Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Edges of the Rainbow: LGBTQ Japan” by Michael Delsol and Haruku Shinozaki— Looking at Gay Japan

Delsol, Michel and Haruku Shinozaki. “Edges of the Rainbow: LGBTQ Japan”, The New Press, 2017.

Looking at Gay Japan

Amos Lassen

“Edges of the Rainbow: LGBTQ Japan” is an intimate photographic glimpse into the LGBT world of modern Japanese society. The community has had its share of challenges and even though some religious and warrior orders have a long and recognized tradition of same-sex love, it is still considered different and this makes coming out difficult. Even with the conservative strain within Japanese society that encourages the LGBTQ community to remain unseen, we see signs of change. There are some queer cultural figures who are opening up new horizons, and a growing percentage of Japanese people believe that homosexuality should be an integral and open part of society.

The New Press is publishing a series of beautiful (and affordable) photo books that look at LGBTQ communities around the world and this is the newest. It celebrates the queer community in Japan with more than 150 color and black-and-white photographs by photographer Michel Delsol and with text by journalist Haruku Shinozaki. They have brought together a fascinating group of individuals who give us unforgettable and uplifting look at a proud and resilient community on the margins of Japanese society.

What we really see here is the gorgeous humanity of Japan that transcends all geographical and cultural difference. We see what is universal in ourselves. We explore the personal and public lives of a gay Episcopalian priest, a young lesbian couple who’ve been accepted by their family, a famous civil rights activist and pop idol, an intersex author and so many others and as we do we get a unique look at the diversity of Japan.

We see that gender diversity is an ordinary part of this world. I an proud to see that members of Japan’s queer community are living their lives as who they really are. It is the pride they take in doing so that makes us proud to have them as part of our international community.

“Kings and Queens in their Castles” by Tom Atwood— How We Live

Atwood,Tom. “Kings & Queens in Their Castles”, Damiani, 2017.

How We Live

Amos Lassen

Tom Atwood’s “Kings & Queens in Their Castles” is absolutely amazing and one hundred percent beautiful. It has been regarded as one of the most ambitious LGBTQ photo series ever conducted in the US. For over 15 years, Atwood photographed more than 350 subjects at home nationwide (and includes over 160 in the book). Among them are nearly 100 celebrities (with about 60 in the book). There are individuals from 30 states this giving us a window into the lives and homes of some of America’s most intriguing and eccentric personalities.

Among the celebrities here are Meredith Baxter, Alan Cumming, Don Lemon, John Waters, George Takei, Alison Bechdel, Barney Frank, Don Bachardy, Billy Porter, Ari Shapiro, Arthur Tress, Michael Urie, Greg Louganis, Charles Busch, Kate Clinton, Dan Savage, Tommy Tune, Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan, Leslie Jordan, Anthony Rapp, John Berendt, Bruce Vilanch, John Corigliano, Anthony Goicolea, Elizabeth Streb, Michael Musto, Carson Kressley, Joel Schumacher, Christian Siriano, John Ashbery, Terrence McNally and Christine Vachon.

There is something so very charming about the whimsicality of what we see with subjects pursuing intimate moments of daily life that shift between the pictorial and the theatrical. Alongside the artists, fashion designers, writers, actors, directors, music makers and dancers, the series features business leaders, politicians, journalists, activists and religious leaders, we see those “kings and queens” who keep civilization running, such as farmers, beekeepers, doctors, chefs, bartenders and innkeepers. There are also miscellaneous athletes, students, professors, drag queens and socialites, as well as a cartoonist, a barista, a poet, a comedian, a Navy technician, a paleontologist and a transgender cop.

 

“Ghosts of St. Vincent’s” by Tom Eubanks— AIDS and St. Vincent’s Hospital

Eubanks, Tom. “Ghosts of St. Vincent’s”, TOMUS, 2017.

AIDS and St. Vincent’s Hospital

Amos Lassen

At. Vincent’s Hospital was founded in 1849 in order to take care of indigent immigrants in Greenwich Village. In 2010, it was sold to create multi-million-dollar homes. In its 161 years, it treated survivors of the Titanic, victims of both World Trade Center attacks, and served as Ground Zero of the AIDS Crisis. It offered hope to many and its history is filled with wonderful stories. Many of those stories are here and are related with honesty and humor.

