Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids: A Question & Answer Guide to Everyday Life” by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo— Hard Questions, Good Answers

bookforparentsofgaykids

Owens-Reid, Dannielle and Kristin Russo. “This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids: A Question & Answer Guide to Everyday Life”, Chronicle Books, 2014.

Hard Questions, Good Answers

Amos Lassen

It is so good to have a book like this especially since the LGBT community has become so visible. Here is a wonderful resource book for parents who want to understand and speak with their gay child(ren). Authors Owen-Reid and Russo have their own website, “Everyone in Gay” and they have come across many questions that parents ask and they have taken the time to find the answers. Here they share what they have experienced and/or learned on all levels—be they emotional or personal.

The book comes in a question and answer format and it is filled with the real experiences that gay children feel and this the book that they want their parents to read.

“Changing Lives, Making History: Congregation Beit Simchat Torah” by Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen— A Gay Synagogue in New York City

cbst cover

Cohen, Rabbi Ayelet S. “Changing Lives, Making History: Congregation Beit Simchat Torah”, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, 2014.

A Gay Synagogue in New York City

Amos Lassen

Yesterday I received a wonderful surprise in the mail the new book by Rabbi Ayelet Cohen that looks at the first 40 years of the first gay synagogue in the United States, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City. This is a coffee table sized book and one that I am sure that the members of the temple will be very proud of. It is a bit ironical that this book came out just as the temple is experiencing a rough time because of the war in Gaza and even though I have disagreed with the way the rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum looks at the situation, I must admit that she has been instrumental in guiding the temple forward and to the place where it has been able to buy its own place.

The book is absolutely beautiful and it is a perfect way to celebrate the temple’s anniversary. It is chock full of amazing photographs and the text is beautifully written—so much so that it is almost possible to feel love jump off the page. In America, synagogues are very important especially in places where Jews are a minority (which, in effect, is everywhere outside of the State of Israel). The synagogue fosters the sense of community and belonging and is a place where like-minded people come to share their hearts and this is what is the overriding theme of this book and of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah.

Here is the history of the very first organized Jewish house of worship for the LGBT community. It all began with an ad in “The Village Voice” in 1973 that read “Gay Synagogue, Friday Night Service and Oneg Shabbat, Feb.9, 8:00 PM”. From that initial meeting in which some twelve men came, CBST has grown to become one of the most important LGBT temples in the country if not in the world. Just the idea of a gay synagogue at that time was groundbreaking especially since so many members of the LGBT community feel that they really have no place in religion. Many others have used the Hebrew Bible as a place from which to issue admonitions against the community and all of us are aware of the way organized religion has looked upon our community. To create a place where we can go and share how we feel both with the Supreme Being and with each other was of course a radical idea back in ’73 when the congregation organized and was considered by others to be blasphemous. Today CBST gets over 4000 people for its High Holiday services. More than that it has become an example to other groups in other cities and I am quite sure that it was the example of this new temple that encouraged other places to do the same—Am Tikva in Boston, for example, is one of those.

Author Cohen has done excellent research as she shares CBST’s journey with us. The temple evidently has protected its history by maintaining extensive archives as well as flyers, documents etc. Because the temple is relatively young, many of its congregants are still alive and make for fascinating interviews. There are personal reminiscences throughout the volume and these together with Cohen’s text provide quite a history. We tend to take so much for granted these days that sometimes we forget that for every action there are people working very hard behind the scenes. Cohen reminds us of that by writing about the people that made the congregation happen and how it struggled during the AIDS epidemic and how it came of age by hiring a rabbi to steer the people and the organization into the right direction.

One of the aspects of this book is the amount of detail included but I must say this is never a boring read even with the detail. I can best compare to bringing a child into the world and watching every aspect of that child as he moves from crawling to standing on his own two feet. It is important as I said previously to learn of the people who were instrumental in getting CBST to walk forward and take its rightful place in the American community as well as in the LGBT and Jewish communities. What we see here are the people and the happenings that really made the temple the place it has become.

When the book arrived yesterday I sat down with it and read every word—then I went back and looked at the pictures and was amazed at how many people I recognized but even more amazed at how many I did not recognize. The book is divided into three sections—“The Early Years” which I found enlightening, “Building the Sanctuary” which fed my religious curiosity and “Enlarging the Tent” which focuses on the diversity of the congregation and where it will go next. My temple this year is celebrating its 75th anniversary and we cannot match something as beautifully done as this book. Even though I have not been to CBST, I found myself grinning with pride as I read. It is one hand very personal and on the other the history of a place that has become an institution; an institution built by friends with common interests and a desire to belong. Do not ever believe that religion and sexuality cannot exist side by side. This book shows us the proof of what can happen when they come together.

