Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Gay Novels of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, 1881-1981: A Reader’s Guide” by Drewey Wayne Gunn— British Gay Fiction

gay novels of britain

Gunn, Drewey Wayne, “Gay Novels of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, 1881-1981: A Reader’s Guide”, McFarland, 2014.

British Gay Fiction

Amos Lassen

Although this book is not out yet, I want everyone to be aware of it as it fills the gap between American and British gay fiction. American gay fiction has received and still receives scholarly attention while some of the most important gay themed novels have been written and published “across the pond”. Not much attention has been given to developments in other English-speaking countries. This survey catalogs 254 novels and novellas by some 173 British, Irish and Commonwealth authors in which gay and bisexual male characters play a major role. The book is arranged chronologically from the appearance of the first gay protagonist in 1881, to works from the onset of the AIDS epidemic in 1981. There are in-depth entries that discuss each book’s publication history, plot and significance for the construct of gay identity, along with a brief biography of its author. Some of the iconic works included are Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890) and E.M. Forster’s “Maurice”(1913-14 written, published 1971) as well as lesser known but noteworthy novels such as Rose Macaulay’s “The Lee Shore” (1912) and John Broderick’s “The Waking of Willie Ryan” (1969), this volume–the first of its kind–enlarges our understanding of the development of gay fiction and provides an essential reading list.

“Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity” by Robert Beachy— Berlin and the Creation of Gay Identity

gay berlin

Beachy, Robert. “Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity”, Knopf, 2014.

Berlin and the Creation of Gay Identity

Amos Lassen

 In “Gay Berlin”, Robert Benchley gives us “an unprecedented examination of the ways in which the uninhibited urban sexuality, sexual experimentation, and medical advances of pre-Weimar Berlin created and molded our modern understanding of sexual orientation and gay identity”. As early as the 1850s, Berlin was known for its attitude toward “warm brothers” (a German slang term for homosexuals). Before the dawn of the twentieth century Berlin was home to scholars, activists and many in the medical profession. It was a place for education and it provided a wonderful learning ground for studying human sexual identities.

We meet Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German activist described by some as the first openly gay man and we learn of the world of Berlin’s vast homosexual subcultures, of a major sex scandal that enraptured the daily newspapers and shook the court of Emperor William II and of some of the very first sex reassignment surgeries. Some of these have been long forgotten but now Robert Beachy uncovers the long-forgotten events and characters and we see that they continue to shape and influence the way we think of sexuality today.

We might subtitle this book as a look at forgotten firsts and these include the work of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, who was the first to claim (in 1896) that same-sex desire is an immutable, a biologically determined characteristic. Hirschfeld is the founder of the Institute for Sexual Science. Though raided and closed down by the Nazis in 1933, the institute served as, among other things, “a veritable incubator for the science of tran-sexuality,” scene of one of the world’s first sex reassignment surgeries. This is a fascinating, surprising, and informative read and a welcome addition to the LGBT canon as we look at Berlin and this book as a foundational cultural examination of human sexuality.

“Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus” by Rachel Lee Smith— A Photographic Essay

speaking out

Smith, Rachel Lee. “Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus”, PM Press, 2014.

A Photographic Essay

Amos Lassen

Rachel Lee Smith brings us a photographic essay of LGBTQ youth as they speak openly of who they are. They share their experiences through handwritten text and imagery. The stories were gathered over a ten-year period and the book evolved from a project on gallery walls. We see the perspectives of a diverse group of young people, ages 14–24, identifying as queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Here are portraits minus judgments or stereotypes. This was achieved by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop that acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. There are more than 65 portraits and, the book “provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth” and at the same time it gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are rarely heard and often silenced. Using the image and first person narratives, we get a new kind of outlet that shows support, create a dialogue, and helps those who struggle. Candace Gingrich wrote the foreward and Graeme Taylor  gives the afterword.

 Here is what others are saying:

“These are portraits of a revolution. Photographer Rachelle Lee Smith gives lesbian and gay youth an outlet to speak for themselves. Simple, yet powerful photos of queer youth speak reams.”  —Advocate

Speaking OUT gives voices to queer youth, one snapshot at a time.” —Marcie Bianco, mic.com

“Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith” by Eve Tushnet— A Celibate Lesbian

gay and catholic

Tushnet, Eve. “Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith”, Ave Maria Press, 2014.

