Category Archives: GLBT fiction

“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Sienna explains how to encounter primary historical documents as a way of imagining new futures.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.

“LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia” edited by Jeff Mann and Julia Watts— A Nice Surprise

Mann, Jeff and Julia Watts, editors. “LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia”, West Virginia University Press, 2019.

A Nice Surprise

Amos Lassen

Those of us who live in urban centers really are not aware of the LGBTQ population in non-urban areas and here specifically, I mean Appalachia. Jeff Mann and Julia Watts have done a wonderful job collecting and editing this collection, the first of its kind of fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia. From what I understand, literature from Appalachia Like much Appalachian literature, is often filled with an attachment to family and the mountain landscape while balancing queer and Appalachian, a complicated undertaking and filled with conflict. The pieces we read here face these problems head on and deal with the intersections of place, family, sexuality, gender, and religion with which LGBTQ Appalachians often struggle.

Included are works by established writers whose names may surprise you— Dorothy Allison, Silas House, Ann Pancake, Fenton Johnson, and Nickole Brown and emerging writers like Savannah Sipple, Rahul Mehta, Mesha Maren, and Jonathan Corcoran. Some of what we have here is previously published while the rest is original and appearing in print for the first time. This collection is a celebration of a literary canon made up of writers who give voice to what it means to be Appalachian and LGBTQ.

The book also contains a wonderful selected bibliography of same-sex desire in Appalachian literature and this alone makes the book worthwhile but there is so much more. We have the wonderful diversity of multigenerational voices, styles, and attitudes along with the theme of loyalty to place alongside of queer identity as represented in poetry and fiction. Here is the queer ecology of Appalachia and the voices that exist in relation to the landscape and the cultural imagination of the place. We see the paradox of both belonging (being from and of a place) and nearly total alienation.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Contents

Introduction   

Editor’s Notes

Dorothy Allison          

            Roberts Gas & Dairy   

            Careful

            Butter 

            Domestic Life 

Lisa Alther      

            Swan Song     

Maggie Anderson       

            Anything You Want, You Got It         

            Biography       

            Cleaning the Guns     

            In Real Life     

            My Father and Ezra Pound     

Nickole Brown

            My Book, in Birds      

            To My Grandmother’s Ghost,

            An Invitation for My Grandmother   

            Ten Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, Answered        

Jonathan Corcoran     

            The Rope Swing         

doris diosa davenport           

            verb my noun: a poem cycle 

            After the Villagers Go Home: An Allegory     

            Halloween 2011         

            Halloween 2017         

            for Cheryl D my first lover, 41 years later     

            Three days after the 2017 Solar Eclipse        

            Sept. 1  Invocation     

            a conversation with an old friend     

            Upon realizing

            “The Black Atlantic”   

Victor Depta   

            The Desmodontidae  

Silas House    

            How To Be Beautiful  

Fenton Johnson          

            Bad Habits     

Charles Lloyd  

            Wonders        

Jeff Mann       

            Not for Long   

            Training the Enemy    

            Yellow-eye Beans      

            The Gay Redneck Devours Draper Mercantile          

            Three Crosses

            Homecoming 

Mesha Maren

            Among

Kelly McQuain

            Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers 

            Brave  

            Vampirella     

            Monkey Orchid          

            Alien Boy        

            Mercy 

            Ritual 

Rahul Mehta  

            A Better Life               

Ann Pancake  

            Ricochet         

Carter Sickels 

            Saving

Savannah Sipple        

            WWJD / about love    

            WWJD / about letting go       

            Jesus and I Went to the Wal-Mart    

            Catfisting       

            Pork Belly       

            A List of Times I Thought I Was Gay  

            Jesus Signs Me Up For a Dating App  

Anita Skeen    

            Double Valentine       

            How Bodies Fit           

            Need  

            Something You Should Know

            The Clover Tree         

            The Quilt: 25 April 1993         

            While You Sleep         

Aaron Smith   

            Blanket           

            There’s still one story

            Twice 

Julia Watts     

            Handling Dynamite    

“A People’s History of Heaven” by Mathangi Subranabian— A Slum Known as Heaven

Subramanian, Mathangi. “A People’s History of Heaven”, Algonquin, 2019.

