Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“The Family Next Door: The Adventures of Two Dads and Their Daughter” by Kevin Montgomery-Duban— Two Dads and a Daughter

the family next door

Montgomery-Duban, Kevin. “The Family Next Door: The Adventures of Two Dads and Their Daughter”, Kevin Montgomery, 2015.

Two Dads and a Daughter

Amos Lassen

In 1992 Dennis and Kevin had been together for 10 years as a gay couple. Three different people during one week suggested that they become parents; something neither man had really ever thought about and this inspired them to begin a new journey. Kevin Montgomery-Duban shares how they conceived, reared and loved their daughter into adulthood and how she is now sharing her passion to change the world.

At the time the two men decided to have a child, this was a new idea for many in the LGBT community. We read their compelling story and fell what they went through to bring their Chelsea into the world. The story here is one of love and the challenge of parenting as well as a beautifully written memoir about family.

“Now What?: For Families with Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Children” by Rex Butt— Looking at Gender Variance in the Home

now what

Butt, Rex. “Now What?: For Families with Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Children”, 2013.

Looking at Gender Variance in the Home

Amos Lassen

Now that the transgender movement is full steam ahead, people are looking for reading material about handling a family member who is gender non-conforming. While there are many books on the subject, what is missing are books about families and dealing with a trans-family member. “Now what?” is one book that helps to fill that gap.

It provides a comprehensive approach to the issues and challenges that families must confront. Author Rex Butt defines terms, discusses options, names resources, explains the history of gender variance and looks at the issues that families deal with. The book is practical in the way it discusses issues and it looks at the issues for people of all ages. Perhaps the most important thing that we have here is it totally relatable as it deals with the major emotions of parents— confusion, anxiety, fear, frustration and guilt that are a major part of the entire issue and it does so in ways that easy to read and understand. Butt’s discussion of coming out makes issues that once seemed to be complex easier to understand. Chapter Three alone is worth the cost of the book with its definition of terms and their usefulness will make a contribution on its own. There are extensive reading lists provided. Concepts about family are wonderfully explained and Butt also deals extensively with the blame game.

The emphasis is on communication – both with the child and with others and since when a child transitions, many are affected.

“Love Wins” by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell— Behind the Scenes

love wins

Cenziper, Debbie and Jim Obergefell. “Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality”, William Morrow, 2016.

Behind the Scenes

Amos Lassen

Most of us never expected to see gay marriage being legal in this country. Now we know that there was a great deal of work done behind the scenes so that this would happen and “Love Wins” introduces us to the lovers, lawyers, judges and activists behind the groundbreaking Supreme Court case that brought about one of the most important, national civil rights victories in decades.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law in all fifty states. Here we go behind the scenes of that decision. At the center of it all was the case of “Obergefell v Hodges” and most of us knew very little, if anything, bout it. and the lives at its center. Twenty years ago, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur fell in love in Cincinnati, Ohio. At that time Ohio was a place where gays were routinely picked up by police and fired from their jobs. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had to provide married gay couples all the benefits offered to straight couples. Jim and John (who was dying from ALS) flew to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal and were married there. But back home, Ohio refused to recognize their union, or even list Jim’s name on John’s death certificate. Al Gerhardstein, a courageous attorney who had spent nearly three decades advocating for civil rights and who now saw an opening for the cause that few others had before him.

This is the story about how a grieving man and his lawyer worked against tremendous odds to introduced the most important gay rights case in this country’s history. This true story is one of law and love and a promise made to a dying man who wanted to know how he would be remembered changed this country forever.

