Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Picturing the Closet: Male Secrecy and Homosexual Visibility in Britain” by Dominic Janes— The Development of Queer Readings

picturing the closet

Janes, Dominic. “Picturing the Closet: Male Secrecy and Homosexual Visibility in Britain”, Oxford University Press, 2015.

The Development of Queer Readings

Amos Lassen

Dominic Janes uses “the closet” as a concept that gives unity to the history of same-sex desire from the eighteenth century forward to today. His study goes well beyond the concept that the homosexual was an end of the 19th century construction and he maintains that this construction began long before that time. With new source material, Janes uses various methodologies in case studies in order to show that literature, art, history, philosophy, film, social history and other approaches can give to the queer readings from the past.

Before the concept of homosexual came into being, Janes questions how people could think that they could identify a homosexual and asks if secrecy and denial played into the concept before the idea of the closet was developed in the late twentieth century.

Before that was there a concept of what homosexuals looked and acted like? Were those gay men who were not obvious in flamboyance distinguishable from the rest of society? Did those who wanted to look “normal” achieve that?

It was these cultural constructions that have been attacked time and again and quite notably by writer Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in her “Epistemology of the Closet” and she labeled this concept as ‘the defining structure for gay oppression in this century’.

Using interdisciplinary case studies in order to explore both before the closet and the present day, looks at key moments and issues within British cultural experience and does so by using sources that range from “art to fashion, literature, philosophy, theology, film and archival records.”

Janes uses the potential of visual culture to reveal patterns of expression and obfuscation that go beyond the verbal bringing us the idea that the closet existed before the homosexual identity was spoken of. In fact, Janes tells us that the closet “offered its own spectacular forms of ‘self-fulfillment and expression.'” Janes traces the history of the closet by going back to its origins in the 18th century and he reminds us that this space that was both literal and metaphorical was more than just a place and a symbol of a minority that was oppressed. It was also a place where creativity was nurtured and it produced some very important ideas and images not only about homosexuality and the homosexual’s place in society but also it was a source of “subversive queer subjectivities.”


Below is the table of contents to give you an idea of what is included in Janes’ book.

Table of Contents

Ch. 1, Introduction: Picturing the Closet

Part One

Ch. 2, Hogarth’s Panic

Ch. 3, Burke’s Solution 

Ch. 4, The Decorative and the Damned

Part Two

Ch. 5, Athletics and Aesthetics

Ch. 6, Strachey in Earnest

Ch. 7, Expulsion

Part Three

Ch. 8, Criminal Practices

Ch. 9, The Unliberated

Ch. 10, After the Outrage






Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the ’60s” by Richard Goldstein— How It Was

another little piece of my heart

Goldstein, Richard. “Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the ’60s, Bloomsbury, 2015.

How It Was

Amos Lassen

Anyone who lived during the 1960s will always carry a piece of that era with him/her. However, not all of us have the ability to share that in the way that Richard Goldstein does in his memoir “Another Little Piece of My Heart”. When he was 22, he went to “The Village Voice” with an idea. He told them that he wanted to be a rock critic and the editor was a bit befuddled and claimed not to now what that meant. At that time, it was a fair question since up until then that has not been such a thing. Yet Goldstein got the job and he became the first person to write regularly in a major publication about the music that changed our lives. Goldstein believed deeply in the power of rock, and long before anyone else did so, he claimed that rock music was an art form that was serious. Because of his position he was able to see how rock music shaped culture and politics in the 1960s—and he was also a participant in it as well. He toured with Janis Joplin, spent a day at the Grateful Dead house in San Francisco, and dropped acid with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. He was there during Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he witnessed the student uprising at Columbia, and took part in the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Norman Mailer challenged him to a boxing match and he took Susan Sontag to her firs discothèque.

He had friendships and relationships with some of the legends of rock including Joplin and Morrison as well as others. Early deaths of some of his heroes made him disillusioned and he watched the music that he loved so dearly become an industry. He also saw the possibility of a social upheaval die.