A Slum Known as Heaven

Amos Lassen

Living in the Bangalore slum are a group of young women that includes a politically driven graffiti artist, a transgender Christian convert, a blind girl who loves to dance and a queer daughter of a hijabi union leader. As we read about them and to get to know them , we fall in love with them.

The slum is known as Heaven and it has been around some thirty years. It sits hidden between brand-new high-rise apartment buildings and technology centers contemporary Bangalore, one of India’s fastest-growing cities. Those who call Heaven home hand-to-mouth and constantly strugge against the city government that wants to bulldoze their homes and build more glass high-rises. These families, men and women, young and old, gladly support one another, sharing whatever they can.

The girls we meet are five best friends. They go to school together and are a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling each other through crises and providing emotional, physical, and financial support. Together they fight a war on the bulldozers that want to bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that does not care what happens to them.
 
This is a story about geography, history, and strength, about love and friendship, about fighting for the people and places we love–even if no one else knows they exist.  The five young women have power despite the way they live. They exemplify what an accepting community is. Writer Mathangi Subramanian “upends expectations and fiercely illuminates her characters’ strength, intelligence, and passionate empathy.” A People’s History of Heaven should be a case study in how to write political fiction. Each page delighted and amazed me.”
This is a girl power-fueled story that examines dark social issues with a light in this story about defiance in the face of being done away with and the survival tactics of an unforgettable group of girls.

“The Music of What Happens” by Bill Konigsberg— Max and Jordan

Konigsberg, Bill. “The Music of What Happens”, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019.

Max and Jordan

Amos Lassen

Max is chill, sports,  video games, gay and not a big deal— not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And he has a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever. Jordan is his opposite. He loves poetry, his “wives” and the Chandler Mall. He has never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. He also has a secret— his mother is spiraling out of control and he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

We add a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny and prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic to the mix, take it to Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temperature regularly hits 114 and finish it off with the undeniable chemistry between the two opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk  to get the thing they want the most. You might find this to be a lighthearted romance between two high school boys the summer before their senior year and it is but it is also  a rather sad story about sexual abuse, poverty, mental illness and deceit.

Insecure Jordan is trying to help his emotionally erratic mother make a go of his late father’s food truck, even though neither has any cooking experience. Popular jock Max with his aspirations of being a professional chef comes along after being recruited to hrlp them despite his better judgement. Over the course of the summer, the boys not only make a success of the business but they also find themselves attracted to one another.

I loved reading about Jordan and Max working on the food truck; how they made plans, did recipe research and upgrades, then went on shopping trips, cooking and flirting with each other. At times Jordan’s behaviors seemed a bit naïve and childlike especially for someone nearing college age. But even with that their romance was fun to read about..

Both boys have terrible secrets. Max is struggling to get past his sexual affair with a college guy and Jordan is trying to earn money for overdue mortgage payments that his mother, who suffers from some sort of mental illness, has not been able to take care of. These are very serious issues that these young men have to overcome, reclaim their lives and find happiness and success.

Jordan’s dad has died and his mom is a mess. They are going to lose their home if they don’t make some money and this is why Jordan takes his dad’s old food truck and decides to sell food from it and hopefully earn enough money that summer to save his home. Max has had a sexual experience that he doesn’t quite understand and it haunts him. It makes him question his masculinity. Max helps Jordan on the food truck and their friendship begins. They have fun together and we see that there is definitely more to both boys than the other expects.

Every other chapter is told from the viewpoint of one of the boys. The romance is genuine and unfolded beautifully. The novel also deals some other subjects that are hard for kids to talk about with adults. I loved the opposite attraction and the two boys had more in common than just being gay. Also, I loved that Max’s straight friends were so nonchalant about his lifestyle.

