Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Unfriending My Ex (And Other Things I’ll Never Do)” by Kim Sotlz— Connecting and Disconnecting

unfriending-my-ex-lg

Stolz, Kim. “Unfriending My Ex (And Other Things I’ll Never Do)”, Simon and Schuster, Scribner, 2014.

Connecting and Disconnecting

Amos Lassen

All of us know about social media and I am fairly sure that all of us use it. What we do not realize is how it has changed what friendship is all about. Think about it. No more fibs or lies because the world is so well connected now. Social media has changed us so much—we do business through it, we meet people, fall in love, break up, develop friendships and so on. We make decisions on what to eat and where to go and we build our identities through social media.

Kim Stolz brings us a very funny and very honest memoir about the online life and how we are so obsessively connected that we are disconnected. Friends are no longer important—it is more important to have followers. I, for one, could not wait until the 5000th person signed up to receive my website. Our of those 5000 people I know maybe 100 of them personally.

Kim Soltz had been a contestant on “America’s Next Top Model” and it was there that some of her identity came into being. (I don’t mean that she did not have an identity before that—it is just social media and reality TV helped to seal it). Soltz can hardly put her phone down she tells us. I know that is, Every time I get on the Boston Consumer Rail all I see are people looking at their phones, their iPads and their computers and sometimes all three at once. No one is speaking except for the very loud girl in the front of the car telling her friend about the great sex she had with this guy she met at Fenway the night before. (Like we have to know this). Stolz remembers how it was before the technological revolution but it is hard to remember that we once actually spoke to each other.

From what I can tell, “Unfriending My Ex (And Other Things I’ll Never Do)” is the first book to looks at social media and documents the humor of it from the inside out. What we see here is a life that has gone through our obsessive relationships with technology. What I love is that the book entertains us as we learn from it and there are several  “oy vey” moments with which we totally identify. Stolz looks at our deficits in empathy that have robbed us of our ability to pay attention for periods of time and yet, even knowing this, we do not dare leave home without our gadgets. I remember when we had to wait for someone to be at home before we could call them and that there were certain times of day that calling was verboten.

Life online is not life—as long as someone can hide behind a screen we never know what honesty is. My big question is why did it take so long for someone to sit down and write this book. The real technological revolution began in 2004 with the iPhone and here it is almost ten years later and this is the only book of its kind.

Anyone younger than 30 lives a life that is preoccupied with digital devices. They spend their time on Facebook and Twitter, constantly gaining new “followers” and becoming “enriched as writers and thinkers”. We have even had a government overthrown by social media so what can be the next horizon?

Stolz shares her digital addiction and how it enslaved her, fraying friendships, and attention spans, and making her and members of her generation less, not more, connected. “Unfriending My Ex” is a slap across the face as an attempt to wake us from our lethargy and to tell us that we need more balance in our lives.

I was so engrossed in reading this that I did not look at my phone more than twice in 15 minutes. We are now in the “me” generation and here we are reminded that it is possible to live without our phones. We also realize that it is okay to laugh at ourselves. Here is what other critics have to say about the book:

 ”As a self-confessed Web-aholic I am well aware that social networks have preyed upon humanity’s innate need to connect, and the result is nothing short of a planetary epidemic of info-addiction. We are not only content to live in the Matrix but are increasingly driven to be a cognitive cog in its functionality. Kim Stolz has the mind of a scientist in the body of Millennial. Her experiences on reality television and MTV have made her something of a Jane Goodall of digital culture: she lives among them, ever observant, to catalog and understand their behavior patterns while attempting to determine the landscape of Mankind’s future. On its present course, the signs seem to indicate ‘not great.’” (Chris Hardwick, host of Comedy Central’s “@midnight” and author of “The Nerdist Way”)

 “From reality show contestant to MTVU VJ to MTV News correspondent to blogger and tireless tweeter, Kim has been at the nexus of all the tech and cultural, um, ‘advances’ that make the 21st century so unique. I’ve always known her to have a keen sense of what makes her generation tick – the good, the bad, and the sometimes kinda ugly. Our endlessly opinionated, notoriety-seeking, web connected world. It’s hard to remember when it wasn’t this way. How did we get here – and where are we headed? Kim Stolz tackles it all in Unfriending My Ex.” (Ruby Rose, TV Personality, MTV VJ)

