Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Queers Read This!: LGBTQ Literature Now” edited by Ramzi Fawaz and Shante Paradigm Smalls— The Evolution of LGBTQI Literary Production

Fawaz, Ramzi and Shante Paradigm Smalls, editors. “Queers Read This!: LGBTQ Literature Now”, Duke University Press, 2018.

The Evolution of Literary Production

Amos Lassen

“Queers Read This” asks how LGBTQ literary production has evolved in response to the dramatic transformations in queer life that have taken place beginning in the early 1990s. Some of you might remember that during the 1990 New York Pride March, the activist group Queer Nation distributed a leaflet, “QUEERS READ THIS!”. The contributors here theorize what such an impassioned command would look like today with regard to our current social and political realities and ask what should queers read now and how are they reading and writing texts? The contributors give us innovative and timely approaches to the place, function, and political possibilities of LGBTQ literature in the wake of AIDS, gay marriage, the rise of institutional queer theory, the ascendancy of transgender rights, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the 2016 election. The authors reconsider camp aesthetics in the Trump era, uncover long-ignored histories of lesbian literature, “reconceptualize contemporary black queer literary responses to institutional violence and racism, and query the methods by which we might forge a queer-of-color literary canon”. This issue frames LGBTQ literature as not only a “growing list of texts, but as a vast range of reading attitudes, affects, contexts, and archives that support queer ways of life. 

Contributors include Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman, Cynthia Barounis, Tyler Bradway, Ramzi Fawaz, Jennifer James, Martin Joseph Ponce, Natalie Prizel, Shanté Paradigm Smalls, Samuel Solomon.

“Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms” by Michelle Tea— On the Fringes of Society

Tea, Michelle. “Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms”, Amethyst Editions, 2018.

On the Fringes of Society

Amos Lassen

Michelle Tea writes about larger-than-life people on the margins of American society. Their stories are the ones that we really do not want to think about.

Written with brutal honesty, Tea uses dark humor and “blurs the line” between her own story and the stories of others looking at how much art and life rely upon or use one another. Tea may be one of the last to write from the point of view of a queer counterculture now that LGBT life is merging with the greater society. The writing is irreverent and reflects her own life in ‘art and music, love and queerness, writing and life’.

Pain and joy come together and even exchange places and there are no borders here. Tea writes about landscape, passion, morality, family, and cigarettes as some kind of explanation for a supreme being. THz is a fun read that all pricks the subconscious and I am actually at a loss to say more aside from telling you to treat yourself to this book.

“The Essentialist Villain: On Leo Bersani” by Mikko Tuhkanen— A Look at Bersani

Tuhkanen, Mikko. “The Essentialist Villain: On Leo Bersani”, SUNY Press, 2018.

A Look at Bersani

Amos Lassen

Leo Bersani is an American literary theorist and Professor Emeritus of French who has specialized in onto-ethics/aesthetics amidst numerous literary, artistic, and philosophical influences. This is the first full-length study of Bersani who began publishing his ideas in the late 1950s.

Bersani’s work has influenced numerous scholarly fields, from studies of French modernism and realist fiction to psychoanalytic criticism and film theory. It has been instrumental in the In this study, Mikko Tuhkanen tracks the unfolding of Bersani’s onto-ethics/aesthetics, paying particular attention to his persistent references to “essence,” a concept central to classical speculative philosophy. This speculative philosophy has fallen into distinct disfavor since the emergence of deconstructive thought. Because of his early influences (particularly Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy) Bersani remains an ontologist through decades when deconstruction seems to have all but disallowed any thought of being. Tuhkanen also places Bersani’s thought amidst numerous literary, artistic, and philosophical interlocutors, including Deleuze, Freud, Proust, Laplanche, Beckett, Baudelaire, Genet, Leibniz, and others.

As well as providing an assessment of Bersani, we get a look at his thoughts and writing about the contemporary critical scene. Identifying a ‘homo-monadology’ at its core, Tuhkanen situates Bersani at the proper onto-aesthetic level of his thought.

 

“Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People: Minding the Knowledge Gaps”— Getting Older

 

King, Andrew, Kathryn Almack, Yiu-Tung and Sue Westwood, editors. “Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People: Minding the Knowledge Gaps”, Routledge, 2018.

Getting Older

Amos Lassen

“What does it mean to get older as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT) person? What gaps in knowledge about LGBT ageing remain? This timely and innovative book reports on a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council which aimed to address gaps in knowledge about older LGBT people and their experiences of ageing. The book discusses the project and contains chapters either specially commissioned or written by leading researchers and activists in the field.

