Category Archives: GLBT memoir and/or biography

“The Light Years: A Memoir” by Chris Rush— Coming of Age

Rush, Chris. “The Light Years: A Memoir”, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2019.

Coming-of-Age

Amos Lassen

Chris Rush was born into a prosperous, fiercely Roman Catholic, New Jersey family. However, the family lived behind a shaky facade which falls down during the late 1960s, Chris’  was destined to fracture their precarious facade. older sister Donna introduces him to the charismatic Valentine, who places a tab of acid on twelve-year-old Rush’s tongue, proclaiming: “This is sacrament. You are one of us now.”

After being forced out of an experimental art school, Rush heads to Tucson to make a major drug purchase and, barely a teenager, he disappears into the nascent American counterculture. He looks to the communes of the west to be his next home and he spends his teen years looking for knowledge, for the divine, for home.

In “The Light Years”, we feel Rush’s  prayer for vanished friends and we become part of his odyssey filled with broken and extraordinary people. We feel “the slow slide from the optimism of the 1960s into the darker and more sinister 1970s.” This book is a journey of discovery and reconciliation, as Rush faces his lost childhood and himself.

 Rush shares his colorful childhood and adolescence as he travels across the country and back again, searching for truth, love, UFOs in New Mexico, peace, something that feels like God, and a home. Rush has a great story and he is also a great storyteller, together we get magic. Even with all of the brutality that he suffered in his life, he writes with grace. I feel sure that he was holding back tears as he wrote just as I was holding back tears as I read.

We can’t help but wonder how Rush survived but I also wonder about his parents who allowed him to leave. What about his resilience in becoming the respected, honored artist he has evolved into. He was the middle child of seven of a successful contractor and his complicated wife whose fiercely Catholic lives include raucous parties attended by members of the diocese of Trenton. The father’s work mostly involved construction of churches, but it is his alcoholism that drives the family. Each of the seven goes in a wayward direction, seemingly without any reaction from the parents.
Chris’s story shows deep involvement into the drug culture of the seventies, his being cast adrift while still in his teens and while he is coming to grips with his own sexuality. This tells more about his character than that of those parents who should never have had a child. I found it strange that Chris professes love for his parents and more understanding and acceptance than they are possibly entitled to.

I read this book turning pages as quickly as I could yet not wanting it to end. I loved reading about the family that I loved to hate. In Chris’ deeply Catholic family the booze flew as easy as the money. His mother ignored her children to shop and fill already bursting closets. Though she was aloof and often cruel with her words and was absent for most of his early life.

His father constantly worked and was a detestable especially when he drinks. Once he threatened Chris with a gun and knife. Chris was unaware of his father’s history until later. Chris bounced around different boarding schools, dealing drugs and eventually getting kicked out because he was caught kissing a boy in the woods. He tried to go home many times, but his parent’s house was one of anger, resentment and hostility.
The twists and turns of Chris’ life kept me reading but then, just when I wanted to know a bit more, the story ended. Now that I think about it, I must admit that this was a clever way to end and while I won’t say why, I bet many of you will agree. I believe that it is his ability to hope, dream, love even though he was damaged and scarred kept him from ever being totally lost.

“Mama’s Boy: A Story from our America” by Dustin Lance Black — Heartfelt and Personal

Black, Dustin Lance. “Mama’s Boy: A Story from our Americas”, Knopf, 2019.

Heartfelt and Personal

Amos Lassen

Dustin Lance Black’s heartfelt and deeply personal memoir explores how a celebrated filmmaker and activist and his conservative Mormon mother found ways to bridge divides—and how stories can indeed heal.

Dustin Lance Black won an Oscar  for his screenplay for “Milk” and helped overturn California’s anti–gay marriage Proposition 8. However, Black has unlikely origin to ne an LGBTQ activist. He comes from a conservative Mormon household outside San Antonio, Texas. His mother, Anne, was raised in rural Louisiana and contracted polio when she was two years old. She went through awful surgeries, as well as braces and crutches for life, and was told that she would never have children or a family. She defied expectations andfound salvation in the Church of the Latter Day Saints, raised three rough-and-rowdy boys, and escaped the abuse and violence of two questionably devised Mormon marriages before finding love and an improbable career in the U.S. civil service.