 “In Unfriending My Ex, Kim Stolz gives us a clear-eyed, exceptionally intelligent look at a phenomenon at once mystifying and unavoidable. The thrall in which social media holds us feels so enchanting, we may be losing control of the most valuable parts of our lives to it. The author, while respectful of both progress and of her generation, seeks to restore that control. Here is the work of a grown-up young woman, hip enough to live successfully in the world as it is, yet thoughtful enough to identify its follies and delusions. If our times may be defined by a smart phone, we should be grateful that Unfriending My Ex is a hell of a lot smarter.” (Roger Rosenblatt, author of Rules for Aging: A Wry and Witty Guide to Life)

 ”[A] lively memoir… [Stolz] investigates and considers the various effects of society’s (and particularly her generation’s) dependency upon technology, finding that texting and smartphones allow chatting without relationship-building, loneliness in spite of keeping in touch, and increased anxiety. (Publishers Weekly)

“Interconnections: Gender and Race in American History” edited by Carol Faulkner and Alison M. Parker— Essays on Race and Gender

interconnections

Faulkner, Carol and Alison M. Parker (editors). “Interconnections: Gender and Race in American History”, University of Rochester Press, 2014.

Essays on Race and Gender

Amos Lassen

In this collection of essays, we see “the critical shortcoming in both feminist scholarship and scholarship on race, namely, a failure to apply intersectionality theory comprehensively. The conception of this collection, as well as the integrity of its central theoretic concern, marks an important intervention”.

The essays here build on decades of interdisciplinary work by historians of African American women as well as scholars of feminist and critical race theory. They bridge the gap between well-developed theories of race, gender, and power and the practice of historical research. This is an examination of how racial and gender identity is constructed from individuals’ lived experiences in specific historical contexts— westward expansion, civil rights movements, or economic depression as well as by national and transnational debates over marriage, citizenship and sexual mores. The essays consider the multiple aspects of identity, including sexuality, class, religion, and nationality, among others, but the main emphasis is on gender and race as the principal bases of identity and locations of power and oppression in American history.



The contributors: Deborah Gray White, Michele Mitchell, Vivian May, Carol Moseley Braun, Rashauna Johnson, Hélène Quanquin, Kendra Taira Field, Michelle Kuhl, Meredith Clark-Wiltz.

We are immediately aware of the amount of research that went into all of the essays and they are a welcome addition to the canon and to history.

“Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America” by Miriam Frank— Queer American Workers, 1960s-2013

out in the union

Frank, Miriam. “Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America”, Temple University Press, 2014.

Queer American Workers, 1960s-2013.

Amos Lassen

Miriam Frank tells us the story of queer workers in America from the mid-60s until 2013. This is a chronicle of labor politics alongside queer activism and identity formation. She shows us how unions began to affirm the rights of its LGBT workers as far back as the 1970s and 1980s. She further documents “coming out on the job and in the union as well as issues of discrimination and harassment, and the creation of alliances between unions and LGBT communities.

The book contains in-depth interviews with LGBT and labor activists thus providing an inclusive history of the coming together of labor and the interests of the LGBT community. We see the importance of the queer caucus in local unions and how it was responsible for the introduction of domestic partner benefits and union-based AIDS education for health care workers-innovations that have been influential across the U.S. workforce. The book also examines organizing drives at queer workplaces, Out in the Union also examines organizing drives, campaigns for marriage equality, and other gay civil rights and these issues show the enduring power of LGBT workers. 

We see here the contributions of the LGBT community to the labor movement as well as the complex challenges that the community faces. We read of the historical process through which the labor and LGBT movements, “at first wary of each other and under unrelenting attack from the political right, gradually developed a lasting alliance”.

Frank reminds us that there are stories and tales in our pasts about unions as it was in that forty year period that gay workers came out, formed caucuses, pushed for and achieved nondiscriminatory policies as well as domestic partnership benefits (through collective bargaining). Our community became a creative force for change in late twentieth-century America. Frank based her study on more than one hundred oral history interviews conducted with unionists two decades ago and she highlights the “likely coalitions that failed and the unlikely coalitions that held”. Below is the table of contents:

Acknowledgments 
A Brief Chronology of LGBT Labor History, 1965–2013

Prologue: Love and Work and Queer Survival

I Coming Out 
1. From Construction to Couture: Coming Out in Unionized Workplaces 
2. Outsiders as Insiders: Sexual Diversity and Union Leadership

II Coalition Politics 
3. From Common Enemies to Common Causes: The Labor Movement and the Gay Movement in Action and Coalition 
4. The Heart of the Matter: Union Politics, Queer Issues, and the Life of the Local

III Conflict and Transformation 
5. Organizing the Gay Unorganized: Talking Union, Talking Queer

Epilogue: When Connie Married Phyllis

Notes 
Bibliography 
Index

“The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business” by Sir John Browne— A Socially Critical Memoir

the glass closet

Browne, John. “The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business, Harper Business, 2014.