“The Spartacus International Hotel Guide, 2016”— Where to Stay

spar

“The Spartacus International Hotel Guide, 2016”

Where to Stay

Amos Lassen

Once again at the beginning of this year’s travel and holiday season the editorial team has spared no effort checking out all listed hotels, resorts and other lodging in the new guide. The result is the brand new 15th edition of the Spartacus International Hotel Guide 2016 

The current guide offers information – as in the previous guides – with an extensive selection of photos. More than 900 hotels in 85 countries were checked. This guarantees the gay travellers open-minded owners and staff as well as secure accommodation. The extensive research of all properties makes this popular guide almost unrivalled; a variety of carefully researched facts, up-to-date reviews and especially valuable insider tips simplify the gay holiday feeling!

In the new edition the proven pictogram system helps the reader to get the important information easily, quickly and clearly. The bilingual guide, with a multilingual introduction, is popular worldwide and combines crisp information texts with high quality colour photography. Each entry offers information on prices, opening and season dates, as well as full address and contact details.

Particularities:

  • The only guide with gay and gay-friendly accommodations worldwide
  • Various discounts offered to SPARTACUS readers
  • Many properties feature photos, giving a better impression
  • Useful facts such as room rates and breakfast times
  • Introduction and general information in 5 different languages
  • Unique pictograms give further information at a glance
  • English and German texts describe the benefits for the gay traveler

“Against Citizenship: The Violence of the Normative” by Amy L. Brnadzel—Hypocrisies and Oppression

aganst Citizenship

Brandzel, Amy L. “Against Citizenship: The Violence of the Normative”, University of Illinois Press, 2016.

Hypocrisies and Oppression

Amos Lassen

In “Against Citizenship”, author Amy L. Brandzel shows that “that there is nothing redeemable about citizenship, nothing worth salvaging or sustaining in the name of ‘community,’ practice, or belonging”. According to Brandzel, citizenship is a dehumanizing mechanism that is violent and “makes the comparative devaluing of human lives seem commonsensical, logical, and even necessary”. She further argues that “whenever we work on behalf of citizenship, whenever we work toward including more types of peoples under its reign, we inevitably reify the violence of citizenship against nonnormative others”.

Brandzel’s focuses on three legal case studies–same-sex marriage law, hate crime legislation, and Native Hawaiian sovereignty and “racialization” and in doing so she exposes how citizenship confounds and obscures the mutual processes of settler colonialism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Therefore, she argues that citizenship requires “anti-intersectionality” or strategies that deny the mutuality and contingency of race, class, gender, sexuality, and nation–and how, oftentimes, progressive left activists and scholars follow suit. Her book therefore is an impassioned plea for a queer, decolonial, anti-racist coalitional stance against the systemized human de/valuing and anti-intersectionalities of citizenship.

The importance of what she says will make this an important book for queer and feminist theory of its generation. Brandzel unites feminist and queer studies with critical ethnic studies and critical Indigenous studies to present a model for the kind of intersectional analysis required to understand and challenge the violence of normativities. She

exposes the “irredeemable violence’s” of U.S. citizenship and brings together “case studies that are rarely considered within the same frame”. She documents the violence of anti-intersectional politics, epistemologies, and citizenship practices within cases of hate crime legislation, same-sex marriage, and the tensions between civil rights and indigenous rights and effectively argues that the politics of alliance requires activisms against US citizenship and it has been constructed through a process of human devaluing.

“You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death, and Transition” by Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolboom— Two Artists

you only live twce

Joynt, Chase and Mike Hoolboom. “You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death, and Transition”, (Exploded Views), Coach House Books, 2016.

Two Artists

Amos Lassen

 “You Only Live Twice” looks at explores two artists’ lives before and after transitions: from female to male, and from near dead to alive. There are those among us who believe that we live more than once. Some have religious reasons for saying so—-think how many times you have heard people say that they were looking forward to spending their other lives with Jesus. Here we meet artists Chase Joynt,

trans writer and media artist Chase Joynt and HIV-positive movie artist Mike Hoolboom. They come together over the films of Chris Marker to exchange transition tales, confessional missives that map out the particularities of occupying what they call ‘second lives’: Chase’s transition from female to male and Mike’s near-death from AIDS. The two bring together cultural theory with memoir and media analysis and the reader is asked intimate questions about what it might mean to find love and hope through conversation across generations.

