Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Out: LGBTQ Poland” by Maciek Nabrdalik— LGBTQ in Contemporary Poland

Nabrdalik, Maciek, “OUT: LGBTQ Poland”, The New Press, 2017.

LGBTQ Life in Contemporary Poland

Amos Lassen

No one in the Polish LGBTQ community could have foreseen how quickly this deeply conservative and Catholic country would change since it joined the European Union. As close back as 2004, gay rights marches were banned in Warsaw and homosexuality was a taboo subject. Since then, as the economy has grown, the LGBTQ community has become more widely accepted.

Award-winning Warsaw-based photographer Maciek Nabrdalik takes us into the Polish community where we explore issues of identity and citizenship. We have dozens of formal color portraits of writers, artists, and everyday people working in a variety of occupations across Poland. Each portrait is accompanied by a short interview and through color shading we see how comfortable that person is with revealing his or her own sexuality publicly.

The book is a look at the advancements that can be made in the struggle for LGBTQ rights in a short space of time and should be an inspiration to other countries where the queer community does not enjoy the same freedoms.

“China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser” by Michael Bristow— A Different Look at Modern China

Bristow, Michael. “China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser”, Sandstone Press, 2017.

A Different Look at Modern China

Amos Lassen

Michael Bristow had been in Beijing for eight years and when he time approached for him to leave, he decided that he wanted to write about the country’s modern history. He asked his language teacher, who was born just two years after the communist party came to power in 1949 to help to do so. It is fascinating that the country has moved from communist poverty to capitalist wealth in just a single generation but the biggest surprise for Bristow was to learn that his teacher was a cross-dresser and he understood that his teacher’s story is the story of modern China.

Michael Bristow is Asia/Pacific editor for the BBC gives us a wonderful story of one man and modern China and a special friendship. We gain insight into the lives of ordinary Chinese people and an exploration of life in another culture including learning about the realities of life under State control.

 

“Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home” edited by Sheila R. Morris— A Collection of Essays

Morris, Sheila R., editor. “Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home”, University of South Carolina Press, 2017.

A Collection of Essays

Amos Lassen

“Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home” is a collection of essays edited by Sheila R. Morris Sheila R. Morris that look at how South Carolinians look their gay identities and activism from the emergence of the HIV-AIDS epidemic to marriage equality in the state some thirty years later. Each of the nineteen essays is about an aspect of gay life, from coming-out acts in earlier decades to the creation of grassroots organizations. All the contributors have been involved publicly in the gay rights movement.

We hear from “a banker, a drag queen from a family of prominent Spartanburg Democrats, a marching minister who grew up along the Edisto River, a former Catholic priest and his tugboat dispatcher husband from Long Island, the owner of a feminist bookstore, a Hispanic American who interned for Republican strategist Lee Atwater, a philanthropist politician from Faith, North Carolina, and a straight attorney recognized as the “Mother of Pride” who became active in 1980, when she learned her son was gay.”

When taken together, the essays place wise and time wise challenge the conventional understanding of the LGBTQ movement in the United States. We see that unlike the pride marches and anti-AIDS activism on both the east and west coasts that are rooted in the counterculture of the 1960s and Stonewall in New York City, in the South there has been little public or scholarly memory. Southerners have faced an aggressively hostile environment and queer political organization came late. Yet it was “the very unfriendliness of Southern political soil that allowed a unique and, at times, progressive LGBTQ political community to form in South Carolina.”

Contributors include:

Jim Blanton

Candace Chellew-Hodge

Matt Chisling

Michael Haigler

Harriet Hancock

Deborah Hawkins

Dick Hubbard

Linda Ketner

Ed Madden and Bert Easter

Alvin McEwen

Sheila Morris

Pat Patterson

Jim and Warren Redman-Gress

Nekki Shutt

Tony Snell-Rodriquez

Carole Stoneking

Thomas A. Summers

Matt Tischler

Teresa Williams

“Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices from Gay Bars” edited by Renee S. Bess and Lee Lynch— Listening to Ourselves

Bess, S. Renee, and Lee Lynch, editors. “Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices from Gay Bars”, Flashpoint, 2017.

Listening to Ourselves

Amos Lassen

The gay bar has always played a prominent role in gay life. For many years it was the place where we could find a sense of community with others like ourselves. Today with online meeting sites the place of the bar has diminished yet I believe it is an institution that will never totally disappear. During the days and nights following the shooting massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, we heard people try to explain what the gay bar/club means to LGBT people and words “safe place,” “refuge,” “free to be ourselves” were mentioned many times.

Story collectors (as they prefer to be called) Renee s. Bess and Lee Lynch have brought together the way writers dealt with the terrible tragedy from the point of view of being different and how we do not conform to the heterosexual world. We all were devastated by what happened in Orlando even though we may have not known the victims. After all, it could have been any of us there that night.

What happened at Pulse could have happened anywhere— It was an invasion of our private space; a place where we could be ourselves and feel as part of a community.