By the time Lance came out to his mother at age twenty-one, he was a blue-state young man studying the arts instead of going on his Mormon mission. She said his sexuality was a sinful choice and was terrified for his future. It may seem like theirs was a house destined to be divided, and at times it was. This story shines light on what it took to remain a family despite such division—a journey that stretched from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to the sheds of East Texas. In the end, however, the rifts that have split a nation couldn’t end this relationship that defined and inspired their remarkable lives. 

This is a story of the noble quest for a plane higher than politics an it is a story of family, foundations, turmoil, tragedy, elation, and love. It is a story that we all need right now. It is a beautifully written and compelling account of growing up poor and gay with a three times married, physically disabled, deeply religious Mormon mother, and the imprint that this woman made on the character of Dustin Lance Black. Their extraordinary bond makes us feel good and even gives us a bit of hope in these terrible Trump times. Maybe the future of the republic is not all bleak. This is Black’s tribute to his mother who is conservative and deeply religious.
Black shares an  account of how a mother and son evolved beyond their potentially divisive religious and political beliefs to find a source of strength and unity through their bond.

Black grew up in the South and was surrounded by stories and as a result, he fell in love with the magic of storytelling and has himself become a wonderful storyteller himself and demonstrates that in this beautifully written, entertaining, memoir. The most powerful stories are the most personal, and the most important figure in his story is his mother, who refused letting the fact that she could not use her legs stop her. From her, Black  inherited his own strong will and optimism.

We are so divided in this country now and this book gives a ray of light into what we hope will be a better future.  We root for Black’s mother and you will laugh and cry as you read.

 

“Lie With Me” by Philippe Besson— An Affair Between Two Boys

 

Besson, Philippe. “Lie With Me”, (translated by Molly Ringwald), Scribner’s, 2019.

An Affair Between Two Boys

Amos Lassen

Philippe Besson’s bestselling French novel has been called the French “Brokeback Mountain” and is about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France. It has beautifully and lyrically translated by actress/writer Molly Ringwald. 

Right outside of a hotel in Bordeaux Philippe comes upon
a young man who strongly resembles his first love. It was a relationship that he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a handsome boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Without ever acknowledging they know each other in the halls or when not together, they manage to meet in secret as they make passionate love and are part of an affair that is world-altering. This is a highly erotic coming-of-age story that is tender, moving and very emotional.

Set in 1984 Bordeaux, the teens fall in love in the shadows, “leaving one of them to reflect on the relationship many years later.” As they found each other, they also found that life can destroy as well as be lived. Reading this is like dreaming as balance and despair knock up against each other. Philippe Besson not only gives us the boys’ story but also their world as they deal with longing, love, and letting go.” I am stunned by the beauty of the prose especially since it is in translation and I sensed from the very beginning that this is not a book that leaves you after you close the covers.

As we read, we cannot help but realize the damage that hatred can do. While there was no hate crime or bullying both of the young men here were victims of a persistent kind of intolerance that relegated them and their love to a clandestine relationship. They should’ve been allowed the freedom to love and be loved without the need for courage or bravery to do so. This is story of how bigotry affected that freedom and fear of reprisal stole their innocence.

The story comes to us in three parts, making it difficult to avoid the inclusion of later events and making the specifics of dialogue a bit hazy and giving the reader a non-linear retelling but one that is emotive nonetheless. The first part takes place in 1984 when they are seniors in high school and this is most of the story. The second part takes place in 2007 when during an interview Philippe sees a boy outside a hotel that’s the spitting image of Thomas, a boy who turns out to be his son. The events of 2016 conclude the story.

Philippe is inquisitive, precocious and stunned when Thomas approaches him the first time. Thomas is popular but quiet and seems to be resigned to a life he knows won’t ever bring him happiness. At 17 he’s already used secrecy and deception as his norm and at 18 those  very same habits will forever taint them both. During their time together they are able to steal a few moments of bliss and writer Philippe Besson captures the intensity of his feelings for Thomas as well as the optimism and folly of youth. I truly felt not only his physical desire for him but his steadfast belief that they would find a way to carve out a future together, despite evidence to the contrary. We see that prejudice robbed these two boys of a life together, a life they deserved and left in its place a life lived inauthentically for one and the other who struggles to give his heart to another after having it broken by his first love. The story is timeless as is the pain that accompanies it.