The two men give each other space to tell important stories of each other’s life to someone who is attentive and wants to listen. Even more than they—they are impassioned to hear each other. What we as readers get is a gift—an exchange that is

“nuanced, idiosyncratic, finely rendered examination of biopolitical experiences which, in many ways, define our times”. Their words are poetry as they speak about their second lives and the new possibilities they find. The prose that we read is strong and filled with surprises. It is like watching a ballet filled with grace and style. The two met in Paris at Orly Airport for an impromptu gathering on the day that Chris Marker died. The two had been pen pals that had come to pass because of their feelings for Marker and something beautiful came out of that. It is no matter that you do not know who Chris Marker is or was because you will learn through what you read not only about Marker but also about Joynt and Hoolboom. Their stories are told with beauty and love and we are the benefactors of that.

“The unspoken promise was that in our second life we would become the question to every answer, jumping across borders until they finally dissolve. Man and woman. Queer and straight”.

“Since Time Began: The Truths and the Myths About Sexual Orientation” by Virginia Scchroeder Burnham in collaboration with William H. Hampton—- Setting the Record Straight

since time began

Burnham, Virginia Schroeder and William H. Hampton. “Since Time Began: The Truths and the Myths About Sexual Orientation”, Sunstone, 2016.

Setting the Record “Straight”

Amos Lassen

Virginia Schroeder Burnham looks at both the individual and cultural dilemma of homosexuality by using information that was taken from research and personal interviews. She offers insights into this controversial issue to ”set the record straight” about one of the most misunderstood aspects of the human experience. Not only does she define “homosexuality” the term, analyzes the studies, shows the reaction of society to gay people, discusses if sexual orientation can be changed writes about the political impact of gay people ands gives us a look at the gay experience. She is also the author of five other books.

Burnham discusses different kinds of sexuality that some men and women have and shares what it is like to be a gay man in both life and in sexuality. There is a section entitled “Gays I Know” that is made up of personal interviews.           

“Not Just Another Pretty Face” edited by Louis Flint Ceci— Stories, Poems and Essays

not just another pretty face

Ceci, Louis Flint. “Not Just Another Pretty Face”, (with photography by Dot), Beautiful Dreamer Press, 2016.

Stories, Poems and Essays

Amos Lassen

Several years ago, I met Louis Ceci at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. He was something of a new author having just published his first book, “Comfort Me”, and I was lucky enough to be asked to review it. I still remember what an interesting and well-written read it was. Five or six years passed and I forgot about that book until recently when I received a copy of “Not Just Another Pretty Face” that Ceci has edited. And just be reading his introduction (or “Frontpiece”) as it is called here, I was taken momentarily back to that first book and I was surely glad that Ceci is still writing.

“Not Just Another Pretty Face” is a collection of stories, poems, and essays that have a single common element  that unites them— all of the writing is the result of looking at photographs of go-go boys that were taken by photographer named Dot.  Looking at the table of contents I feel that I am going to reunite with some old friends and make some new ones and the twenty-five entries are evenly divided between authors that I am familiar with— Lewis de Simone, Salome Wilde, Trebor Healy, Rob Rosen, Raymond Luczak, Jim Provenzano, David Platt, Stephen Mead, Jeff Mann, “Nathan Burgoine, Vinton Rafe McCabe, Daniel Allen Cox and Michael Carroll and some that I either I do not remember reading before or whom I have never read before— Richard Michaels, Elizabeth J. Colen and Carol Guess, Gregory L. Norris, Mark Ward, Mike McClelland, Miodrag Kojadinovic, Alan Martinez, Eric Schuckers, Miles Griffs, Jim Metzger, Jonathan Lay and Richard Wilde Lopez.

