Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World” by Joey Graceffa— A You Tube Personality Speaks OUT

in real life

Graceffa, Joey. “In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World”, Atria/Keywords Press, 2015).

A You Tube Personality Speaks OUT

Amos Lassen

Joey Graceffa is one of the fastest-growing personalities on YouTube and here he gives us his confessional, uplifting memoir. Graceffa is a popular brand ambassador, he has partnered with Topshop, Audible, eBay, and H&R Block. In 2013, between his daily vlogs and gameplay videos, he produced and starred in his own Kickstarter–funded supernatural series, “Storytellers,” for which he won a Streamy Award. He also starred in The Amazing Race on CBS and returned in 2014 for the all-star edition. He grew up with his family in Boston before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. As he says, “It’s not where you begin that matters, it’s where you end up.

At only 23 years old, Joey Graceffa has captured the hearts of millions of teens and young adults through his playful, sweet, and inspirational YouTube presence but we learn here that he was not always so at home with himself and he tells us about it. He is candid and honest as he looks back on his past and his journey to go to where he is today. We read how he went from “pain to pride, self-doubt to self-acceptance.”

Those who follow Joey see him as a friend who always look on the bright side but who is also not afraid of reality. We learn here about his familial struggles and his troubles at school (in Boston). He was rejected and bullied often, He shares his first loves and his losses with us and he tells of the wonderful discoveries he has made through life and the importance of the decisions he has made.

Joey has 44 million subscribers so, of course, some of his fans are going to be surprised at what he has to say here. His mother was an alcoholic and there was violence in the home He says he has never spoken openly about her before. He grew up with an autistic brother with whom he is very close and protective. He says that of the biggest questions his fans have is about his sexuality and he comes out as gay in the book and he tells us that doing so will allow him to be more honest and open with others.

His story is well written and emotional but then so is life—not well-written but emotional. As said earlier here, Graceffa’s story is a welcome reminder that it’s not where one begins that matters, but where he/she ends up. In that sense this is an inspirational book when we consider Joey’s past.

Joey has lived an interesting life so far and if that was all he wrote, it would have been fine. But he does more and gives advice to his readers. Read the other reviews and see how much influence Joey has.

 

“Sex, Drugs and Disco: Part One by Mark Abramson— How it Was

sex drugs and disco

Abramson, Mark. “Sex, Drugs & Disco: Part One”, Wilde City Press, 2015.

How It Was

Amos Lassen

It all seems like a blur now, Everything was so different back in the 70s and as different as it was where I was living, we can imagine how it was San Francisco. Now we no longer have to imagine because Mark Abramson has put it down in writing in his new book, “Sex, Drugs and Disco”. He was one of the thousands of young gay men who flocked to San Francisco in the 70s. It was a time and a place where sex was free, drugs were cheap, and disco music kept us dancing. San Francisco was the place that beckoned to gay men to come and see her and they did. Abramson went there right after college and he found his old friend, John Preston, the writer. Soon he was meeting all kinds of fascinating people including Harvey Milk, Sylvester, Rock Hudson, Natalie Wood and Vincent Price.

It was a wild time and now we know just how it was thinks to Abramson retelling us. His thoughts and his words are “raw and uncensored” just as San Francisco was. I have been a fan of Abramson since he began writing his “Beach Stories” series and his dip into nonfiction reveals a lot about him, the city he lived in and the people he knew.

“Visual Occupations: Violence and Visibility in a Conflict Zone” by Gil Z. Hochberg— The Politics of Visuality

visual occupations

Hochberg, Gil Z. “Visual Occupations: Violence and Visibility in a Conflict Zone”, (Perverse Modernities: A Series Edited by Jack Halberstam and Lisa Lowe), Duke University Press. 2015.