A Socially Critical Memoir

Amos Lassen

John Browne was the CEO of BP from 1995 to 2007, which he transformed into one of the world’s largest companies. He was the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and is a fellow of the Royal Society, a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the chairman of the trustees of the Tate galleries. He holds degrees from Cambridge and Stanford Universities, was knighted in 1998, and made a life peer in 2001. In his new book which is part memoir and part social criticism he looks at homophobia that is still pervasive in corporations around the world and underscores the immense challenges faced by LGBT employees. He rattles business leaders by showing this. He uses his own experiences as a source as well as those of prominent members of the LGBT community worldwide. He also has insights here from

well-known business leaders and celebrities. Browne shows why self-disclosure is best for employees even with the involved risks and that this is also good for business at large. He lauds the companies that support their gay employees. He provides us with both inspiration and support and assures us that coming out will not hurt our chances for professional success.

He states, “I wish I had been brave enough to come out earlier during my tenure as the chief executive of BP. I regret it to this day. I know that if I had done so, I would have made more of an impact for other gay men and women. It is my hope that the stories in this book will give some of them the courage to make an impact of their own.”


We are certainly aware there is more acceptance of gay men and women in the Western world and we enjoy greater acceptance and more legal protections than ever before. Nonetheless there is an alarming number of businesspeople that choose to remain closeted at work. Browne argues that whether a person is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or straight, it’s better for him/her and your business when he/she brings his/her authentic self to work.

This is a courageous and thought-provoking call to arms as it demonstrates that the hidden cost of hidden lives is far greater than we have previously thought.

“Homosexuality and the Crisis of Anglicanism” by William L. Sachs— The Crisis and the Chasms

homosexuality:anglicanism

Sachs, William L. “Homosexuality and the Crisis of Anglicanism”, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

The Crisis and the Chasms

Amos Lassen

The conflict over homosexuality in the Anglican Church has caused worldwide interest and divided the church. We know that conflict in Christianity is not new but what we don’t really know always is how it is dealt with. In his new book, William L. Sachs

traces the steps by which the crisis emerged, and reveals the deeper debates within the church that underlie both the current controversy and much earlier splits.. Sachs maintains that the present debate did not begin with opposition to homosexuality or in advocacy of it. He argues that, like past tensions, it starts in the diverging local contexts in which the faith is practiced, and their differing interpretations of authority and communion.

When colonialism came to an end, activists and reformers took on important and prominent roles for and against the status quo of the church. What the crisis reveals is a church that is searching for a new global consensus regarding the appropriate forms of belief and mission.

Sachs provides an extremely readable look at the church in crisis. With the approach that the rift actually began with the Anglican emphasis on local context, he shows that the global consensus is so very necessary if the church is to survive.

“A View from the Bottom: Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation” by Hoang Tan Nguyen— Reassessing Male Effeminancy

a view from the bottom

Nguyen, Hoang Tan, (edited by Lisa Lowe). “A View from the Bottom: Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation”, Duke University Press, 2014.

Reassessing Male Effeminacy

Amos Lassen

Hoang Tan Nguyen reassesses male effeminacy and its radicalization  in Asian and Asian American men in visual representation. The study looks at Hollywood cinema, European art film, gay pornography, and experimental documentary. Nguyen Tan Hoang explores the cultural meanings that are attributed to sexual positions. He shows how cultural fantasies around the position of the sexual “bottom” tend to “over determine and refract the meanings of race, gender, sexuality, and nationality in American culture in ways that both enable and constrain Asian masculinity”. He challenges the association of bottoming with passivity and abjection and suggests ways of thinking about the bottom position that afford agency and pleasure. This is “a more capacious conception of bottomhood as a sexual position, a social alliance, an affective bond, and an aesthetic form and has the potential to destabilize sexual, gender, and racial norms and suggests an ethical mode of relation organized not around dominance and mastery but around the risk of vulnerability and shame”. Looking at being a bottom as a critical category creates new possibilities for arousal, receptiveness, and recognition, and offers a new framework for analyzing sexual representations in cinema as well as understanding their relation to oppositional political projects.



This new look offers a compelling account of the aesthetic, political, and queer possibilities of radicalized forms of ‘bottomhood.’ This book is needed when categorizing the “complex forms of personhood, pleasure, and power that bottomhood braids into the meanings of race, nation, and sexuality.”