Bill Konigsberg tackles difficult subjects with a light touch and a heartfelt and breezy style. The  themes of toxic masculinity, sexual assault, family trauma, and addiction are so important and are handled wonderfully. He is able to write about the joys of being a teen with just enough hassles to make his characters think and act. Here is his realism. Max and Jordan give us a fresh and a refreshingly honest representation of modern, queer adolescence. Both of them are out cautious. They represent diverse experiences and struggles and their sexuality is just one facet of many, including race and class, that impact their struggles and how they deal with them. 

“In the City By the Lake” by Taylor Saracen—A Closeted Mobster

Saracen, Taylor. “In the City by the Lake”, 13 Red Media, 2018.

A Closeted Mobster

Amos Lassen

Set in Chicago during Prohibition, we have the story of a closet mob member named Viktor Mikhailov who follows in his father’s footsteps and joins the relatively insignificant Russian mob. When he is given an assignment that none of his comrades want, he’s pleased and thinks that he can use this to show his strength and his ties to the others. Chicago  has been taken over by organized crime, with several outfits vying for a piece of  the action of Prohibition. Viktor’s group runs openly gay Towertown and it is Viktor’s job to provide whiskey to the queer clubs that he frequents on the downlow. His group becomes wealthy while in an unconventional relationship with his top client’s muse, a redhead named Calvin Connolly who is as enigmatic as they come. The plot focuses on the emotional journey of a twenty-one-year-old closeted mobster living in the “Pansy Craze” of Chicago.

Vik has not had an easy time and his family has not been good. Vik strives to be his dad’s favorite; his mother died in labor; his brother eschews  the family business of organized crime to go into education and to learn to rise above mob mentality. Vik’s cousin Maks, is filled with familial love but that works on Vik’s nerves and we do know why. then there is Rosie, one of the queens of Towertown who repulses as queer not only because of her sexuality but also because of her gender. She is introduced as a drag queen who does shows at Vik’s favorite club and is through their story that we get to know the most we can about Vik and that he is affected by the end of Prohibition, the Great Depression, and increasing persecution against gay people. His struggles are the same struggles of society at that time.

Vik, is a gay bootlegger during prohibition who makes a living providing the gay clubs of Chicago with their much needed supplies of liquor. He’s also from a family of Russian immigrants and we read of his struggles to deal with living in with his adopted country. Although Vik knows that he is gay and accepts himself somewhat, he has trouble being labeled as a homosexual man. He is afraid that such a label means that his masculinity is lessened. If that is not enough, we must remember that the novel takes place  during the Great Depression and the  Victorian values that began to appear during that time -and this had the result of the persecution of many members of the LGBT community.

As of unexpected, the novel is also about the relationship between Cal and Vik, but the real emphasis in on Vik’s reflections and fears. While he sees and presents himself as a skeptic and tells himself he can’t afford emotions.
The intimacy between Cal and Vik is lovely in that it is, by and large, playful and real even as Vik deals with the new emotions of jealousy and tenderness. We immediately see the contrast between the two men but that is fine.

I found it very easy to identify with Vik since my family is of Russian heritage and while not involved with the mob, I faced some of Vik’s issues. I have always found it interesting that the majority of gay man as they begin to deal with their sexuality see themselves as the only one even though they know others. This is the true “other” and by this I mean that we can fit if we want but it takes a while until we reach the desire to fit in.

We read about Chicago of the time and how it is part of the story. While this is the story of one man’s journey to accept himself and love himself, it is also a story about many of us who had issues with self-acceptance and internalized homophobia.  And yes, this is a love story, beautifully rendered but far from perfect— but that’s okay since all of us are far from perfect.

“David and Jonathan: An M/M Romance from the Bible” by Neil S. Plakcy— Hearts Together

Plakcy. Neil S. “David and Jonathan: An M/M Romance from the Bible”, Samwise, 2019.