The stories and poems explain the importance of just that. We hear from Ann Aptaker, Dontá Morrison, Rae Theodore, James Schwartz, Jennifer Morales, Cheryl Head, Heather Jane, Beth Burnett, Cindy Rizzo, Stephen Reigns, Clay Kerrigan, Earlon Sterling, Sallyanne Monti, Karen DiPrima, S. Renee Bess, Richard Natale, Mercedes Lewis, Martha Miller, Liz McMullen, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Penny Mickelbury, Johnny Townsend, Merril Mushroom, Brian Heyburn, Lee Lynch, Joan Nestle, Ian Cassidy, Angela Garrigan, Nahshon Anderson Fuentes, Ardy Tibby, Katharine E. K. Duckett, Rachel E. Bailey, Darryl Denning, Lisa Carlson, Katherine V. Forrest, Jen Silver, Shelley Thrasher, Kitty Kat, Jamie Anderson, Shawn Marie Bryan, Ann Laughlin, JP Howard, L. K. Early, Patrick Coulton, Michael Ward, Karin Kallmaker and Bonnie J. Morris.

All proceeds from the sale of the books will benefit LGBT Youth Charities.

“Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic” by Richard A. McKay— Following An Idea

McKay, Richard A. “Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic”, University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Following An Idea

Amos Lassen

 “Patient Zero” is popularly understood to be the first person infected in the AIDS epidemic and has been the key to media coverage of major infectious disease outbreaks for more than three decades. Yet the term itself did not exist before the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. We have wondered how quickly this idea came to exert such a strong grip on the scientific, media, and popular consciousness. Richard A. McKay in “Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic” interprets a wealth of archival sources and interviews to demonstrate how this seemingly new concept drew upon centuries-old ideas—and fears regarding contagion and social disorder.

This is a carefully documented and sensitively written account of the life of Gaétan Dugas, a gay man whose skin cancer diagnosis in 1980 took on very different meanings as the HIV/AIDS epidemic developed. He also received widespread posthumous infamy when he was incorrectly identified as patient zero of the North American outbreak. McKay shows how investigators from the US Centers for Disease Control inadvertently created the term inadvertently when they were researching the term amid their early research into the health crisis at the beginning and how an ambitious journalist amplified the idea in his determination to reframe national debates about AIDS. Many people struggled with the notion of patient zero by adopting, challenging and redirecting its powerful meanings in order to try to make sense of and respond to the first fifteen years of an epidemic that was unfolding before their very eyes. This book untangles the complex process by which individuals and groups create meaning and allocate blame when faced with new disease threats. In effect, McKay gives us revisionist history.

Below is the Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: “He Is Still Out There”

  1. What Came Before Zero?
  2. The Cluster Study
  3. “Humanizing This Disease”
  4. Giving a Face to the Epidemic
  5. Ghosts and Blood
  6. Locating Gaétan Dugas’s Views

Epilogue: Zero Hour—Making Histories of the North American AIDS Epidemic

Appendix: Oral History Interviews

Bibliography

Index

“The Videofag Book” edited by William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill— Four Years

Ellis, William and Jordan Tannahill, editors. “The Videofag Book”, Bookthug, 2017.

Four Years

Amos Lassen

In October 2012, gay lovers William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill moved into a former barbershop in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighborhood. They turned the shop into an art space called Videofag which. Over the next four years became a hub for counterculture in the city. They hosted performances, screenings, parties, exhibitions, and all kinds of queer activates. Eventually William and Jordan broke up and closed the space for good in June 2016. The time they spent there had taken its toll and the men were exhausted and their love seemed to be worn out.

This is a chronicle of those four years and is related through multiple voices and mediums. It is a “personal history by William and Jordan; a love letter by Jon Davies; a communal oral history compiled by Chandler Levack; a play by Greg MacArthur; a poem by Aisha Sasha John; a chronological history of Videofag’s programming; and a photo archive curated by William and Jordan in full color.”

“David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music” by David Bullock— A History of LGBT Music

Bullock, David. “David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music”, Overlook Press, 2017.

A History of LGBT Music

Amos Lassen

LGBT musicians seem to have always shaped the development of music over the last century. They have provided a sexually progressive soundtrack in the background of the gay community’s struggle for acceptance. With the beginning of recording technology, LGBT messages were for the first time brought to the forefront of popular music. This is the first book to deal with the entire history of recorded music by and for the LGBT community and it shows how those records influenced the evolution of the music we have today.

We read about the lives of the people who made these records, we journey through the scarcely documented history of LGBT music-makers. Writer Darryl W. Bullock shows how gay, lesbian, and bisexual performers have influenced Jazz and Blues and continue to do so. Almost forgotten is the Pansy Craze during between the two World Wars (when many LGBT performers were feted by royalty and Hollywood alike) and we get a chronicle of the dark years after the depression when gay life was forced to go underground and we read of the re-emergence of LGBT performers in the post-Stonewall years with special attention to out-gay pop stars such as Elton John, Boy George, Freddie Mercury, and George Michael.

Bullock gives us a comprehensive history of LGBT music from the earliest records in the pre–jazz age to the 21st century and we see it as both a cultural and sociological aspect of the history that is impacted by diverse artists and music styles. He looks at their lives, their lyrics, and their struggles, both in society and within the music industry making this a fascinating read.