A Celibate Lesbian

Amos Lassen

Eve Tushnet is a celibate Catholic and a lesbian. In her first book, she shares with us her spiritual and intellectual journey from liberal atheism to faithful Catholicism and shows how gay Catholics can love and be loved while still keeping to Church teaching. She was born the child of two atheist academics and while studying at Yale she was just a typical undergraduate. One day she went to a meeting of philosophical debates with the idea of making fun of them but instead soon became involved in a deep and intellectual conversation and then she surprised everyone (and herself) when she converted to Roman Catholicism. She had already self-identified as a lesbian and so searched for a third way in the seeming two-option system available to gay Catholics— se could either reject Church teaching on homosexuality or reject the truth of her sexuality. This book came about as a result of that search. She writes about what she learned while studying Christian history and theology and she presents here how gay Catholics can use love and need the for connection as a way to achieve friendships, community, service, and artistic creation.

We are so used to hearing about how the church is anti-gay and exists in an atmosphere of hypocrisy, obliviousness, and antagonism but here we get a different perspective. It does not matter what we believe about what Tushnet writes, she has answers ready and beautifully stated.

I am sure that there are many who will disagree with what she says and label her as a dreamer but as an observant Jew myself, I have been able to deal with religion and my sexuality.

Tushnet admits she does not even understand fully what the church teaches on sexuality, but she has agreed to live a lonely, loveless life so that the Catholic church’s leaders, who hate homosexuals far more than their own pedophile priests, will not threaten her the terrors of hell and damnation.

The Church indeed advocates friendship and this is something that needs to be discovered time and time again. All humans need to know this and find that kind of relationship with religion. This is a book that is written honestly, practically and in direct language that we can all understand and it is wonderful to have it.

“The Holocaust and the West German Historians: Historical Interpretation and Autobiographical Memory” by Nicholas Berg— History of Holocaust Historiography

the holocaust

Berg, Nicholas. “The Holocaust and the West German Historians: Historical Interpretation and Autobiographical Memory”, Translated by Joel Golb, (George L. Mosse Series), University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

History of Holocaust Historiography

Amos Lassen

It has been many years since I heard the term historiography—it was name of the course that we, as graduate students in history (way back when) were required to take and it gave us a whole new way of looking at history. This book is a history of historiography of the Holocaust and when it was originally published in Germany and in German in 2003, it provoked both controversy and acclaim. Author Nicholas Berg looks at the work of German and German-Jewish historians in the thirty years of post–World War II Germany and he examines “how they perceived—and failed to perceive—the Holocaust and how they interpreted and misinterpreted that historical fact using an arsenal of terms and concepts, arguments and explanations.”

The English translation by Joel Golb is a shortened version of the original but just as controversial. It also contains a new introduction by the author in which he reviews and comments on the response to the German edition.

In this American edition, discussion of historian Joseph Wulf and his colleague and fellow Holocaust survivor Léon Poliakov has been united in one chapter. Special care has been taken to make clear to English speakers the questions raised about German historiographical writing. The translator tells us that “From 1945 to the present, the way historians have approached the Holocaust has posed deep-reaching problems regarding choice of language. . . . This book is consequently as much about language as it is about facts.”

This is an important work fro students of the Holocaust and the history of West Germany but it is also a fascinating read for the layman who just wants to know a little more about what went on and for the historian who is interested in the craft of history.

“Nicolas Berg is a research fellow at the Simon Dubnow Institute and teaches in the Department of History at the University of Leipzig. He is the author of several books about Jews and anti-Semitism in Germany. Joel Golb is an independent editor and literary historian. He lives in Berlin”.

“Letter to Jimmy” by Alain Mabanckou— An Ode to James Baldwin

letter to jimmy

Mabanckou, Alain. “Letter to Jimmy”, Soft Skull, 2014.