Hearts Together

Amos Lassen

For as long as I can remember we have used the Biblical story of Jonathan and David as a way to show that men who love men were around during the time of the Bible. We really have no idea if that is true or not since we accept the Bible on faith and on proof. Regardless it is a beautiful that has temped writers to expand on it throughout history. Neil Plakcy’s “David and Jonathan” is a new attempt. We are to understand from the Bible that the hearts of David and Jonathan “are knit together” as we read in the Book of Samuel we see it as one of the earliest same-sex romances in literature. However, the Bible “provides relatively little of the techniques we expect of fiction.” Character descriptions are skeletal and skimpy or non-existent and very little is written about the lives of the people and how they occupied their days aside from spending forty years wandering in the dessert. Plakcy tells us that he has used his research into history to add  details to make the story come alive.

I have spent a good part of my life studying the Bible and to this day, I still devote an hour a day to reading the Bible in its original language. We quickly realize the many faults in the stories from the Hebrew Bible or as it is commonly and incorrectly known as The Old Testament. So often the stories are incomplete and it is left to us to fill in the rest and this can be great fun. What we fill in with is known as midrash and it has been going on for as long as we have read the holy writings. In the story of David and Jonathan, things do not happen in order and the timeline is totally bewildering and names change. I really want to believe that David loved Jonathan more than he ever loved a woman but I cannot  figure out the timeline so I do not see when the two even had time to be lovers. David was way too busy with Jonathan’s sister, Michal and then Batsheva as well as all the other women in his life. Besides he was also busy writing poetry and uniting the people. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful story and one that I never tire of reading.

Plakcy’s story is beautiful but we must remember that it is a story and not history. He uses language from the Bible and it is based on something in history of which there was no happy ending. After David loses Jonathan he returns to be a warrior-king and a womanizer.

If you are familiar with the Biblical accounts of David and Jonathan, you’ll know what a mess they are—things happen out of order, without reference to previous events, and even the names of Jonathan’s brothers change from one account to another. When possible, I’ve incorporated actual quotes from various editions of the Bible—without footnotes, of course, because this is fiction, not an academic treatise.

And readers of MM romance should note—because this is based on a historical account, there is no HFN or HEA. After his romance with Jonathan ends at the conclusion of this account, David goes on to gore and glory with multiple women.

Plakcy’s Bible used the line, “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1.). I have seen it in various other translations including David loved Jonathan more than he had ever loved a woman.

One of the problems with the David story is authorship and it is believed that it was written by several different authors. I understand that Neil Plakcy decided to use the basics of the story and build a romance on it. I believe that he has succeeded beautifully especially in his use of language. What he has added is the nature of the sexual relationship between the two men (of which nothing is written so these are his thoughts) and it works beautifully.

I feel confident in what I say as a reviewer of LGBT literature and as a person who is considered to be a Bible scholar. Every  year I teach a course on David and every year I learn a bit more. It’s good to have another David and Jonathan story to add to the mix.

“How a Gay Boy Became a Straight Man: My Story” by David Robinson— Garbage

Robinson, David. “How a Gay Boy Became a Straight Man: My Story”. Independently Published, 2018.

Garbage

Amos Lassen

I received a tip today that Amazon was still carrying anti-LGBT books and this was one if the titles. I immediately went to Amazon to see this book and found this notice:

“Effective July 2, 2018, this book has been rewritten, updated, and re-titled. Its new title is Orientation and Choice: One Man’s Sexual Journey.” However the remarks and reviews were still on the book’s Amazon page and the notice that the book is available exclusively on Amazon as is this plea: “Please buy the new title. Type the new title in the Search box. Thank you.”

