumbstruck by an unseen traumatic event, with the film opening on her fleeing Manfredi, her pursuer. Despite operating as a mute, she has better success securing gainful employment than Basim, whose lack of paperwork leads him to poor pay his way through late-night prostitution. Anna’s silence can vex, but the strongest scenes revolve around the pair quietly exploring the locales of their hideouts without the need for words.

In today’s world, we live with anxieties about “the other”. People borders and arrive in other countries carrying little beyond the clothes on their back and a frightened expression. They are being refused, persecuted, and reviled. Many don’t care where they came from, only that they go. For those who are “others:, the film gives them a short moment of grace.

There is remarkable chemistry between Bogach and Kon who are both nonprofessional actors. They carry this powerful film about coming of age in the throes of the refugee crisis.

“Twin Flower” is “pure, uncut empathy for unempathetic times.” We see what it takes to survive while seeking salvation, and how much of ourselves we need divest. Do we really know who we are and what we’re capable of? What are we really prepared to do to stay sheltered, stay fed, and stay safe?

This is a quiet movie that “wants to grant religious rites to those in deepest need: it wants to hear their confessions, and baptize them from sin. In an age where so many offer people like Anna and Basim no quarter, offering them full communion is a revolutionary act.”

We see how tiny offerings can have great meaning, and how sex can be both vice full and consolatory. We understand that distrust can creep in quickly…but so can joy. We are reminded of how easy it is for any of us to find ourselves in the “other’s” shoes.

BONUS FEATURE 

  • Bonus Short Film – “Cerdita” (Written and directed by Carlota Pereda | Spain | 15 minutes | Spanish with English subtitles) — Sara is mercilessly bullied by her peers for being overweight but a turn of events will soon change everyone’s fates in a most alarming fashion.

 About Film Movement

 Founded in 2002, Film Movement is a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

“Organizations for People: Caring Cultures, Basic Needs, and Better Lives” by Michael O’Malley and William F. Butler— Employee Engagement

O’Malley, Michael and William F. Butler. “Organizations for People: Caring Cultures, Basic Needs, and Better Lives”, Stanford University Press, 2019.

Employee Engagement

Amos Lassen

It seems that for as long as I can remember there has been talk about employee engagement as a way to raise corporate profits and reduce absenteeism and staff turnover. What is upsetting is that this talk has not produced better companies or better employer/employee relations and we see by evidence that incivility and instances of employee abuse are becoming worse. Since profit is the primary goal of organizations, most employees view any treatment they receive as a secondary convenience that will evaporate once corporate fortunes decline. Many employees still feel they are expendable. Profits are necessary but insufficient for corporate health. The companies featured here see their mission as to offer people a better, more fulfilling life for themselves, and they help with that holistic journey by providing those organizational elements people need to reach their potential.

To do this, they first create respectful and kind cultures that treat every person as an equal, sentient partner in the success of the company. Next, they work diligently to satisfy needs that include financial security, belonging, meaning, autonomy, self-acceptance, self-confidence, and growth. This usually results in earnest affection among people who work to live up to both the high standards of the work place or organization and their obligations to one another. “In providing a place where people can do their best work and thrive as individuals and as members of a cohesive community, everyone profits.”

“Readers are challenged to build successful organizations that are based on ‘people-centric’ principles that evolve from ‘unvarnished capitalism’ toward a refined system that continues to benefits from innovation and competitive urgency while, at the same time, maintaining a commitment to a culture based on ethical wellbeing. O’Malley and Baker introduce us to 21 companies that place people and community as the focus of their profit-making endeavors. We get countless examples of how humanity and capitalism can co-exist. 
Often leaders fail because they do not care about or are have no concern for the people they lead. O’Malley and Baker introduce us to a kind of leadership that will improve life, the lives of those led, and the members of the communities served.

“HOLLY NEAR: SINGING FOR OUR LIVES”— A Retrospective

“HOLLY NEAR: SINGING FOR OUR LIVES”

A Retrospective

Amos Lassen

This documentary film, “Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives” was originally broadcast on PBS’s “American Masters” series. It is a brilliant example of how filmmakers, in this case Jim Brown, can shed light on history and people overlooked by the mainstream. I remember reaching adulthood to the songs of Holly Near, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Judy Collins but in recent years, they are not listened to nearly as much. This film concentrates on Near and  cements her central place in recent American history as both musical artist and activist.

Near has been a major player in crucial movements such as the Peace Movement, Women’s Rights, LGBT and even indie music. She was one of the originals whose record company Redwood Records has become a model for self-distribution.

Famous women like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda are interviewed to properly give Near’s role as a progressive work and we see her winning personality, great empathy and terrific musical ability. This retrospective brings us into focus at a time when her songs are so needed. Her anthems for social justice still resonate today.

We have new Interviews with Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, Ronnie Gilbert and Kevin Bacon in addition to performances and interviews, there are an additional 8 Minutes Not Seen on the Original American Masters® Broadcast.