An Ode to James Baldwin

Amos Lassen

Alain Mabanckou is an African writer who has chosen to pay his respects to James Baldwin on the twentieth anniversary of his death. Baldwin was his literary hero and in this ode to him, the author tries to place Baldwin’s life in context with the greater African disapora. While walking along Santa Monica beach (Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo-Brazzavile in 1966. He is the author of Broken Glass (Soft Skull 2010), Memoirs of a Porcupine (Soft Skull 2006) and African Psycho (Soft Skull 2007) among others. He currently divides his time between Paris and California, where he teaches French Literature at UCLA) Mabanckou saw a man “whose ragged clothes and unsteady gait remind the author of a character out of one of James Baldwin’s novels” and this is what prompted him to sit down and write this. — Mabanckou uses his own experiences as an African living in the US as a way to take readers on a fascinating tour of James Baldwin’s life. As Mabanckou reads Baldwin’s work and looks at pictures of him through the years, he explores Baldwin’s checkered publishing history. He has always been looking for answers about what it must have been like for the young Baldwin to live abroad as an African-American, to write obliquely about his own homosexuality, and to seek out mentors like Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison only to publicly reject them later.

When Mabanckou travels to Paris, reads about French history and engages with contemporary readers, his letters to Baldwin grow more intimate and personal. He speaks to Baldwin as a peer—a writer who paved the way for his own work, and Mabanckou seems to believe, someone who might understand his experiences as an African expatriate.

We also get insights into the life and the work of Baldwin. Baldwin was a wanderer both emotionally and physically—he wandered from Harlem to Greenwich Village to Paris but he always remained isolated because he was gay and black and a bastard. As an outside, he used his perspective to write powerfully about powerful topics be they essays or fiction.

This is “…a touching and personal tribute to James Baldwin…Mabanckou has written an odd, emotional, and quite beautiful homage to a writer who remains a major African American voice almost 27 years after his death.” —Booklist

“Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won” by Marc Solomon— The Legalization of Same-sex Marriage

winning marriage

Solomon, Marc. “Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won”, ForeEdge, 2014.

The Legalization of Same-sex Marriage

Amos Lassen

Most gay men my age are still stunned by what has happened in this country regarding gay rights. For me it is really shocking since I was raised in the South where being gay is certainly not easy. When we think that just ten years ago there was not a single state in the United States that allowed same sex couples to marry yet today there are seventeen that do, it is almost too hard to grasp. Nowadays polls show majority support for gay marriage and almost three-fourths of Americans believe that legalization is inevitable.

Marc Solomon was one of the early leaders in the movement for marriage equality and in “Winning Marriage”, his new book, he takes us to “the strategy-setting and decision-making table in the campaign to win and protect the freedom to marry”. Many times a book like this could be quite boring but this is far from it and every word and every sentence was perfectly chosen to give us what we need to know but also to provide us with a meaningful and well written reading experience. He shows us what went on behind-the-scenes— “the inner workings of the advocacy movement that has championed and protected advances won in legislative, court, and electoral battles over the decade since the landmark Massachusetts ruling guaranteeing marriage for same-sex couples for the first time”. I cannot say how much I appreciate this especially since I now am a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Unfortunately I was not here when the whole business took place but after reading this, I feel that I understand exactly what went on.

Solomon takes us “from the gritty battles in the state legislatures of Massachusetts and New York to the devastating loss at the ballot box in California in 2008 and subsequent ballot wins in 2012 to the joyous victories of securing President Obama’s support and prevailing in the Supreme Court”. He was there and at the center of the entire program. Here is the struggle with some very tough opponents—fundamentalist Christians, the Catholic Church, the religious right, ultraconservative politicians and operatives and yet the movement was triumphant. This is not just Marc Solomon’s story, although the tells it beautifully, it is America’s coming-of-age story. Solomon knows so much because he was there and his voice is the voice of authority, commitment and reason. It is also the voice of pride. Here we see America changing and changing rapidly.
Solomon gives us the accurate details that we need to know if we really want to understand what went down. He shows us that the best approach to have used was one that was both disciplined and intelligent. There have been other books written about how same-sex marriage came into being and I have read most of them so I feel qualified in saying that this is the best written and easiest to understand of them all. The details are here but they enhance rather than become troublesome and more important than anything else is that this book inspires us to keep working for justice and equality for all people. Solomon’s story is absorbing and amazing and when we look at the timeline in black and white on the page it is totally astounding and takes our breath away.

It is important to note that this is not just the story of the successes—it is the story of a battle that includes mistakes and failures. Even though we know how it all ends, we are still pulled into the story and I believe that because it is a personal story it is that much more interesting.

I am including here a look at the table of contents so that you can see that Solomon has done his work well and leaves nothing out.