Author-lawyer David Robinson, is now 66-years-old and admits that he had homosexual urges from ages 14 to 16. At 16 he had to choose: date girls or boys. He chose girls. It wasn’t always easy for him. Eventually he married a woman and is very happy with her.  Then we have these questions: “Did his sexual orientation change from gay to straight? Or did he deceive himself? Does it matter? Is it possible to satisfy homosexual urges with heterosexual behavior? What, exactly, is the difference between homosexual and heterosexual urge?” This book is  (as he says) and a look inside his sexual mind every step of the way from age 14 (1967) to today. He says, “that religion had nothing to do with it.” He tells about his college years (B.A. 1974, George Washington University) and law school years (J.D. 1977, Washington University in St. Louis). And then he says, “many people say sexual orientation isn’t a “choice.” But everyone must make a choice: date a male or female. David discusses laws banning conversion therapy. He tells about an impromptu conversion therapy session he experienced in a gym locker room when he was 15 or 16. Did the therapy work? Read his book and decide for yourself. It is a lively, true memoir. If you want to contact David, his email address is davidr225@comcast.net.” And he dares to give his email.

David A. Robinson is a lawyer in Connecticut. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1953. and practiced law in Springfield from 1977 to 2008. He was a general practitioner from 1977 to 1991. From 1992 to 2008, he practiced exclusively in the area of labor and employment law, usually on the side of the employer. In 2002 he became a resident of Connecticut. In 2006 he was admitted to the Connecticut Bar. He gradually closed his Massachusetts law practice and now practices in Connecticut. He was an adjunct professor at Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law from 1979 to 1982, WNEU School of Business from 2001-2005, and the University of New Haven (UNH) School of Business from 2005 to 2014. At UNH he taught business law, business ethics, human resource management, criminal justice procedure, and law of communications. He lives in the New Haven area with his wife. 

Amazon tells authors, “The Author Page is your chance to tell readers something interesting about yourself.” Here are two interesting–not very interesting, but somewhat interesting–things about David. He is one of a small handful of people, and probably the youngest, alive today who attended a Beatles concert, an Elvis Presley concert, and a Frank Sinatra concert. A number of people alive today saw one or two of those legendary musical acts. David saw all three. He attended a Beatles concert in Boston in 1966, when he was 13 years old; a Sinatra concert in Washington, D.C. (actually, Landover, Maryland, a D.C. suburb) in 1974; and an Elvis concert in Springfield, Mass., in 1976. The other interesting thing about David is he is probably the youngest lawyer alive today whose name appears as counsel in published appellate cases (e.g., N.E.2d, F.3d) in each of five decades: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.

All that is fine but what about his claims? Why did he feel he had to pull his book back, rewrite it and rename it. Let’s hear from his readers:

David Robinson’s views are very much a product of their time. But like many products of their time, they are perishable and have since rotted.”
“When I read the description, I was fully expecting to read about the author’s struggles with homosexual urges throughout his life and his attempts to rid himself of them or deal with them. Instead, the concept is glossed over, downplayed, and not even linked. Spoiler alert, homosexual urges don’t play an active part of his life per the lack of mention in his book. Instead, his book has focused on his views on the LGBT community. Actually, in his young adult and adult lives, he seems to be more afflicted by pornography (Playboy skewing his perception of women to the point of him breaking off relationships with women because they didn’t look a certain way) and his issues relating to the “chase” of women (At one point claiming that he wanted what he couldn’t have and didn’t want once he had). If anything, that whole part of the book felt completely unnecessary, and offensive, to his point about conversion therapy.” Are you able to follow this?

“Going back to that idea of being a product of its time, Robinson’s overall attitude toward the LGBT community is misguided and detestable. “Homosexual urges” are compared to drinking, smoking and overeating and are labelled as “vices.” Though Robinson points out that he doesn’t want to call them “evil” (He “doesn’t know if he would”) but still uses a word that has a negative connotation to it (Since semantics is another theme). At certain points, such as in the first few pages (Accessible through the preview), he repeats the same talking points about homosexuality being linked to HIV/AIDS, religious disparity, unnatural reproduction (Remember, if your mother had a c-section, she had you or that particular child unnaturally) which support conversion therapy. The problem is his understanding of conversion therapy in the book, stating that an impromptu encounter with, presumably (Because he doesn’t remember), an authority figure reminds him of where his erect penis is supposed to go. Even though this doesn’t even compare actual conversion therapy as a pseudoscientific construct, Robinson uses it as a means to qualify him to discuss conversion therapy. His argument falls apart, though, when he highlights more so about the language of the law and that it would prevent teaching heteronormative sex education. Jumping between that, comparing homosexuality to vices such as smoking (And then linking his smoking habit to homosexual urges), and his idea that he’s pointing out some conspiracy (Though not directly labelled as such), we have a dangerous ignorance on LGBT people and their struggles regarding different sexualities (And gender identity. Though, this book doesn’t discuss transgender people or gender identity).”