Our narrator is a man who spent a winter on the hospital’s seventh floor in what was known as the AIDS ward and he survived just in time for the drug “cocktail” that saved so many lives. His tales are filled with appearances of some wonderful American characters including Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sidney Lumet, Vito Russo, Ed Koch and The Ramones. He looks at those who literally came back from the dead and at those who were what we now call gender fluidity. He also looks at the themes of gentrification, forgiveness and its price, the cost of survival, and the “ephemeral nature of New York City”.

Writer Tom Eubanks brings the story of St. Vincent’s hospital together with the memoir of an AIDS epidemic survivor. Stories and memories are wonderfully related and we are reminded of a time when death seemed to be everywhere as the AIDS epidemic raged. He tells his story bravely as he does he teaches us about the history of a hospital that saved many lives. We should never be allowed to forget any of this.

 

“At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces” by Mary Collins and Donald Collins— Wrestling with Differences

Collins, Mary and Donald Collins. “At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces”, Beacon Press, 2017.

Wrestling with Differences

Amos Lassen

A mother and son gives us a collaborative memoir as they both dealt with their differences and the son, Donald went through medical-treatment options to better align his body with his gender identity.

As a parent, Mary Collins didn’t agree with her trans son’s decision to physically alter his body, although she supported his right to realize himself as a person. She lets us into her mind and explains her emotional mindset as her daughter was in the process of becoming her son. She felt she had lost a daughter as Donald activated his “authentic self.” Both mother and son fought to get the rights that each felt they deserved and as they do, they have a lot to say. What we must realize is that when one member of a family transitions to another gender, the entire family goes through a transition as well.

What we really get here is a wonderful addition to transgender literature that is totally inaccessible. This is a brave look at both mother and son and of a mother learning to see her child as he seems himself. We get two conflicting points of view that place us in the middle of what is going on with the family and we see that two people who have strong and deep disagreements are able to love and respect each other. We are taken into the stress of discovering where a person best fits and then how that person can get the world to see him as he sees himself. Below are the table of contents:

Table of Contents

Authors’ Notes

 

Introductions

 

Pronouns and Body Parts

SON: Who Wears the Pants?

MOTHER: Mismatch

 

Endings and Beginnings

MOTHER: Mapping Modern Grief

SON: Birds of Spring

 

Sharing our Story with Others

SON: Donald Has Something He Would Like to Tell the Class

MOTHER: Disclosure

 

Rights

MOTHER: Right(s)

SON: Hidden Fees

 

A Story Exchange

Parent Story Exchange

Transgender Youth and Professionals Story Exchange

 

Donald’s Reading List

 

Acknowledgments

 

Sources

 

A Note from the Series Editor

 

“Critical Articulations of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation” edited by Sheena C. Howard— Seventeen Contributions on the Nature of Oppression

Howard, Sheena C. (editor). “Critical Articulations of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation”, Lexington Books, 2017.

Seventeen Contributions on the Nature of Oppression

Amos Lassen

“Critical Articulations of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation” is a collection of scholarly essays, poems, and creative writings that examine the meanings of race, gender, and sexual orientation as interlocking systems of oppression. Each chapter looks at the idea of identity as a social construct that is interconnected and shaped by cultural associations. This is to say that we live in an “identity matrix” in which our self-concept, experiences, and interpretations originate or are developed from the culture in which we are part of. The shaping of an individual’s identity, communication, and worldview is shaped, and understood through life, art, popular culture, mass media, and cross-cultural interactions, among other things. We see the ability to provide a meaningful and creative space to analyze identity and identity politics while highlighting the complexities of identity formation in the twenty-first century. As the various contributors look at ideas of intersectionality and identity, we are given a great deal to think about. We have critical perspectives that challenge heteronormative discourses around identity, while centering the lived experiences of LGBTQI persons of color. We get valuable information about identity negotiation and communicative processes.

The readings here comes from personal narratives, self-reflexive analysis, and ethnographic inquiry and taken together they highlighting the varied yet similar experiences of many within the LGBTQI community of color. We read of a broad spectrum of intersecting identities and gain understanding around sexual identity negotiation.