“The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s Greatest Monsters” by Andrew McConnell Stott— “Love Affairs, Literary Rivalries, and the Supernatural”

the poet and the vampyre

Stott, Andrew McConnell. “The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s Greatest Monsters”. Pegasus Books, 2014.

“Love Affairs, Literary Rivalries, and the Supernatural”

Amos Lassen

Byron, Shelley and John Polidori become involved in love affairs, literary rivalries, and the supernatural while at Lake Geneva in the spring of 1816. While they were there the greatest monsters in literary history were created. George Gordon, Lord Byron was regarded back then as the greatest poet of his generation, a title he still holds today. He was the most famous man in England but his personal life was strange and many had something to say about it. He decided it was best to flee his celebrity status and his debts and notoriety and went to the continent. He brought his doctor, John Polidori with him. Polidori was inexperienced in the filed of medicine and he also had literary aspirations and he could not believe his luck when Byron invited him to join him. They set out for Lake Geneva just as Percy Bysshe Shelley, his lover Mary and her stepsister Claire Claremont were also heading there. For three months, this group frolicked and shared their lives in an atmosphere that was charged with sexual and artistic tensions. But there was something else—our group of Bohemians found themselves in a period of great creativity. Mary Shelley started writing “Frankenstein”, the gothic masterpiece of Romantic fiction; Byron completed his epic poem, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, his epic poem; and Polidori began “The Vampyre” which has since been regarded as the first great vampire novel. There was also drama and emotional distress that summer. For Byron and the Shelleys, their stay by the lake would be how they were immortalized in literary history. However Claire and Polidori were scarred forever by what went on that Lake Geneva summer.

This is a story of love, sex, and fame. The reader gains a double look at the spirit of Romanticism at a time of great literary output and beginnings. Beneath that was emotional turmoil and devastation. We also gain a look at London that was filled with mutiny and anarchism at that time. This is quite a read about the poets we have loved so much.

“Lesbian Marriage: A Love & Sex Forever Kit” by Kim Chernin and Renate Stendahl— Keeping It Real

lesbian marriage

Chernin Ph.D., Kim and Renate Stendhal Ph.D. “Lesbian Marriage: A Love & Sex Forever Kit”, www.lesbiansexsurvival.com, 2014.

Keeping It Real

Amos Lassen

I love the line in “The Lion in Winter” when Eleanor of Aquitaine tells her sons that if she had married someone else and not their father, their lives would have been completely different and then she says, “So my boys, such is the role of sex in history”.  Sex, which is so important in the beginning of a relationship, does not always stay as the main emphasis of people who live together for a long time. It is therefore very important that sex never become old, boring or mundane and it must stay fresh during the aging periods of that relationship.  It many be quite difficult to find ways to maintain the passion that was once there yet we want to make sure that it remains an important part of a relationship. This book does just that and it does so with wit and humor as well as with candid frankness. The authors here look a ways to keep sex and romance hot and provide “advice and handy tools for the major challenges of lesbian marriage”. There are fun lists of what to do and not to do when faced with these challenges as well as fascinating looks at what really goes on in bed between two people and it offers advice and ways to make sure that this aspect of a relationship does not get old or even die.

While this is a book targeted at a lesbian audience, it has important truths for all people. It is quite simply a wonderful read. Chernin and Stendahl who have been together for twenty-eight years use their own relationship as a way to look at this. It should come as no surprise that sex must be viewed as important today as it was when a couple slept together for the first time. We read interviews with women and hear how others approach this and they authors give us twelve challenges that many face. Then they look at these challenges and explain how they can be incorporated into relationships.

Because I am male, I cannot really comment of the validity of what goes on in a lesbian bedroom bit I can indeed look at some of those issues that are not directly related to gender and/or sexual identity. It seems to me that the entire issue is based upon a successful balance of priorities. This, of course, is not always easy but if we look at a relationship through wit and humor as well as through what others have experience, we find that not only can we improve the relationship but that we can get a really fun read while doing so. I love the idea that humor can help us relate to a situation. When we think that what we read here is the result of what two women found out about there own relationship we see what a wonderful addition to the LGBT canon this volume is. It is the honesty and the humor of the book that wins us over immediately.

The book is organized into chapters and each chapter deals with a specific challenge to couples and then gives advice as to how to overcome each of them. I thin that because many of the challenges we read about are based upon common sense, it is even more enlightening to read about them. Most of the book is about ways of dealing with issues and this includes listening to others. It should be no revelation that honesty is what is needed above anything else and it is with honesty that we learn how to provide pleasure and openness.

“Provincetown – The Stapleton 2014 Long Weekend Gay Guide” by Jon Stapleton— Handy with So Much That You Need to Know

provincetownStapleton, Jon. “Provincetown – The Stapleton 2014 Long Weekend Gay Guide”,  (Stapleton Gay Guides) CreateSpace, 2014.