Goldstein was a young man with serious ambition and an important member of an important decade in American life. He gives us an honest look at the 60s that few others are able to do. He was a pioneer who reported from the happenings themselves and he gives us in depth looks at those who stood out and who represented the dreams that America did not fully achieve.

Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial” by Kenji Yoshino—“Hollingsworth v. Perry”: The Definitive Story

speak now

Yoshino, Kenji. “Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial”, Crown, 2015.

“Hollingsworth v. Perry”: The Definitive Story

Amos Lassen

In 2010, the case of “Hollingsworth v. Perry” was in court for twelve days and has since become the watershed for marriage equality. That trial legalized same-sex marriage in California and opened the door for other states to follow. The case questioned the nature of marriage, the political status of LGBT Americans, the best circumstances for raising children and if democracy has the ability to protect fundamental and basic rights. That trial has become the most potent and powerful argument for marriage equality in this country.

 “Hollingsworth v. Perry” changed America and now Kenji Yoshino “brings abstract legal arguments to life by sharing his own story of finding love, marrying, and having children as a gay man.” The prose and writing here are clear and we get a look into the vulnerabilities if the mind and of the heart. Yoshino acknowledges his personal interest in the case and because of this his personal life mixes freely with the facts of the case giving it humanity. His legal reasoning at times is poetic and he celebrates the judicial process as human drama as well. We clearly see why facts matter, why trials are important and why courts are able to discover complex truths. While the courts have failed us many times in the past, in this case they succeed triumphantly. More than that, we see “why love matters and the law can make love visible.” Once again we see proof that marriage is that place, “that sacred place where love meets law”. This is the story of human rights as told by one whose own life has been changed and transformed”. Here are two civil ceremonies, a trial and a marriage that awaken our culture to what it needs to be and to do. We see transformative law here and we can now take pride in our legal system. Trial courts have the responsibility to evaluate legislative facts in ways that can prove equality and liberty and this case definitely shows us the success of that.

It is not often that we get a book about our legal system that is written so beautifully that we do nit want to stop reading it and that is what Yoshino gives us as he brings litigation over same sex marriage and insights into the power of trials together. Here is a book you will want to read again and again. It is also not often that we get to see

:how the careful and respectful procedures of the courtroom can separate fact from prejudice, and perhaps even allow the distilled light of reality to mend passionate social divisions.”  By skillful narrative, we get Yoshino’s family’s experience as it fought for legal recognition.



“Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces” edited by Petra Doan— The Politics of Gentrification

planning and lgbt communities

Doan, Petra. “Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces”, Routledge, 2015.

The Politics of Gentrification

Amos Lassen

Every time I think about how much everything has changed for the LGBT community, I have to pinch myself to make sure that it has really happened (except for Indiana, Louisiana and Arkansas). Even with our new freedom, LGBT residential and commercial areas have come under increasing pressure from gentrification and redevelopment initiatives. Because of this many of these neighborhoods are losing their special character as safe havens for sexual and gender minorities. Urban planners and municipal officials have often ignore the transformation of these neighborhoods yet at other times been complicit in these changes.

In “Planning and LGBTQ Communities” experienced planners, administrators, and researchers in the fields of planning and geography come together to discuss the evolution of urban neighborhoods in which LGBT people live and examine a variety of LGBT residential and commercial areas to highlight policy and planning links to the development of these neighborhoods. Each chapter in the book deals with a particular urban context and questions how the field of planning has enabled, facilitated, and/or neglected the specialized and diverse needs of the gay community. The central theme of the book is that city and urban planners have to think beyond “queer space” because LGBT populations are more diverse and dispersed than the white gay male populations that once created many of the most visible “gayborhoods.” We get practical guidance for cities and citizens seeking to strengthen neighborhoods that have an explicit LGBT focus as well as those that are LGBT-friendly. What is needed is broader awareness of the needs of this marginalized population and the establishment of more formal linkages between municipal government and a range of LGBT groups. The five major topics discussed here are:

The book is a collection of essays that address how to plan for the gay community and a call to action for student, academic and practicing planners and politicians to listen, to see and to consider the question of sexuality. It is so important to realize that today’s gay community is very diverse along all lines and here we see how planners contribute to building urban societies that are truly diverse and inclusive.   We have moved beyond the area that was once known as the gay ghetto and the time has come to think about what comes next.Below is the table of contents to give you an idea of what you can find here.

