Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

2015 Stonewall Book Awards announced

2015 Stonewall Book Awards announced

By Peter Coyl

The 2015 Stonewall Book Awards were announced yesterday and today by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago.

The Stonewall Book Awards – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award, part of the ALA Youth Media Awards, was presented to “This Day in June,” written by Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D., illustrated by Kristyna Litten and published by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association.

Three Honor Books for Children and Young Adults were selected:

  • *“Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” by Susan Kuklin, photographed by Susan Kuklin.
  • “I’ll give you the sun,” written by Jandy Nelson, published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
  • “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress,” written by Christine Baldacchio, pictures by Isabelle Malenfant, published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press.

The Stonewall Book Awards – Barbara Gitting Literature Award was presented to “Prelude to Bruise” by Saeed Jones  and published by Coffee House Press.

Four Honor Books in Literature were selected:

  • “Frog Music” written by Emma Donoghue and published by Little, Brown and Company.
  • “Bitter Eden” written by Tatamkhulu Afrika and published by Picador.
  • *“The Two Hotels Francfort” written by David Leavitt and published by Bloomsbury.
  • “My Real Children” written by Jo Walton and published by Tor Books.

The Stonewall Book Awards – Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award was presented to *“Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslims” written by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle and published by New York University Press.

Four Honor Books in Non-Fiction were selected:

  • *“Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More” written by Janet Mock and published by Atria Books.
  • *“Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity” written by Robert Beachy and published by Knopf.
  • *“Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS” written  by Martin Duberman and published by The New Press.
  • “Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America” written by Rachel Hope Cleves and published by Oxford University Press.

For more information about the Stonewall Book Awards, please visit

“Candy Darling: Memoirs of an Andy Warhol Superstar” by Candy Darling— Andy Warhol’s Muse

candy darling

Darling Candy. “Candy Darling: Memoirs of an Andy Warhol Superstar”, Open Road Media, 2015.

Andy Warhol’s Muse

Amos Lassen

Many of us did not know what to make of The Factory that was located in the middle of New York City’s downtown. It was Andy Warhol’s studio where his assembly line produced films, books, art, and Interview magazine. It became the heart, brain, eyes, and soul of all things Warhol—and was, famously, the site of the assassination attempt that nearly took his life. But it also produced people— a subculture of “Factory denizens known as superstars, a collection of talented and ambitious misfits, the most glamorous and provocative of whom was the transgender pioneer Candy Darling.”

 Candy Darling was born James Slattery in Queens in 1944 and raised on Long Island. He began developing a female identity as a young child and carefully imitated the female stars of Hollywood’s golden age. By the time he was twenty, he was transformed into Candy, embodying the essence of silver-screen femininity, and in the process became her true self. Warhol found Darling to be irresistible, and cast her in his films Flesh and Women in Revolt turning her into the superstar she was born to be. In this book, Darling gives us a look at what it was like to be transgender at a time when the gay rights movement was coming into its own. Darling has quite a wit that inspired many including Tennessee Williams, Lou Reed, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol. She made an indelible mark on American cinema and culture and in these, her memoirs, we see a talented and tragic heroine who was taken away from us far too soon. Darling died from lymphoma in 1974 and was not yet thirty years old. She had been a huge advocate on trans gender issues.

“Andy Warhol: A Biography” by Wayne Koestenbaum— The Visionary

andy warhol

Koestenbaum, Wayne. “Andy Warhol: A Biography”, Open Road Media, 2015.

The Visionary

Amos Lassen

Wayne Koestenbaum’s Andy Warhol is both sad and heroic too as well as a man who is brave, patient, energetic and devoted to his work of making things. However, above all else we see Warhol as a visionary. He created portraits of the rich and of the famous and he was one of the most incendiary people in the culture of this country. He was a celebrity in his own right and was loved by many and hated by some. One thing we cannot deny, however, is that he revolutionized the art world.

We remember him as a man with silver hair and glasses and as a man who did paintings of soup cans and Brillo boxes yet because his art was so controversial he was able to get big bucks by selling it.

Warhol was a mystery. He loved to party yet he lived with his mother. He was, says Koestenbaum, “an inarticulate man who was a great aphorist, an artist whose body of work sizzles with sexuality but who considered his own body to be a source of shame.”

Koestenbaum looks at Warhol’s life and examines the roots of Warhol’s aesthetic vision. He shows us the hidden sublimity of Warhol’s provocative films and the pain the man carried. He covers all of Warhol’s career— films, paintings, books, “Happenings” and then gives us a provocative look at he who has been called “pop art’s greatest icon.” We see Warhol through his heart and through his mind and we learn of the impulses that made him the man that he became.

“Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen” by Arin Andrews— A Transgender Teen

some assembly required

Andrews, Arin. “Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen”, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.

A Transgender Teen

Amos Lassen

All of us have at some time felt uncomfortable as to who we are. Arin Andrews did also and when he was just seventeen he underwent gender reassignment while still in high school. He shares that with us in this poignant memoir. Seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student in this winning memoir. We are taken on is journey from female to male while he was a junior in high school.

The first thing we learn is his decision he made that was going to change his life forever as he explains the challenges he faced as a girl, the humiliation and anger he felt after getting kicked out of his private school, and all the changes—both mental and physical—he experienced once his transition began. We are reminded that “self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.”

 Andrews was always happy to be called a tomboy as a child; even though his body was that of a female, he felt like a boy, and his mother’s insistence that he wear dresses and take part in pageants was painful. His first girlfriend, a lesbian, helped him become aware of the fluidity of gender and sexuality and realize that it wasn’t so bad to be different. His mother, however, his mother saw his girlfriend as a terrible influence and forbade her child from seeing her. Andrews became depressed and harbored suicidal thoughts. He was plagued with questions of who he was and why did he always feel out of place. Then he saw a video on YouTube video that introduced him to the idea of being transgender. With the help of a family therapist specializing in gender dysphoria and an adolescent LGBT support group, Andrews began the journey toward transition and taking on his true identity.

Now he has decided to write it all down and he does candidly and bravely. This is a nonfiction account from an actual transgender teen author and while the tone tends to be journalistic and not so personal, the book has a lot to say. The reader gets a sense of what being transgender really feels like and we admire Andrews’ determination to live he way he feels he should.

Andrews was named Emerald when he was born and at a very young age and was reborn into his true self, Arin. I have always had a rough time understanding transgender issues especially with regard to my own nephew who had been born as my niece.

Reading this book really opened my eyes as it discusses modern society and that we must learn to accept people who were born into a body that they feel is wrong. was a giant eye-opener into our modern society and how we can learn to accept people who were just born in the wrong body.

Arin does not hold anything back and he is an excellent writer at a very young age. It is his sincerity that makes this such an interesting and educational read.

“Young Man From The Provinces: A Gay Life Before Stonewall” by Alan Helms— A Sex Object

young man from the provinces

Helms, Alan. “Young Man From The Provinces: A Gay Life Before Stonewall, University of Minnesota Press Reprint, 2003.

A Sex Object

Amos Lassen

In 1955, Alan Helms left his childhood home in the Midwest for New York. He was young, intelligent, and handsome. He was not granted a Rhodes scholarship because he was gay but he soon became an object of desire in a gay underground scene frequented by, Noel Coward, Leonard Bernstein and Marlene Dietrich, among others. Here he shares with is what it was like being a sex object and its psychological and physical toll. He was a privileged guy but he was also self-destructive and the height of his career he was “the most celebrated young man in all of gay New York.” The Manhattan of the 1950s and ’60s embraced him as a “universal type,” or “someone everybody wants.” He was photographed by Avedon, directed by Edward Albee and pursued by any number of men. Repudiating the drab miseries of his Indiana boyhood, Helms pursued those who pursued him: his more celebrated lovers included Anthony Perkins, Larry Kert and Luchino Visconti. Leonard Bernstein wooed him ardently, and chum Noel Coward helped Helms reconcile with a lover. But the relationships were doomed to fall apart. Helms had been held high by adoration, alcohol and drugs but he soon crashed because of his excessive lifestyle that resulted in bulimia; alcoholism; joylessness and promiscuity. He became a college professor and did counseling with from the Harvard psychologist Robert Coles. As he grew older, Helms was better able to distance himself from the past. His name-dropping has more charm than the somber self-reproaches that accompany his sobriety. And he saw himself as a “D” student ion the school of life.

His memoir is poignant and picaresque and it vividly captures with humor and insight the chronicle of his journey: unhappiness of his abusive, alcoholic family life in Indianapolis and an overwhelming need for acceptance that seemingly was fulfilled by his becoming a regular in the world of the beautiful people. His careers as a model, actor, and writer were aborted.