Informed by a range of theoretical perspectives, empirical research studies, critical observations as well as lived experiences, this book explores areas of LGBT ageing that have been under-studied. These include: bisexual ageing; trans ageing and older trans people’s mental health; ethnicity, culture and religion in the lives of older LGBT people and gaps in knowledge about older LGBT people from minority ethnic communities; intergenerational networks; residential and end of life care; and the effects of austerity on services.

Written in an accessible style, this book is essential for researchers and policy makers interested in the lives of older LGBT people; people who work with older people and teachers and students interested in ageing, gender identity and sexuality.

Subject Categories

Health & Illness

List of figures; List of tables; Acknowledgments; List of contributors; Chapter 1: Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People: Minding the Knowledge Gaps (Andrew King, Kathryn Almack and Yui-Tung Suen); Chapter 2: Bisexual ageing: What do we know and why should we care? (Rebecca L. Jones); Chapter 3: You’re not still bisexual, are you? Bi identity, community and invisibility, moving towards and in older age; (Sue George); Chapter 4: Mental Health and Well-Being amongst Older Trans People; (Louis Bailey, Jay McNeil, Sonja J Ellis); Chapter 5: Trans Temporalities and Non-Linear Ageing (Ruth Pearce); Chapter 6: Levels and layers of invisibility: Exploring the intersections of ethnicity, culture and religion in the lives of older LGBT people; (Joanne McCarthy and Roshan das Nair); Chapter 7: Gaps within gaps: Intersecting marginalisations of older Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT* people (Sue Westwood, Yiu-Tung Suen and Vernal Scott); Chapter 8: Intergenerationality and LGBT ageing: assessing the UK evidence base and its implications for policy(Dylan Kneale); Chapter 9: A complex matrix of identities: working intergenerationally with LGBTQ people (Catherine McNamara); Chapter 10: Fabled and far-off places: the preferred futures of older lesbian and gay adults in long-term care environments. (Paul Willis, Michele Raithby and Tracey Maegusuku-Hewett); Chapter 11: ‘I Didn’t Come Out to Go Back in the Closet’: Ageing and end of life care for older LGBT people(Kathryn Almack); Chapter 12: (Not)Putting Policy into Practice: LGBT* ageing research, knowledge exchange and citizenship in times of austerity (Andrew King); Chapter 13: Not ‘just a nice thing to do’: the effects of austerity on LGBT older people (Martin Mitchell, Mehul Kotecha and Malen Davies); Chapter 14: Conclusion: Minding the Knowledge Gaps? (Andrew King, Kathryn Almack, Yiu-Tung Suen and Sue Westwood); Index”

“Our Witness: The Unheard Stories of LGBT+ Christians” edited by Brendan Robertson— Reading the Stories

Robertson, Brendan, editor. “Our Witness: The Unheard Stories of LGBT+ Christians”, Cascade, 2018.

Reading the Stories

Amos Lassen

The stories of LGBT+ Christians have often been unheard by faith leaders and communities. While so much of the conversation about LGBT+ inclusion has focused on theology and ideology, few have actually interacted with the raw, real stories and experiences of LGBT+ Christians. LGBT+ Christian activist and theologian Brendan Robertson brings together stories of LGBT+ Christians from around the world and adds his theological insights and thus creates a powerful book whose purpose it is to challenge, convict, and inspire readers from all theological backgrounds to look into their posture and message toward the LGBT+ community and embrace the revival is finally happening among queer Christians around the world.

Even though the institutional church has persisted in excluding them, LGBT+ Christians have given Christian communities “the quiet, persistent grace of their presence, their gifts, and their love”. In the stories that we read here, they add grace-to-grace by sharing who they are and we feel the intimacy, vulnerability, and power of their stories. We hear God’s “yes’ to those who have too often been told ‘no’ by others.

Some of the stories are heart breaking; some are heartwarming, yet all show our need and God’s desire for a fully inclusive church for everyone. Stories can change hearts and minds just as people can.

Here we see loving, faithful people who have been excluded by theologians preaching bad theology and the effects have been depression and at times, suicide. Henderson has taken all his and others’ pain and put forward a positive theology and states and explains why homosexuality is not a sin and that is critical to save lives and stay true to the spirit of Christian values. The sad but powerful words here need to be heard by Christians now and in every generation.

“OUT: LGBTQ Poland’— The Polish Community

Nabrdalik, Maciek. “Out: LGBTQ Poland”, The New Press, 2017.