Handy with So Much That You Need to Know

Amos Lassen

During my adult gay life, the town of Provincetown, Massachusetts has always been legendary. When I moved to Boston, I found that legend to be very true. If there is a gay heaven, it is Provincetown. This complete guide is composed of eight chapters that tell you almost all you need to know about Ptown. I say almost because the magic and spontaneity  of Provincetown have to be discovered on a one-to-one basis. The chapter divisions include:

Why Provincetown?

Getting About

Where to Stay

Where to Eat

What to See and Do

Nightlife

Shopping and Services

There is also an index and a list of other guides and books by Stapleton.

Ptown has it all– lodgings, restaurants, attractions, outdoor sports, tours and excursions, shopping and everything else you’d want to do there and this guide has been edited with an emphasis on the gay traveler.  It is short and too the point. To quote someone else, “One good thing about this handy guide is that it’s not ‘just gay. It’s got loads of listings that any gay traveler would find interesting even though they are not specifically gay-related.” 

“For the Love of Mohammad A Memoir: With Mohammad Khordadian” by Jean Beaini— Two Young Dancers

for the love of mohammed

Beaini, Jean. “For the Love of Mohammad A Memoir: With Mohammad Khordadian”, ADS, 2014.

Two Young Dancers

Amos Lassen

The ill-fated marriage of two young dancers is the focus of “For the Love of Mohammed”. The book is set against the backdrop of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Jean Beaini has written the true story of a journey that is dramatic and filled with complexes.

The memoir of two young dancers from vastly different cultures, tells of their ill-fated marriage during Iran’s Islamic Revolution.  The main characters are a young English girl who lives in a Middle Eastern country that is torn apart by an Islamic revolution and war and a young Iranian man struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality after being manipulated into marriage. He just happened to be in love with a man. On one hand this is not a love story and on the other hand it is a story about love as well as so much more.

 As the world continues to struggle with human rights issues, in particular the human rights of the LGBTQ communities in such countries as Iran, Uganda, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Russia and often in our own backyard here is a story that speaks out for those who have their voices silenced. The book contributes to the awareness of their situation and carries with it a message of hope and courage by demonstrating how, with the power of love, courage and understanding, life’s adversities can be overcome.

Our characters met because of their love of dance and  their story shows  how people love one another and how this pure love can become misconstrued and tainted by the influence of religion, culture, politics and society. We see the sensitive struggle that the two face and the courage they must summon to deal with it. It is all about maintaining love in the face of both human and political conflict.

 

 

“Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” by John Lahr—America’s Greatest Playwright

tenn

Lahr, John. “Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh”, W.W. Norton, 2014

America’s Greatest Playwright

Amos Lassen

John Lahr brings us the definitive biography of Tennessee Williams; the man many feel is America’s greatest playwright. My review copy came yesterday and I stayed up all night reading and this is not a short book—it comes in at 765 pages. Some of you know that I know Williams—my senior year at college I worked a bit for him when he was in New Orleans so I am always anxious to read a definitive biography of him. However, he was a man who was so complex that I doubt that there will ever be a “definitive biography”. There always seems to a lost page or some interesting information turning up about Williams. However this is the most complete biography I have yet to read about him and I have read them all.

Lahr takes us into the mind of the playwright. Williams was responsible for so much but I really believe that his greatest accomplishment was the way his dramas reshaped the theater of this country as well as the way Americans felt about themselves.

I have always thought of Williams as something of a contradiction. He had triumphs which were epic and he failures that were also epic, he was a gay man at a time when homosexuality was spoken of in whispers yet he managed to create some of the most wonderful female characters that the theater has ever know. He suffered great guilt and he projected some of his life into his works. He had numerous love affairs but only two real loves. His death reflected the way he lives even though it was misreported and his estate caused problems among his heirs and his non-heirs.

This biography is written through Williams’ plays and we see what he went through with each new offering. Lahr gives us an unforgettable look at the man and we learn some interesting secrets. There have been several other biographies of Williams so some of you may wonder why we need another one—the answer is simple. There is a great deal of new material here—new interpretations, new photographs (there are 80 photos in the book, new information and new ways to look at Williams output.