Besson wonderfully captures all of the fear and freedom of young desire. His prose gets right to the heart of what it means to have to fall in love in secret. Prepare yourself for tears and a wonderful reading experience.

“Naturally Tan” by Tan France— Fashion and Compassion

France, Tan. “Naturally Tan: A Memoir”, St. Martin’s, 2019.

Fashion and Compassion

Amos Lassen

Sometimes I am in the mood to read a really sensitive memoir and Tan France’s came at just the right time. I am sure that many of you have noticed that gay men always want to hear the coming out story from each other. It has almost become part of a ritual of being gay and trusting each other and is usually part of the first conversation that two men share. In this memoir, France “tells his origin story for the first time” and he does so with wit, style, grace and compassion. He shares what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional South Asian family as one of the few people of color in South Yorkshire, England. He tells of coming of age, finding himself and his voice  and marrying a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City who is the love of his life.

I suppose that we think of France as the man who can direct our style and fashion and he loves to do that but we also see that he is so much more. We read his candid observations of the United States and Great Britain looking at the cultural differences, meeting with celebrities and the behind-the-scenes realities of “Queer Eye”, He shares his unique perspective on the happiness that one finds in being oneself (that sounds so stilted). France tells us that he wrote this book “to spread joy, personal acceptance, and most of all, understanding. Each of us is living our own private journey, and the more we know about one another, the healthier and happier the world will be.”

I love the anecdotes and candid opinions  that he shares with us and his wit and humor are right on. He also shares style tips and behind-the-scene stories. He wants “to make America fabulous again one makeover at a time” and this means more than just new clothing. We must learn to look at “real-life issues, changes and acceptance on all sides.” I do not know what I was expecting to read here and I learned that Tan France is a paragon of style and class.

I love not only seeing a gay South Asian person on such a mainstream popular show but also seeing how he became loved by his viewers. Because he seems to be
Tan has always come across as the more reserved one among the Fab 5, so I was looking forward to reading more about him and I was pleasantly surprised  with his writing and his charm. He even tells us about his own personal flaws and how he has learned to own them.  There are painful and heartbreaking experiences he has had that he is open about especially the racism that he had to deal with f being one of the few people of color in a small town in England, and how just walking home from school was a lesson in survival.  His observations about brown people hurt to think that skin color is still such an issue. I learned another important lesson (well I didn’t really learn it because I already knew about it but we do not often see it in print)  and that is that success and  being financially fit doesn’t mean that everything is good in a person’s  life. We also see the downside of celebrity life  with constant travel, i press junkets, being away from his partner and feeling lonely and we see that there is a toll for everything we do.

France seems at ease with being a Muslim South Asian and is also still very traditional in his mindset and we see that in his relationship with his husband. Many of us will recognize the conservative nature of the family while growing up and the nervy, nosy family members, the ways we are restricted by our families.  France wants to incorporate his culture within his style and that is admirable.
Here is Tan’s journey to the show and what his life has been like after fame. We also have great illustrations to go along with making a new friend.

“Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography” by Laurence Benaim— A Creative Genius

Benaim, Laurence. “Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography”, Rizzoli,  2019

A Creative Genius

Amos Lassen

Laurence Benaim brings us the definitive portrait of Yves Saint Laurent, the creative genius who transformed fashion is the first major English-language biography of Yves Saint Laurent since his death in 2008 and it features exclusive interviews of those who knew him best, by one of the most respected names in French fashion.
Saint Laurent’s impact on fashion is legendary, yet he remains an enigmatic and compelling figure.

Benaim traces the development of Saint Laurent’s visionary work through his charmed and tumultuous life. Benaim is himself a respected fashion writer. This biography has just been translated and updates since the original appeared. It looks at how this unassuming prodigy became a legendary, celebrated public icon who changed the face of fashion, style, and celebrity.

We hear from Saint Laurent’s partner Pierre Bergé to family members, his atelier staff, and muses such as Catherine Deneueve, LouLou de la Falaise, and Paloma Picasso. We read of Saint Laurent’s talent in Oran and his star trajectory, from leading the House of Dior at the age of twenty-one to his fall from grace and subsequent forging with Pierre Bergé, fashion’s most enduring and successful professional partnership. Saint Laurent partied with Warhol in New York and relaxed with the jet set in his Marrakesh hideaway. Benaïm shows us both the glittering world of haute couture and the business empire that revolutionized the fashion industry. Filled with wonderful details and gorgeous prose this is the book about Saint Laurent to read.