The Politics of Visuality

Amos Lassen

Gil Z. Hochberg looks at how the Israeli Occupation of Palestine is driven by the unequal access to visual rights, or the right to control what can be seen, how it can be seen and from which position. She writes that Israel maintains this unequal balance by erasing the history and denying the existence of Palestinians, and by carefully concealing its own militarization. The surveillance of Palestinians by Israel, combined with the militarized gaze of Israeli soldiers at places like roadside checkpoints serve as tools of dominance. While I do not agree with her thesis, she makes some interesting points. Hochberg looks at works by both Palestinian and Israeli artists such as Elia Suleiman, Rula Halawani, Sharif Waked, Ari Folman, and Larry Abramson and then states that their films, art, and photography challenge the inequity of visual rights “by altering, queering, and manipulating dominant modes of representing the conflict.”

The artists, she tells us, create new ways of seeing things such as the refusal of Israeli artists’ exposure of “state manipulated Israeli blindness —offers a crucial gateway, Hochberg suggests, for overcoming and undoing Israel’s militarized dominance and political oppression of Palestinians.” The focus of the book is on the politics of visuality and it “engages the Zionist narrative in its various scopic manifestations, while also offering close readings of a wide range of contemporary artistic representations of a conflictual zone.” Emphasis is placed on key ideas— concealment, surveillance, and witnessing, and then Hochberg looks at what she calls uneven access to visual rights that divide Israelis and Palestinians. She puts great emphasis on the tensions that come into play with the tensions between visibility and invisibility that occur during the ongoing war and violence.

The expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948, while invisible in Israel, still haunt the citizens and have led to Palestinian resistance. Now Palestinians under occupation are very visible and are seen as victims and militants and both of these groups look for non-spectacular images and a measure of opacity. Hochberg presents other ways of both looking and being seen in an “unequal field of visibility”.

“Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation” by Eli Clare— The Politics of Disability

exile and pride

Clare, Eli. “Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation”, Duke University Press Books, 2015.

The Politics of Disability

Amos Lassen

“Exile and Pride” was first published in 1999 and is a look at the history future of disability politics. This is Eli Clare’s look at her own experiences as a white and disabled genderqueer writer and activist. He is established as one of the leading writers on the intersections of queerness and disability and he has “permanently changed the landscape of disability politics and queer liberation.” He is devoted to truth and has an activist’s demand for justice. Here he tells us stories and histories that give rise to the sense of self. His essays bring memoir, history, and political thinking together so that we can explore “meanings and experiences of home: home as place, community, bodies, identity, and activism.” We are given the intersectional framework for understanding how we actually live and deal with what we face daily: oppression, power, and resistance. We look at “environmental destruction and capitalism, sexuality and institutional violence, gender and the body politic” and are given the call for call for social justice movements that are truly accessible to everyone. This book gives us a peek at the world where acceptance is just not enough; we want a world where we can be realized, loved and embraced.

We do not have much written in the filed of queer disability and we here meet Eli Clare, a poet with cerebral palsy who wants to be seen as simply a person with an impairment. We need to see what a person can do as opposed to what a person cannot do. This is the story of the fight for access by a disable person. We read the stories of Clare’s fight for disable access but we also learn who Eli is.

Raised in rural Oregon upbringing by a father with a conflicting personality of her father and who sexually abused his child, Clare learned early how to frame a house and used a chainsaw. As a young person, Clare was called names and those words—“crip, queer, freak, redneck… mark the jagged edge between self-hatred and pride, the chasm between how the dominant culture views marginalized peoples and how we view ourselves, the razor between finding home, finding our bodies, and living in exile, living on the metaphoric mountain.”

The book chides us to be aware and to have a good look at our ties to and our alienation from our environment, our sexuality, our friends and ourselves. Clare challenges us to think beyond identity politics. The essays contained in the book deal with topics such as class, race, urban-rural divides, gender identity, sexual abuse, environmental destruction, and the meaning of home. We get an idea of the politics that can take us to new places with new freedoms and our concentration will go past single-issues.

