Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBTQ Rights Uprising that Changed America ” by Martin Duberman— The Definitive Account

Duberman, Martin. “Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBTQ Rights Uprising that Changed America ”,  Plume; Reprint edition , 2019.

The Definitive Account

Amos Lassen

It is the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall this year and as we might have expected, we have many new books published this year. We also have the reprinting of the definitive account of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay rights march, and the LGBTQ activists at the center of the movement by Martin Duberman. While all of the books about Stonewall are fascinating, this is the one that outshines them all. 
On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, was raided by police. But instead of responding with typical compliance that the NYPD expected, patrons and a growing crowd decided to fight back. The five days of rioting that followed forever changed the face of gay and lesbian life.

Historian and activist Martin Duberman tells the full story of this l moment in history and he does so with “riveting narrative skill [as] he re-creates those revolutionary, sweltering nights in vivid detail through the lives of six people who were drawn into the struggle for LGBTQ rights.” Together, these six stories come together to give us an unforgettable portrait of the repression that led up to the riots to the culmination when the LGBT community and these six individuals  triumphantly participated in the first gay rights march of 1970, the roots of today’s pride marches. 

What makes Duberman’s book so fascinating, I believe, is that we feel the human touch of those involved and we see how what they did  still profoundly affects life today. He shows that Stonewall marked a generational, organizational, and ideological shift that brought gay liberation into the world of social protest. He also
“chronicles how long and tortuous the road to Stonewall actually was.”

The six people that Duberman focuses on are Yvonne a black lesbian; Ray a transvestite; Foster a conservative upper-class man; Karla a militant lesbian; Jim an actor and Yippie leader and Craig a teenage radical. They share their insights about growing up gay in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. There were many gay organizations before Stonewall happened and the book chronicles every single one of them in detail. There are many characters and groups and Duberman shares them all with us. His writing about the actual riots is profound. great and spares no details. We read about what happened after Stonewall and where all the six characters are.

Duberman states that he wanted to place Stonewall along a timeline of events instead of the Stonewall Inn demonstrations being the launching point of gay civil rights history and he does all this within a narrative framework of “novelistic immediacy”. As the book heads into the 60’s, the emotions and political upheaval of the times arrives in the narrative and we begin to really feel the events that came together that set off the Stonewall riots

For those born after Stonewall, this is an important look at the beginnings of the gay civil rights movement and the people who helped ignite it. For those children of us who were alive in the 60’s and 70’s, Duberman brings back memories of a time in our lives where everything was possible and it all began to change.

“Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Show Business” by Frank DeCaro— Celebrating Drag

DeCaro, Frank, “Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Show Business”, with a foreword by Bruce Vilanch, Rizzoli, 2019.

Celebrating Drag

Amos Lassen

Frank DeCaro’s “Drag” is a  celebration of the fabulous, current and historical influence of drag and its talented and inspiring performers. We cannot deny the influence that drag plays on our culture and it is fascinating that drag artists have managed to “snatch the crowns as the Queens of mainstream entertainment.”
This is an informative and witty collection of essays that chronicle over 100 years of drag and reading them is like going on a journey through our culture. readers will embark on a Priscilla-like journey through pop culture, “from television shows like “The Milton Berle Show”, “Bosom Buddies”, and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” films like “Some Like It Hot”, “To Wong Foo”…, and “Tootsie”, and Broadway shows like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “La Cage aux Folles”, and “Kinky Boots.”

“Drag includes contributions from today’s most groundbreaking and popular artists, including Bianca del Rio, Miss Coco Peru, Hedda Lettuce, Lypsinka, and Varla Jean Merman, as well as notable performers as Harvey Fierstein and Charles Busch. More than 100 photos–many from performers’ personal collections are included as well as a comprehensive timeline of drag “herstory.”

Frank DeCaro has been a fan of drag since he was three years old and his new book goes into the history of drag, profiling the big names and unsung legends alike who built drag into what it is today.

