Author Archives: Amos

“Gay Slayer : The True Story of Colin Ireland” by Scott Farrell— A Criminal Life

Farrell, Scott. “Gay Slayer : The True Story of Colin Ireland”, CreateSpace, 2016.

A Criminal Life

Amos Lassen

Colin Ireland was called a serial killer “wanna-be” who deliberately murdered five gay men just to see if he could do so. as part of a New Year’s resolution. His extreme planning and attempts to hide evidence made investigators’ jobs more difficult. He would call police stations and give little hints thereby taunting the police. Ireland chose homosexual males because he figured that they would be less sympathetic victims and if he did not succeed, he thought that gay man would be less likely to go to the police.

Ireland had had a terrible childhood and seemed to be always be involved in some kind of criminal activity. I just do not understand why anyone would consider writing a book about this. It certainly demanded more research and we barely get a full story here.

 

 

“The One Who Taught Me Everything” by John Harris— Accepting Onseself

Harris, John. “The One Who Taught Me Everything”, (True To Myself Memoir Book 1), CreateSpace, 2017.

Accepting Oneself

Amos Lassen

In “The One Who Taught Me Everything”, we meet John, a man in the Midwest young man who is unsure of where his life is taking him. He has a girlfriend he doesn’t love, and he works for his father but he would he’d rather be writing. He tells his story through his diary and we see him face a bad period when everything seems dark. But then he meets Richard, a caring, smart, and good looking gay man and everything changes. Richard shows John that he may just be gay himself and John gives in to his true desires, and his relationship with Richard makes him a new person and he man he believes he was meant to be. He goes to college with plans to become a writer, and he and Richard seemed destined for a long and wonderful life together. However, Richard doesn’t want to keep their relationship a secret, and John isn’t willing to come out to anyone. When tragedy strikes, John realizes that a man always has things that are expected of him, even if they’re at odds with the things he wants for himself.

As we read we feel the entire range of emotions and truths. John understands that though he is in love with Richard he’s not ready to be public about it. For John it was a step harder in figuring out he was gay and what is he suppose to do finding this out.

John learns from Richard, and the two men fall in love but there is oppressive heartache in their relationship. John is afraid to be openly gay in the small town where they live, knowing that his father would be furious. He is expected to take over his father’s business, but John wants to be a writer.There are moments of happiness and moments of sadness. It is important to remember that this was written in 1964-65 and it was difficult to be openly gay.When his father dies, John has to make a decision to sell the business or take it over as his father wanted. He chose the latter and stopped his dreams of becoming a writer and being with Richard. The two men broke up. John wasn’t strong enough to accept himself openly and lost Richard even though both men were deeply in love with each other.

Today, John Harris, a 28-year-old bisexual man currently single and living in a small apartment in New York City who sees the world as a community united by feelings. I do not know it this is a memoir of his own life but surely there is part of him in the book.

 

 

“The Gays of Our Lives: The Unvarnished Memoirs of an Aging Fruit” by Denial Leonardo Murphy— A Book of Fairy Tales

Murphy, Denial Leonardo. “The Gays of Our Lives: The Unvarnished Memoirs of an Aging Fruit,”, Creative Types, 2016.

A Book of Fairy Tales

Amos Lassen

The Gays of Our Lives” is a book of “fairy-tales” that follow a group of “fruity friends from Flint, Michigan, or Murdertown USA (as it has been dubbed by the New York Times”. There are also other stories that introduce us “to quirky queers from the larger world”. Flint is a factory town and a difficult place for gay people as we see by the lives of the characters here during forty years. We read about lovers who come and go, about friendships and about the lucky ones who grow old. The guys travel to exotic destinations such as Mykonos, Istanbul, and Venice. As they do, they learn that living a gay-old life has both joys and disappointments. They realize that traveling is much more when done with others like themselves. The stories are loving and filled with gossip and there is a wonderful cast of truly strange guys. And yes, the author’s first name is Denial.