“Artist-scholar Nguyen Tan Hoang’s dexterous unpacking of a Hollywood classic, the oeuvre of a gay Asian American porn star, an international art house film, videos by gay Asian artists and the self-representation of online sex sites challenged me to radically rethink the terms and stakes for reconsidering the representation of Asian American masculinity. A profoundly insightful and provocative book.” The table of contents follows:

Preface  ix

Acknowledgments  xi

Introduction  1

1. The Rise, and Fall, of a Gay Asian American Porn Star  29

2. Reflections on an Asian Bottom  71

3. The Lover‘s “Gorgeous Ass”  111

4. The Politics of Starch  151

Conclusion  193

Notes  207

Bibliography  253

Videography  271

Index  275

“After Love: Queer Intimacy and Erotic Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba” by Noelle Stout— Gay in Cuba

after love

Stout, Noelle. “After Love: Queer Intimacy and Erotic Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba”, Duke University Press, 2014.

Gay in Cuba

Amos Lassen

Noelle Stout, an anthropologist, went to Cuba in 2002 to study gay tolerance in the country but instead discovered that the sex trade was the main topic in the LGBT community. Sex work had been done away with after the Communist revolution in Cuba (this included same sex prostitution) became very popular when Cuba allowed tourism to return in the early 1990s. This lead to meetings with Cuban gays and lesbians as well as straight male workers and visitors to the island country. Within the male gay community, many gay Cubans in their 30s and 40s left relationships with other gay men in favor of sex with straight male sex workers. The results threw complications about ideas about true love for those men. Then hustlers who were openly homophobic began having sex with gay urban Cubans in exchange for room and board. Lesbian women  initiated relations with foreign men in exchange for cash and gay tourists

“espoused communist rhetoric while handing out Calvin Klein bikini briefs”. The economy of the country was shifting  and this of course caused questions about the boundaries between labor and love.

Concentrating on Havana, Stout shows that “middle class respectability, socialist rhetoric, consumer desire, and sexual elasticity both mesh and conflict with an increasingly free-for-all market economy, where sex work, foreign tourists, and the looming collapse of the socialist state have transformed life into a froth of difficulty, uncertainty, and possibility.”

This is a study of how love and desire meet socialism and capitalism in communist Cuba. Stout introduces us to men and women whose sexual and intimate choices have emotional and material prices and payoffs. This is not just a study of sexual habits. Etc but it is also a look at the after effects of “political rupture”. Here those after effects deal with economic opportunities, sexual identity and erotic desires. Below is the table of contents of the book:

 Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction. Can’t Be Bought or Sold? Love and Intimacy in the Aftermath of Crisis  1

1. Tolerated, Not Accepted: The Historical Context of Queer Critiques  33

2. A Normal Fag with a Job: The Complicated Desires of Urban Gays  57

3. Tell Me You Love Me: Urban Gay Men Negotiate Commodified Sex  85

4. Smarter Than You Think: Sex, Desire, and Labor Among Hustlers  111

5. Get Off the Bus: Sex Tourism, Patronage, and Queer Commodities  145

Conclusion. Love in Crisis: The Politics of Intimacy and Solidarity  171

Notes  187

Bibliography  207

Index  227

“The Essential Ellen Willis” edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz— Willis’ Voice

the essential ellen willis

Willis, Ellen. “The Essential Ellen Willis”, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz, University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Willis’ Voice

Amos Lassen

When Ellen Willis published “Out of the Vinyl in 2011, a new generation was introduced to a new voice in music criticism. This was just the beginning and in the three years that followed, she wrote about pornography, religion, feminism, war, and drugs.

Now the University of Minnesota has issued “The Essential Ellen Willis”, a collection of her writings that spans forty years and they are as relevant today as when they were written whether they address the women’s movement, sex and abortion, race and class, or war and terrorism. Willis writes with a passion yet she is still ironic, focused and crystal clear. We might call her work “transcendence politics” and along with some of the previously published pieces, we also get a look at writings that was both unpublished and uncollected. The essays are organized by decade from the 1960s to the 2000s and a young writer who shares Willis’ thoughts introduces each section. These writers include Irin Carmon, Spencer Ackerman, Cord Jefferson, Ann Friedman, and Sara Marcus. The book also contains her unfinished book about politics and it is introduced by Willis’ longtime partner, Stanley Aronowitz. This is an invaluable look at American society since the 1960s and it is a testament to an iconoclastic and fiercely original thinker who said what she thought.

“Ellen Willis (1941–2006) was the first rock critic for the New Yorker, an editor and columnist at the Village Voice, and cofounder of the radical feminist group Redstockings. Her writing appeared in numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and the Nation. She established the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University and wrote Beginning to See the Light and No More Nice Girls as well as Don’t Think, Smile! Her award-winning posthumous collection of rock criticism, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music, was published in 2011 by the University of Minnesota Press”.