Modern drag as we know it – more or less – goes back at least to the early 20th Century. The performer, Julian Eltinge, the considered grandmother of drag, had a Broadway theater named after him in 1912. He was a star of high-profile stage shows, early Hollywood movies, and he even had his own lifestyle magazine for women. Then there was what they used to call “the smart set ”,  those who always sought out drag entertainment. “It wasn’t truly mainstream the way it is today, and yet, it kind of was. It was a way to take a walk on the wild side, but not too wild, and people did.”

This book was written for younger people and anyone who thinks drag began with season one of “Drag Race”. DeCaro says that he wanted these kids to “know how long the tradition of crossdressing in show business truly is. It’s very rich and so worth diving into. The genuinely brilliant queens of today – from Mama Ru on down – know the “herstory” of drag. They can quote Divine and Flip Wilson’s drag character, Geraldine, sing Sylvester songs, and dance the Time Warp like the best “Sweet Transvestite.” One of the reviews of the book said, “Drag” is a history lesson for some and a walk down memory lane for others.”

 An audio companion from Audible is coming in late May  and Lady Bunny co-narrates it with DeCaro.  

“The Queeriodic Table: A Celebration Of LGBTQ+ Culture” by Harriet Dyer— A Clever Look at Our Culture

 “The Queeriodic Table: A Celebration Of LGBTQ+ Culture”, Summersdale,  2019.
A Clever Look at Our Culture
Amos Lassen
“The Queeriodic Table” is a wonderful little book for a gift or just to keep. It uses periodic table to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture in all of its aspects. Using the chart of the elements, we see those essential LGBTQ+ elements that helped to form our community. Modern queer culture comes together with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
I love the design of the book. It boldly displays the colors of the Rainbow flag but it is what is inside that really won me over. We have the celebrities and the game changers as well as the unsung heroes (Oscar Wilde Christine Jorgenson, Tom of Finland, Harvey Milk, Audre Lorde, Dan Savage, Janet Mock, Marsha P, Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, etc.) a timeline of queer world history, information about the biggest queer culture festivals and events in the world (Gay Games, Wigstock, Seoul Queere Culture Festival, the Delhi Queer Pride Parade etc.) and references to classic works of queer art, literature, music, TV and film.
There is also a glossary of certain language, lingo and definitions. It is a brief all you ever wanted to know book that is both fun and educational to read.    

“Work!:A Queer History of Modeling” by Elspeth Brown— “Modeling is Queer Business”

Brown, Elspeth. “Work!:A Queer History of Modeling”,  Duke University Press, 2019.

“Modeling is Queer Business”

Amos Lassen

Be prepared for several surprises about the modeling industry in Elspeth Brown’s “Work!”. We go from the haute couture runways of Paris and New York and editorial photo shoots for fashion magazines to reality television and see that models have been a  staple of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American consumer culture. Brown takes us through the history of modeling from the beginning of photographic modeling in the early twentieth century to the rise of the supermodel in the 1980s. We see how the modeling industry has been sanitized and commercialized regarding a models’ sex appeal in order to turn desire into commerce. Brown shows how this new form of sexuality has become a central element in consumer capitalism and a practice that has always been shaped by queer sensibilities. The paradox is that queerness is at the center of capitalist heteronormativity and telling the largely unknown story of queer models and photographers, Brown offers us a truly out of the ordinary history of twentieth-century American culture and capitalism.

We go back to the 1920s and see the showgirls and then move forward to fashion photographer George Platt Lynes leading ‘queer glamour’ in the 1930s and then to the  Black models of the 1950s and ’60s as Brown’s book changes and reshapes our understanding of the modeling industry.