“As for the writing itself, it leaves much to be desired and Robinson spends much time talking about a combination of his love life in his early years, his stance on conversion therapy, and the fact that this is just his opinion and that he’s not an expert, but it’s how he sees it. And that’s what ends up diluting the writing with him reminding his readers that he isn’t qualified to talk about this short of anecdotal evidence and pulling hairs on semantics. He tries to reduce people to semantics, to simplify an argument that is as complicated as it is, and then plays it off as it just being an opinion or that he isn’t qualified, while speaking with authority on the subject. There’s a reason why conversion therapy support tends to be anecdotal, because there is nothing to back it up. Bonus points for giving an unattributed quote to an unnamed therapist who practices as well as citing old law dictionaries to define sexual intercourse (Which gets debunked by simple search on Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary which provides two definitions so as to include non-vaginal intercourse), or using Freud, who has been debunked and is viewed as somewhat laughable in terms of sexual development, to back his notion up. Other than that, it’s really easy to get lost in the constant use of short sentences and clarification. It’s a written conversation with someone obsessed with his own voice.

Robinson’s sexuality then and now is something I am personally not concerned with, nor should his readers be concerned with. It’s his dangerous ignorance that is echoed by many others who support conversion therapy that is problematic. Though he doesn’t directly say it (And he doesn’t have to), his claims strongly suggest a fear of the LGBT community and attitudes related to that. The fear is unfounded as the community wants to create an environment for his hypothetical 15 year old boy to actually think about what is going on in his head rather than being told point blank about what is “natural” and him thinking there is something dearly wrong with him. After submitting this review, I’ll have put the book on my shelf to collect dust, maybe pulling it off the shelf to remind me that this way of thinking is still prevalent, and that ignorance isn’t necessarily religious bound either (Though it’s evoked a couple times in Robinson’s book). Personally, if you’re someone struggling with your sexuality, this book is not the answer. It’s not even a response. There are much better resources to peruse and people to hear from.”

“ Robinson claims he experienced same-gender attraction as a teenager and is now in a happy opposite-gender marriage. That’s great, I am, too! It’s called being bisexual – and by some accounts half the LGBTQ+ community identifies as bi. Robinson has every right to share his own personal experiences. However, he is a lawyer – not a psychologist, therapist or social worker – and when he starts to use his experience to justify conversion “therapy” of any kind he is advocating hate. This book is showing up in my queer and queer-friendly friends’ Facebook feeds as a sponsored post. I shudder to think that it may be appearing in gay and questioning teens feeds, too. Any message to queer youth that is not based in acceptance, pride and love is morally and ethically wrong.”

“This book makes it seem as if a person’s orientation or attraction can be changed, however, it is a matter of semantics. One would think a lawyer would know better. This is a man who is attracted to men and women and has found happiness in a monogamous marriage with a woman. How is that any different than a person attracted to many women who makes a monogamous commitment to one woman? Yes- that is a choice in behavior- not attraction or orientation. If someone is attracted to men and women, one could certainly choose to identify as straight rather than bisexual. But this entire book is clickbait for the idea that it is a choice over attraction and orientation (identity). If this man had only experienced attraction to men and had zero attraction to his wife, would he have lived a full happy life with his choices?”

“Possibly the most ridiculous and harmful thing I’ve ever read.”