  • Foreword by Governor Deval Patrick

  • Author’s Note

  • Prologue

  • MASSACHUSETTS

  • The Decision Heard ’round the World

  • Tying the Knot

  • Do-or-Die Elections

  • Organizing for the Fight

  • Defying Gravity

  • Sealing the Deal

  • NEW YORK
  • How Did This Happen?

  • Cuomo

  • The Republicans

  • Sealing the Deal (Redux)

  • WINNING AT THE BALLOT

  • Losing California

  • Preparing for the Ballot

  • The Final Stretch

  • A PRESIDENTIAL JOURNEY
  • Fierce Advocate?

  • Evolving

  • Cementing a Legacy

  • COURTING JUSTICE

  • Courting Justice

  • Epilogue

  • Acknowledgments

  • State Victories and Other Key Milestones, 2003–2013

  • Index

 

“MARC SOLOMON is the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry where he directs programs to win marriage nationwide. In 13 years of work on marriage equality, he has led the campaign to protect marriage in Massachusetts and played key roles in New York, Illinois, California, New Hampshire, Maine, and elsewhere. He has innovated programs to make advances with both the Democratic and Republican Parties, and has led efforts to enlist elected officials and business leaders to the cause. He is a regular media spokesperson—on television and radio and in print”.

“Sexuality in School: The Limits of Education” by Jan Gilbert— The Role of Sexuality in Teaching and Learning

sexuality in school

Gilbert, Jan. “Sexuality in School: The Limits of Education”, University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

The Role of Sexuality in Teaching and Learning

Amos Lassen

When sexuality comes into the classroom there are inevitably clashes and controversies and this is what Jan Gilbert investigates in this book. We know that this is an explosive topic but it also important as a way of showing how our most intimate experiences influence how we see and behave in the world of today. Gilbert narrows the gap between queer theory and educational studies. She uses the psychoanalytic method that allows us to deal with the difficulties of education and the questions of youth and age, along with their uncertainties. She looks at the

Difficulties that are so much a part of teaching and she invites educators to try to understand the various challenges of desire, hospitality and possibility. Gilbert gives us a way to explore education in general and to understand more fully the particularities of youth and sexuality.

Instead of attempting to understand the bullying of LGBT youth and the battles over sex education as interruptions of the process of learning. Gilbert looks at how sexuality influences learning and can enliven the teaching process.

She argues for the inclusion of the study of sexuality because when schools limit the reach of such a subject, it could possibly shut down altogether.

She looks at fiction, film, legal case studies, and personal experiences and then poses the question of what we can learn about school by the study of sexuality.

Contents

Introduction: Queer Provocations 


  1. Backward and Forward: Narrating the Queer Child 2. There Is No Such Thing as an Adolescent: Sex Education as Taking a Risk 

  2. Histories of Misery: It Gets Better and the Promise of Pedagogy 

  3. Thinking in Sex Education: Between Prohibition and Desire

5. Education as Hospitality: Toward a Reluctant Manifesto

Acknowledgments 


Notes 


Bibliography


Index

“Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene” by Bobby Benedicto— Men of Means in the Third World

under bright lights

Benedicto, Bobby. “Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene”, University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Men of Means in the Third World

Amos Lassen

 Using ethnographic research and first-person storytelling techniques to capture the true experience of Manila, author Bobby Benedicto gives us something we would not expect to learn about Manila and from this we get a counterintuitive portrait of gay spaces in postcolonial cities. His argument is “that Filipino gay men’s pursuit of an elusive global gay modernity sustains the very class, gender, and racial hierarchies that structure urban life in the Philippines”. Basically what we get here is a look at privileged gay men in Manila.

We are all familiar with the concept of a gay world that is marked by gay-friendly dance clubs, upmarket bars, and party circuits. However, we must ask if this is the same in “a landscape of disorder, mass poverty, and urban decay”? What we see is that this is a world of contradictions as reflected through the prism of twenty-first-century Manila. The study challenges the popular interpretations of the “third world queer” as a necessarily radical figure.

Benedicto looks at how practices such as driving enable the emergence of a classed gay cityscape, and how scenes of networked global cities engender discourse that positions Manila within a global system of “gay capitals.” He also analyzes the way the fantasy of “gay globality is imperiled when privileged gay men from Manila, while traveling abroad, encounter Filipino labor migrants and come face-to-face with the exclusionary racial orders that operate in gay spaces overseas”.

