Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Tell Me About It 3: LGBTQ Secrets, Confessions, and Life Stories” by Sukie De La Croix and Owen Keehnen— Remembering

De la Croix, Sukie and Owen Keehnen. “Tell Me About It 3: LGBTQ Secrets, Confessions, and Life Stories”, Rattling Good Yarns Press, 2020.

Remembering

Amos Lassen

Historians St Sukie de la Croix and Owen Keehnen, have been recording and collecting the memories, personal experiences, and anecdotes of the LGBTQ communities for many years and this evolved into the “The Tell Me About It” series. Now in the third book of this series, they bring us answers to groups of personal questions. What we read here are  “moving, horrendous, hilarious, and thought-provoking answers by LGBTQ people from across the country and around the globe” that open us to a variety of experiences, many of which are similar. We clearly see who we are, what we share, and how and where we fit in.

The very way the book is structured is wonderful and I was reminded of when I would meet someone for the first time at a bar or gathering. The questions are universal and it is amazing to see how alike the answers are. While for many of us, this is not new but we have not had the chance to read these in a collection and that is what is new, interesting and fascinating. We have always learned through the question and answer process and we have discovered our similarities through questions and answers as well. The people in the book are the people we meet in daily life who willingly share their experiences and in doing so often fill in the gaps in our own experiences. A simple answer about a new book or film can become a significant addition to our realm of knowledge and to better know ourselves.

The real beauty of the book is in variety and diversity of the people we read about.

“The Stonewall Generation: LGBTQ Elders on Sex, Activism, and Aging” by Jane Fleishman— Nine Elders

Fleishman, Jane. “The Stonewall Generation: LGBTQ Elders on Sex, Activism, and Aging”, Skinner House Books, 2020.

Nine Elders

Amos Lassen

Jane Fleishman’s “The Stonewall Generation: LGBTQ Elders on Sex, Activism, and Aging”, is a collection pf stories of nine elders in the LGBTQ community who came of age around the time of Stonewall. Through candid interviews, they share their loves and sexual liberation in “the context of the political movements of the 1960s, 1970s, and today.” Each of these has spent a lifetime fighting for our community and our liberation and our “right to live, love, and be free.” Of course this came with a price and that includes the  challenges that they faced about their sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, disabilities, kinkiness, nonmonogamy, and other identities. 

Here are the struggles within the LGBTQ community:  not all problems came from outside. Here are stories of those whose lives were changed forever by Stonewall and who, also,  became agents of change themselves. These are stories that must be told and passed on from generation to generation.  This is so especially true now as we face what this country is going through now. We could, quite possibly, lose all of our gains. The stories are beautiful and often heartbreaking but THEY ARE our stories.

Fleishman provides commentary and historical notes making this a text of great importance.  We stand on the shoulders of those who came before and while I am a member of the elder generation, I never allow myself to lose sight ow how we got to where we are.

Reading the stories of the people who were there is something we cannot allow ourselves to ignore for to do is to ignore our own history and heritage.

“National Anthem: America’s Queer Rodeo” by Luke Gilford, et al.— Outsiders and Chosen Families

Brown, Leighton, Mary L. Gray, Janet Mock, Matthew Riemer,  Drew Sawyer and Luke Gilford. “National Anthem: America’s Queer Rodeo”, Damiani, 2020.

Outsiders and Chosen Families

Amos Lassen

Through documenting America’s gay rodeo subculture, “National Anthem”  celebrates outsiders and shows us the beauty of chosen families everywhere

Photographer Luke Gilford grew up in Colorado with his father in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He spent his  formative years around the rodeo which had been traditionally associated with conservatism and homophobia. Years later, when he discovered the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) and began to see himself as part of a rodeo family. The IGRA is the organizing body for the LGBTQ+ cowboy and cowgirl communities in North America and a safe space for all races and gender expressions.

I attended the gay rodeo several times in Little Rock, Arkansas and saw that it brings in participants from rural regions all over America. These rodeos provide “structured educational programs and competitions, opportunities to hone athletic skills, connection and care for animals, personal integrity, self-confidence and support for one another.” Gilford, himself, has spent over three years traveling the country to document “this diverse and ever-evolving subculture.”

The photographs were shot on medium-format film and printed in a traditional darkroom with emotion and color through which we see  Gilford’s close relationship to the community.

“Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s” by Hugh Nine and Neal Treadwell— Romantic Same-Sex Love

Nini, Hugh and Neal Treadwell. “Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s”,  5 Continents Editions Srl, 2020.

Romantic Same-Sex Love

Amos Lassen

Every once-in-a-while, I find a book that takes my breath away with its beauty. Such a book is  Hugh Nini’s and Neal Treadwell’s “Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s”. It is quite basically a look atthe history of romantic love between men in moving and tender vernacular photographs taken between the years 1850 and 1950. It is a visual narrative of great sensitivity that allows us to see until-now an unpublished collection of hundreds of snapshots, portraits, and group photos taken in a variety of contexts, both private and public. The photos were taken when male partnerships were often illegal. These photos were found at flea markets, in shoe boxes, family archives, old suitcases, and later online and at auctions and includes photos from all over the world: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Japan, Greece, Latvia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Serbia.

The subjects are identified as couples by the look in the eyes of two people in love. Body language is subtly evident  and inscriptions were often coded. Included here are ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, glass negatives, tin types, cabinet cards, photo postcards, photo strips, photomatics, and snapshots that give us a century 100 of social history and the development of photography. The photographs – many fragile from age or handling – have been digitized using a technology  that was derived from that used on surveillance satellites and available in only five places around the world. The book, gives measure to its message in every way. Couples in love tell their own story for the first time at a time when joy and hope and human connectivity were crucial lifelines to our better selves. “Loving” is about “our spirit and resilience, our capacity for bliss, and our longing for the shared truths of love.”

“Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire” by Jack Halberstam— An Alternative History of Sexuality

Halberstam, Jack. “Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire”, Duke University Press, 2020.

An Alternative History of Sexuality

Amos Lassen

Jack Halberstam’s “Wild Things” isan alternative history of sexuality that traces the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the twentieth century. It is Halberstam’s theory that “the wild as an unbounded and unpredictable space offers sources of opposition to modernity’s orderly impulses.” He shows the normative taxonomies of sexuality against which radical queer practice and politics operate through a wide variety of texts, practices, and cultural imaginaries. He demonstrates how “wildness provides the means to know and to be in ways that transgress Euro-American notions of the modern liberal subject.” Here are  new possibilities for queer theory and for wild thinking in a broader sense.

“Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love” by Naomi Wolf— Censorship and Violence

Wolf, Naomi. “Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love”, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2020.

Censorship and Violence

Amos Lassen

In “Outrages”, Naomi Wolf explores the history of state-sponsored censorship and violations of personal freedoms.In 1857, Britain codified a new civil divorce law and passed a very strict new obscenity law. An Act of Parliament in 1861 streamlined the criminalization of sodomy. These and other laws embodied modern notions of state censorship and validated state entrance into people’s private lives.

In 1861, John Addington Symonds was a twenty-one-year-old student at Oxford who already knew he was attracted to men. He wrote out a seeming renunciation of the long love poem he’d written to another young man. Wolf chronicles the struggle and eventual triumph of Symonds (who became a poet, biographer, and critic) at a time in British history when even private letters that could be interpreted as homoerotic could be used as evidence in trials that lead to harsh sentences under British law.

Wolf uses on the work of scholars of censorship and of LGBTQ+ legal history and shows how state censorship, and state prosecution of same-sex sexuality, was eminent in the years before the trial of Oscar Wilde. She introduces us to the people who risked so much by scrutinizing the criminal justice system. We see how legal persecutions of writers and of homosexuals affected so many of Symonds and his contemporaries (including Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Walter Pater, and the painter Simeon Solomon). At the same time, Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” was received by readers who enjoyed his celebration of freedom, democracy, and love.

Symonds was inspired by Whitman and kept trying, stubbornly to find a way to express that love and sex between men was both natural and ennobling. He used different genres  and wrote an honest and secret memoir (that he embargoed for a generation after his death, enclosing keys to a code that he used to embed hidden messages in his published work. His essay “A Problem in Modern Ethics” was foundational to the modern understanding of human sexual orientation and of LGBTQ+ legal rights and is  now considered as one of the first gay rights manifestos in the English language.

Naomi Wolf brings us an important book, not only by sharing the story of a forgotten hero of LGBTQ+ rights who was unable to tell his own story in his lifetime but also by giving us information about the roles of publishers, booksellers, and freedom of speech at a time of growing calls for censorship and escalating state violations of privacy. Here is the story the of one man who refused to stay quiet and his belief that in the future, everyone would have the freedom to love and to speak.Wolf demonstrates the dangers of writing about the law in isolation at the time of such legislation.  