 Brown’s exploration of modeling is intelligent and unexpected and totally original. Brown has done extensive research to reach her conclusions and she is able to bring theory, method, and empirical historical work together to give us a new understanding of capitalism, sexuality, and the image. Through anecdotes that surprise and educate us, I doubt we will ever be able to look at fashion again in the same way. Brown approaches her subject  historically and analytically and she is skilled in both. Below is the table of contents:

Table of Contents 

Acknowledgments  ix
Illustrations  xiii
Introduction  1
1. From the Artist’s Model to the Photographic Model: Containing Sexuality in the Early Twentieth Century  25
2. Race, Sexuality, and the 1920s Stage Model  69
3. Queering Interwar Fashion: Photographers, Models, and the Queer Production of the “Look”  103
4. Black Models and the Invention of the US: “Negro Market,” 1945-1960  163
5. “You’ve Got to Be Real”: Constructing Femininity in the Long 1970s  211
Epilogue  271
Notes  277
Bibliography  313

“We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos” by John Barton— Poet, Editor and Mentor

Barton, John. “We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos”, Palimpest Press, 2019.

Poet, Editor and Mentor

John Barton is a nationally known poet, editor, and mentor who enjoys meeting and working with writers at all stages of their careers. He is author of eleven books of poetry and has edited two of Canada’s most prominent literary magazines, Arc (1988 to 2003) and The Malahat Review (2004 to 2018). He has taught poetry at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the University  of Victoria; led workshops on craft and publishing for the New Brunswick Writers Federation, Saskatchewan’s Sage Hill Writing Experience, and Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series; and served as writer in residence at the Saskatoon Public Library (2008/ 2009), the University of New Brunswick (2010/2011), and Memorial University of Newfoundland (Fall 2015). Whether in front of a classroom, leading a workshop, or working one on one, he enjoys inspiring writers to realize the possibilities  of their poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and memoirs.

​Barton has been the poetry editor for Winnipeg-based Signature Editions from 2005 to 2008 and has been a manuscript editor for Brick Books in London, Ontario, since 2010. He has also edited books of poetry for Wolsak and Wynn and Coach House. Writers have privately engaged him  to evaluate and edit their manuscripts prior to submitting them for consideration to publishers. He worked in Ottawa for two decades as a librarian, a production manager, a publications coordinator, and an editor at five national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, where from 2001 to 2003 he oversaw the publication of the quarterly magazine, Vernissage. He joined the advisory board of Grain, Saskatchewan’s literary quarterly, in 2016.

​Born in Edmonton and raised in Calgary, John has won three Archibald Lampman Awards, an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award. Since 1980, his poems, essays, articles, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in anthologies, literary magazines, and newspapers in Canada, Australia, China, India, Romania, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

He lives in Victoria, B.C, where he was appointed to be the fifth (and first male) City of Victoria Poet Laureate in January 2019.  Palimpsest Press has published his first book of essays, We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos.  Barton began publishing in an era much less attentive to queer voices. In this special book, Barton grafts his own memoir about finding his voice as a poet and feet as an editor to astute takes on Margaret Avison, Emily Carr, Pat Lowther, Maureen Hynes, Anne Szumigalski, and many others. Making this book even more essential reading is the larger cultural context Barton brings to bear by writing about the historical production evolution and reception of queer writing in the lengthening shadow of equity.

Barton’s work is a brilliant example of grace on display, from a poet who continues to illuminate his literary powers for those of us who consider poetry as alive and essential as air and dance.
—Jim Pietchota, Bay Area Reporter, about Polari



“Pier Groups: Art and Sex Along the New York Waterfront” by Jonathan Weinberg— Social Life, Cruising and Public Sex

Weinberg, Jonathan. “Pier Groups: Art and Sex Along the New York Waterfront”, Penn State University Press, 2019.

Social Life, Cruising and Public Sex

Amos Lassen

“Pier Groups: Art and Sex Along the New York Waterfront”, queer art historian Jonathan Weinberg makes the case for how powerfully gay male social life, cruising, and public sex were of a piece in the early days of LGBT liberation. As oppression was brutally enforced, the invisibility of the new LGBT movement looked to colonize public spaces for queer desires. They united political with the erotic, queer public spaces such as the piers which have become quasi-mythic embodiments of gay life before AIDS changed everything Weinberg here takes away the myth by presenting a careful social history of the most influential, if unseen, aspect of gay liberation at the time when the complete meaning of that term was only beginning to be understood and realized.  