“100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism” by Chavisa Woods— 100 True Stories

Woods, Chavisa. “100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism”, Seven Stories Press,   2019.

100 True Stories

Amos Lassen

Chavisa Woods’ “100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism” is a  memoir of vignettes and a collection of one hundred true stories of sexism, harassment, discrimination, and assault. Woods writes of her experiences with gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence from childhood through the present and she does not hold back. The stories  build in intensity as the number of times grows. Here is proof that sexual violence and discrimination are never just one-time occurrences, but part of a constant battle women and non-binary people. They face it daily.

We see here that sexual violence and gendered-discrimination occur regardless of their age and in all spheres of society and in rural and urban areas alike, in the US and abroad, from the time they are very young and through adulthood. Woods shows us how often people are conditioned to endure sexism and harassment, and how thoroughly men feel entitled to women’s spaces and bodies. Reading this forces us to seethe many ways “in which sexism and misogyny continuously shape women’s lives and are built-in facets of our society.”

This is a powerful, unrelenting depiction of the everyday misogyny experienced by all women everywhere. “It is relatable, cathartic, and deeply moving.”

Sexual violence and sexist discrimination occur regardless of age, in all spheres of society, in rural and urban areas alike, in the US and abroad, from youth through adulthood. People are often conditioned to endure sexism and harassment, and men feel entitled to women’s spaces and bodies,  sexism and misogyny continuously shape Women’s lives are shaped by the built-in facets of  sexism and misogyny in our society.

“A Rainbow Thread: Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969” by Noam Sienna— An Infinite Rainbow

Sienna, Noam. “A Rainbow Thread: Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969”, Print-O-Craft, 2019.

An Infinite Rainbow

Amos Lassen

I first heard of “A Rainbow Thread” via a friend who told me he had just ordered a copy and while my friend gave me no details aside from this book Jewish and gay, I went ahead and wrote to the publisher to get a review copy. When the book arrived I was first astounded by the 425 page length and then by the tremendous amount of research that it must have taken to compile such a book. Writer Noam Sienna tells us that the book maintains a balancing act between “LGBTQ Jewish history as an infinite rainbow, with no beginning or end, and with no clear boundaries between its different facets” (great analogy and the fact that there is “a thread: a continuity that links our lives, our joys, and our struggles today to an ancestral heritage in the past and to our inheritors in the future.” Sienna does not see history as a march toward a universal goal. Rather he sees it as processes that are made up of  connections, interruptions, and innovations. While we cannot push who we are on those who came before us but we also cannot ignore their history that has become some of our behaviors and shared practices; traditions  that take stories to other places and times, and that are often relevant in our lives today.

I can imagine Sienna going through the history of the Jews looking for examples to back his thesis and to find so much (that many of us never thought about— my adult life has been consumed by my wanting to find a way to preserve the LGBT Jewish literary canon so that the wealth of information it holds can be shared by everyone. Yet with all the work that I have done in the past, I did not come across many of the selections in this anthology.

Sienna explains how to encounter primary historical documents as a way of imagining new futures. He uses classical midrashim as two texts and lets us reread them through queer eyes thus expanding our ideas on what Jewishness is today. We see that Jewish sexuality and gender in practice was not as restricted by boundaries of gender, sex, nationality, or religion as we might have thought. Sienna is not pushing any kind of gay agenda but rather pointing out that we must rethink Judaism. In doing so, we question assumptions about how Jews have understood sexuality and gender throughout our long history as a people during which Jewish identity is often imagined as existing in spite of, or in opposition to,—the world of Jewish tradition. We are encouraged to read and reread, reimagine and revise what today’s Judaism can mean. process of constantly rereading, reimagining, and revising our understanding of what Judaism has meant, and what it can mean for us today.