 

“Queer Theory and Brokeback Mountain” by Matthew Tinkcom— “Brokeback Mountain as an Activist and Educational Tool

Tinkcom, Matthew. “Queer Theory and Brokeback Mountain”, (Film Theory in Practice), Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

“Brokeback Mountain” as an Activist and Educational Tool

Amos Lassen

Some of you may well remember the way the film “Brokeback Mountain” was regarded. There were those gay people who hailed it as Hollywood finally recognizing the LGBT community and there were those who were quick to see it as a melodramatic soap opera that really did nothing to advance gay rights. I remember long arguments and heavy discussions about the film (with of us forgetting that it is a film being talked about and not real life). Matthew Tinkcom looks at queer theory to show how we can understand the film in terms of scholarship and activism.

The book comes in two parts. The first half looks at the key canonical texts within queer theory, including the work of writers as Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Using a historical method, we see how scholars have posed questions to our understanding of sexualities (both normative and non-normative) in the historical past and in contemporary life. Wd get a discussion of the theories of sexuality and gender offered by these scholars and see what events have shaped the experiences of men and women in the “genital, bodily, erotic, discursive, and cultural dimensions”. The second part of the book examines the film so that we can better understand the claims and insights of queer theory. 

Tinkcom takes us back to the beginning with looking at the film’s screenplay by Larry McMurtry that is based upon Annie Proulx’s 1997 short story of the same title. This takes us to the film narrative of two working-class men in the rural mid-20th-century U.S. and the meanings of the sexual and emotional bond between them pair that developed over twenty years.

Tinkcom beautifully looks at the signature trajectories of queer theory, then adds these concepts into traditions of film theory and close analysis. He has the ability to write for scholars and students as well as moviegoers at the same time and his analysis is easy to read and understand. We quickly see the complexity of the queer pleasures within the film. Tinkcom puts the film into larger discourses of genre studies and anticipates how these can influence future discussions in the field of queer theory. We see both current thought about non-normative gender and sexuality as well as how queer theory can bring about academic inquiry.

“Teaching Queer: Radical Possibilities for Writing and Knowing” by Stacey Waite— Writing and Teaching as Queer

Waite, Stacey. “Teaching Queer: Radical Possibilities for Writing and Knowing”, (Pitt Comp Literacy Culture), University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017.

Writing and Teaching as Queer

Amos Lassen

As a gay academic who often teaches writing, I am always in interested in new ways to challenge my students and myself. In “Teaching Queer”, Stacie Waite looks at student writing along with transcripts of class discussions, and teaching practices in first-year writing courses and then uses them to articulate queer theories of literacy and writing instruction while at the same time taking into account the fact that a teacher is queer. Instead of positioning queerness as connected only to queer texts or queer teachers/students (as much work on queer pedagogy has done since the 1990s), we see here that writing and teaching can be regarded as already queer practices and that the overlap between queer theory and composition gives us new possibilities for teaching writing. Waite argues for and enacts “queer forms” or non-normative and category-resistant forms of writing. These stand “between the critical and the creative, the theoretical and the practical, and the queer and the often invisible normative functions of classrooms”.

While this book seems to be for introductory college writing classes what we have can be applied throughout the academy and on various levels. The question we must answer is what does a queer pedagogy look like? By bringing together experiences in teaching, student written narratives, theory and the work of students, we can hope to find the answer. What is necessary first is a deep look at how queer theory can challenge students to use writing as a way of thinking. This, I have always believed, is what writing should always be about.

“Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality: A Guide for Business Practice” by Jeff Guaracino and Ed Salavato— Making the Journey

Guaracino, Jeff and Ed Salvato. “Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality: A Guide for Business Practice”, Harrington Park Press, 2017.

Making the Journey

Amos Lassen

It is man’s natural impulse to travel because curiosity is human trait as is the desire for adventure and romance. Did you ever stop to think what makes LGBT travel different? I believe that it is the need foe community and acceptance as well as knowing that the site visited is safe for LGBT tourists. As a person who has visited all over the world, I can tell you that it is the three requisites that I look for in planning a trip.