In New York of the 1970s, the abandoned piers of the Hudson River became a place for works of art and a popular place for nude sunbathing and anonymous sex. Jonathan Weinberg uses art history and memoir along with interviews, documentary photographs, literary texts, artworks, and film stills to show how these avant-garde practices competed and mingled with queer identities along the Manhattan waterfront.

Artists included Vito Acconci, Alvin Baltrop, Shelley Seccombe, and David Wojnarowicz who created their work  in and about the fire-ravaged structures that only twenty years earlier had been  at the center of the world’s busiest shipping port. At the same time, the fight for the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people,  were spurred on by the 1969 Stonewall riots and were dramatically transforming the cultural and social landscape of the city. Gay men felt free enough to sunbathe on the piers naked, cruise, and have sex in public. Artists collaborated to transform the buildings of Pier 34 into makeshift art studios and exhibition spaces as gay men were converting Pier 46 into “arena for sexual theater.”

This book contains one hundred exemplary works from the era and come from a rich variety of source material, interviews, and Weinberg’s personal experience. “Pier Groups”  looks at the relationship of avant-garde art to resistant subcultures and radical sexuality.

As we read we are immersed in the Hudson waterfront of lower Manhattan, that becomes central to the art scenes of the 1970s and 1980s. We have vivid illustrations and new photographic discoveries, Jonathan Weinberg’s fluent and searching work capture a community in which he plays a part as chronicler, interpreter, and participant.

 Weinberg explores sexual cultures and artistic practices that took place on the piers and then look at how the art and cruising scenes are intercalated. He rejects the logic of cause and effect, and his nonlinear approach to narrative gives us new perspectives on artists.

Weinberg brings back a fabled time and place when LGBTQ+ people found their own Riviera along Manhattan’s ramshackle docks. Weinberg shows his awareness of fluid gendered sensibilities, readers and his prose is so vivid that we almost feel the sexual heat of sunbathing in “Manhattan’s Sodom by the Sea along the Hudson River.”

Queer As Camp: Essays on Summer, Style and Sexuality” edited by Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason— Looking at Camp

Kidd, Kenneth B. and Mason, Derritt, (editors). “Queer As Camp: Essays on Summer, Style and Sexuality”, Fordham University Press, 2019.

Looking at Camp

Amos Lassen

It is so good that camp is in vogue again. I remember it from times past but it somehow seemed to disappear for a while and went another name or title. Camp just cannot disappear forever—we need it.

Commonly, “to camp” means to occupy a place and/or time provisionally or under special circumstances. “To camp” can also mean to queer and for many children and young adults, summer camp is a formative experience mixed with homosocial structure and homoerotic longing. In “Queer as Camp”, editors Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason give us a collection of essays and critical memoirs exploring the intersections of “queer” and “camp,” focusing especially on camp as an alternative and potentially nonnormative place and/or time. We explore “questions of identity, desire, and social formation as we look at the diverse and queer-enabling dimensions of particular camp/sites, from traditional iterations of camp to camp-like ventures, literary and filmic texts about camp across a range of genres (fantasy, horror, realistic fiction, graphic novels), as well as the notorious appropriation of Indigenous life and the consequences of ‘playing Indian’.”

The essays here examine, variously, camp as a queer place and/or the experiences of queers at camp, including Vermont’s Indian Brook, a single-sex girls’ camp that has struggled with the inclusion of nonbinary and transgender campers and staff; the role of Jewish summer camp as a complicated site of sexuality, social bonding, and citizen-making as well as a potentially if not routinely queer-affirming place. They also attend to cinematic and literary representations of camp, such as the Eisner award-winning comic series “Lumberjanes”, a  revitalization  and revision of  the century-old Girl Scout story; Disney’s “Paul Bunyan”a short film that plays up male homosociality and cross-species bonding while inviting queer identification in the process; “Sleepaway Camp”, a horror film that exposes and deconstructs anxieties about the gendered body; and Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed “Moonrise Kingdom” and its evoking dreams of escape, transformation, and other ways of being in the world.