What is contained in the book spans two millennia, five continents and translations from fifteen different languages. “A Rainbow Thread” is, in effect, queer Jewish history that includes poetry, drama, commentary, law and memoir. Like so many others, I have doubted that there is a place for me in Judaism and I thought I was forging a new path when I remain determined to be an active practicing Jew. I have since learned differently and now have a way to prove it— with this book. I am overwhelmed by the amount of information in “A Rainbow Thread” and I find myself lingering over each text included here and wondering why I had never read it before. We are done sitting on Judaism’s margins and we can now pitch our tents where we want. It may not be easy to do so but remember that it was once impossible to do so. I am in awe of what I see here and can’t wait to use it as a teaching tool.

“This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man” by Lorimer Shenher— A Memoir of Coming of Age and Gender Transition

Shenher, Lorimer. “This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man”, Greystone, 2019.

A Memoir of Coming of Age and Gender Transition

Amos Lassen

In this memoir, Lorimer Shenher tells us that it is never too late to become the person you are meant to be; to find your true identity. Since he was a small child, Shenher knew something for certain: he was a boy but he was growing up in a girl’s body. He shares the story of his gender journey, from childhood gender dysphoria to teenage sexual experimentation to early-adult denial of his identity and finally the acceptance that he is trans and undergoes gender reassignment surgery when he in his fifties. Along the way, he details his childhood in Calgary, his struggles with alcohol, and his eventual move to Vancouver, where he became the first detective assigned to the case of serial killer Robert Pickton (the subject of his critically acclaimed book “That Lonely Section of Hell”). “This One Looks Like A Boy” takes us through one of the most important decisions Shenher will ever make, as he comes into his own and finally discovers acceptance and relief.

We see how his gender transition is the transition of a lifetime and indeed of a life. He shares his life with us—his education and growing up, friends and lovers, vocations and avocations, the family that raised him and the one he’s raising himself. This is Shenher’s celebration of how one aspect of his identity touches every other and leads to the long, studied, complex, evolving, often painful journey that we get to share.

“Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story” by Jacob Toby— Just Not Sure

Tobia, Jacob. “Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story”, G.P. Putnam, 2019.

Just Not Sure

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I am pretty well conditioned as to how to react to a book that I read but I just finished one that had me quite befuddled (love that word!). Jacob Tobie’s “Sissy” had me crying, laughing and wondering all the way through. It’s about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.

When born, Jacob Tobia’s doctor wrote that the new baby was a male and from that point on everything went wrong. Alongside “male” came other, far fewer neutral words that carried expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be— words like “masculine” and “aggressive” and “sports”. Jacob, however,  was a sensitive creative, playful kid who loved glitter and not soccer. For the next twenty years, he was called sissy, trans, queer, non-binary and he looked like he just might be heading a new gender revolution in North Carolina, of all places. Now as he looks back at his childhood (am I using the right pronouns here?), he calls out the stereotypes that we have all faced, and as we think about them, Jacob asks us to rethink what we know about gender and offers us a bold blueprint for a world that is free from gender-based trauma and filled with trans-inclusive feminism.

Jacob had a Methodist childhood and then went through the “hallowed halls of Duke University to the portrait-laden parlors of the White House” and now in ,”Sissy”  takes us on a gender odyssey that is written with brutal honesty, irreverent humor, and touching vulnerability. Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily placed into the categories of “men” and “women.” After reading this, it is almost impossible to ever think about gender–both our own and other people’s in  the same way again.

The focus is on their experience growing into their identity as a genderqueer person. It covers their life from early childhood to the end of college and examines queer identities coming up with the idea that you don’t have to choose just one identity or gender. We read of the little moments that take place with friends and family and strangers and ourselves as we learn about gender identity, and more broadly about who we are.
Jacob writes playfully and in a charming manner that really pulls us in as we remember all of the dumb things that we have heard in our lives and about our gender and/or sexuality. Jacob looks at emotional moments and gives them the space they deserve. There is pain to growing into these identities, both internal and external, and Jacob is able to give space to let those feelings be. Gender here is fun to play with especially after reading so much about trans angst. Jacob’s memoir is about an imperfect journey without focusing only on the pain. As might have been expected, we have so many trans memoirs now; it is as if everyone wants to wrote a book and they do making it difficult to know which to red. This is one of the most sincere that I have come across and there have been thousands and I am not exaggerating.

This book is unapologetically honest and reminds us that it is more than gender that makes us who we are.

“My Butch Career: A Memoir” by Esther Newton— A Life of Struggle

Newton, Esther. “My Butch Career: A Memoir”, Duke University Press, 2019.

