Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power” by Susie Day, illustrated by Pia Marella— Personal Essays and Political Satire

trash to power

Day, Susie (author) and Pia Marella (illustrator). “Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power”, Abingdon Square Publishing Ltd., 2014.

Personal Essays and Political Satire

Amos Lassen

This is quite a collection of essays that provide  “a perverse moral clarity to an increasingly amoral world” by reporter Susie Day who brings us “fast-breaking faux news”. Her satire is strong and she says that we have to regain the energy in the media that we saw during the AIDS epidemic and the Vietnam War. Day’s goal is to bring us together as one people; she says that it is consumerism and social conformity that us changing us and she worries that marriage equality will do away with the “transgressions” that once were responsible for the outlaw spirit that once characterized the gay community. She wants to change the world and some of what she says is startling. They says that gay men know about opera but they are unaware of lesbian opera and she goes on to explain the plot of the lesbian opera “Sapphic Ring Cycle” and he irony is biting.

We sense Day’s love for human rights and the injuries of the past hurt her. She is a woman who needs a cause and some she has championed include prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and displaced Palestinians (however this is one that is very difficult to agree with). Day writes with a humor that is caustic and very funny, especially when we realize that we are laughing at ourselves.

“Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s” by Brad Gooch— Love and Fidelity in a Time that Was

smash cut

Gooch, Brad. “Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s”, Harper, 2015.

Love and Fidelity in a Time that Was

Amos Lassen

I love Brad Gooch….that is to say I love his writing. His biography of Frank O’Hara, “City Poet” sits proudly on my shelf next to his highly underestimated “The Golden Age of Promiscuity”. He has other books also that I have read and reviewed—“Godtalk”, “Finding the Boyfriend Within”, “Daily News”, “Jailbait” and so on—twelve titles in all and several different genres. Gooch has never disappointed and when I was asked to review his new book, I jumped at the chance. For me Gooch is best when writing nonfiction and when “Smash Cut” arrived this week, I cleared my calendar and sat down to be taken away to New York and back to the 70s and 80s. Back then New York City was the international center of celebrities and glamour. The Bohemian movement was well underway and if anyone wanted to be where it was happening, they really had to get to New York. I was over 6000 miles away in Israel but I devoured every bit of news I received.

Gooch went to New York in the late 70s in search of freedom—both artistic and personal. This book is his memoir of his time there with his partner Howard, a film director. This is not what I would necessarily call a happy read but it is certainly an important read. Gooch does not remember it all well and so, as he tells us, it is pieced together from memory and it is emotional to the point that my eyes filled with tears several times while reading. The prologue is perfection—it sets the scene both emotionally and literarily and it reminds us just how far we have come as individuals and as a community. For me, especially, coming to Boston from Arkansas was a big shock. It was fascinating to see how no one cared about someone’s sexuality—it is the person that matters. We see that change coming throughout “Smash Cut” and we also see the price we paid for it.

Gooch tells us that his relationship with Howard Brookner ranged from “blazing ecstasy to bleakest despair” and his memory of it is “fueled by a panoply of emotions”. These are the same emotions that we have while reading Gooch’s words. We all know that a relationship is based on working together so things are good and Gooch and Brookner had to work at reconciling love and fidelity with the freedom (including sexual freedom) that New York provided. It is very hard to be faithful when there are so many beautiful men around and available and our two found themselves both living together and living apart.

Brad Gooch was more than a writer; he had a brief stint as a model and went to Milan. When he came back to New York, he tried being an artist, It was at this time that our community was threatened with the deadly AIDS epidemic and Brookner was ill with an undiagnosed virus that was later recognized as AIDS. It eventually took him from Brad Gooch and from all of us. We cannot forget that the carefree 70s turned into the fearful 80s and the deadly 90s.