The essays are interdisciplinary in scope and reflect on camp and Camp with candor, insight, and often humor. Those included in the volume are Kyle Eveleth, D. Gilson, Charlie Hailey, Ana M. Jimenez-Moreno, Kathryn R. Kent, Mark Lipton, Kerry Mallan, Chris McGee, Roderick McGillis, Tammy Mielke, Alexis Mitchell, Flavia Musinsky, Daniel Mallory Ortberg, Annebella Pollen, Andrew J. Trevarrow, Paul Venzo and Joshua Whitehead. The essays are often very funny and damning at the same time. What I found here that I have never seen in. volume about camp before are the memories of summer camp that reframe nostalgia, and activates Camp sensibilities. Kidd, Mason, and their contributors bring together queer pedagogy, critical theory, and creative nonfiction to give us this fascinating study. Below is the Table of Contents:

Charlie Hailey | vii

Camping Out: An Introduction
Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason | 1

Notes Home from Camp, by Susan Sontag
Daniel Mallory Ortberg | 25

Part I Camp Sites

“The most curious” of all “queer societies”?
Sexuality and Gender in British Woodcraft Camps, 1916–2016
Annebella Pollen | 31

Queer Pedagogy at Indian Brook Camp
Flavia Musinsky | 51

“No Trespassing”: Girl Scout Camp and the Limits of the Counterpublic Sphere
Kathryn R. Kent | 65

Nation-Bonding: Sexuality and the State in the Jewish Summer Camp
Alexis Mitchell | 83

Notes on Church Camp
D. Gilson | 99

Queer at Camp: A Selected Assemblage of Resistance and Hope
Mark Lipton | 114

The Camping Ground “Down Under”: Queer Interpretations of the Australian Summer Holiday
Paul Venzo | 132

Part II Camp Stories

Camping with Walt Disney’s Paul Bunyan: An Essay Short
Tammy L. Mielke and Andrew Trevarrow | 149

Illegal Citizen: The Japanese-American Internment Camp
in Soon-Teck Oh’s Tondemonai—Never Happen!
Ana M. Jimenez-Moreno | 157

Why Angela Won’t Go Swimming: Sleepaway Camp,
Slasher Films, and Summer Camp Horrors
Chris Mcgee | 174

Striking Camp: Empowerment and Re-Presentation in Lumberjanes
Kyle Eveleth | 188

Escape to Moonrise Kingdom: Let’s Go Camping!
Kerry Mallan and Roderick Mcgillis | 211

“Finding We’Wha”: Indigenous Idylls in Queer Young Adult Literature
Joshua Whitehead | 223

Acknowledgments | 241

Works Cited | 243

List of Contributors | 263

Index | 267

“The Book of Pride” by Mason Funk— The Heroes of the Gay Rights Movement

Funk, Mason. “The Book of Pride: LGBTQ Heroes Who Changed the World, “, Harper One, 2019.

The Gay Rights Movement

Amos Lassen

In “The Book of Pride”, writer Mason Funk captures the true story of the gay rights movement from the 1960s to the present by the use of detailed, interviews with the leaders, activists, and ordinary people who were part of the movement. There are the people that made it happen. They fought battles both personal and political, many times without the support of family or friends and under the threat of violence and persecution. By highlighting these stories of bravery and determination, we see a human face on the Pride movement. Likewise we honor that chapter in our history thus giving us the chance to see the power that is in each of us. In effect, we are called upon to look within ourselves and to discover our own courage in order to create positive change. (This is especially important for today’s LGBTQ youth). It is also important in that we see how important in ensuring that the history of the LGBTQ movement can never be erased. Hopefully that by reading about those who have done so much will inspire others to resist all forms of oppression with pride.

Mason Funk has chosen to concentrate on 75 leaders and activists on the front lines of the LGBTQ movement from the 1960’s to the present. We have wonderful photographs and interviews that have been compiled by  OUTWORDS, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the stories of LGBTQ people. 