The book is made up of a series of interlinking essays as seen through the lens of Clare’s own experiences as genderqueer with cerebral palsy who still feels deep and abiding love for her childhood home on a river in Oregon. Reading this gives me a lot to think about and some of what I have read here should help me with a friend of mine who is blind and therefore disabled. We know the solutions that we are looking for are not as simple as we might like them to be but just reading this book gives is some really good and new insight.

While “Exile and Pride” is autobiographical, it is also a powerful look at and critique of the social constructions of class, disability, sexuality, race, gender and the environment. The prose is gorgeous and poetic at times and the issues we read of are very real.

Duke University Press is publishing the new edition with a brand new foreword by Aurora Levins Morales, to be released in July, 2015 (July).

“Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality” by Debra Hirsch— The Church and Sexuality

redeeming sex

Hirsch, Debra. “Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality”, (Forge Partnership Books), IVP Books, 2015.

The Church and Sexuality

Amos Lassen

The argument over sexuality has really exposed the gap between the church and the larger society. It is as if there is a battle between the two on issues of relationships, identities, orientations and gender. Author Debra Hirsch offers a redemptive imagination and “a holistic, biblical vision of sex and gender that honors God and offers good news to the world.” She tells is that there is “an unwavering Christ-like love for all humanity, and carves out a space for open conversation about sexuality. It flies in the face of the escalating culture wars of our day and invites us to imagine a Church of the future that is shaped by the Gospel virtues of love and unity.”

Hirsch speaks to the heart of man’s (woman’s) identity in Christ by addressing complex and sensitive realities and tensions and she does so “with grace, love, compassion, truth, justice and mercy.” She challenges us to love God and people through “the lens of our sexuality” and asks us to look at sexuality as beautiful and as part of the glorification of God.

Her claim is that Jesus is the embodiment of sexuality and spirituality, and in him is the model for right living and right loving. Hirsch encourages readers to connect all of their lives, including the sexual dimension of life, with the life of Christ. So we must ask ourselves if what she says holds for non-Christians as well. How does this love for Jesus fare with those who do not accept him as the son of God?

She shares her own story and what she learned about sex before and after meeting Jesus and while it sounds convincing, it does not fit my needs as a Jew but then I have already found my way through my religion. However, for Christians this book has a lot to say and Hirsch has done an excellent job of explaining the holy writings and what others have said about them.

Hirsch offers great depth for Jesus’ followers in the modern connection between spirituality and sexuality. She shares her fine research and theological perspectives on human sexuality.

“Mom and Dad, I’m Gay: Coming Out of the Closet” by Michael Holeman— Helpful Hints

mom and dad

Holeman, Michael. “Mom and Dad, I’m Gay: Coming Out of the Closet”, CreateSpace, 2015.

Helpful Hints

Amos Lassen

There are many, many books that have been written about coming-out as gay and while some of them are very good, there is really no way to prepare someone for the experience. We are all so different that each of us would need our own book. “Mom and Dad, I’m Gay: Coming Out of the Closet” is a phrase we all know too well and most of us have left closets that are filled with fears and doubt. We never know what to escape as we move from in the closet to in the world. There is a lot of information about that here as well as some very interesting facts about gay life and culture. What we have to remember is that coming-out is not a one-time experience and in may cases we come–out every day. This is a nice little book but, in effect, there is really nothing new in it. It does, however, deal with self-development and many other books do not. It is easy to read and if you need help this is just one of many books that you can read.

 

 

“Love Not Given Lightly: Profiles from the Edge of Sex” by Tina Horn—The People She’s Met

love not given lightly

Horn, Tina. “Love Not Given Lightly: Profiles from the Edge of Sex”, Three L Media, 2015.