 

“My Life, In and Out: One Man’s Journey into Roman Catholic Priesthood and Out of the Closet” by Charles Benedict— Choicws

Benedict, Charles. “My Life, In and Out: One Man’s Journey into Roman Catholic Priesthood and Out of the Closet”, Purple Spekter TM Press, 2017.

Choices

Amos Lassen

Charles Benedict shares the confusion he felt growing up as he struggled with his sexuality and his desire to become a Roman Catholic Priest. He devoted the first thirty-three years of his life and studies to serve the Church and then discovered the life he loved and the beliefs he taught were in conflict with his hidden secret of his life that kept him from accepting his true self and potential.

Benedict grew up in a religious family that made it seem like he didn’t belong or fit in because something was wrong with him. His parents discovered he had a secret boyfriend at sixteen but Charles denied he was gay and gave into strong fears of rejection and disappointing those he loved. He lied to the world and buried his sexuality inside his soul. There was nothing wrong with Charles to begin with. Fourteen years passed before he finally accepted his homosexuality and came out—nearly four years after he had been ordained a Roman Catholic Priest. He voluntarily left the priesthood and rebuilt his life as he discovered the happier man within. Today, after al rough period, he is happily married to his wonderful husband and has supportive friends and family to share his life with. Now he wants everyone who struggles with their sexuality to know that even though it took him thirty-three years to love himself, the truth set him free. He clearly shows that no matter what any religion says, God loves you.

“More Fun with Dick and Shane” by Gillibran Brown— A Fun Read

Brown, Gillibran. “More Fun with Dick and Shane: Memoirs of a Houseboy”, CreateSpace, 2007.

A Fun Read

Amos Lassen

Gillibran Brown is a houseboy to two demanding men and has to be all things from chief cook and bottle washer to cleaner and gardener. I understand that this is the second book about Gillibran but it really does not matter that I did not read the first. It does not take long to understand the relationship between the Gillibran and his masters. Shane brought him into the relationship he shares with Dick so that he would take care of the house chores so that he and Dick could concentrate on their businesses and to give Dick an outlet for his S/M tendencies and high sex drive. Gilli Brown is a very funny man and the humor in the book is wonderful but the nature of the relationship perplexed me. Domestic discipline just doesn’t make sense to me. You might think that is a book filled with erotic sex scenes yet is actually about the way the guys get along.

Shane and really seem to love Gilli and prevent him from being hurt emotionally and physically . Gilli seems to be coming more to terms with the rules of the relationship and understands why this situation is what works for him.

“Tongue of Fire: Emma Goldman, Public Womanhood, and the Sex Question” by Donna M. Kowel—“The Most Dangerous Woman in the World”

Kowal, Donna M. “Tongue of Fire: Emma Goldman, Public Womanhood, and the Sex Question”, State University of New York Press, 2016.

“The Most Dangerous Woman in the World”

Amos Lassen

Author Donna M. Kowal looks at the speeches and writings of the Emma Goldman who was once known as the “Most Dangerous Woman in the World”. She examines Goldman’s writings looking for shifting gender roles in early twentieth-century America. Goldman was the leader of the American anarchist movement and made newspaper headlines across the country as “she urged audiences to reject authority and aspire for individual autonomy”. She was a public woman at a time when to be public and a woman was considered a paradox. She dared to speak openly and wrote about matters that were thought to be private. These included sexuality, free love, and birth control. She saw the importance of women’s bodies as a site of struggle for autonomy and created a space for women to engage in the public sphere and act as sexual agents. Her ideas contributed to the rise of a feminist consciousness recognizing the personal as political and the rejection of dualistic notions of gender and sex. It is in this study that we see Goldman as one responsible for bringing sex into the public sphere thus making her a feminist icon.

 

“I’m Still Walking” by Yehoram Gaon— 50 Years in Show Business

Gaon, Yehoram. “I’m Still Walking”, IQ Publishing, 2017.

