Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“In Search of Silence: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany, Volume I, 1957-1969” by Samuel Delaney, edited by Kenneth R. James— Private Journals, Private Thoughts

Delany, Samuel. “In Search of Silence: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany, Volume I, 1957-1969”, (edited by Kenneth R. James), Wesleyan, 2017.

Private Journals, Private Thoughts

Amos Lassen

For fifty years Samuel Delany has charmed us with language and his works of fiction, criticism, and memoir. His newest book is the first in a series of a his private journals, beginning in 1957 when he was still a student at the Bronx High School of Science, and ending in 1969 when he was living in San Francisco and on the verge of writing the novel that would become “Dhalgren”.

We read his musings on the writing of the stories that established him in the genre of science fiction wunderkind, the early years of his marriage to the poet Marilyn Hacker, his performances as a singer-songwriter during the heyday of the American folk revival, travels in Europe, experiences in a New York City commune, and much more. We learn of his relationships with other writer who were them working in many genres, including poets such as Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, and Marie Ponsot, and science fiction writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, and Joanna Russ. Delany scholar Kenneth R. James presents the journal entries as well as samples of story outlines, poetry, fragments of novels and essays that have never seen publication as well as provides biographical synopses and an extensive set of endnotes that give contextual information and connect journal material to Delany’s published work.

We see Delany’s wit, sensitivity, penetration, playfulness and the incandescent intelligence that have come to will characterize Delany and his work. The journals clarify questions of the writer’s process, and his development. Near the end of December 1957, Delany began carrying around a spiral notebook and in which he noted his thoughts, observations, poetry, sexual fantasies, notes for stories, and many other things. It is very possible that he is doing so today as well.

 

 

“Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure” by Eli Clare— Memoir, History and Critical Analysis

Clare, Eli. “Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure”, Duke University Press, 2017.

Memoir, History and Critical Analysis

 Amos Lassen

Writer Eli Clare uses memoir, history, and critical analysis to explore cure—the deeply held belief that body-minds considered broken need to be fixed in “Brilliant Imperfection”. The word “cure” has many meanings and purposes. Cures save and manipulate lives and prioritizes some lives over others. “It provides comfort, makes profits, justifies violence, and promises resolution to body-mind loss”. Clare wrestles with some of the contradictions listed above and he feels that neither an anti-cure politics nor a pro-cure worldview can “account for the messy, complex relationships we have with our body-minds”. Clare shares stories that run the gamut from disability stereotypes to weight loss surgery, gender transition to skin lightening creams. In each case he looks at race, disability, sexuality, class, and gender together and he insists on “the nonnegotiable value of body-mind difference”. He also adds environmental politics, thinking about ecosystem loss and restoration as a way to go more deeply into cure. We come to see as “an ideology that is grounded in the twin notions of normal and natural, slippery and powerful, necessary and damaging all at the same time”.

What we have here challenges our beliefs about the nature of cure and we see that it sits in the ideologies of domination. We are also challenged by the question of cure and it’s ambiguities and to the broader questions of civic and environmental justice. He shocks us with what he has to say and shies away from nothing. He tells us that we must take on what we have in order to gain power for all.

he says that will shock you and are against everything society teaches us. Clare covers politics, history, ethics, ableism, gender identity, and more. He doesn’t shy away from criticizing systems that manipulate the disabled, and he doesn’t shy away from messy, contradictory intersections that cannot be ignored. He teaches us that, somehow, we have to embrace that mess before we can truly respect and empower individuals.

Clare, himself, is white, disabled, and “genderqueer” and is therefore in a position to say what he feels and he does so brilliantly.

 

“A View from the Podium: A True Story” by Mikel Gerle— Looking for Discipline

Gerle, Mikel. “A View From the Podium: A True Story’, CreateSpace, 2017.

Looking for Discipline

Amos Lassen

Sometimes a short read gives you the push you need to start moving around and that is exactly what “A View from the Podium” did for me. I read it quickly yet I managed to savor every word and thought to myself that this could be a wonderful full-length novel.

Mike has longed for discipline and this led him across the contest stage where he accidentally becomes Mr. Los Angeles Leather. In his quest a hyper-masculine erotic brotherhood has him soaking up books on fetish and advice from an endless parade of self-appointed experts. Now, as he heads off to the biggest contest of them all, the Chicago, International Mister Leather competition. He wonders if he’s got what it takes and if the “community” has what he really wants. More than that I will not say but if you are interested in this type of story, this is a book for you.

“Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World” by Sarah Prager— A History Book for Young Adults

Prager, Sarah. “Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World”, illustrated by Zoe More O’Ferrall, HarperCollins, 2017.