Contents

Prologue: City of Contradictions 


Introduction: Making a Scene

  1. Automobility and the Gay Cityscape
  2. Elsewhere, between Palawan and the Global City 

  3. The Specter of Kabaklaan
  4. Transnational Transit and the Circuits of Privilege 

  5. White Noise and the Shock of Racial Shame

Coda: Nowhere to Go

Acknowledgments 


Notes 


Bibliography 


Index

“The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Kittredge Cherry and Douglas Blanchard— Jesus as a Gay Man Today

the passion of christ

Kittredge, Cherry (author) and Douglas Blanchard (artist). “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision”, Apocryphile Press, 2014.

Jesus as a Gay Man Today

Amos Lassen

I did not think that I would ever see a book like this but then I also never thought I would see the LGBT community gain the acceptance that it has. The world is changing very quickly and I just want to keep up. Here we have stunningly beautiful images of Jesus as the modern Christ as he is “jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes, and rises again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God”. We see him on a journey with his diverse friends as he moves from suffering to freedom.

Here are twenty-four paintings in the gay Passion of Jesus’ final days and they include his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. We know and see that Christianity is being used to justify hate and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and that is why this book is so important. Each image is accompanied by insightful commentary and a short prayer and scripture leading us to ask if Jesus were to come back today, would he be crucified again? Would we even recognize him?

What these paintings really do is show Jesus as not belonging to any particular time or place or as a member of any specific or single group. Author Cherry says, “A queer Passion is crucial now even for non-believers because Christianity is being used to justify discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  The book speaks not only to the LGBT community, but to everyone who is passionate about building a more just world.”

We especially see this in that the artist takes Jesus and the narrative about him and then rescues it from fundamentalist thought and from the familiar thoughts about him. What makes the book so special aside from the wonderful art and commentary is that it serves two purposes—it is a great help for meditation and it gives as informative analysis for secular readers who are interested

in religion, art, history, and LGBT studies. Here the emphasis is not on worship but rather to show us how to remember that the purpose of thinking about what is here is the continuous cycle of violence and a way to move toward the freedom we all deserve. Cherry reminds us that the Passion is “the ultimate affirmation that God stands in solidarity with humankind.” 

Artist Blanchard says that by showing Jesus in his sufferings is to see him as one who understands what it means to be an “unwelcome outsider.” Michael Bronski of Harvard says that the book is

“transformative in the most profound sense of the word.” Whether you are religious or not, it is impossible to read ‘The Passion of Christ’ without having your basic beliefs shaken and expanded.”

“Disturbing, but ultimately glorious… Radically transforming…” –from the afterword by Toby Johnson, religion scholar and author of Gay Spirituality

“I was deeply moved by this retelling of the Easter story.” –Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Churches

“Together the paintings and text forced me to see Jesus again… as a living, breathing, sensual son of man whom I want to know more intimately.” –Rev. Dr. Mel White, founder of Soulforce

“Deeply effective and brings to life the Passion not only for the LGBT community but for all people struggling to find themselves in the narrative and make sense of their faith.” –Rev. Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

 “This marvelous book will speak not only to LGBTIQ Christians, but also to anyone who is passionate about creating a more just world for the marginalized and excluded.” –Rev. Patrick S. Cheng, Episcopal Divinity School professor

 “The divine leaps from these pages into open hearts. Few will view this art and read these commentaries without weeping for injustice and committing to love.” –Mary Hunt, co-director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

“Not only is this a compellingly gay and much-needed re-visioning of the central Christian mystery.  It also defiantly reaffirms our common humanity.” –Donald L. Boisvert, Concordia University religion professor

“Here Kittredge Cherry and Douglas Blanchard make Jesus live. For new trials and times, new faces and places, challenging our conceptions, preconceptions, and misconceptions.” –S. Brent Plate, Hamilton College religion professor and author of Blasphemy: Art that Offends

 “A great contribution to art about Jesus. Paintings, interpretations, and afterword are all quite profound.” –Rev. Chris Glaser, author of Coming Out as Sacrament 

“Fertile resources for reflection, meditation, study and prayer.”   –Susannah Cornwall, research fellow in religion, University of Exeter

“Provocative and powerful.” –Theodore Jennings, Chicago Theological Seminary professor