Jeff Guaracino and Ed Salvato are experts in this area and they share their information with us thus allowing us to plan safe getaways among people who love and respect our community. For the tourist industry, this book looks at why it is necessary to target LGBT travelers. Yes the idea of the gay ghetto and the “gayborhood” might not be with us any longer but the writers’ experience with international tourism professionals shows us that “a specific, sustained, and smart LGBT tourism program is needed more than ever.” They give us a look at what is called an “elevator pitch” or a brief, persuasive speech used to spark interest in one’s organizational mission for an LGBT tourism campaign.

We know that not every community, country, or business welcomes the LGBT traveler and we know that there are hundreds of global destinations that are looking for new visitors yet only a few actively pursue LGBT travelers. We do not automatically assume that they are welcome at a particular destination, or they might not know which destinations would interest them. With a specific campaign the traveler is reassured and this gives an edge to businesses that target the LGBT community. Straight millennial travelers also seem to prefer those places where everyone is welcome and not just straight members of society.

We learn here of potential homophobia/transphobia/biphobia issues in the tourism and hospitality industry. There are six chapters (see below) that cover more than 75 additional topics. Chapter headings include:

Foundations of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality
Business Essential: Understanding the LGBT Travel Market Business Opportunities
Marketing Your Business
The Global View: Opportunities and Challenges
Trends and Industry Resources

There is also a section of discussion questions to assist staff/trainees in both general and LGBT-specific tourism and hospitality corporations and a full-annotated bibliography of peer- reviewed journal articles. Not only do we learn something here but the read is entertaining and practical. The insights we get here are those than can only come with experience and success and/or failure (which is not always a bad thing— it is also a valuable learning tool.

 

“Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir of Institutionalization and Southern Hospitality” by Samuel Peterson— A Modern Tragi-Comedy

Peterson, Samuel. “Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir of Institutionalization and Southern Hospitality”, Transgress Press, 2016.

A Modern Tragi-comedy

Amos Lassen

After being sober and spending a good deal of time preparing to become a writer, Trunky is on the threshold of success. However, fate enters his life and he is soon spiraling downward into a state of depression and begins again to use heroin. He ends up in an institution in the South with a very diverse group of “thugs, criminals, white supremacists, professional athletes and business men”. All of then are looking for something they’re afraid of finding. As Trunky journeys from addition to recovery and female to manhood, he finds himself on an unexpected trip into the depths of the human soul and this is where he discovers its fundamental flaws and the redemption that we experience from honest vulnerability that comes when we have the courage to take the deal with it.

Writer Samuel Paterson wonderfully captures the anguish and turmoil that comes with addiction and he gives wise insight into his struggle for redemption and visibility as a man among men. To really understand the devastation of addiction, the struggle for gender authenticity and the culture fostered within a Federal Bureau of Prisons Residential Drug Abuse Program, this is a must-read.

“Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory” by Qwo-Li Driskill— Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Driskill, Qwo-Li. “Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory”, University of Arizona Press, 2016.

Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Amos Lassen

In the Cherokee language “Asegi udanto” refers to people who do not fit into men’s and women’s roles or who mix men’s and women’s roles. The word “Asegi” is translated as “strange” and is also used by some Cherokees as a term similar to “queer.”

In “Asegi Stories”, author Qwo-Li Driskill give us a way to reread Cherokee history in order to listen for those stories that was considered “strange” by the colonial heterosexual patriarchy.

I understand that this is first full-length that develops a tribally specific indigenous queer or Two-Spirit critique. It examines gender and sexuality in Cherokee cultural memory and shows how they shape the present, and how they can influence the future.

Looking at activist, artistic, and intellectual genealogies (referred to as “dissent lines” by Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith), Driskill enmeshes Cherokee and other indigenous traditions including “women of color feminisms, grassroots activisms, queer and trans studies and politics, rhetoric, Native studies, and decolonial politics”. These are the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the stories that are derived from drawings, oral histories and archival documents and are used to articulate Cherokee-centered Two-Spirit critiques. In doing so Driskill is able to contribute to the larger intertribal movements for social justice.

This is both corrective and selective history as well as a memoir and a critique. Driskill argues that existing categories and genre divisions do not serve Native/Aboriginal/Two Spirit Studies.