The People She’s Met

Amos Lassen

“Love Not Given Lightly” is a collection of nonfiction stories from award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and advocate Tina Horn. As she explored sexual undergrounds, she got to know many different people including “pro-dommes, porn stars, kinky fetishists, rent boys, and more.” Rather than writing her memoir as a sex worker, she decided it would be interesting and more fun to tell the stories of the people she has met. In doing so she gives unique perspectives on the “human issues of desire, gender, beauty, and ultimately friendship” and as a result, we get an entirely new look at American sexuality.

Here Horn explores some of the most important social issues of our time. She writes of experiences that most of us have not the change (or desire) to be a part of. We read of fetishes, passions, kinks, and quirks from an insider perspective and takes us into the sexual underground.

Her nook is in effect a series of character portraits and these are the characters that are on the sexual frontier. Horn looks at the way most think about sexuality and then adds the professional, psychological and erotic point of view.

In case you are unfamiliar with Horn here is some information on who she is:

Tina Horn is a writer, educator, interdisciplinary media-maker, queer punk, and true karaoke believer. She produces and hosts “Why Are People Into That?!”, a podcast that demystifies desire. In 2010, she co-created, produced, and directed a project called QueerPorn.Tv, which won two Feminist Porn Awards and a Cinekink Award, in addition to being nominated for an AVN. Tina holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her writing has appeared in several Cleis Press anthologies, including Best Sex Writing 2015; she has also blogged for Vice, Nerve, Helix Queer Performance Network, Fleshbot and Gaga Stigmata, and published articles in The Believer, AORTA, and Whore! magazines. Over the past five years, Tina’s workshops on dirty talk, sex worker self care, and spanking have been featured at a variety of international venues, including Good Vibrations, Perverts Put Out, Red Umbrella Diaries, UC Berkeley, Lesbian Sex Mafia, Dark Odyssey, and the Feminist Porn Conference at University of Toronto. She lives in NYC.

“Children, Sexuality, and the Law” edited by Ellen Marrus and Sacha Coupet— The Divide

children sexuality

Marrus, Ellen and Sacha Coupet (editors). “Children, Sexuality, and the Law”, (Families, Law, and Society), NYU Press, 2015.

The Divide

Amos Lassen

There is something about the sexuality of children that makes us ill at ease especially in American political and legal culture. The law rarely deals with the way it interacts with children and their sexualities. Legally there is a very narrow range of sexual roles for children whether they are looked at as being totally sexless or as victims of sexual contact. Society as well has a tendency to discount children as “agents” in the areas of sexuality and sex. The major question here deals with degree that children resemble adults which does not necessarily mean that children have distinct and recognized rights that are related to sex, sexual expression, and sexuality.

“Children, Sexuality, and the Law” looks at and reflects on “some of the unique challenges that accompany children in the broader context of sex”. It explores diverse perspectives and the ways in which children fare in sexually related dimensions of law and contemporary life. We see a broad range of issues, from the psychology of children as sexual beings and the legal treatment of adolescent consent. There is concentration here on “whether and when children have a right to expression as understood within the First Amendment.”

I understand that this is the first book of this nature and it extends the “traditional discourse of children as victims of adult sexual deviance” and does so by considering children as agents and rights holders in the realm of sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation. When we think of the rights of children regarding sex, we deal with a topic that has been taboo. Nonetheless, this book goes there and does that. Here is an anthology of articles that presents a provocative examination of children as sexual beings and how

laws and policies bypass the realities of sexuality development in children. By doing so more harm is done to minors and their protection under the law. Children do have rights and we must look at the law and its failure to do so as well as the inconsistent ways that children are treated in this country. The reality has been that children who are in some way involved in sex are treated legally as adults. With so much changing in sexual mores today, the time has come to have another look at our legal system as it pertains to sex and children.

This is not just a discussion of the protection of victims as children from those who are sexual predators but it also considers children as having legal rights and as agents. Ultimately this is an interdisciplinary, comprehensive look at children and sexuality.  

“Geisha of a Different Kind: Race and Sexuality in Gaysian America” by C. Winter Han— Sidelined in the Community

geisha of a different kind

Han, C. Winter. “Geisha of a Different Kind: Race and Sexuality in Gaysian America”, NYU Press, 2015.