“The title of the book and synopsis on its Facebook ad leads you to believe that this book might have some psychosocial/research backing in its nature/nurture claims, but it does not. It’s merely a first person account. I find the title and the marketing misleading.”

“This author has no credentials to write about this subject other than his own anecdotal evidence of denying his own sexuality. This is irresponsible and dangerous garbage. Amazon should not be giving this author a platform to spread his bigotry. Conversion therapy is nothing short of mental and emotional abuse against children, and David Robinson is promoting it.”

“Shame on Amazon for selling this book. Shame on David Robinson for continuing this abuse.”

“What a fantastic piece of garbage!”

“…feels less autobiographical and more like propaganda. The author writes as if he was still trying to prove he is a happy heterosexual. Don’t bother.”

 

“Disgusting that you are selling this bigoted garbage.”

“This is a dangerous book for people that have questions about their sexuality. Furthermore, this is not based in accepted science. Based on the description, the author has to force himself to be intimate with a woman to this day. Imagine if your mate had to force themselves to be intimate with you. It sure would ruin the mood, if you ask me.
I am sad this author has made the decision to not live his best life and will never experience TRUE love.”

“Irresponsible, dishonest garbage. It isn’t worthy of even one star.”

“This is a bunch of trite. How our ‘parts fit together’ is not a measure of anything. The same faulty logic could be used to justify bestiality, cause ‘ hey it fits’, It would fit in a honey dew mellow too David.”
“barely deserves one star for the graphic masturbation sequences.”

I can’t believe I wasted my time dealing with this.

“Berlin to Bern” by Pierce Smith— Entrapped

Smith, Pierce. “Berlin to Bern”, ADC, 2019.

Entrapped

Amos Lassen

If you like steamy fiction. Then Pierce Smith’s “Berlin to Bern” is for you. Robin hurriedly boarded a train to go to his first ever job interview but he had no ticket. Rascal, the ticket inspector, offered him a place in a hidden compartment.  Rascal came for him when the other passengers on the train were asleep and then when Robin was sleeping in the embrace of Rascal there was a knock at the door.  Robin had no idea this night would never end while learning the true art of submission.

This is a contemporary gay romance with strong BDSM activities including bondage and discipline, dominance and submission  and sadism & masochism themes and it is very sexually explicit.  What began as a simple train ride became an excessively sexual adventure. “Berlin to Bern” is based on a real life experience and Pierce Smith has been able to capture a true BDSM experience for his readers that includes various types of kink including some that may shock the reader.

We see that Robin is curious about being dominated and when he says no, his body is says yes. By the time Robin leaves the train he’s had a good start with a new life he wants.
This was a very well written, surprising story and very erotic. Robin knew what he wanted— to be dominated. In this story he gets just that and we see that he wants more.  and loves and craves more.

The book is short but with a well-developed set of characters and plot line that could easily be developed into a full length novel. Smith has no trouble writing about BDSM and his ideas are clear and clever.

“Bloody Coffee” by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre— A Journey

Dim-St. Pierre, Michelle, “Bloody Coffee”, 3 Editions Press,  2019.

A Journey

Amos Lassen

There is rarely something more fun to read than family secrets and Michelle Dim-St. Pierre lets us into Leigh’s emotional journey toward self, romance and identity as she struggles to find out who she really is. Because there have been so many books written about identity and finding self, author Michelle Dim-St. Pierre had to find some new way to draw readers to her story. I must say that I was drawn because I enjoyed her first book, “Pinnacle Lust” so much and was anxious to see where we were going with this new book. However, because of the nature of the book, I cannot say too much about the plot except to tell you that you are in for quite a read.