A Life of Struggle

Amos Lassen

It does not happen often that I read a book that is filled with passages that remind me of similar events in my life. Esther Newton’s “My Butch Career” which is already a Lambda Literary nominee is such a book. I laughed, I cried, I thought heavily as I read and I am determined to meet Esther one day to discover that she is really my true sister or brother or whatever.

Esther Newton had a difficult childhood. She shares that she “became an anti-girl, a girl refusenik, caught between genders,” and that her “child body was a strong and capable instrument stuffed into the word ‘girl.’” Later, in early adulthood, when she was on her way to becoming a trailblazing figure in gay and lesbian studies, she “had already chosen higher education over the strongest passion in my life, my love for women, because the two seemed incompatible.”

She has quite a story to tell and I loved reading how she came to terms with the new identity that she chose as she struggled to be an academic at the same time that she searched for love. This was happening at a time of intense homophobic persecution; a time when acceptance was a rarity even in the academic community by people who knew better. To reach that point in her life. Newton went through dramas and conflicts and even sexual molestations and attempts to live what was thought to be a “normal” (whatever that means) life.

She was denied tenure at Queens College and at SUNY Purchase despite having written a highly influential book. Some of the important periods of her life include her father Saul’s strong masculinity and its influence on her, her introduction to middle-class gay life, and her love affairs (“including one with a well-known abstract painter and another with a French academic she met on a spur of the moment trip to Mexico and with whom she traveled throughout France and Switzerland”). By the time she was finally able to achieve personal and scholarly stability. This was “in the company of the first politicized generation of out lesbian and gay scholars with whom she helped create gender and sexuality studies.” I remember reading her “Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America” and being blown away by it. I had already left this country and was pursuing academic status in Israel where we were preparing to launch the first academic gay and lesbian studies program in 1980. I know that this book would somehow need to find its way into the curriculum.

I see Esther Newton as one of our first gender outlaws and her story is such an important look at the road to becoming a gay academic and how recently this happened. Here was Newton at a time when transgressing from one’s assumed gender was thought of as heresy and what an important story for those who will soon face this.

Newton shares how she developed her butch identity and that she prefers the words “dyke” and “butch” to lesbian. She also tells of the difficult time she had as an anthropology graduate student and professor because of her sexuality (and here is a place to weep openly as I did). 

Newton’s mother was unmarried when she was born, and it was a long time before Esther learned who her biological father was. The man who played the role of father in her life was a domineering yet charming leftist and  former Communist who achieved prominence in psychology. He had three other wives after he left her mother. Esther is part Jewish and identifies as  a secular Jew. She loved the Jewish and leftist feel of New York City, and was miserable when her mother moved to Palo Alto, California.

Newton went through years of anguish trying to work out her sexuality. While at the University of Chicago she was told that she had to wear skirts to be accepted as serious anthropologist. She did not realize that writing her dissertation on drag queens would restrict her choices for employment and, in fact, it led to her becoming involvedd in LGBT studies and in the gay liberation movement. Today, she strongly supports butch/femme identification. 

Newton says early on in her book that “Young people do not see being butch as ‘transgressive,’ but lesbians challenge the gender hierarchy just as much, or more, by staying women. I am opposed to pressure being put on masculine girls and women to ‘go all the way’ by transitioning.” I read quite an alarming rebuttal to this which showed me the person who wrote it, did so not really knowing what she was talking about and had misunderstood Newton.  

I especially love that Newton did not hide the personal from us and she shared the mistakes she had made in life as well as how her personality developed. She shares her failed relationships as well. By doing so, we never question her honesty—she is, at times, brutally honest.   After years of struggle, personally and professionally Newton finds a community in an evolved culture and “helps to create the academic study of gender and sexuality. This book is simultaneously a memoir and an exemplar of this important field.” Today at 78 years old, Newton re-examines her milieu and shares her story with us all and I feel great pride in having read what she has written. Esther Newton, although she might not like this title as a gender defying secular Jew, has become my Queen Esther.

 

“Esther Newton, one of the pioneers of gay and lesbian studies, is formerly Term Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and Professor of Anthropology at Purchase College, State University of New York. She is the author of several books, including Margaret Mead Made Me Gay: Personal Essays, Public Ideas and Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town, both also published by Duke University Press, as well as the groundbreaking Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America.”