Category Archives: GLBT poetry

“We Still Leave a Legacy” by Philip Robinson— Hope, Determination and Rememberance

Robinson, Philip. “We Still Leave a Legacy”, We Still Leave a Legacy Press, 2017.

Hope, Determination and Remembrance

Amos Lassen

It was not that long ago when members of the LGBT community came face-to-face with death over and over again. HIV/AIDS claimed the lives and the loves of our friends and leaders and we had to learn how to deal with this. I had already left this country when AIDS struck so brutally and on a trip back home in 1989, I learned that mostly everyone in the community I had once known was gone. I have yet to be to reconcile that. Philip Robinson in “his

chapbook of verses written and dedicated in part to the many friends and family members that have transitioned either by way of HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-troubling issues” has reopened the wounds of that time but as he does, he also captures his sense of hope, determination and memory of those who are no longer here. He tells of the legacy they left and that legacy can be as simple as having once lived among us. In this way, they live on in our hearts and minds. I, for one, have never forgotten that we live today because others came before us and we now live on their shoulders. Not everyone can be a hero or an earth-shaker but everyone has the ability to influence who we are and how we live.

There is a great deal of emotion in the poems that we have here and there are many stories. I was immediately struck by “Standing Among My Heroes”. Set at the funeral of Thomas, we become one with those who have come to say their final goodbyes and see just how difficult that is. But we see something else and that is that “Yet, I know I stand on the shoulders and beside others. My heroes never leave me”.

What we see in most of the poems is that Robinson felt the need to be involved in the lives of his family and of those that he knew. While this is certainly a positive trait, it can also be heartbreaking and that tragedy and happiness can come at the same time.

I am not a poet and can never pretend to be one but one of my favorite hobbies is translating poetry from Hebrew to English. There is something about emotions that makes them very difficult to catch in another language. Just last year I finished the translation of a poem by one of my favorite Hebrew poets, Alexander Penn. I worked on that poem, off and on during twelve years and the reason I knew I had finished with it was that I was able to both laugh and cry as I read my translation. I felt the same as I read Robinson’s poem and these were about people I did not know anything about.

“We Still Leave a Legacy”, the title poem, tells us that with each we lose something of ourselves and we become more aware of our own mortality. If we bury our dreams, we let go of life but we also realize that with every death we gain more purpose in life and what we do is not just for us but for those who came before us. From death of others, we gain a purpose and it becomes our job to be the voices of those whose voices have been quieted. While death is permanent, life is not and we only have a short time to do what we want to do. I could go on and give the main idea of every poem here but that could make the read less effective for others. It is enough to say that I was affected by every poem in this collection and if there is one thing I have learned here and also by living my own life is that love does not die, people do. I urge you to read this book and think about what is here. I just want to add that it is every difficult to review this because it touches me so directly and I firmly believe that is why Robinson has brought us this collection.

 

“The Complete Works of Pat Parker” edited by Julie Enszer— Being Black, Queer, a Poet and a Feminist

Parker, Pat. “The Complete Works of Pat Parker”, (Sapphic Classics), edited by Julie R. Enszer, Sinister Wisdom and A Midsummer Night’s Press , 2016.

Being Black, Queer, a Poet and a Feminist

Amos Lassen

I must confess that although I consider myself to be a well-read person, I had never heard of Pat Parker before this book won the Lambda Literary Award, Best Lesbian Poetry. Even more surprising is that it was edited by Julie Enszer whose work I have followed since her first book an whose poetry has always been an inspiration for me. I am very happy to have plugged that hole in my education. However, it was not enough just to read this book, I also wanted to learn about Parker, the person and quite frankly, I was surprised that her name never came up in any of Women’s Studies courses as a graduate student or in Black Literature classes that I enrolled in. I can’t help wondering if that is because I went to school in the South or if I just missed those classes.

Pat Parker was very aware of black suffering, of violence against black people (especially women) and of the suffering brought on by unending oppression. “The Complete Works of Pat Parker” give us a window into her life and we quickly see her importance regarding black women’s literary traditions, lesbian erotica, black queer struggles, and global social justice movements. As I was writing that sentence, I thought how much better it would be if we could leave the word “black” out of it and just talk about Parker as a person. We can hope that day will come when people are not judged by color.

None of us can deny that Black people in this country have faced hard times as people and even harder times as literary people. Unlike the white majority, black writers and artists have had to find a way to bring together the personal and the political in their artistic output. Pat Parker, however, was able to do so. Her poetry affects the consciences of thinking people everywhere. Unlike others she dared….

Since this is the first and only complete collection of all of her poems, it is very special and a blessing for the reader. As I read I found it difficult to hold back tears as I thought about the atmosphere in which many of these poems were written.

The collection includes many new and previously unpublished poems, essays, and stories but it is stunning to think how long it took for some of what she wrote to be available to the public.