Willis came of age in the 60s and she remained a cultural radical her entire life. Her book here is, in effect,  is an argument for a new political movement, one of liberation that takes its cultural demands seriously like it does its economic demands; a movement that not only recognizes but believes in “equality and freedom, [and that] class and culture as ineluctably linked.”

Willis wanted to see humanity deal with its messiest, wildest parts and do it kindly—and in public. “She wanted us to stop hiding behind prudish standards and voice our true desires, sexual, social, occupational, or otherwise. In her mind, the pursuit of pleasure is not a distraction from political movement but a powerful motivator for it”. She felt that the rise of the Christian Right was due to the left’s inability to accept, embrace, and welcome our desires as legitimate: “What if the left had consistently argued that the point of life is to live and enjoy it fully; that genuine virtue is the overflow of happiness, not the bitter fruit of self denial; that sexual freedom and pleasure are basic human rights?”

“Willis was a  thinker who could make decades-old ideas feel new. Her questions about the left’s tendency to follow the right’s lead on the tired tropes of bootstraps and sacrifice read like they could have been asked yesterday. No doubt we’ve made important progress in the realm of marriage equality and sexual freedom, yet the point is no less relevant. The gay marriage question has only moved toward resolution as it becomes increasingly framed as a question of family values; don’t gay people have the right to live in nuclear families like the rest of us?”

Willis was a great critic—she was sophisticated, learned and courageous and her writing is still as relevant as ever.

“Hustlers” by Eve Fowler— Los Angeles, Young Men

hustlers

Fowler, Eve. “Hustlers”. Capricious 2014.

Los Angeles, Young Men

Amos Lassen

“Hustlers” is a photographic series taken by Los Angeles-based artist Eve Fowler (born 1964) on the streets of the West Village in New York and Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles between 1993 and 1998. Fowler looks at “queerness” and “social otherness” as she explores the world of guys who get paid for sex. The models are not identified—the photos are not titled yet intimate and we see the ambiguities of identity, class, sexuality and gender. These come together to let us see the hustler as sexual outlaw, guys who seem semi dangerous. The photos are actually quite stark and this shows us why they seem so attractive as they are. We are forced to view the face as interpreted, vulnerable and masculine.

hust1

By the time of the late 1990s, hustlers were on the decline and those that were still “working” were less attractive than what was there once. The Internet changed the world’s oldest profession.

John Rechy introduces to hustlers in his autobiographical novel, “Numbers” and this opened the door for others to follow. Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, John Schlesinger, Bruce LaBruce, and Rick Castro brought hustlers or rent boys forward.

hust2

Along with the photos is an essay by Kevin Killian.

“The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasy: How to Have Incredible Sex with Role Play, Sex Games, Erotic Massage, BDSM and More” by Violet Blue— Making Fantasies Come True

the ultimate guide

Blue, Violet. “The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasy: How to Have Incredible Sex with Role Play, Sex Games, Erotic Massage, BDSM and More”, Cleis Press, 2014.

Making Fantasies Come True

Amos Lassen

Whenever you see the name Violet Blue on the cover of a book, you know that you are going to get a good and sexy read and what’s more that you are going to learn something that will improve your sex life. In this new volume we learn how to make sexual fantasies come true—ideas for an imaginative sex life. Blue gives us all we need to know to learn our

“lover’s secret fantasies; engage in hot, dramatic role-play without feeling silly; have a threesome-without jealousy; explore sex parties and swinging; have sex in public; create thrilling S&M scenarios; make their own porn and erotic photos; and strip, give lap dances, and talk dirty”.

We also have “comprehensive lists of the most popular fantasies and fetishes complete and not only suggestions for props, toys, and costumes  but also where to buy them, racy sex games for lovers, expert help for deciding just how far to take your fantasies, and hot new stories by best-selling erotica author Alison Tyler.

One of the great pastimes of Americans is sexual fantasy—many of us fantasize every day. Here Violet Blue tells us how to make these fantasies become true and she maintains that some of the older books on the market don’t include all we need to do this. Every fantasy here can be copied or adapted for our own use. This is an encyclopedia of sexual fun that is also a pleasure to read and it makes you sit up and take notice. Below are the special points offered here:

• Learn your lover’s secret fantasies

• Role-play: hot, dramatic sex without feeling silly

• Comprehensive lists of the most popular fantasies and fetishes-complete with suggestions for props, toys, and costumes (and where to buy them)

• Expert help for deciding just how far to take your fantasies

If this is all it takes to improve our sex live, all of us should a copy right away.