Chapter 1 Why Plan for the LGBTQ Community? – Petra L. Doan


Chapter 2 Gay Commercial Districts in Chicago and the Role of Planning – Curt Winkle

Chapter 3 The Dallas Way: Property, Politics, and Assimilation – Andrew H. Whittemore

Chapter 4 Fractures and Fissures in “Post-Mo” Washington, DC: The Limits of Gayborhood Transition and Diffusion – Nathaniel M. Lewis


Chapter 5 Thinking Beyond Exclusionary Gay Male Spatial Frames in the Developing World – Gustav Visser

Chapter 6 The Pervasiveness of Hetero-Sexism and the Experiences of Queers in Everyday Space: The Case of Cambridge, Massachusetts – Sarah P. Nusser and Katrin B. Anacker

Chapter 7 Identifying and Supporting LGBTQ Friendly Neighborhoods in the American South: The Trade-off Between Visibility and Acceptance – Petra L. Doan


Chapter 8 Finding Transformative Planning Practice in the Spaces of Intersectionality – Michael Frisch

Chapter 9 Southern Discomfort: In Search of the LGBT-Friendly City – Joan Marshall Wesley

Chapter 10 The Queer Cosmopolis: The Evolution of Jackson Heights – Arianna Martinez

Chapter 11 Lesbian Spaces in Transition: Insights from Toronto and Sydney – Catherine J. Nash and Andrew Gorman-Murray


Chapter 12 Act Up versus Straighten Up: Public Policy and Queer Community-Based Activism – Gail Dubrow, Larry Knopp, and Michael Brown

Chapter 13 Place / Out: Planning for Radical Queer Activism – Kian Goh

Chapter 14 The Racial Politics of Precarity: Understanding Ethno-specific AIDS Service Organizations in Neoliberal Times – John Paul Catungal

Chapter 15 Beyond Queer Space: Planning for Diverse and Dispersed LGBTQ Populations – Petra L. Doan

“Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power” by Susie Day, illustrated by Pia Marella— Personal Essays and Political Satire

trash to power

Day, Susie (author) and Pia Marella (illustrator). “Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power”, Abingdon Square Publishing Ltd., 2014.

Personal Essays and Political Satire

Amos Lassen

This is quite a collection of essays that provide  “a perverse moral clarity to an increasingly amoral world” by reporter Susie Day who brings us “fast-breaking faux news”. Her satire is strong and she says that we have to regain the energy in the media that we saw during the AIDS epidemic and the Vietnam War. Day’s goal is to bring us together as one people; she says that it is consumerism and social conformity that us changing us and she worries that marriage equality will do away with the “transgressions” that once were responsible for the outlaw spirit that once characterized the gay community. She wants to change the world and some of what she says is startling. They says that gay men know about opera but they are unaware of lesbian opera and she goes on to explain the plot of the lesbian opera “Sapphic Ring Cycle” and he irony is biting.

We sense Day’s love for human rights and the injuries of the past hurt her. She is a woman who needs a cause and some she has championed include prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and displaced Palestinians (however this is one that is very difficult to agree with). Day writes with a humor that is caustic and very funny, especially when we realize that we are laughing at ourselves.

“Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s” by Brad Gooch— Love and Fidelity in a Time that Was

smash cut

Gooch, Brad. “Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s”, Harper, 2015.

Love and Fidelity in a Time that Was

Amos Lassen

I love Brad Gooch….that is to say I love his writing. His biography of Frank O’Hara, “City Poet” sits proudly on my shelf next to his highly underestimated “The Golden Age of Promiscuity”. He has other books also that I have read and reviewed—“Godtalk”, “Finding the Boyfriend Within”, “Daily News”, “Jailbait” and so on—twelve titles in all and several different genres. Gooch has never disappointed and when I was asked to review his new book, I jumped at the chance. For me Gooch is best when writing nonfiction and when “Smash Cut” arrived this week, I cleared my calendar and sat down to be taken away to New York and back to the 70s and 80s. Back then New York City was the international center of celebrities and glamour. The Bohemian movement was well underway and if anyone wanted to be where it was happening, they really had to get to New York. I was over 6000 miles away in Israel but I devoured every bit of news I received.