I often have problems reviewing anthologies and that is because I am torn between reviewing each selection as a separate piece and yet part of a whole or simply reviewing the entire book as a single unit. I am still not sure what I will do here….I am going to let my thoughts direct me. Of this I am sure—the entire book gets five stars not just because of the idea that propelled it but because there are so many good pieces of writing in it. (It would be so easy to stop writing right here and tell you to go out and get a copy but that is not fair).

Twenty-three photos of male go-go dancers are the basis for stories, poems, essays, and drama by twenty-seven authors and we get revealing unexpected mysteries, romance, fantasy, and humor.

Let’s face it—there is something very erotic about a go go boy yet there is also something very sad about him. On one had, he exhibits a sense of cockiness and self assurance as if to say, “I know who I am and I know am hunky and good-looking. All you have to do is adore and worship me for what I represent. On the other hand, if the go go boy is so hot and so good looking, what is he doing hustling for cash in a gay bar. While he represents erotic near-perfection, we sometimes see him as lost or broken and in our fantasies, we can save him while we think he is sexually interested in us. We want to be the focus of his sexual desire even though we know that is probably an impossibility. What we read in these selections show us the go go boy as not only and not always a object to be adored but also as fun, sarcastic, ironic, full of play, ominous and fearful. They are not the paragons that they make us think that they are and they have stories waiting to be told by the authors in this anthology. After all, in imagination, everything is possible. We see that what is projected is not always what is. Just as they project on us, we also project on them. Using the reader as the concept of everyman, these selections look at what we assume, what we feel, what are our fantasies and what can we see about ourselves as we see a go go boy gyrate. We go best the stereotype and the archetype to learn about ourselves as we learn about go go boys. I learned reading Ceci’s first novel that there are philosophies grounded in his writing and he has passed that on to his contributors and we see that each entry has something to say. Each writer responds to a photograph of a go go boy. Because they are near nude when we see them, we understand that go go boys have nothing to hide. This is where the stories pick up— if by any reason whatsoever, we could become part of the dancer’s world, would we find more than what we see on the stage?

The photographs that the entries are based upon take the boy out of the go go and then invite us to explore what we see and I am sure that there are those who know or, at least, can guess what they will find. But that is not what you will find here. Because we have such a wide diversity of writers here, so shall we have a wide diversity of what they find as they explore the guy in the photo. The only thing that were told to do was to follow where the photo tasks them. As a result we are told about things we could not have possibly expected and I found this to be true of writers I had read before. It is the diversity and variety of the stories that keeps us reading and looking for the story that is the most relevant to what the reader is looking for. We got beyond go go bars and go go boys and the entire experience is rewarding.

Eventually I will write about each selection but for now I am only giving an overview—when I am ready to do some more investigations, I want other readers to challenge what I have written.

“Isaac Mizrahi” edited by Chee Perlman— Three Views

isaac mizrahi

Pearlman, Chee (editor). “Isaac Mizrahi”, Yale University Press. 2016.

Three Views

Amos Lassen

Isaac Mizrahi’s first fashion collection in 1986 was met with critical acclaim and that is still true today. In this new book, we have his signature couture collections beautifully illustrated and lavishly presented. We see him here as classic yet inventively re-imagined. Mizrahi pioneered the concept of “high/low” in fashion, and was the first high-end fashion designer to create an accessibly priced mass-market line. He also approached other complex issues through his designs, as well—mixing questions of beauty and taste with those of race, religion, class, and politics. 

While Mizrahi is best known for his clothing, his work in theater, film, and television is also explored in this new volume and with it we get a fascinating discourse on high versus low, modern glamour and contemporary culture. Three essayists, Ulrich Lehmann, Kelly Taxter and Lynn Yaeger discuss Mizrahi’s place in fashion history, his close connection to contemporary art, and the nature of his designs. New photography brings life to Mizrahi’s fashions and an interview with him gives an intimate perspective to his work in diverse media.