A History Book for Young Adults

Amos Lassen

World history has been influenced and often made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals yet we have never heard of many of them. Sarah Prager is an LGBT activist who takes us into the lives of 23 such people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. Some of the names are familiar and there are many that we hear about here for the first time. These include a gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer, for example. Prager gives us true stories from all over the world and this basically is

the real story of the queer rights movement. I doubt that there is a queer history that is as much fun to read as this is. Prager makes thousands of years of fascinating. Prager’s research is amazing and she writes with wry irreverence.

It is important that the younger members of the LGBT community know that they are not alone and that they are following in the footsteps of agents of change who often put their lives on the line so that we can have the freedoms that we have today. I can only describe the writing as being conversational in tone as it shows us the diversity of real life and we see gender in different ways here.

 

“Hollywood Lesbians: From Garbo to Foster” by Boze Hadleigh— A Different Hollywood

Hadleigh, Boze. “Hollywood Lesbians: From Garbo to Foster”, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016.

A Different Hollywood

Amos Lassen

“Hollywood Lesbians” is a rare and no-holds-barred collection of exclusive interviews with Hollywood icons from the Golden Age of movies and TV—Dame Judith Anderson, Barbara Stanwyck, Capucine, Ann B. Davis, Nancy Kulp, Sandy Dennis, Agnes Moorehead, Edith Head, Patsy Kelly among others open the film world’s closet door into the past, and brings this volume full circle to the present with new material. We see here that a number of the most talented screen icons were lesbian, bisexual or queer. When this was first published in 1994, it was a fun read and featured interviews that Hadleigh conducted with stars and designers. In this new edition, published this past fall, Hadleigh adds chapters on Greta Garbo, Jodie Foster, Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell and he evaluates their contributions as queer women who changed their industry. There were others he wanted to interview but they would not be interviewed and many did not want to appear in print. Those who agreed to interviews were guarded if not hostile. A furious Barbara Stanwyck ended the interview and asked Hadleigh to leave her house when he speculated that her marriage to Robert Taylor was one of convenience. We see that Edith Head was intimidating and gave Hadleigh an 8-page contract with the stipulation that the interview not appear during her lifetime. Hadleigh maintains that all the women interviewed were deeply conflicted and closeted. The older generation of women just didn’t want the reality of coming out. They came from a time when Hollywood had no and they came from a time that had nothing to do with reality.” Some actors are that way even today, such as Jodie Foster. Her kind-of-coming-out at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards has been followed by silence.

Something else that hides queer women in plain sight is often their bisexuality, which is more common among Hollywood women than men, says Hadleigh. Many Hollywood biographers impose their own morality on the subjects they admire and history becomes more bent than the star in question. Hadleigh tells us regarding Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy is that we will never know if their affair was real or staged. “Tracy was a good cover for Hepburn. It has since come out that Tracy was bisexual and so chronically alcoholic he may have been impotent and not able to have sex after a certain age. Yet Hollywood made up its mind up about Hepburn. Like her role in “The Aviator” as interpreted by Cate Blanchett, we saw her as a neurotic heterosexual and not the bisexual that she actually was.

Hadleigh says that with Garbo, we know that she was basically lesbian but as to her being bisexual, we do not always know. Hadleigh feels that outing a star is not ethical or very effective. It’s much more difficult to get it out that these people were bisexual because they were so loved.

The new generation is making a difference and is so much more open about their sexuality, especially the women. As I read the interviews, I was a bit uncomfortable with the way Hadleigh seemed to want each interviewee to publicly come out and he often pushed hard. Nonetheless I have a great deal of respect for the women here.

“Queer Game Studies” edited by Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw— Video Games and Youth Culture

Ruberg, Bonnie and Adrienne Shaw, (editors). “Queer Game Studies”, University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Video Games and Queer Culture

Amos Lassen

in “Queer Game Studies” is a collection of in-depth, diverse, and accessible essays that use queerness to challenge the ideas that have dominated gaming discussions. We learn about underappreciated communities that are making, playing, and studying queer games thus “demonstrating the centrality of LGBTQ issues to the gamer world and establishing an alternative lens for examining this increasingly important culture”.

Video games have developed into a rich, growing field at many top universities, but they have rarely been considered from a queer perspective. Video games take us to new worlds and seem to offer the perfect opportunity to explore the “otherness” of queer culture that sexism and discrimination do not show us. The collection provides us with a welcome corrective that reveals a lot about underappreciated communities that are making, playing, and studying queer games.

The essays use queerness to challenge the ideas that have dominated gaming discussions. Here we see the centrality of LGBTQ issues to the gamer world and how they establish an alternative lens for examining this increasingly important culture. The book covers important subjects such as “the representation of queer bodies, the casual misogyny prevalent in video games, the need for greater diversity in gamer culture, and reading popular games” (such as Bayonetta, Mass Effect, and Metal Gear Solid) from a queer perspective”.