In reading about the LGBT community’s influence on music historically, we see how society moved between acceptance and persecution. We read of the contributions from many artists who have been forgotten and/or unappreciated and we see that not only were there LGBT recording artists since the beginning of recorded music and they did not hide their sexuality.

The history of LGBT music is the history of one hundred years of social change. “Music is sexy, and sex is better with the right music and LGBT people have been pushing the boundaries of music and sex for decades.” Music is also the soundtrack of our lives. In the prologue to “The Glass Menagerie”, Tennessee Williams wrote that the play is memory and memory always happens to music.

“Lives of Great Men: Living and Loving as an African Gay Man” by Chike Frankie Edozien— A Memoir

Edozien, Chike Frankie. “Lives of Great Men: Living and Loving as an African Gay Man”, Team Angelica Publishing, 2017.

A Memoir

Amos Lassen

Nigerian journalist Chike Frankie Edozien shares a personal stories of gay Africans who he sees as great men who live and love in the face of great adversity. He explores the worsening legal climate for gay men and women on the continent; the impact of homophobic evangelical American pastors, the dangers of political populism and the pressures placed on those living under harshly oppressive laws that are the legacy of colonial rule. These pressures sometimes lead to seeking asylum in the West. Nonetheless, he is hopeful and his memoir is a tribute to Africa, especially Nigeria and the city of Lagos.

This is a powerful look at what it means to be a gay Nigerian man and a tender and insightful study of the complicated and unspoken bonds that exist in most intimate relationships. In effect, this is a study of how the human heart survives against great odds.

 

“A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back” by David Hallberg—“The Most Exciting Male Dancer in the Western World”

Hallberg, David. “A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back”, Touchstone, 2017.

“The Most Exciting Male Dancer in the Western World”

Amos Lassen

David Hallberg was the first American to join the Bolshoi Ballet as a principal dancer. “The New Yorker” described as “the most exciting male dancer in the western world” and his new boo, “A Body of Work” takes us on an intimate journey through his artistic life up to the moment he returns to the stage after a terrible injury almost cost him his career.

His childhood is an all-American story that was hurt by intense bullying. Hallberg’s memoir takes us deep into his life as an artist as he wrestles with ego, pushes the limits of his body, and searches for ecstatic perfection and fulfillment.

Quite basically, this is a book about creativity. Hallberg shares themes of inspiration, self-doubt, and perfectionism and we are with him as he attends daily class, goes through rigorous rehearsals, and triumphant performances and searches for new interpretations of ballet’s greatest roles. He also shares the loneliness he felt as a teenager leaving America to join the Paris Opera Ballet, the ambition he had to tame as a new member of American Ballet Theatre, and the reasons behind his decision to be the first American to join the top rank of Bolshoi Ballet and working with an artistic director who would later be the victim of a vicious acid attack. Later as Hallberg performed throughout the world at the apex of his abilities, he suffered a crippling ankle injury and unsuccessful surgery leading to an agonizing retreat from ballet and a reexamination of his entire life. It is the emotional intensity that makes this such a fascinating read and the artistic insight that we get here is amazing. Here is a story with all of its passion, wisdom and vulnerability.

“The Psychic Life of Racism in Gay Men’s Communities” edited by Damien W. Riggs— Privilege and Marginalization

Riggs, Damien W. (editor). “The Psychic Life of Racism in Gay Men’s Communities”, (Critical Perspectives on the Psychology of Sexuality, Gender, and Queer Studies), Lexington, 2017.

Privilege And Marginalization

Amos Lassen

“The Psychic Life of Racism in Gay Men’s Communities” deals with complexity of mapping out the operations of “racialized desire” as it exists among gay men. In order to explore this, the contributors to this volume examine the intersections of privilege and marginalization in the context of gay men’s lives, and in doing so argue that as much as experiences of discrimination on the basis of sexuality are shared among many gay men, experiences of discrimination within gay communities are just as common. By focusing specifically on race, the contributors give insight as to how hierarchies, inequalities, and practices of exclusion strengthen the central position for certain groups of gay men at the expense of other groups.

In considering how racial desire operates within gay communities, the contributors connect contemporary struggles for inclusion and recognition with ongoing histories of marginalization and exclusion. The book disputes the claim that gay communities are primarily organized around acceptance and homogeneity and shows us instead that there are both considerable diversity and ongoing tensions that affect gay men’s relationships with one another.

This is a very timely account of gay white racism, with much needed attention to Islamophobia, homonationalism, and sexual racism in today’s’ digital age. We see the continued importance of contesting libertarian accounts of racialized sexual desire by looking at the lines between individual subjectivities and the power structures that shape them. Besides acknowledging the continuities between racism in general and gay racism, in particular, it looks at specific articulations, enactments, and effects in diverse gay men’s communities and these include resistance to and even appropriations of racism.

We hear from new voices that give new life to discussions on racism in gay men’s communities. We are reminded of the difficulties many face when race and sexuality come together.