 We cannot look at our story or the stories of others without dealing with the fact that we were living with death everyday and we cannot be allowed to ever forget that AIDS was our Holocaust. AIDS changed us—it took some of our very best and it totally transformed any sense of community we might have had. And while this was happening Brookner was slipping away from Gooch as so many others slipped away from their loved ones. The section of the book where Brookner dies had me bent over in physical pain—his death was not only the end of his physical being but the end of the love he shared. This book ends there but Gooch has bounced back and thank God he did. He wrote this book to show us how it was and what love means. So many others did not have that opportunity or the way with words that we find here. I feel sad after reading it but I feel better for having done so; for not allowing myself to ever forget. (On a personal note—I was in Israel while the AIDS epidemic took over America. We had a few cases but nothing like what was happening in America. In 1989, I came back to the States for a visit and went to my usual haunt—Café Lafitte in Exile in New Orleans. I had been gone for some 18 years and every single person I had known was gone—taken in the prime of their lives).

There are happy moments in the book and there are familiar names and personages from Madonna to Mapplethorpe, Virgil Thomson to Andy Warhol and William Burroughs and there is glamour here. Brookner and Gooch were young, talented, handsome and glamorous like poster boys for an age long gone. Gooch’s memoir is to be treasured and savored like wine fine with candlelight overlooking a wonderful view. We learn that even with all of the beauty that was that we cannot let her guard down ever again.

The era written about here was one of total abandon until it was too late, yet, to be able to write it with such beauty is a special gift and Brad Gooch shares that gift with us and we are so much better for it.

“It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality” by Michelangelo Signorile— The Present and Future of Gay Rights

it's not over

Signorile, Michelangelo. “It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality”, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , 2015.

The Present and the Future of Gay Rights

Amos Lassen

Thing sure are different for the LGBT community in the United States compared to just ten years ago. There is marriage equality all across the country, DOMA has been repealed, almost every Democrat in American government supports gay marriage, people have come out at work and in the athletic arena but, yes there is a “but”, all is not as it looks. Michelangelo Signorile shows us that these changes and the excitement that they bring make the situation very dangerous. Homophobia not only exists but it is a major fact of how we live today. Fundamentalism has been planning a backlash “against LGBT rights and challenges the complacency and hypocrisy of supposed allies in Washington, the media, and Hollywood.”

Signorile presents a “battle plan” for the fights that are yet to come as we continue to move toward equality. We read the stories of those in our community who “have refused to be merely tolerated, or worse, and are demanding full acceptance.” Yet it is not all bleak and there are signs of hope documented here. Schools and communities are discovering new ways to fight bullying, fear and ignorance. Signorile tells us that we cannot allow ourselves to take any of these new rights for granted.

I am sure you have noticed and Signorile reminds us that the media has not stopped giving equal airtime for LGBT haters who openly voice homophobic comments. If others would make the kind of statements that have been made against the LGBT community against another community— Blacks, Latinos, Jews the disabled etc., they would receive the same kind of media space of time yet we see a double standard here in the areas of the defamation of our community.

Signorile also tells us that if the Supreme Court makes same-sex legal in all 50 states there will be a tremendous backlash. This is already evident in some states with business owners refusing to sell and rent property, provide services etc to gay clients and thee are only a few states that have laws protecting the LGBT community. Do we need to be reminded that the state of Arkansas has legislatively taken away any protections for LGBT citizens? (I am so happy not to be living there any longer).

One thing that is certainly noticeable in election campaigns is that many who are running for office as well as politicians have stopped making blatant anti-LGBT remarks and comments publicly yet they do so in an underground manner or include these remarks in legislation on religious freedom.

 We get some astounding statistics here from Signorile. The suicide rate among gay teens is as high as from 30% to 40% even when they have parents who support them and their choices of ways to live. Some 40% of homeless teens are gay. We read that parents who are Christians and evangelical are likely to reject their children.

Looking at education, Signorile suggests that kids in schools need to be taught LGBT history alongside of their other studies. Looking at sports, Signorile says that this is one of the most difficult jobs to deal with as homophobic remarks seem to come with athletics.