Holly Near has been performing for well over 50 years and in the process she created what Gloria Steinem called, “the first soundtrack of the women’s movement.” The film documents the story of the activist and her art. Her anthems call for women’s rights, gay rights, anti-war protests and all human rights; her music speaks directly to the world’s young political activists of today and it is “an important testament to a time-a time of protest and coalition building, and the weaving of a multicultural consciousness always rooted in contemporary activism.” 

BONUS FEATURES 

  • Over 30 minutes of additional interviews
  • Live performances of “One Good Song” and “Somebody’s Jail”

About Omnibus Entertainment/Film Movement

Omnibus Entertainment is the genre imprint for Film Movement, a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. Since 2002, it has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

“Hunter Killer: A Pike Logan Novel” by Brad Taylor— Seeking Revenge

Taylor, Brad. “Hunter Killer: A Pike Logan Novel”, William Morrow, 2019.

Seeking Revenge

Amos Lassen

Bestselling author and former Special Forces Officer Brad Taylor’s, “Hunter Killer” is the story of Pike Logan and the Taskforce, once the apex predators and an unrivaled hunting machine that decimated those out to harm the United States. Here they may have met their match. As Logan and Jennifer Cahill prepare to join their team on a counter-terrorist mission in the triple frontier (the lawless tri-border region where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet), they are targeted in Charleston, South Carolina. A vicious explosion kills a friend, and the perpetrators have made it look like an accident. While the authorities believe this was not foul play, Pike knows the attack was meant for him. 

He loses contact with the team in South America making Pike convinced that he and the Taskforce are under assault. His men are his family and he will do anything to find them. Pike and Jennifer head to Brazil to investigate their disappearance and run into a crew of Russian assassins. Within just a few days, they are entangled in a scheme involving Brazilian politics and a cut-throat battle for control of offshore oil fields. 

The Russians are the equal of anything the Taskforce has ever dealt with, but their mistake was in attacking Pike’s team since he has a couple of elite Israeli assassins of his own.

Right after the murder in Charleston, two of Pike’s team, Knuckles and Brett, drop off the radar after a ferry they were on was captured by terrorists in Brazil. Soon, Pike and Jennifer are headed for Brazil and an eventual confrontation with a Russian assassin crew. Brazilian politics has aroused the interest of many parties as an upcoming election will decide the fate of offshore oil and, of course, Pike and his team and two Israeli commandos who owe Pike a heavy favor, are on their way into a collision course with the Russian agents. Pike Logan and his gang face many comfortable elements.

This is the14th novel of the Pike Logan series. I was confused trying to understand how the main characters were capable of critical thinking while still being  physically strong and still able to control their reactions. Even though Taylor gave enough background about the characters, I still had a good deal of trouble keeping everyone straight. But then, something shifted and I became caught up in the story and read it with interest even though the characters seemed foreign to me in their motivations and the plot lines came across as unrealistic.

This is the first time I have read Brad Taylor so the Pike Logan Series was new to me. Some of the schemes are ingenious but the major characters spend too much time arguing whether Pike will kill captured Russian agents.

“Four Calling Burds” by Vincent Meis— Siblings

Meis, Vincent. “Four Calling Burds”,  Fallen Bros. Press, 2019.

Siblings

Amos Lassen

After their mother dies, the four Burd siblings go to Mexico where each faces his own midlife crisis. M is 47 and she wonders if it is already too late to transition to the male she feels inside. Audie is a gay male married to  gay male and they are fathers to a bi-racial son. Yet he feels that something is not quite right. Lio is a charismatic guy yet he is totally hedonistic and this has cost him his marriage and his relationship with his daughter. AJ is the youngest sibling and married to a man who has gained strength from a fascist bully as president. While they are not a typical family, there are family ties that seem lost in each person’s self-absorption. 

Author Vincent Meis has built four fascinating characters that slowly reveal something about their private lives. The siblings have not had the opportunity to bond as a family and now their mother’s death gives them a chance to repair that. They really come together when

two of them are kidnapped whilst on holiday in Mexico and the other two are tasked with raising money to ransom them and bring them back. When we meet the siblings, we are completely aware of their diversity and eve though this is something of a crime novel, it is really a celebration of diversity.

There is a lot happening in this something of a microcosm of modern relationships. We have a married gay couple raising their biological mixed-race son; a woman divorcing her husband mainly because of his political and non-inclusive views; a transgender schoolboy who becomes a man and causing his psychiatrist to face her own gender identity; a gay drag act that is finally accepted by his homophobic sibling and even more.  Yet even with all of these themes, we never lose our way and each story is masterfully told and handled (something I have become used to in Vincent Meis’s writing). Love is what sustains the characters and propels the plot. I was lucky enough to be snowed into today so I could luxuriate in every word and I read the book in one sitting. Meis writes with compassion and he allows us to really get to know his characters.

There is a great deal of warmth and compassion in Four Calling Burds, and it was a refreshing tonic for me to immerse myself in it, after receiving what seems like an endless run of books about war, poverty and Dystopian futures; I enjoyed the book immensely, it is fair to say. Meis does not hold back on the way he feels about today’s presidential administration or this country’s immigration policies and we sense these almost all the way through. Because of that, I have to say that this is not a book for everyone but I wish everyone would read it. I enjoyed it so much that I plan to read it again.