50 Years in Show Business

Amos Lassen

Yehoram Gaon’s autobiography, “I’m Still Walking” has just been published in Hebrew in Israel and I have not yet been told if there is to be an English publication. We learn here that from the moment he first appeared on the stage at the age of seven, as the high priest in the elementary school performance, Yehoram Gaon has felt the intense excitement and pleasure that accompanied the stage life and realized that he had found his destiny. Since then, for five decades, he has not stopped singing, playing funny and charming.

Gaon’s life and work are interwoven with the history of Israel. He was born into the days of the British Mandate, grew up with the establishment of the State and accompanied it with his art during Israel’s wars and victories.

He beautifully writes about the various stations of his life from his childhood in Jerusalem, his time in the Nahal group and the Yarkon Trio, the movies “Kazablan” and “Operation Jonathan” and the television series “Close Relatives” (“Krovim, Krovim”) as well as a host of part the inalienable assets of Israeli culture. Gaon says that he was lucky, since he was never required to look for stage lights. He was always called, and he merely responded to the wishes of the audience. “While I’m Walking” is a life story that unfolds alongside the history of Israel thus making it doubly interesting.

“WELCOME TO REFUGEESTAN”— A Blight on the World

“WELCOME TO REFUGEESTAN”

A Blight on the World

Amos Lassen

Anne Poiret’s documentary, “Welcome to Refugeestan” explores the current refugee system and gives a rare glimpse at life inside the world’s major refugee camps. The film’s release comes as a recent United Nations report there are 65.6 million people currently displaced from their homes globally, with 22.5 are considered refugees..



These refugees lives in camps, in a virtual country the size of the Netherlands. The names of these places do not appear on any maps. The ways these camps are run are both efficient and absurd. This film explores the land of camps, from Kenya, to Tanzania, Jordan, and the Greece/Macedonia border, as well as at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. We see an immense system that combines humanitarian concerns with the management of undesirables who rich countries want to keep out, whatever the cost.

We see a Burundian man stepping off a bus in Tanzania and waits to be processed at a refugee camp. Two of his brothers are dead, and his parents have disappeared. With no idea what lies ahead, other than a conviction that it must be better than what he has left behind, he lines up and waits to be processed. He is about to become one of the many people all the world that are refugees.



We are given a view into life in the world’s primary refugee camps. The Dadaab camp in Kenya is the world’s largest, with a population of 350,000. The brand-new Azraq camp in Jordan, built to house Syrian refugees, was supposed to be a model of enlightened design, but this did not happen. Director Poiret also takes us to the UNHCR offices in Switzerland, where many of the policies originate.



The world’s refugees are also becoming an important captive consumer market as we see here. The camps have become places for companies to test out new technologies and retail outlets cater to a captive population forcibly prevented from shopping elsewhere.

“Welcome to Refugeestan” explores of both the refugee experience and the failures of a system that can keep people trapped and stateless for years.

The lives of refugees are not easy. They exist in camps often surrounded by barbed wire; are forbidden from working and subject to frequent dehumanizing security checks; and ruled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a distant, colonial-style bureaucracy.

Director Anne Poiret also takes us to Norway, where humanitarian workers are trained in the arts of negotiating with corrupt officials, and to the “UNHCR offices in Switzerland, where innovation is the buzzword of the day”.

“Heretics: A Novel” by Leonardo Padura— Art Theft, Anti-Semitism, Cuba and Crime

Padura, Leonardo. “Heretics: A Novel”, translated by Anna Kushner, Farrar, Straus and Giroux  2017.

Art Theft, Anti-Semitism, Cuba and Crime

Amos Lassen

In 1939, the Saint Louis sailed from Hamburg into the port of Havana with hundreds of Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazi regime. Docks. Nine-year-old Daniel Kaminsky watched as the passengers (including his mother, father, and sister) became embroiled in a fiasco of Cuban corruption. The Kaminskys had a treasure that they hoped would save them: a small Rembrandt portrait of Christ. However, six days later the vessel was forced to leave the harbor with the family, and this time the Saint Louis was bound Europe and the horrors there. The Kaminskys, along with their priceless heirloom, disappeared.