The book is filled with statistics and real stories about real people and as usual the author holds nothing back and calls names. Also, as usual, Signorile is controversial and within the LGBT community itself, there will be those who will argue about the way we treat the enemies. However, since the fight is hardly over, we must be aware that

“there are still well-entrenched and powerful opponents of equality who haven’t yet given up the [their] fight.” We are so lucky to have someone like Michelangelo Signorile who continues to fight for us at every opportunity. He “takes special delight in skewering the views of gay conservatives.”

So we might notice that none of this is news yet we do need to be constantly reminded. We should take a hint from the civil rights movement— it was able to make segregation illegal but blacks still suffer discrimination because of their color and this is true especially in specific parts of the country. Although women made some major inroads in the 1960s and 1970s with birth control and the right to abortion, they still face salary discrimination. Right-wing Christian Republicans keep trying to continue to ban acceptance of LGBT people and are also trying to control abortions and birth control. We need to know that we cannot, for a minute, let down our guard.

Even with the positive shift in the nation’s attitude toward acceptance of the LGBT community; there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to understand that change takes time and that we cannot assume that the situation for our community is over. I doubt it will ever be.

 One of the beauties of this book (and there are many) is the factional information about current events in law and in the national attitude towards the LGBT community. The LGBT movement has been one of the great social movements of modern history and there are still a lot of challenges to face. Signorile explains and “exposes the dangerous triumphalism that has taken hold. He reveals the bigotry and bias still deeply embedded in the media, the political establishment, and throughout American culture. And he provides an illuminating, stirring plan of action to vanquish it.”


“An Honest Life: Faithful and Gay” by Geoffrey Hooper— The Struggle

an honest life

Hooper, Gregory. “An Honest Life: Faithful and Gay”, Christian Alternative, 2015.

The Struggle

Amos Lassen

Gregory Hooper shares with us his struggle to discover why he resisted the call to ordination and denial of his homosexuality. He looks carefully at the defenses and pressures from society that caused him to marry and live a lie. In doing so, he condemns the intolerance of society and hypocrisy of the Church yet he lauds the support that some of the bishops gave him. As I read this I kept thinking that we are all aware of homosexuality in the hierarchy of the Church yet I wondered why no one has yet spoken out. I cannot imagine anything worse than being forced to live a life which is being perpetrated in the name of God and by so many others that are doing the same thing. The LGBT community has finally begin to receive liberation and the time has come for the church to admit what is going on within— it is not like we do not know.

Hooper includes personal stories and contributions from others. He does this to show how one journeys to faith is more important to many than sexual identity. I feel it is impossible to separate the two. The highlight of the book comes when author Hooper tells of the wonderful experience is was to experience the love of another man.

Hooper is brutally honest in this memoir as he explores his struggle to affirm his integrity as a married Anglican priest who has to face the ultimate inescapable truth of his same sex orientation. He acknowledges that he is a gay man who has experienced “the complex ambivalence or overt hostility of the external world.” He tells us that family, Church and society come together” to create a context which demands every ounce of his emotional resilience and courage.” Hooper takes us through the different stages of his life including his understanding of priesthood, theology, psychology and therapeutic process. He has maintained commitment to Christian faith in the face of difficulties which continually threaten to undermine almost everything he does.

Hooper exposes the appalling treatment his remarkable ministry has received at the hands of the Church. His story is moving and it is a sensitive look at the Church has managed to marginalize gay clergy. This is a story of faith and faithfulness. Hooper’s account of his life long struggle to be fully human as a gay is an inspiration. We learn of his hopes and his dreams, his joy and his pain and he is not alone.

“The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds” by Martha Feldman— Keeping the Voice

the castrato

Feldman, Martha. “The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds”, University of California Press, 2015.