The Polish Community

Amos Lassen

“Out: LGBTQ Poland” is another volume in the New Press’s “OUT” series and is the first book of its kind to portray the LGBTQ community in contemporary Poland. No one expected, especially the Poles, that the country would change so tremendously in this

deeply conservative and Catholic country once Poland joined the European Union. Back in 2004, gay rights marches were banned in Warsaw and homosexuality was a taboo subject. Since then, as the country’s economy has grown, the LGBTQ community has become more widely accepted.

Award-winning Warsaw-based photographer Maciek Nabrdalik, whose work has been published in “Smithsonian”, “L’Espresso”, “Stern”, “Newsweek”, and the “New York Times”, takes us into this community and explores issues of identity and citizenship. We see dozens of formal color portraits of writers, artists, and people working in a variety of occupations from across Poland. We also see blank pages where several members of the community refused to be photograph, probably out of fear. Each photo is accompanied by a short interview and is shaded to indicate how comfortable that person is with revealing their own sexuality publicly. The articles are intimate and profoundly humane allowing us to feel the great strides that can be made in the struggle for LGBTQ rights in a short space of time. This is a document that will be inspiring to other nations where the queer community does not enjoy the same freedoms.

“The Annotated Prison Writings of Oscar Wilde” edited by Nicholas Frankel— In His Own Words

Frankel, Nicholas, editor. “The Annotated Prison Writings of Oscar Wilde”, Harvard University Press, 2018.

In His Own Words

Amos Lassen

High Court justice Sir Alfred Wills, sent Oscar Wilde to jail, sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor for the crime of “gross indecency” with other men. As cries of “shame” emanated from the gallery, the convicted man was silenced. But he was Oscar Wilde and not likely to be silent for long.

Behind bars and in the period immediately after his release, Wilde wrote two of his most powerful works—the long autobiographical letter “De Profundis” and his expansive best-selling poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”. In “The Annotated Prison Writings of Oscar Wilde”, Nicholas Frankel has collected these and other prison writings, historical illustrations and his rich facing-page annotations. Wilde experienced prison conditions that were designed to break even the toughest spirit, and yet his writings from this period show his imaginative and verbal brilliance was left largely intact. Wilde also remained politically steadfast and determined that his writings should inspire improvements to “Victorian England’s grotesque regimes of punishment.” But Wilde also wrote for eternity. What was a savage indictment of the society that locked him up and a moving testimony to private sufferings, Wilde’s prison writings show us a very different man from the famous dandy and aesthete who shocked and amused the English-speaking world.

Frankel’s notes raise awareness of Wilde’s thoughts about morality, crime, religion, sexuality, aesthetics, and prison reform.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • A Note on the Texts
  • Clemency Petition to the Home Secretary, 2 July 1896
  • De Profundis
  • Letter to the Daily Chronicle, 27 May 1897
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol
  • Letter to the Daily Chronicle, 23 March 1898
  • Further Reading
  • Illustration Credits

Acknowledgments

“Queer Sex: A Trans and Non-Binary Guide to Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationships” by Juno Roche—Sex, Desire and Dating, Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationships

Roche, Juno. “Queer Sex: A Trans and Non-Binary Guide to Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationships”, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018.

Sex, Desire and Dating, Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationships

Amos Lassen

Transgender activist Juno Roche discusses sex, desire and dating with leading figures from the trans and non-binary community in her new book, “Queer Sex”. She calls out prejudices and inspires readers to explore their own concepts of intimacy and sexuality through first-hand accounts that celebrate the wonder and potential of trans bodies and push at the boundaries of how society sees gender, sexuality and relationships.

Juno Roche is liberated by her ‘QueerAF’ vagina (I will explain) and bares all in this book— a series of interviews with trans and non-binary people, prefaced by Roche bravely sharing her own journey to getting her “Queer as fuck vagina.” In her own words she says, “I literally thought I’d have the surgery, wait six weeks, find someone with a big dick – and let them fuck away” and by that statement we see that Roche has no boundaries.

She says that she wrote the book because she was sick of the “heteronormative and classist narrative” that is about trans people chasing a perfect ‘cis’ or ‘passing’ body. However the motive was even more intimate than that.

For years Roche was chasing a vagina, but on the way to surgery, with a throwaway comment about making her a “real woman” from a doctor, she began a new journey. “After surgery, I realized I didn’t actually have a vagina. I had this thing between my legs, that I imagined would be a vagina but it wasn’t, it was this cave. It had a back wall, and it didn’t go anywhere. As trans people, we are taught that we should move through trans as quickly as possible, so we pass and blend. And after my surgery, politically something kicked in. I didn’t want to pass. My vagina is queer as fuck – it is about change and fluidity.”