The names he drops here should interest all of us—at least all of us in Helms’ age group. He tells us about his friends and lovers but not in a gossipy way; in fact, I would say that he is restrained in what he tells us. His prose is lyrical and his stories are fascinating—he is the kind of guy we want to meet but rarely do. Perhaps now that I am in Boston and so is he this could happen. I remember reading this when it first came out and I would dream of a life like the one Helms led.

Helms tells us what it was like to live as a young, attractive gay man living in New York in the 1950s and ’60s. For Alan Helms, it was glamorous, sexy and intriguing but that is only part of his story. He experienced some extraordinary things, but his search for self-awareness and ordinary happiness is one many gay men will recognize. find familiar and insightful. In the first third of the book we get a powerful story of abuse and a lonely childhood. This is followed by his telling us of his glamorous period and he does so with discretion. but even there, the author is discreet about details–disappointingly discreet, perhaps, to some readers. The only names he drops are those that are necessary to establish the author’s credentials. He did not write this book to record social highlights or sexual high jinks, but to share his evolving thoughts and feelings. In the final third of the book we get the story of his crash and hitting bottom and his efforts to come to terms with who he was/could be, and to build a new adult life.

I found that the memoir seesawed between Helms’s agonies and ecstasies. He was a man with deep wounds who was totally unprepared for life in New York City. Even with the drugs and the alcohol, sex and travel, he felt empty and suffered, from insomnia, bulimia, and suicidal thoughts. The ecstasy was the thrill of that same lifestyle. The temptations surrounding him were thrilling and irresistible but they cost him. He was lucky to survive all his excesses; many of his contemporaries did not. Some of his recovery was due to that nascent part of him; he wanted to be whole and sought out therapy, a twelve-step program, and a teaching career outside New York. A lot of this was simply to do with the result of the diminishing opportunities that come with middle age. We see that so many of the forces that compel us through life are not those that we choose: family background, sexual orientation, our physical and intellectual capabilities, the era in which we come of age all greatly influence how we live. We see that in Helms’ case, we never get enough what we really do not need. Helms had the courage, grace and luck, and learned to live a life that is more authentic and he came to respect himself afterwards. He brings together the emotions that go together with homosexuality, alcoholism, substance abuse and even aging. The memoir is written with elegance, something you would not think to find in the biography of a man like Helms.

This is a book that dares to discuss what being an object is like. We put people on high pedestals and that means that whatever they do, they are liable to be judged. In this in-depth look at what a man of intelligence went through as a object is frank, sweet, unusual and hopeful. We can also learn something here.

Helms had been the most attractive and sexiest gay man in New York but he was also an emotional wreck but few people know that about him. The abusive childhood is only a part of it. He was considered a sinner, a criminal, and mentally (usually at the same time). We just have to consider how we would react if others thought us to be dirt. It was Helms’ beauty that led him into the roller-coaster life that he lived in New York; yet we must remember that beauty fades and he had to deal with his lost looks and to try to find a way to lead a normal life. He was lucky enough to have been able to do so.

 This is an autobiography that shows us what happens in almost every gay male (to some degree). So many of us have suffered with feelings of isolation and the understanding that there may be the love of another that will last forever. While gay life is good but, as we see here, it can also be hell on earth.



“Thoughts and Things” by Leo Bersani— The Oneness of Being

thoughts and things

Bersani, Leo. “Thoughts and Things”, University of Chicago Press, 2015.

The Oneness of Being

Amos Lassen

For more than fifty years Leo Bersani has exerted influence on the way we live and he has done so through various fields—French studies, modernism, realist fiction, psychoanalytic criticism, film studies, and queer theory.  In his new book, Bersani looks at different aspects of connectedness and he does through among other areas looking at movies by Claire Denis and Jean-Luc Godard and fiction by Proust and Pierre Bergounioux, Bersani considers various kinds of connectedness. We, at first, think that Bersani is looking at the gap between what we think and the world—our thoughts are the human subject and things are the world. He speculates on the oneness of being—of our intrinsic connectedness to the other that is at once external and internal to us.  He looks at the problem of formulating ways to consider the undivided mind, drawing on various sources, from Descartes to cosmology, Freud, and Genet and succeeds brilliantly in diagramming new forms as well as radical failures of connectedness. This is a book for philosophers, film theorists, literary critics and for anyone else who is interested in knowing more about how we think.  

Leo Bersani is a thinker above all else and here the tackles disjunctions in the self and the intractability of violence. He is able here to present this theory on connectedness of the relations that unite us in the oneness of being. He looks at the nonrelation of negativity rather than oppose it rests not on a simple opposition to negativity and through this we see a thinker at work.