Keeping the Voice

Amos Lassen

“The Castrato” explores why innumerable boys were castrated for singing between the mid-sixteenth and late-nineteenth centuries. We see that the entire foundation of Western classical singing, culminating in bel canto, came from an unlikely and historically unique set of desires, public and private, aesthetic, economic, and political. In Italy, castration for singing was understood religion; “through the lens of Catholic blood sacrifice as expressed in idioms of offering and renunciation and, paradoxically, in satire, verbal abuse, and even the symbolism of the castrato’s comic cousin Pulcinella”. Sacrifice could not be separated from the system of patriarchy that involved teachers, patrons, colleagues, and relatives. “Castrated males were produced not as nonmen, as often thought nowadays, but as idealized males.” Composers and audiences were captivated audiences by the extraordinary capacities of castrato voices, a phenomenon ultimately unsettled the morality of the Enlightenment. Even though the castrati failed to survive, their musicality and voices have persisted. Below is the table of contents:


Note on Textual Transcription, Translations, Lexicon, and Musical Nomenclature

 PART ONE. Reproduction

  1. Of Strange Births and Comic Kin

Appendix to Chapter 1

  1. The Man Who Pretended to Be Who He Was

 PART TWO. Voice

  1. Red Hot Voice
  2. Castrato De Luxe

 PART THREE. Half-light

  1. Cold Man, Money Man, Big Man Too
  2. Shadow Voices, Castrato and Non





List of Illustrations


“Top 250 LGBTQ Books for Teens: Coming Out, Being Out and the Search for Community” by Michael Cart and Christine A. Jenkins— A Treasure

top 250

Cart, Michael and Christine A. Jenkins. “Top 250 LGBTQ Books for Teens: Coming Out, Being Out and the Search for Community”, IPG Press, 2015.

A Treasure

Amos Lassen

It is so good to have a book that is a summary of the 250 best books for LGBTQ teens. This is written by experts on the subject and addressed to teen book buyers. It identifies titles that address the sensitive and important topics of coming out, being out, and the search for community, this catalog spotlights the best gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and questioning books written for teens.

The authors cover fiction of all kinds, as well as graphic novels and general nonfiction aimed at readers in middle school and high school, and include recent publications as well as classics that continue to be read and enjoyed by 21st-century teens. Information on how to find library programs, services, and additional resources for LGBTQ teens is also provided, making this a one-stop sourcebook for LGBTQ teens, their families, friends, and classmates, as well as teachers and librarians.




“Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage” by Barney Frank— Becoming…

barney frank

Frank, Barney. “Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.


Amos Lassen

There are two names in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that always bring in votes— Kennedy and Barney Frank. We know a great deal about how the Kennedys serve this country but Barney Frank is something of an enigma. He is disheveled and combative, Jewish and gay and je speaks with a thick accent yet he has proved himself to be one of the most effect politicians of our modern age. He is also one of the funniest.

As a boy of fourteen, Frank learned two things about himself—he found government attractive and decided way back then that he would government his career. His other discovery was that he was attracted to members of his own sex and this could have hurt him a great deal in his career plans. Therefore he decided to keep it a secret. Things did not work out according to plan; Frank realized that keeping a secret and being in the public eye do not always go together. Times were very different fifty years ago and when Frank looks back at his career he sees some interesting facts of which one of them is that as a gay men, he was accepted but his belief in the power of government is embattled.

Barney Frank is a hard worker and that is one of the sides of his personality that he will be remembered for. I believe that he will also be positively remembered as a gay Congressman at a time when the word “gay” could ruin a career in public service.

I do not know Frank personally but I have seen and heard him speak several times and while I cannot explain what it is, he draws people to him. A great public speaker he is not; however, he is an individual who maintains honesty and a strong work ethic. He thinks fast, he works hard and he gets the job done effectively. This is book is Frank’s own story in his own words. He is candid as he tells us about coming out of the closet and working for LGBT rights as well as fighting for sensible financial reforms. He firmly believes that government can improve people’s lives and as we read we feel his passion and his energy.

I have never thought of Frank as a writer but this nook totally changed my mind. This is a compelling read in which Frank mixes together the personal and the professional. Frank has also written history here and we see him as not only a person who matters but also one who has been able to get things done. To make this even more of a pleasurable read, the book is filled with many anecdotes (for which Frank was famous) and if you did not know that he is smart and funny, you will after reading this book.