Roche was diagnosed with HIV 20 years ago and was told that she six months to live. She was even offered ‘death benefits’ but turned them down. In the years since, her activism and advocacy work have skyrocketed. By her own estimates, she understands that a huge majority of people will never be able to achieve their ‘ideal body.’ The message of ‘Queer Sex’ is all about giving up that chase of the ideal cis body and learning to accept the trans body as Roche has done:

“Around the world, there will be trans women that will always have a dick, and there will be a lot of trans men who always have a vagina. I won’t demonize them. But in recent years, I have come to understand and know, that I’m trans and that’s my identity. Being trans is about having the courage to change, and ignore the gender binaries” and this is the lesson she wants everyone to understand from her book.

“If you can’t accept a trans woman with a dick, then you don’t accept us. Don’t tell me you are a trans ally, and then ask me if I’ve had surgery”. So I said I would explain and there it is.

This book will encourage and inspire a whole lot of trans and gender nonconforming family and their lovers. The challenge that it presents is both audacious and inspiring in a system that shames trans bodies and desires. The interviews in Queer Sex are captivating and present a real and often warm-hearted look at how we are constantly evolving in the way that we think about intimacy and sex. We learn about elements of transitioning that many are unaware ignites an interesting discussion on gender, genitalia and sex.

“Documents of the LGBT Movement” edited by Chuck Stewart— The Pivotal Moments

Stewart, Chuck, editor. “Documents of the LGBT Movement” (“Eyewitness to History”), ABC/CLIO, 2018.

The Pivotal Moments

Amos Lassen

Beginning from the First People, through the influx of European settlers and the slave trade from Africa, to the modern era, this book presents and discusses documents that reflect pivotal moments in the LGBT rights movement in North America. This is the prefect little book for the activist, the thinker and everyone else. It:

  • Provides a concise yet comprehensive review of the LGBTQ rights movement from the earliest days of human society in what would become the United States to the present
  • Highlights primary document resources that embrace and reflect the diversity found in the LGBTQ community
  • Documents how the Gay Rights Movement emerged within an era of widespread antigay persecution, when it would seem that an uprising to achieve equality would be least likely.

“Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death” by Lillian Faderman— A Gay Icon

Faderman, Lillian. “Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death”, Yale University Press, 2018.

A Gay Icon

Amos Lassen

I did not know Harvey Milk (like everyone else claims— well, maybe not everybody, just those thousands who claim that they were at Stonewall and Woodstock, etc.). I was already living out of the country when he came to be known and he was gone before I returned to this country. What I do know about Milk comes from reading and the excellent films about him. I cannot think of anyone who I would rather have tell me the story of Harvey Milk than Lillian Faderman since I have enjoyed all of her books… and besides we are both Jewish and gay (but she is famous).

Harvey Milk was an elegant, eloquent and charismatic gentleman who had managed, practically on his own, to be elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Unfortunately for him and for us, he had not even been a full year in office when he was shot by a homophobic fellow supervisor. He was only 48-yeard-old and his death made him the most famous gay man of modern times. Milk was certainly influential and deeply loved and his loss of life was our loss of a very important friend. He had not set out to be a politician. He had been a teacher, a securities analyst, had worked on Broadway as a theater assistant and in politics for the election of Barry Goldwater.

Milk opened a camera store in San Francisco and soon became a leader in his community. He let go of organized religion and rejected Judaism yet remained “deeply influenced by the cultural values of his Jewish upbringing and his understanding of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust”. He decided to run for public office as a champion of the LGBT community, racial minorities, women, working people, the disabled and senior citizens— those who were marginalized in American life. He worked very hard to become a successful public figure with a distinct political voice.

This biography is part of the Yale “Jewish Lives” series and writer Faderman places emphasis on Milk’s Jewish cultural identity. He was twice an outsider— once for being gay and once for being Jewish. It is important to realize that his politics were influenced heavily by his family history and the basic tenets of Jewish liberalism just as they were by his sexual identity. Faderman did outstanding research to write this and then wrote the story in her beautiful prose, showing how his Jewish identity deeply informed his experiences and his politics.

Faderman introduces us to a Harvey Milk as part of the larger LGBT community so we actually get two histories here. We read of political contradictions, “human peculiarities” while gaining an analytic look at the LGBT movement overall thus making this a comprehensive history of gay rights.