Almost seventy years later, the Rembrandt reappeared in an auction house in London and this caused Daniel’s son to travel to Cuba to track down the story of his family’s lost masterpiece. He hired private detective Mario Conde, and together they navigated a web of deception and violence in Havana.

“Heretics” brings Jewish, Cuban, Dutch, and Polish history together. Young Daniel Kaminsky, had been sent to Havana ahead of his parents and sister from Germany, and stayed with his uncle, a master leather worker. His family, however, was sent back to Europe and died in the Holocaust. Using the small Rembrandt to bargain with did not work and the painting stayed in Havana as the ship returned to Europe and was later found for sale in a London auction house. Daniel Kaminsky who had grown up in Havana had ditched his religious beliefs, converted to Catholicism, and married a Catholic woman. Later they moved to Miami, where they had a son, Elias who became a painter and as he grew older, he wondered about his parents’ past in Havana and, curiously, about the lost Rembrandt. During a visit to Cuba in 20067, he contacted Mario Conde, a retired policeman to help him find out what happened to the painting. Mario Conde, has his own story.

The story moves back and forth between Cuba and Holland, between the 1600’s of Rembrandt and the 20th century. The book’s title, “Heretics” describes several characters. Author Leonard Padura brings the history of Jews in Cuba, Florida, Poland and the Netherlands together through a fascinating story of lost art.

The first forty pages are a difficult and heartbreaking read as they relate Daniel Kaminsky’s optimism. He was waiting in Havana to be reunited with his family who were aboard the Saint Louis hoping to escape the anti-Semitism and Nazism that was rapidly spreading in Europe. Along with nearly a thousand Jewish passengers, they wait in Havana harbor for days before the decision ( which was undercut by corruption and politics) was made to turn them away, first to the U.S., where they are turned away for a second time, and finally back to Europe. When Daniel learned this, he decided that he would no longer be a Jew. He becomes one of the many heretics in the novel. In the rest of the 400 page novel, we look at questions of free will and the condition of being Jewish.

Elias Kaminsky decided to solve the mystery of the painting that is believed to be Jesus depicted as a Sephardic Jew and had been missing for seventy years. It was now up for auction with a price tag of over a million dollars.

Conde, the private eye, is a man who has seen everything, read everything, and still understands nothing. He takes us through the moral and formal complexities of this long, complicated story. The plot contains several generations of the Kaminsky family, a history of Jewish persecution, mysticism and fanaticism, a portrait of Rembrandt in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, an investigation into the power of art, a nostalgic picture of 1950s Havana and its Jewish population, and a new Cuba full of people who believe in nothing.

Padura gives us wonderful characters of painters, messiahs, punks, and detectives, heretics in their own ways, as they against the limits of the lives, traditions, religions, and revolution. As they search for meaning in their lives, so do we.

 

“The World Jewish Congress, 1936-2016” edited by Menachem Rosensaft— Efforts and Achievements

Rosensaft, Menachem (editor). “”, WJC, 2017.

Efforts and Achievements

Amos Lassen

“The World Jewish Congress, 1936-2016” gives us the details of the dramatic diplomatic efforts and achievements of the organization, from its founding in Geneva 80 years ago through the present. We are not only reminded of what the WJC accomplished in the past but also why we still need it and will probably need it more than ever before as we move into the future. Each of the chapters in the book deals with a major issue and these include

WJC’s role in crafting a new Catholic-Jewish relationship; diplomatic negotiations on behalf of Jews from North Africa in the 1950s and 1960s; the exposure of Kurt Waldheim’s Nazi past; leadership of the international efforts to force Swiss banks to disgorge more than one billion dollars they had wrongfully withheld from Jewish Holocaust victims and their heirs; the critical role in fighting the U.N.’s resolution that equated Zionism and racism; preserving the historical integrity of the site of the Auschwitz death camp; efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry; bringing the perpetrators of terrorist bombings in Buenos Aires to justice. In the book’s concluding chapters, WJC CEO Robert R. Singer details the activities of the World Jewish Congress today, and WJC President Ronald S. Lauder gives its vision of the Jewish future.