Sidelined in the Community

Amos Lassen

In today’s American gay culture—bars, nightclubs, magazines and the media, the white, buff, macho man rules the roost. He is the most attracted and the most desired. He is also the most emulated. On the other hand, gay Asian men are seen as submissive and/or too pretty. Gay Asians are often sidelined by the larger gay community. They are

“repeatedly marginalized by both the white-centric queer community that values a hyper-masculine sexuality and a homophobic Asian American community that often privileges masculine heterosexuality, gay Asian American men largely have been silenced and alienated in present-day culture and society.” In “Geisha of a Different Kind”, author C. Winter Han uses the West Coast Asian drag shows to the internationally sought-after Thai kathoey, or “ladyboy,” in order to construct a theory of queerness that is both inclusive of the race and gender particularities of the gay Asian male experience in this country.

The gay Asian male is observed here ethnographically and through readings of current media and popular culture depictions of Asian Americans, Han argues that gay Asian American men who have been used to gender privilege within their own communities, now must struggle with the idea that, as Asians, they have historically been feminized as a result of Western domination and colonization, and as a result, they remain minorities within the gay community, which is itself marginalized within the overall American society. Han also shows that many Asian American gay men can turn their unusual position in the gay and Asian American communities into a positive identity. Because they have a strong conception of self, they are much more able to convey a convincing erotic femininity. The book challenges the stereotypes about beauty and is an important investigation of nativity, and race and sexuality in America.

Han maintains a focus on the daily contingencies of these men’s lives making this book an important study of contemporary U.S. sex/gender systems and their links to racial formations. 
Below is a copy of the table of contents:

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Geisha of a Different Kind 1

  1. Being an Oriental, I Could Never Be Completely a Man:
    Gendering Asian Men 21
  2. Sexy Like a Girl and Horny Like a Boy: Contemporary
    Gay “Western” Narratives about Gay “Asian” Men 57

3. It’s Like They Don’t See Us at All: Race and Racism in Gay America 93

  1. Asian Girls Are Prettier: How Drag Queens Saved Us 127
  2. Finding Home in Gaysian America: Constructing
    Gay Asian Male Identities 156

Conclusion: Who Gets to Be Gay, Who Gets to Be Asian? 188

Notes 199

References 211

Index 223

About the Author

 

“Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights” by Ann Bausum— “History Walks Through the Door”

stonewall

Bausum, Ann. “Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights”, Viking Books for Young Readers, 2015.

“History Walks Through the Door”

Amos Lassen

It was in 1969 and before that being gay was a crime. Going out to a gay bar could be quite dangerous and people were arrested because of their sexuality. We were closeted and live lives that were marginalized. Gay men and women were sent to jail, their names were printed in the newspapers, they lost jobs and were publicly humiliated and disowned by their families. Many doctors considered homosexuality to be a mental illness. The few places where gays could meet and spend time together somewhat openly were the gay bars. Many of the bars were owned by the Mafia and Stonewall was one such bar. Stonewall was filthy and overpriced but it had a great location in the bohemian Greenwich Village in New York City.

Police raided the bars regularly but that night in June when they entered Stonewall, the unexpected took place. Tensions were very high and the crowd stayed and grew and grew and grew. Anger and frustration grew with the crowd and soon there was a riot and that riot became a catalyst. As gay people, the time had come to demand our rights and to fight back. The rest became history and Ann Bausum has captured it wonderfully for the young adult reader. The Stonewall Riot and the national gay rights movement were inspirational and here we get the details of what really happened. 

Ann Bausum’s riveting exploration of the Stonewall Riots and the national Gay Rights movement that followed is eye-opening, unflinching, and inspiring. She tells the story as if we were having a chat with her and does so with style, grace and passion. Most important is that she captures the anger that many felt that night.