Perfect for both everyday readers and instructors looking to add diversity to their courses, Queer Game Studies is the ideal introduction to the vast and vibrant realm of queer gaming.

The contributors are Leigh Alexander; Gregory L. Bagnall, U of Rhode Island; Hanna Brady; Mattie Brice; Derek Burrill, U of California, Riverside; Edmond Y. Chang, U of Oregon; Naomi M. Clark; Katherine Cross, CUNY; Kim d’Amazing, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; Aubrey Gabel, U of California, Berkeley; Christopher Goetz, U of Iowa; Jack Halberstam, U of Southern California; Todd Harper, U of Baltimore; Larissa Hjorth, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; Chelsea Howe; Jesper Juul, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts; merritt kopas; Colleen Macklin, Parsons School of Design; Amanda Phillips, Georgetown U; Gabriela T. Richard, Pennsylvania State U; Toni Rocca; Sarah Schoemann, Georgia Institute of Technology; Kathryn Bond Stockton, U of Utah; Zoya Street, U of Lancaster; Peter Wonica; Robert Yang, Parsons School of Design; Jordan Y.

Here is the table of contents:

Contents

Introduction: Imagining Queer Game Studies

Adrienne Shaw and Bonnie Ruberg

Part I. Defining Queerness in Games

  1. What Is Queerness in Games, Anyway?

Naomi Clark

  1. Queergaming

Edmond Y. Chang

  1. Queer Theory, the Body, and Video Games

Derek A. Burrill

  1. Queering Games History: Complexities, Chaos, and Community

Zoya Street

Part II. Queering Game Play and Design

  1. Ending the Cycle: Developing a Board Game to Engage People in Social Justice Issues

Peter Wonica

  1. Playing Outside

Leigh Alexander

  1. Building a Queer Mythology

Hanna Brady

  1. For Play? Literary Ludics and Sexual Politics

Aubrey Gabel

  1. Play and Be Real about It: What Games Could Learn from Kink

Mattie Brice

  1. Queering the Snapshot: Ambient Mobile Play

Larissa Hjorth and Kim d’Amazing

Part III. Reading Games Queerly

  1. On “FeministWhorePurna” and the Ludo-material Politics of Gendered Damage Power-ups in Open-World RPG Video Games

Robert Yang

  1. Welcome to My Fantasy Zone: Bayonetta and Queer Femme Disturbance

Amanda Phillips

  1. Role-Play as Queer Lens: How “ClosetShep” Changed My Vision of Mass Effect 
Todd Harper
  2. Queer(ing) Gaming Technologies: Thinking on Constructions of Normativity Inscribed in Digital Gaming Hardware

Gregory L. Bagnall

  1. On Gone Home

merritt kopas

Part IV. Queer Failures in Games

  1. The Trouble with Communities

Adrienne Shaw

  1. “Play Like a Girl”: Gender Expression, Sexual Identity, and Complex Expectations in a Female-Oriented Gaming Community

Gabriela T. Richard

  1. The Nightmare Is Over

Katherine Cross

  1. Queer Gaming: Gaming, Hacking, and Going Turbo

Jack Halberstam

  1. The Arts of Failure: Jack Halberstam in Conversation with Jesper Juul

Moderated by Bonnie Ruberg

  1. “I Wouldn’t Even Know the Real Me Myself”: Queering Failure in Metal Gear Solid 2 
Jordan Youngblood

Part V. Queer Futures for Games

  1. If Queer Children Were a Video Game

Kathryn Bond Stockton

  1. Queer Growth in Video Games

Christopher Goetz

  1. Finding the Queerness in Games

Colleen Macklin

  1. Organizing New Approaches to Games: An Interview with Chelsea Howe, Toni Rocca, and Sarah Schoemann

Moderated by Bonnie Ruberg

  1. Forty-Eight-Hour Utopia: On Hope and the Future of Queerness in Games

Bonnie Ruberg

Contributors

Index

“I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well” by James Allen Hall— Essays about Growing Up Gay

Hall, James Allen. “I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well”, Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2017.

Essays about Growing Up Gay

Amos Lassen

James Allen Hall growing up in Florida in the 1980s and his life has taken him to places where few dare to go. His parents lost their once-thriving family business in the pre-crash 2000s and unstable moved into a two-bedroom student apartment that he had once shared with just his brother. His mother attempted and/or threatened suicide many times and his father was greatly depressed. In these essays, we see that Hall lived through, his family’s meth addiction mental illnesses, and incarcerations, Hall writes of “his own penchants for less than happy, equal sex with an agility, depth, and lightness making this a tragic, funny, graceful book.”