Gooch went to New York in the late 70s in search of freedom—both artistic and personal. This book is his memoir of his time there with his partner Howard, a film director. This is not what I would necessarily call a happy read but it is certainly an important read. Gooch does not remember it all well and so, as he tells us, it is pieced together from memory and it is emotional to the point that my eyes filled with tears several times while reading. The prologue is perfection—it sets the scene both emotionally and literarily and it reminds us just how far we have come as individuals and as a community. For me, especially, coming to Boston from Arkansas was a big shock. It was fascinating to see how no one cared about someone’s sexuality—it is the person that matters. We see that change coming throughout “Smash Cut” and we also see the price we paid for it.

Gooch tells us that his relationship with Howard Brookner ranged from “blazing ecstasy to bleakest despair” and his memory of it is “fueled by a panoply of emotions”. These are the same emotions that we have while reading Gooch’s words. We all know that a relationship is based on working together so things are good and Gooch and Brookner had to work at reconciling love and fidelity with the freedom (including sexual freedom) that New York provided. It is very hard to be faithful when there are so many beautiful men around and available and our two found themselves both living together and living apart.

Brad Gooch was more than a writer; he had a brief stint as a model and went to Milan. When he came back to New York, he tried being an artist, It was at this time that our community was threatened with the deadly AIDS epidemic and Brookner was ill with an undiagnosed virus that was later recognized as AIDS. It eventually took him from Brad Gooch and from all of us. We cannot forget that the carefree 70s turned into the fearful 80s and the deadly 90s.

 We cannot look at our story or the stories of others without dealing with the fact that we were living with death everyday and we cannot be allowed to ever forget that AIDS was our Holocaust. AIDS changed us—it took some of our very best and it totally transformed any sense of community we might have had. And while this was happening Brookner was slipping away from Gooch as so many others slipped away from their loved ones. The section of the book where Brookner dies had me bent over in physical pain—his death was not only the end of his physical being but the end of the love he shared. This book ends there but Gooch has bounced back and thank God he did. He wrote this book to show us how it was and what love means. So many others did not have that opportunity or the way with words that we find here. I feel sad after reading it but I feel better for having done so; for not allowing myself to ever forget. (On a personal note—I was in Israel while the AIDS epidemic took over America. We had a few cases but nothing like what was happening in America. In 1989, I came back to the States for a visit and went to my usual haunt—Café Lafitte in Exile in New Orleans. I had been gone for some 18 years and every single person I had known was gone—taken in the prime of their lives).

There are happy moments in the book and there are familiar names and personages from Madonna to Mapplethorpe, Virgil Thomson to Andy Warhol and William Burroughs and there is glamour here. Brookner and Gooch were young, talented, handsome and glamorous like poster boys for an age long gone. Gooch’s memoir is to be treasured and savored like wine fine with candlelight overlooking a wonderful view. We learn that even with all of the beauty that was that we cannot let her guard down ever again.

The era written about here was one of total abandon until it was too late, yet, to be able to write it with such beauty is a special gift and Brad Gooch shares that gift with us and we are so much better for it.

“It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality” by Michelangelo Signorile— The Present and Future of Gay Rights

it's not over

Signorile, Michelangelo. “It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality”, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , 2015.

The Present and the Future of Gay Rights

Amos Lassen

Thing sure are different for the LGBT community in the United States compared to just ten years ago. There is marriage equality all across the country, DOMA has been repealed, almost every Democrat in American government supports gay marriage, people have come out at work and in the athletic arena but, yes there is a “but”, all is not as it looks. Michelangelo Signorile shows us that these changes and the excitement that they bring make the situation very dangerous. Homophobia not only exists but it is a major fact of how we live today. Fundamentalism has been planning a backlash “against LGBT rights and challenges the complacency and hypocrisy of supposed allies in Washington, the media, and Hollywood.”