We have letters and interviews with Pancho Rodriguez, the man who was the model for Stanley Kowalski. There are letters from Frank Merlo, the man who shared Williams’ heart and his bed. Eddie Dowling who was in the original production (as well as produced and co-directed) of “The Glass Menagerie talks about the opening night night. We learn about Laurette Taylor and her legendary performance as Amanda Wingfield. We get to read the letters that Williams wrote while he was committed to a psychiatric ward in 1970. The facts of his death and of the craziness that went on with his estate is here as is the true story of Williams’ break-up with his long time agent, Audrey Wood. There is information on how legendary director Elia Kazan influenced the productions that he helmed. Marlon Brando has something to saw about co-star Anna Magnani. Included are previously unpublished poems and deleted passages from some of the playwright’s writing. Included are never before seen letters between Williams and Kazan, Wood, Magnani, Katherine Hepburn and Brooks Atkinson, drama critic of “The New York Times”. We learn about the autopsy performed on Williams and the medical reports of his sister, Rose, who suffered a lobotomy. There is also new information about Williams’ psychoanalysis and original interviews that John Lahr conducted with Gore Vidal, Dotson Rader, Dakin Williams (the playwrights’ brother) and with several directors including Sidney Lumet and John Hancock.

Here is Williams’ public persona and his backstage life. It reads like one of Williams’ own dramas but above else this is a compelling biography of a compelling man that is written by a compelling author.

INTERNATIONAL SAUNA GUIDE 10th Edition from Bruno Gmunder

BRUNO GMÜNDER

Spartacus Sauna Guide 2014

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INTERNATIONAL SAUNA GUIDE 10th Edition

Pages: 224
Size: 10,5x18cm/4.25x7inch
Format: Softcover
Language: English/German
ISBN 978-3-86787-796-1
September 2014
€13.99 / US$23.99 / £13.99 / C$24.99

An extensive and up-to-date overview of the gay saunas worldwide now

It’s that time of the year when the days are shorter and the nights longer, and the start of the new sauna season. Gay saunas enjoy great popularity worldwide for decades now and are an integral part of the international gay community.

In addition to the classical sauna types such as steam, Finnish or bio saunas, one can also make contacts, full of sparkling erotic and exciting encounters in saunas. As such in many countries saunas are used as a place of refuge for gay or bisexual men, who cannot have sex with men in their homes.

These possibilities and a multitude of useful details can be found in the newly published Spartacus Sauna Guide. In the 10th edition sauna fans will find information regarding size, prices and opening hours, as well as the other sauna visitors, the services offered and key features on site. With help from our user-friendly pictogram-system additional information are simple and clearly understandable. The editorial team has listed 650 saunas from 215 cities in 63 countries worldwide in two languages on 224 pages. Here everyone can find their appropriate oasis of well-being. Whether in summer or in winter – our in-depth and handy guide should always be in your suitcase!

The Bruno Gmünder Group was founded in 1981 in Berlin. Today the company, with 80 full time and numerous freelance employees, is a market leaders in the field of gay media worldwide. On offer are numerous print and an increasing number of digital products, such as eBooks apps and web sites. The company also publishes tourist guides, magazines, comics books and non-fiction books. 

“Red Hot 100″ – The book with the own Exhibition in New York !!!

red hot

“Red Hot 100″ – The book with the own Exhibition in New York !!!    

On the heels of his hugely successful Red Hot exhibition in London (successfully funded through Kickstarter), photographer and filmmaker Thomas Knights creates the ultimate bible for fans of hot ginger men: Red Hot 100″.

With a truly international feel, the book will contain one hundred flame-haired guys from all over the world, captured topless against the iconic vivid blue background now synonymous with the Red Hot brand. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, the book also holds a mirror up to current perceptions of male beauty and asks the question, Why are there so few ginger heroes or heartthrobs in Western culture? This is sure to change after Red Hot 100″!

 

144 pages

Full Colour

Hardcover with dust jacket

10 ¼ x 13 ½ inch

“Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism” by Amber Jamilla Musser— Understanding Masochism

sensational flesh

Musser, Amber Jamilla. “Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism”, (Sexual Cultures), NYU Press, 2014.

Understanding Masochism

Amos Lassen

We understand masochism to be the “desire to abdicate control in exchange for sensation—pleasure, pain, or a combination thereof”. There is a bit more to masochism that just that—in masochism power, bodies and society come together. Here Amber Jamilla Musser uses masochism as a way to look at how power influences race and gender as well as how masochism is embodied in various cultures and contexts. She uses different and various sources– 19th century sexology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory, literary texts and performance art. She sees masochism as a strong and powerful tool that can be used to look at relationships in terms of power and subjectivity. By looking at these debates about lesbian SM, radicalization, femininity and texts that include Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Pauline Réage’s The Story of O, and Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Musser shows us the different and complex ways that masochism has become part of  queer, feminist, and critical race theories. she proposes “sensation” as an analytical tool to illustrate “what it feels like to be embedded in structures of domination such as patriarchy, colonialism, and racism and what it means to embody femininity, blackness, and pain”. Basically the book is about the “ways in which difference is made material through race, gender, and sexuality and how that materiality is experienced”.