What we read is harrowing yet Hall shows us a sensibility driven to make something beautiful and worthy of his life and what he went through. He shares his vulnerability and he see him as a “witness, an unrelenting seeker, a survivor, someone who’s earned the right to judge but who withholds that too-easy gesture in favor of a clearer sight and the hard won belief that while we are bound together by so many complex tethers, including cruelty, we are especially linked by compassion, a force abundantly evident in this moving collection.”

Even though his youth was filled with violence and homophobia, he did not give up. manages to exist and persist. The pain he once felt have now became “testaments to perseverance shaped by the acceptance of a flawed self, love for a complicated family and an unflappable wit”. His essays are raw, honest and mournful but above all else they are beautiful.

 

“Seriously…What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew” by Ken Schenk— Adventures for Non-adventurers

Schneck, Ken. “Seriously…What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew”, illustrated by Dave Perillo, 1984 Publishing, 2017.

Adventures for Non-adventurers

Amos Lassen

Have you ever wondered why you are here? If you have, and I believe most of us have, then you must join Ken Schneck’s club. When he asked himself that question, he decided to find the answer by undertaking an adventure that included visiting rural Uganda twice, signing up for a 425-mile bike ride; stirring up trouble at a Californian hippie healing retreat; and somehow standing up straight with a colossal backpack strapped to his shoulders deep in the backwoods of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. His book is a travelogue of those and other adventures as he searched for meaning and community. Like myself, Schneck is a gay Jew, setting us twice apart from mainstream society (or at least it was that way and not so long ago).

We see here that even thought we passionately want to succeed in whatever we do, it is okay to fail if we continue to keep trying. This is a very witty book that can be read and enjoyed again and again. I cried, I laughed, I felt content and I became angry as I read and to me that is the sign of a good read— a book that makes us emote is a worthwhile book to have in our libraries. I have often wondered what the value of adventure is if it cannot be shared with others. I feel the same way about laughter— it is really great when we laugh with others.

In reading this book we not only learn about the author, we also learn about ourselves and this further shows that we are members of a larger community. In case you have forgotten that, this book is here to remind you.

 

 

“Towards a Gay Communism: Elements of a Homosexual Critique” by Mario Mieli— Homosexuality, Homophobia and Capitalism

Mieli, Mario. “Towards a Gay Communism: Elements of a Homosexual Critique”, Pluto Press, 2017.

Homosexuality, Homophobia and Capitalism

Amos Lassen

“Towards a Gay Communism” is one of the most important books to look at the relationship between homosexuality, homophobia, and capitalism and it is an part of a revolutionary queer theory. I did a little research and found that Mieli has been a radical challenge to mainstream queer theory and politics and it is easy to see how this writing does so as well. He originally wrote this in 1980 yet this is the first fully translated, updated and unabridged English edition of it. It is interesting in that it was considered radical in then and still considered radical today. This edition has a new introduction by Massimo Prearo and a foreword by Tim Dean.

Mieli shows how capitalism co-opts and markets “perversions.” He sees the liberation of homosexual desire as requiring the emancipation of sexuality from both patriarchal sex roles and capital. His conclusions draw heavily upon Marx and psychoanalysis. For those who want to understand the real meaning of sexual liberation under capitalism today, this is a must read.

“An indispensable, pioneering example of the long, difficult effort to articulate queer struggle with anti-capitalist struggle, and especially to understand the way in which sexuality can figure into the imagination of communism.” Kevin Floyd, author of “The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism”

“San Francisco Daddy: One Gay Man’s Chronicle of His Adventures in Life and Love” by Charles St. Anthony— A Mini-Memoir

St. Anthony, Charles. “San Francisco Daddy: One Gay Man’s Chronicle of His Adventures in Life and Love”, illustrated by Terry Blass, Impossibly Glamorous Studios, 2017.

A Mini-Memoir

Amos Lassen

Coming back to the United States after living in Japan, Charles St. Anthony fulfilled one of his greatest dreams—- to live in San Francisco, something he has wanted to do his entire life. He shares that with us in this mini-memoir in which he is able to find humor in almost. every situation. He takes us by the hand and leads us through a tour of San Francisco and tells us of his many adventures there. He is brutally honest and candid and we understand almost immediately why San Francisco is also known as the New Age Babylon by the Bay. The wit is caustic, the tour is fun and the telephone for making plane reservations to get there is near at hand. The tales of the city that you read here are unlike any others and we read them filled with keen observation and self-depreciation.

Charles St Anthony lived in Japan until the earthquake in 2011 so he moved to a place where there were no earthquakes. He took a series of dead end jobs, transformed himself into a `bear’, and joined the party by having a series of romantic liaisons as dead end as the dead end jobs. St. Anthony takes on life, love, and work in the San Francisco Bay Area and keeps us laughing.