Signorile presents a “battle plan” for the fights that are yet to come as we continue to move toward equality. We read the stories of those in our community who “have refused to be merely tolerated, or worse, and are demanding full acceptance.” Yet it is not all bleak and there are signs of hope documented here. Schools and communities are discovering new ways to fight bullying, fear and ignorance. Signorile tells us that we cannot allow ourselves to take any of these new rights for granted.

I am sure you have noticed and Signorile reminds us that the media has not stopped giving equal airtime for LGBT haters who openly voice homophobic comments. If others would make the kind of statements that have been made against the LGBT community against another community— Blacks, Latinos, Jews the disabled etc., they would receive the same kind of media space of time yet we see a double standard here in the areas of the defamation of our community.

Signorile also tells us that if the Supreme Court makes same-sex legal in all 50 states there will be a tremendous backlash. This is already evident in some states with business owners refusing to sell and rent property, provide services etc to gay clients and thee are only a few states that have laws protecting the LGBT community. Do we need to be reminded that the state of Arkansas has legislatively taken away any protections for LGBT citizens? (I am so happy not to be living there any longer).

One thing that is certainly noticeable in election campaigns is that many who are running for office as well as politicians have stopped making blatant anti-LGBT remarks and comments publicly yet they do so in an underground manner or include these remarks in legislation on religious freedom.

 We get some astounding statistics here from Signorile. The suicide rate among gay teens is as high as from 30% to 40% even when they have parents who support them and their choices of ways to live. Some 40% of homeless teens are gay. We read that parents who are Christians and evangelical are likely to reject their children.

Looking at education, Signorile suggests that kids in schools need to be taught LGBT history alongside of their other studies. Looking at sports, Signorile says that this is one of the most difficult jobs to deal with as homophobic remarks seem to come with athletics.

The book is filled with statistics and real stories about real people and as usual the author holds nothing back and calls names. Also, as usual, Signorile is controversial and within the LGBT community itself, there will be those who will argue about the way we treat the enemies. However, since the fight is hardly over, we must be aware that

“there are still well-entrenched and powerful opponents of equality who haven’t yet given up the [their] fight.” We are so lucky to have someone like Michelangelo Signorile who continues to fight for us at every opportunity. He “takes special delight in skewering the views of gay conservatives.”

So we might notice that none of this is news yet we do need to be constantly reminded. We should take a hint from the civil rights movement— it was able to make segregation illegal but blacks still suffer discrimination because of their color and this is true especially in specific parts of the country. Although women made some major inroads in the 1960s and 1970s with birth control and the right to abortion, they still face salary discrimination. Right-wing Christian Republicans keep trying to continue to ban acceptance of LGBT people and are also trying to control abortions and birth control. We need to know that we cannot, for a minute, let down our guard.

Even with the positive shift in the nation’s attitude toward acceptance of the LGBT community; there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to understand that change takes time and that we cannot assume that the situation for our community is over. I doubt it will ever be.

 One of the beauties of this book (and there are many) is the factional information about current events in law and in the national attitude towards the LGBT community. The LGBT movement has been one of the great social movements of modern history and there are still a lot of challenges to face. Signorile explains and “exposes the dangerous triumphalism that has taken hold. He reveals the bigotry and bias still deeply embedded in the media, the political establishment, and throughout American culture. And he provides an illuminating, stirring plan of action to vanquish it.”


“An Honest Life: Faithful and Gay” by Geoffrey Hooper— The Struggle

an honest life

Hooper, Gregory. “An Honest Life: Faithful and Gay”, Christian Alternative, 2015.

The Struggle

Amos Lassen

Gregory Hooper shares with us his struggle to discover why he resisted the call to ordination and denial of his homosexuality. He looks carefully at the defenses and pressures from society that caused him to marry and live a lie. In doing so, he condemns the intolerance of society and hypocrisy of the Church yet he lauds the support that some of the bishops gave him. As I read this I kept thinking that we are all aware of homosexuality in the hierarchy of the Church yet I wondered why no one has yet spoken out. I cannot imagine anything worse than being forced to live a life which is being perpetrated in the name of God and by so many others that are doing the same thing. The LGBT community has finally begin to receive liberation and the time has come for the church to admit what is going on within— it is not like we do not know.