We are presented with a meditation on the oneness of being and we see this through the critique of those dualisms that separate the individual from the world that he lives in.  But that is not all—he also looks at what separates mind from body, consciousness from the unconscious, and past from present.  He presents conceptually dense formulations that only he can do so it is wise to prepare yourself by reading other writings by Bersani. In the meditation he gives us are readings in books, essays and films that add to the provocative account of conception. Here is the table of contents as it appears in the book:

Against Prefaces?

  1. Father Knows Best
  2. Illegitimacy
  3. “Ardent Masturbation” (Descartes, Freud, Proust, et al.)
  4. “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”
  5. Far Out
  6. Being and Notness

“The Queerness of Native American Literature” by Lisa Tatonetti— Indigenous Queer Literature Since Stonewall

the queerness of Native-american lit

Tatonetti, Lisa. “The Queerness of Native American Literature”, University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Indigenous Queer Literature Since Stonewall

Amos Lassen

 “The Queerness of Native American Literature” is a comprehensive view of Indigenous queer literature since Stonewall. In it, Lisa Tatonetti recovers ties between two simultaneous renaissances of the late twentieth century: queer literature and Native American literature. Throughout the book she says that queerness has been central to Native American literature for decades and she shows how queer Native literature and Two-Spirit critiques challenge understandings of both Indigeneity and sexuality.

She provides a genealogy of queer Native writing after Stonewall. This is the first overview and guide to queer Native literature from its rise in the 1970s to the present day.

We see how Indigeneity intervenes within and against dominant interpretations of queer genders and sexualities and we get the recovery of unfamiliar texts from the 1970s as well as fresh, cogent readings of well-known works. Tatonetti juxtaposes the work of Native authors (including the longtime writer–activist Paula Gunn Allen, the first contemporary queer Native writer Maurice Kenny, the poet Janice Gould, the novelist Louise Erdrich, and the filmmakers Sherman Alexie, Thomas Bezucha, and Jorge Manuel Manzano) with the work of queer studies scholars and proposes resourceful interventions in foundational concepts in queer studies while also charting new directions for queer Native studies.

Below is the table of contents as it appears in the book

Introduction: Two-Spirit Histories

 A Genealogy of Queer Native Literatures 

The Native 1970s: Maurice Kenny and Fag Rag 

Queer Relationships and Two-Spirit Characters in Louise Erdrich’s Novels 

Forced to Choose: Queer Indigeneity in Film 

Indigenous Assemblage and Queer Diasporas in the Work of Janice Gould

Conclusion: Two-Spirit Futures





“Just One of the Guys?: Transgender Men and the Persistence of Gender Inequality” by Kristen Schilt— Inequalities

just one of the guys

Schilt, Kristen. “Just One of the Guys?: Transgender Men and the Persistence of Gender Inequality” University Of Chicago Press, 2011.


Amos Lassen

Women are not treated equally as man as we all know and this has always been contentious for politicians, the media, and scholars. There are common explanations for this and they range from biological reasons between the sexes to those conscious unconscious biases that seem to have been used for ages.

“Just One of the Guys?” looks at other reasons for this and it dies so by looking at the way transgender men live their lives. Author Kristen Schilt uses personal in-depth interviews and observational data to show that while individual transmen have varied experiences, their stories nonetheless show gender inequality. We read of the reactions of employers and coworkers to transmen and these reveal that the ways innate differences between the genders and are used as justification for discrimination. We see, according to Schilt, that some transmen gain acceptance—and even privileges—by becoming “just one of the guys” and that some are coerced into working as women or marginalized for being openly transgender. We also learn that there are other forms of appearance-based discrimination that influence opportunities. The social processes that foster forms of inequality are presented to us here and they effect all of us.

Schilt uses “an ethnographic and interview-based approach to understanding the workplace inequalities facing a highly understudied population, and the results are sobering and unexpected.”

“The American Isherwood” edited by James Berg and Chris Freeman— Isherwood in America

the american isherwood

Berg, James and Chris Freeman, editors. “The American Isherwood”, University of Minnesota, 2015.

Isherwood in America

Amos Lassen

“The American Isherwood” is a collection of essays that considers Christopher Isherwood’s diaries, his vast personal archive, and his published works. It gives us a many-layered appreciation of the writer who spent more than half of his life in southern California. “The editors have brought together the most informative scholarship of the twenty-first century to illuminate the craft of one of the singular figures of the twentieth century.” Isherwood was a novelist, memoirist, diarist, and gay pioneer. He left us with a plethora of writings written in his unique crisp style and emphasis on detail.