Frank was in government for some forty years and almost everyone else who was in government appears somewhere in this book. When he decided to come out as gay publicly, he told then speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill that he was going to do so. O’Neill was not worried about Frank’s sexuality; what bothered him was that it could put limits on Frank’s career in politics. O’Neill shared this news with Representative Pat Schroeder asking if she had heard the bad news about Barney. She assumed that Frank was very ill until O’Neill told her what he meant and she felt relieved. O’Neill also told his press secretary, Chris Matthews but messed up what he had planned to say and said instead that he might have an issue with Frank coming out of the room. We must remember that people did not always speak about gays back then (it was a secret) but when Frank came out many of us followed him.

Barney Frank was in Congress during a monumental period for gay rights. There was the AIDS epidemic, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the Defense of Marriage Act and Same-sex Marriage. He was a key player in the legislation and debate over these issued. Frank’s story is that of a man who was forced to live with the tension of bring gay while at the same time fulfilling his need and desire to serve his people. He shares with us stories of the change in prejudice against the LGBT community. He also shares his childhood as well as the story from 1989 of the friendship with a male prostitute but only on the surface. I wanted the details but they were not there. This was true of other stories that I felt sure would be discussed in depth.

In these aspects I was a bit disappointed. I really wanted the personal Barney Frank and it was there. It seems that Frank’s major emphasis comes when the writes about the government process and it was here that I began to understand why he did not share the “juicy parts” of his life. For so long gay men have been described or spoken about in terms of their sexual habits and the fact that we are just like everyone else except when having sex. Frank obviously wanted to concentrate oh his life without the sex. I think that is quite admirable (but I still want the juicy parts—maybe there will be a second volume J). On the other hand there is a great deal of information about the workings of government and some interesting comments about those who work in it. He out-and-out calls Dick Cheney an “unabashed liar”.

While this is not the personal Barney Frank we all hoped that we would get, it is still a book that should be read. Students of government will love it and the LGBT community might be disappointed. We don’t always get what we hope for so we will just have to settle with what we get.

After I wrote this I noticed the review in the New York Times and I find it interesting that we really agreed and we both more or less highlighted the same thoughts.

“Barney Frank represented the Fourth Congressional District of Massachusetts for more than three decades and chaired the House Financial Services Committee from 2007 to 2011. He is a regular commentator on MSNBC and divides his time between a home with his husband near Portland, Maine, and his apartment in Newton, Massachusetts.

“Bettyville” by George Hodgman— Mother and Son


Hodgman, George. “Bettyville”, Viking 2015.

Mother and Son

Amos Lassen

Living in Manhattan, George Hodgman is called home to Paris, Missouri to take care of his mother. He soon realizes that his new profession is that of an undertaker/cook. His mother, Betty, is aging yet she still has great wit and the will to live. He tries to get her into assisted living but he cannot get himself to force out of the home that they both love so much. They can still hear his father’s voice in the house and there are so many memories there. There is also a conflict that is rarely spoken of— Betty has never accepted her son’s sexuality.

Mother and son try to unite their worlds. We learn of the challenges that Betty has faced in her life as well as the author’s struggle for self-respect. This is a memoir written with gorgeous prose that at times breaks our hearts and then mend the break with humor and warmth so that we can continue reading.

 Betty is now ninety-one and is not ready to enter the oblivion of old age. Even with dementia, cancer, and increasing physical frailty, she is still a force to be reckoned with. She chooses to fight her cancer, and begins radiation therapy. Throughout all of their spats, their rumblings and their grumblings, they are again living in the same house and we understand that they truly love each other. As George sees Betty struggle, yet not ready to surrender her spirit points George in the direction of discovering his own personal strengths. He gains the courage to move forward with choices for his future.

Author Hodgman captures life as it was in small-town Missouri, where he grew up and where people were kind to him in an era when folks didn’t yet understand or accept what it was to be gay.