My only complain here is that the book ended before I had enough Mizrahi. The book ties in beautifully to the Mizrahi retrospective of the designers work currently at the Jewish museum in NYC. This is a very fine way to acquaint new fashionistas that came after his couture discontinued in 1998. The pieces selected here showcase Mizrahi’s iconoclastic view on fashion but furthermore emphasize his mastery in the usage of bold color.

“The Tricky Part: A Boy’s Story of Sexual Trespass, a Man’s Journey to Forgiveness” by Martin Moran— Facing His Abuser

the tricky part

Moran, Martin. “The Tricky Part: A Boy’s Story of Sexual Trespass, a Man’s Journey to Forgiveness”, Beacon Press, 2016.

Facing His Abuser

Amos Lassen

When Martin Moran was just twelve-years-old, he was involved in a sexual relationship with an older man that he met at a Catholic boy’s camp. Some thirty years later, he was determined to find that man and face him. This is the story of this relationship and how it effected the man Moran became. Herein lies the paradox in that what we think of as damage may be the very thing that gives rise to transformation.

Moran lived in Denver and everyone in his neighborhood saw him as a studious Catholic boy. No one knew that he had a secret that would fester for 30 years and lead to extreme anxiety, sexual compulsion and suicide attempts. Bob, a church camp counselor was in his 30s when Moran met him. For several years, Bob took Moran hiking and camping, and had sex with him. Moran shares “the inner workings of a lonely, insecure adolescent who, out of a desperate need for friendship and acceptance, continued a sexual relationship with a man 20 years his senior”. He felt guilty and was filled with shame because of this and he lived a life in which the erotic and the illicit came together and compulsive sex became his way of self-punishment.

Today Moran is a writer and actor who has managed to glean bits of guidance and self-acceptance. Unlike other books about abuse/recovery/coming-out memoirs, Moran examines a uniquely gay mind/body split while subtly reflecting on a gay man’s spiritual quest for self-determination and love.

He describes his gradual addiction to sex without love that he still sees repeated in his brief sexual trysts in parks and restrooms even though he has been with his partner, Henry of fifteen years. He writes of enjoying the concealment from friends and parents of his involvement with Bob. He shares how he thought of suicide when he felt that he was overpowered by the affair. Eventually he came upon acting and then joined a men’s support group for survivors of sexual abuse and he tells about “how much energy it takes in the present to continually dismiss the past.”

Catholicism plays a major role in the book. We read of the years of pain, depression and confusion overtook him yet he d as a well-balanced man who was able to face his abuser and in some ways this became a source of healing and forgiveness for the man who stole his youth.

We see the various ways he has wrestled with what happened and we rejoice when he discovers his gifts and talents. He tells us about maturing and when he realized that he was a man with compulsions that were ruining his life. He tells us how he became aware of his sexuality and how he was able to separate his sexual preference as the reason he was abused in the first place. This took over thirty years during which inner pain and struggles were almost unbearable.

There is real irony here when we consider that conservative Christians point to predatory “recruitment” to condemn gays and Catholic church refuses to recognize the gay man, Moran clearly shows his sexual orientation had nothing to do with his molestation but he was abused by a practicing Catholic. This is not an easy book to read because of the emotions it touches but it is a very important read. It is beautifully written and heartbreaking at times but then so is life.

It is really sad to read how much Bob used Moran and played on his need for a friend. As Moran grows older and stops seeing Bob he finds himself replicating Bob’s behavior patterns–not molesting kids, but developing an addiction to anonymous sex even though he has a partner who loves him. We are challenged to find ways to listen to abused children and help them as well as to stop religious and educational institutions from continuing this abuse.

The book is positive and hopeful throughout, even in the scenes where the author confronts his abuser. Moran shares the edifying influences he had in his life and to leave room for redemption and grace. Moran’s struggle to understand his identity in light of childhood abuse is an amazing and beautiful story.