Hooper includes personal stories and contributions from others. He does this to show how one journeys to faith is more important to many than sexual identity. I feel it is impossible to separate the two. The highlight of the book comes when author Hooper tells of the wonderful experience is was to experience the love of another man.

Hooper is brutally honest in this memoir as he explores his struggle to affirm his integrity as a married Anglican priest who has to face the ultimate inescapable truth of his same sex orientation. He acknowledges that he is a gay man who has experienced “the complex ambivalence or overt hostility of the external world.” He tells us that family, Church and society come together” to create a context which demands every ounce of his emotional resilience and courage.” Hooper takes us through the different stages of his life including his understanding of priesthood, theology, psychology and therapeutic process. He has maintained commitment to Christian faith in the face of difficulties which continually threaten to undermine almost everything he does.

Hooper exposes the appalling treatment his remarkable ministry has received at the hands of the Church. His story is moving and it is a sensitive look at the Church has managed to marginalize gay clergy. This is a story of faith and faithfulness. Hooper’s account of his life long struggle to be fully human as a gay is an inspiration. We learn of his hopes and his dreams, his joy and his pain and he is not alone.

“The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds” by Martha Feldman— Keeping the Voice

the castrato

Feldman, Martha. “The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds”, University of California Press, 2015.

Keeping the Voice

Amos Lassen

“The Castrato” explores why innumerable boys were castrated for singing between the mid-sixteenth and late-nineteenth centuries. We see that the entire foundation of Western classical singing, culminating in bel canto, came from an unlikely and historically unique set of desires, public and private, aesthetic, economic, and political. In Italy, castration for singing was understood religion; “through the lens of Catholic blood sacrifice as expressed in idioms of offering and renunciation and, paradoxically, in satire, verbal abuse, and even the symbolism of the castrato’s comic cousin Pulcinella”. Sacrifice could not be separated from the system of patriarchy that involved teachers, patrons, colleagues, and relatives. “Castrated males were produced not as nonmen, as often thought nowadays, but as idealized males.” Composers and audiences were captivated audiences by the extraordinary capacities of castrato voices, a phenomenon ultimately unsettled the morality of the Enlightenment. Even though the castrati failed to survive, their musicality and voices have persisted. Below is the table of contents:


Note on Textual Transcription, Translations, Lexicon, and Musical Nomenclature

 PART ONE. Reproduction

  1. Of Strange Births and Comic Kin

Appendix to Chapter 1

  1. The Man Who Pretended to Be Who He Was

 PART TWO. Voice

  1. Red Hot Voice
  2. Castrato De Luxe

 PART THREE. Half-light

  1. Cold Man, Money Man, Big Man Too
  2. Shadow Voices, Castrato and Non





List of Illustrations


“Top 250 LGBTQ Books for Teens: Coming Out, Being Out and the Search for Community” by Michael Cart and Christine A. Jenkins— A Treasure

top 250

Cart, Michael and Christine A. Jenkins. “Top 250 LGBTQ Books for Teens: Coming Out, Being Out and the Search for Community”, IPG Press, 2015.

A Treasure

Amos Lassen

It is so good to have a book that is a summary of the 250 best books for LGBTQ teens. This is written by experts on the subject and addressed to teen book buyers. It identifies titles that address the sensitive and important topics of coming out, being out, and the search for community, this catalog spotlights the best gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and questioning books written for teens.

The authors cover fiction of all kinds, as well as graphic novels and general nonfiction aimed at readers in middle school and high school, and include recent publications as well as classics that continue to be read and enjoyed by 21st-century teens. Information on how to find library programs, services, and additional resources for LGBTQ teens is also provided, making this a one-stop sourcebook for LGBTQ teens, their families, friends, and classmates, as well as teachers and librarians.