I love that at the very beginning, Hodgman introduces us to Missouri, “a state of stolen names” and “funny-named places,” and he sets the tone for the writing style he uses throughout the book. The characterizations are wonderful and the character of Betty is wonderfully drawn.

The book is funny and charming, witty and droll as well as poignantly sad. It is all about respect and the search for love. It is quite simply a wonderful read.

“Snapshots of Dangerous Women” by Peter Cohen with an introduction by Mia Fineman— Candid Snapshots


Cohen, Peter. “Snapshots of Dangerous Women”, Universe, 2015.

Candid Snapshots

Amos Lassen


It has taken Peter Cohen over 20 years to build this collection of candid snapshots of women doing things that many women would never think of doing or engaging in unconventional activities. He found these photos at garage and estate sales and flea markets and he knew what he was looking for— “vernacular, or ‘found’ photography taken in the middle part of the twentieth century”. Now his collection has found a home in this book and we see images of women engaged in such activities. swigging booze out of a bottle, boxing, playing pick-up football, smoking, or shooting arrows or guns— and what makes some of them so interesting is that they are doing these things while wearing nice dresses. “Snapshots of Dangerous Women” is a collection of photos from the thirties, forties, and fifties and we see women as rebellious and a bit radical but mostly we see them enjoying themselves. There are women of all ages doing whatever they want to do and this is such a different way of looking at women before feminism and liberation.


The book is a pleasure to look at especially since we see women doing things that we would never imagine that they would do. The layout is like looking at a family scrapbook of old photos. There is no text and I suppose that is because the pictures say it all.


The Publishing Triangle Award Finalists Announced for 2015


The Publishing Triangle Award Finalists Announced

The Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbian and gay men in publishing, have announced the finalists for their annual literary awards. Congratulations to all the nominees.

The winners will be announced at the 27th annual Triangle Awards ceremony on April 23, 2015, at the Auditorium of the New School (66 West 12th Street in New York City) at 7 p.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public. The Bill Whitehead Award for lifetime achievement will be bestowed upon writer Rigoberto González during the ceremony.

Finalists for the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry

How a Mirage Works, by Beverly Burch (Sixteen Rivers Press)
Last Psalm at Sea Level, by Meg Day (Barrow Street Press)
Like a Beggar, by Ellen Bass (Copper Canyon Press)
Tiger Heron, by Robin Becker (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Finalists for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry

I Don’t Know Do You, by Roberto Montes (Ampersand Books)
The New Testament, by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)
Prelude to Bruise, by Saeed Jones (Coffee House Press)
The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition, edited and translated by Stephen Sartarelli (University of Chicago Press)
Finalists for the Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: 40 Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, by Barbara Smith; edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks (SUNY Press)
A Cup of Water Under My Bed, by Daisy Hernandez (Beacon Press)
*Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger, by Kelly Cogswell (University of Minnesota Press)
*The End of Eve, by Ariel Gore (Hawthorne Books)
Finalists for the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction

*Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity, by Robert Beachy (Alfred A. Knopf)
*Hold Tight Gently, by Martin Duberman (The New Press)
*The Prince of Los Cocuyos, by Richard Blanco (Ecco/HarperCollins)
*Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe, by Philip Gefter (Liveright/W.W. Norton)
Finalists for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction

*For Today I Am a Boy, by Kim Fu (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
*Little Reef and Other Stories, by Michael Carroll (University of Wisconsin Press)
*New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, by Shelly Oria (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
*Unaccompanied Minors, by Alden Jones (New American Press)
Finalists for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction

*All I Love and Know, by Judith Frank (William Morrow/HarperCollins)
*I Loved You More, by Tom Spanbauer (Hawthorne Books)
Mr. Loverman, by Bernardine Evaristo (Akashic Books)
*Sideways Down the Sky, by Barry Brennessel (MLR Press)
When Everything Feels Like the Movies, by Raziel Reid (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Those marked with an asterisk have been reviewed right here at