Of the 75 individuals featured here, we have marriage pioneer Evan Wolfson, trans icon Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Stonewall-era rabble-rouser Mark Segal and legendary anti-DADT activist Grethe Cammermeyer among others. These LGBTQ icons frequently fought battles often while under the threat of violence and persecution.  Just by mentioning their names, we honor them but this book goes a step further and lets us actually hear from them. What they have to say is our history.

This is just one of the many books coming out now and are related to this year’s Pride celebrations that honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall revolts. While Stonewall is important on its own, it is not the sole incident that led to liberation. I feel it is important to know as much as we can and here is a book that will help you do so.

“Pride: Fifty Years of Parades and Protests from the Photo Archives of the New York Times” by The New York Times— How It Was

The New York Times. “Pride: Fifty Years of Parades and Protests from the Photo Archives of the New York Times”, Abrams Image, 2019.

How It Was

Amos Lassen

Because it is the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, I figured that there would be many new books being published and that’s a good thing. It all means that now we are truly accepted in the world of publishing since every major publishing house has at least one LGBTQ book  coming out.

Looking back, we remember that it all began on June 28, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn—a bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, known as a safe haven for gay men. It did not take long before violent demonstrations and protests broke out in response. The Stonewall Riots, as they would come to be known, were the first spark in the wildfire that would become the LGBTQ rights revolution. Fifty years later, the LGBTQ community and its supporters come together every June to commemorate this historic event.

Here, collected for the first time by “The New York Times”, is a powerful visual history of five decades of parades and protests of the LGBTQ rights movement. The photos are paired with descriptions of major events from each decade as well as selected reporting from “The Times” showcase the victories, setbacks, and ongoing struggles for the LGBTQ community. That last line is so important— “the ongoing struggles”. Remember that none of us are truly free until all of us are truly free.

“Vulnerable Constitutions: Queerness, Disability, and the Remaking of American Manhood” by Cynthia Barounis— “An Alternative Queer-Crip Genealogy of American Masculinity in the Twentieth Century”

Barounis, Cynthia. “Vulnerable Constitutions: Queerness, Disability, and the Remaking of American Manhood”, Temple University Press, 2019.

“An Alternative Queer-Crip Genealogy of American Masculinity in the Twentieth Century”

Amos Lassen

Cynthia Barounis studies “the way American writers have fashioned alternative and even resistant epistemologies of queerness, disability, and masculinity” in order to understand the way perverse sexuality, physical damage, and bodily contamination have brought about masculine characters in twentieth- and early twenty-first-century literature.  Most of us do not think about the LGBT community and disability yet like all communities we have members who suffer some kind of disability. I actually never gave it much thought until I became friendly with several people who are disabled in some way.

Barounis introduces the concept of “anti-prophylactic citizenship” which is a form of political belonging that is characterized by vulnerability, receptivity, and risk and she uses this to examine counternarratives of American masculinity. She looks at the work of writers such as Jack London, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, and Eli Clare and presents an evolving narrative of medicalized sexuality and anti-prophylactic masculinity. The readings she chooses bring together queer theory, disability studies, and the history of medicine “to demonstrate how evolving scientific conversations around deviant genders and sexualities gave rise to a new model of national belonging—ultimately rewriting the story of American masculinity as a story of queer-crip rebellion.” This is quite an eye-opening study. Below is the Table of Contents:

Table of Contents


Introduction: Bodies That Leak; American Masculinity and Antiprophylactic Citizenship
1. “An Inherent Weakness of the Constitution”: Jack London’s Revolting Men 
2. “Love or Eugenics?”: Faulkner and Fitzgerald’s Crip Children 
3. “Not the Usual Pattern”: James Baldwin and the DSM 
4. Post-AIDS Permeability: Samuel Delany and Antiprophylaxis 
5. Prescribing Pleasure: Asexuality, Debility, and Trans Memoir 
Epilogue: Against Queer Resilience