“Gender Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives 3rd Edition”— The Proliferation of Gendered Violence

O’Toole, Laura L., Jessica R. Schiffman and  Rosemary Sullivan, editors. “Gender Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives 3rd Edition”, NYU Press, 2020.

The Proliferation of Gendered Violence

Amos Lassen

“Gender Violence” is updated edition of the groundbreaking anthology that explores the proliferation of gendered violence. Today stories of gender violence dominate headlines. The editors have brought together a new andinterdisciplinary group of scholars, with new and up-to-date material on issues such as workplace harassment, transgender violence, intersectionality, and the #MeToo movement. They give us “a fresh, informed perspective on gender violence, in all of its various forms.” Twenty-nine new contributors, and twelve original essays in this third edition includes contemporary issues such as LGBTQ violence, sex work, and toxic masculinity. 

We are taken beyond the binary and read of all people making this book a handbook for understanding and making this world a better place.We have here conceptual tools, examples, and recommended readings as well as a large volume filled with important information.

“Queer Budapest, 1873–1961” by Anita Kurimay— A Sexual Culture

Kurimay, Anita. “Queer Budapest, 1873–1961”, University of Chicago Press, 2020.

A Sexual Culture

Amos Lassen

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Budapest was “a burgeoning cosmopolitan metropolis.”. She was known as the “Pearl of the Danube,” and was home to some of Europe’s most innovative architectural and cultural achievements. The growing middle class was committed to advancing the city’s liberal politics and making it an intellectual and commercial city striding East and West. Budapest was also known for its boisterous public sexual culture that included a robust gay subculture. In “Queer Budapest”, Anita Kurimay gives us the story of “nonnormative sexualities in Hungary as they were understood, experienced, and policed between the birth of the capital as a unified metropolis in 1873 and the decriminalization of male homosexual acts in 1961.”

A series of illiberal Hungarian regimes came to regulate but also tolerate and protect queer life and here we learn how and why. We learn how the coexistence between the illiberal state and queer community ended at the close of World War II. Queer communities were once an integral part of Hungary and of Europe. Kurimay used

cultural, medical, and police records to give us a new look at modern queer European history. We see that political regimes of twentieth-century Hungary had a  “relationship between politics and sexuality.”

 

“Queer Jewish Lives Between Central Europe and Mandatory Palestine: Biographies and Geographies, 1870–1960”— Coming in January

Krass, Andreas, Moshe Sluhovsky and Yuval Yonay, editors. “Queer Jewish Lives Between Central Europe and Mandatory Palestine: Biographies and Geographies, 1870–1960 (Historical Gender Studies)”, Transcript Publishing, 2021.

One to Look For

Amos Lassen

I want to mention here a very important book that is coming our way in January.

“When queer Jewish people migrated from Central Europe to the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they contributed to the creation of a new queer culture and communality in Palestine. This volume offers the first collection of studies on queer Jewish lives between Central Europe and Mandatory Palestine (1870–1960). While the first section of the book presents queer geographies including Germany, Austria and Palestine, the second section introduces queer biographies between Europe and Palestine including the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935), the writer Hugo Marcus (1880–1966), and the dance critic Giora Manor (1926–2005).”

“Lived Experience: Reflections on LGBTQ Life” by Delphine Diallo— The Earlier Generation

Diallo, Delphine. “Lived Experience: Reflections on LGBTQ Life”, New Press, 2020.

The Earlier Generation.

Amos Lassen

Delphin Daillo’s “Lived Experience” is a beautiful series of full-color portraits of LGBTQ people over the age of fifty. We are all aware of the tremendous progress of

the LGBTQ movement in civil rights, acceptance, and visibility over the last fifty years yet a growing portion of the community remains largely invisible and its concerns have been relegated to the margins.

Here are the voices and lives of older LGBTQ people in the United States, a generation that been through the AIDS epidemic and has also been instrumental in extraordinary progress in LGBTQ rights and visibility in this country.

The book includes fifty full-color portraits of LGBTQ people from across the nation who were interviewed on the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots and gives them a chance to share their stories and to reflect. With a special focus on people of color, thisis a celebration of “an underserved, neglected part of the LGBTQ world in America and an inspiration to future generations.”