We would think that with all of the technology today, finding one’s identity should not be problematic and I suppose it should not be unless…. there are untold secrets. We first meet Leigh in “Pinnacle Lust” (but if you have not read you will understand complete what is happening here) as a teen who discovers while reading her mother’s diary that the man she thought was her biological father, was not and heads for Israel on a mission to learn who she really is. Now we see that her life in New York and her Israeli roots are at odds with who she thinks she is… or, are they at odds? Leigh has difficult issues to deal with and they include  cultural differences, paternal identity, homosexuality, and family secrets and we learn about these through the characters in the novel. What I found to be compelling is that as we learn about these issues, we do so not as an onlooker but as a participant because we are so drawn into the plot. In fact, I was so drawn in that I read the entire book in one sitting that last from the afternoon to the wee hours of the next morning.

Writer Dim-St. Pierre grew up in Israel and she explains how it is to be raised there and that she was determined to find the life inside of a country where state and church are not separate and where “the legal system dictated without a jury of peers.” I can only imagine that there is something in common between Leigh and the author and it seems logical to me that Leigh’s journey and Dim-St. Pierre’s journey are similar (if not almost the same).

Leigh was determined to find out who she is and as she journeys and searches, she finds herself facing extremes that she never imagined. She is like so many of us when she realizes just how difficult it is to live in a real world and where reality is the rule. She also becomes something of a symbol in that she is proactive. She is not content to sit and wait until something happens and is ready to make things happen. It is not easy to face reality because it holds us so tightly.

The story opens when the man who is thought to be Leigh’s biological father collapses due to a heart attached and, in fact, Leigh has just met him. Here is the real starting point of her journey and what a journey it is!!

Everything good I said about “Pinnacle Lust” can be cited here. We might have become a few years older but our writing skills have stayed intact. “Suffice it to say that this is not only a reading experience but an

emotional one as well. I found myself weeping through some of the book and

I was not only weeping for the characters for the state of Israel as well. I was totally captivated.”

“Famous Men Who Never Lived” by K Chess— The Effect of Displacement

 


 Chess, K.  “Famous Men Who Never Lived”, Tin House Books, 2019.

The Effect of Displacement

Amos Lassen

In “Famous Men Who Never Lived”, we explore the effects of displacement on our identities, the communities that come together through circumstance, and the power of art to save us.

Hel sees New York City is both reassuringly familiar and terribly wrong. She is one of the thousands who fled the outbreak of nuclear war in an alternate United States―an alternate timeline―and now finds herself living as a refugee in our own not-so-parallel New York. The slang and technology are foreign to her, the politics and art are unrecognizable. While others, like her partner Vikram, attempt to assimilate, Hel refuses to reclaim her former career or create a new life. Instead, she obsessively rereads Vikram’s copy of “The Pyronauts”, a science fiction masterwork in her world that now only exists as a flimsy paperback. Hel becomes determined to create a museum dedicated to preserving the remaining artifacts and memories of her vanished culture.

But the refugees are unwelcome and Hel’s efforts are met with either indifference or hostility. And when the only copy of “The Pyronauts” goes missing, Hel must decide how far she is willing to go to recover it and at last face her own anger, guilt, and grief over what she has truly lost. Reality is destroyed by nuclear catastrophe and the two characters here are chosen as two of the Hundred Fifty-Six Thousand “lucky” ones to cross into another dimension in the multiverse, to today’s New York City via “the Gate.”

Life is split into the Before and the After, a mysterious conflagration of events that sent reality on different trajectories for each layer of life in the multiverse. Now two of those layers collide and he result is…

The UDPs (Universally Displaced Persons) are refugees, many of them unable to settle into the new life they’ve been granted, all of them made to feel “other.” There is “the required Reintegration Education classes, the discrimination, the disdain, the leering fascination to contend with; not to mention the emotional trauma and isolation of suddenly finding themselves alone and out of their element.”

Much of the book concerns Helen and Vikram as they find their way in the new to them world. There is discrimination against the “aliens”, as their kind is called, and there are the many big and little differences between the worlds to navigate. Other characters get briefly highlighted also. An overriding theme is the power of art. In this world of overwhelming amounts of information, it was very interesting to consider the value of something that exists only in a single delicate physical form, and how we might value literature and art differently if that were the case in our own world.