Initially Isherwood gained fame for his “Berlin Stories” that became the source material for the hit stage musical and Academy Award–winning film Cabaret. Of late, his experiences and career in the United States have received increased attention. His novel “A Single Man” was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film; his long relationship with the artist Don Bachardy, with whom he shared an openly gay lifestyle, was the subject of an award-winning documentary, “Chris & Don: A Love Story”; and his memoir, “Christopher and His Kind”, was adapted for the BBC. His letters to Bachardy and Bacardy’s letters to him was also recently released in book form.

He had quite a colorful life having left England, his mother country, to live in Germany during under the Weimar regime and then ultimately to California and Los Angeles during the beginnings of gay liberation. And he wrote about it all. All of these adventures are included in his diaries that cover fifty years and are made up of more than a million words. It is these diaries that really allow us to see the influence he exerted. Yet we have more than entries about the diaries—these are also selections that look at his personal archive and his published works of which there are many. The emphasis here is on Isherwood in America and editors Berg and Freeman bring us the most informative scholarship of the twenty-first century so that we can better understand of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. While Isherwood was English by birth, he was also a significant force in late twentieth-century American culture and his legacy continues today. Below is the table of contents of this volume.


Foreword: Outside the Frame 
Stephen McCauley

Introduction: An American Outsider 
James J. Berg and Chris Freeman

 Part I. A Single Man and Los Angeles Culture in the 1960s 

  1. A Single Man and the American Maurice 
Lois Cucullu 

  2. Labor of Love: Making Chris & Don 
Tina Mascara and Guido Santi 

  3. Working through Grief in the Drafts of A Single Man 
Carola M. Kaplan 

  4. Writing the Unspeakable in A Single Man and Mrs. Dalloway 
Jamie Carr 

  5. A Whole without Transcendence: Isherwood, Woolf, and the Aesthetics of Connection 
William R. Handley 

  6. Ford Does Isherwood Kyle Stevens
  7.  A Real Diamond: The Multicultural World of A Single Man 
James J. Berg and Chris Freeman

Part II. The Religious Writer

 8. Isherwood and the Psycho-geography of Home 
Victor Marsh 

  1. Isherwood and Huxley: The Novel as Mystic Fable 
Robert L. Caserio

10. Down Where on a Visit?: Isherwood’s Mythology of Self 
Rebecca Gordon Stewart 

  1. A Phone Call by the River 
Paul M. McNeil

12. “Give me devotion . . . even against my will”: Christopher Isherwood and India 
Niladri R. Chatterjee 

  1. Spiritual Searching in Isherwood’s Artistic Production 
Mario Faraone

Part III. A Writer at Odds with Himself in Cold War America 

  1. Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward 
Benjamin Kohlmann 

  2. Huxley and Isherwood: The California Years 
Peter Edgerly Firchow 

  3. The Celebrity Effect: Isherwood, Hollywood, and the Performance of Self 
Lisa Colletta 

  4. A Writer at Work: The Isherwood Archive 
Sara S. Hodson 

  5. Pulp Isherwood: Cheap Paperbacks and Queer Cold War Readers 
Jaime Harker 

  6. Not Satisfied with the Ending: Connecting The World in the Evening to Maurice 
Joshua Adair




Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal” by Michael Mewshaw— The Public Gore Vidal

sympathy for the devil

Mewshaw, Michael. “Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal.” Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. T

The Public Gore Vidal

Amos Lassen

Michael Mewshaw brings us an intimate look at Gore Vidal, “a man who prided himself on being difficult to know.” He was detached as well as ironic and he was as much the master of the put-down as he was enigmatic and impossible to get to know. This is a look at the public Vidal and the image of himself that he created and reinforced his entire life.

I loved Vidal and I love the way he behaved to others. I was fortunate enough to meet him and speak with him twice and the image that I have of him is almost identical to that of writer, Michael Mewshaw. He claimed to be just the same as he appeared to others. He freely admitted that inside f him did not exist a man who was filled with love but once one is able to pierce the personality of Gore Vidal, we see that there was nothing there aside from “ice cold water.”.

Nothing about Vidal from this point of view ever allows us to see Capote but we see that after he changed, he was disappointed  and by the time he was at the end of his life, he was often cruel and very lonely.

There is a lot of humor in the book as well as spicy anecdotes about expatriate life in Italy. This is really an inside look at Vidal and yet even with his negative image (We learn just how, he could not be resisted.