Julie Enszer has done an incredible job of bringing all this together in one volume and I have no doubt that this was simply a labor of love and respect for a great voice. Not only do we have the poems (which are grouped topically, i.e. “Married”, “Liberation Fronts”, “Being Gay”, “Love Poems” and “Uncollected Poems” 1970s” for example but we also have a wonderful introduction by another great voice in the field, Judy Grahn and an introduction to “Movement in Black” by Audre Lord. We have a note from editor Enszer, End Notes, Acknowledgments, a bibliography, appendix, photographs and drawings. As is customary, I knew that the question of which poem is my favorite and my answer would have to be, all of them. Who can possibly pick a favorite when they all are so good. However, I do have a great love for “For the Straight Folks Who Don’t Mind Gays But Wish They Weren’t So BLATANT”. At first reading I thought to myself that the beauty of this poem is its “cheekiness” but on the second reading I found it to be so very honest. Let me share two stanzas with you:

“Have you met the woman

who’s shocked by 2 women kissing

& in the same breath,

tells you that she’s pregnant?

BUT GAYS SHOULDN’T BE SO BLATANT.

 

You go in a public bathroom

and all over the walls

there’s John loves Mary,

Janice digs Richard

Pepe loves Delores, etc. etc.

BUT GAYS SHOULDN’T BE SO BLATANT”.

There is a lot to read and take in (almost 500 pages” but you will feel that Parker’s poetry is more than just a read, it is a total experience— one you do not want to miss. I personally am so sorry that I only discovered this in late life so I do not have many years left to contemplate it but I have made myself the promise to read a poem a day from it and when I finish it, I will start over in much the same way that the Jews read the Torah. I am sending a special thank you to Julie Enszer for having edited this— it has made a huge difference in my life, I can tell that already.

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced

Those with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamolslassen.com

 

Lesbian Fiction

  • Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Liveright Publishing Corporation

Gay Fiction

  • *The Angel of History, Rabih Alameddine, Atlantic Monthly Press

Bisexual Fiction  

  • Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Bisexual Nonfiction 

  • Black Dove: Mama, Mi’jo, and Me,Ana Castillo, The Feminist Press

Bisexual Poetry 

  • Mouth to Mouth,Abigail Child, EOAGH

Transgender Fiction

  • Small Beauty, jia qing wilson-yang, Metonymy Press

LGBT Nonfiction

  • *How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France, Knopf

Transgender Nonfiction

  • Life Beyond My Body: A Transgender Journey to Manhood in China, Lei Ming, Transgress Press

Lesbian Poetry (TIE)

  • play dead, francine j. harris, Alice James Books
  • The Complete Works of Pat Parker, Julie R. Enszer, Sinister Wisdom/A Midsummer Night’s Press

Gay Poetry

  • Thief in the Interior, Phillip B. Williams, Alice James Books

Transgender Poetry

  • Reacquainted with Life,KOKUMO, Topside Press

Lesbian Mystery

  • Pathogen, Jessica L. Webb, Bold Strokes Books

Gay Mystery

  • Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery, J. Aaron Sanders, Plume

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

  • The Wind is Spirit: The Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde, Dr. Gloria Joseph, Villarosa Media

Gay Memoir/Biography

  • *When We Rise, Cleve Jones, Hachette Books

Lesbian Romance

  • The Scorpion’s Empress, Yoshiyuki Ly, Solstice Publishing

Gay Romance

  • *Into the Blue, Pene Henson, Interlude Press

LGBT Erotica

  • Soul to Keep, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Bold Strokes Books

LGBT Anthology

  • The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care,Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press

LGBT Children’s/Young Adult

  • Girl Mans Up, M.E. Girard, Harper Teen

LGBT Drama

  • Barbecue/Bootycandy, Robert O’Hara, Theatre Communications Group

LGBT Graphic Novels

  • Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Ed Luce, Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Fantagraphics Books

LGBT SF/F/Horror

  • The Devourers, Indra Das, Del Rey

LGBT Studies

  • *Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display,Jennifer Tyburczy, University of Chicago Press

“Graybeard Abbey: Metaphors, Mumblings and Meditations” by Gavin Geofrey Dillard— A Year on the Farm

Dillard, Gavin Geoffrey. “Graybeard Abbey: Metaphors, Mumblings and Meditations”, self published, 2017.

A Year on the Farm

Amos Lassen

Just last week I found myself thinking that it has been a while before I could sink myself into a book of poetry and lo and behold, I learn of Gavin Dillard’s new collection of free verse, koans, haiku, and traditional waka form. But “Graybeard Abbey” is more than a collection of poems, it is a journal of a year on the poet’s small tea farm in Southern Appalachia. Dillard writes of the seasons the woods and field. animals, and life with eight kittens. I remember the first time that I read Dillard and was amazed at the beauty of his romantic poetry and he had been elevated to gay icon status. His writing has changed and now he writes about paganism, naturism, and Taoism “for emotional content, spiritual edification, and poetic flavor”. Perhaps romanticism is gone but that does not change the beauty of the word and there is much reverence and irreverence here just as there is profundity balanced against silliness. What we really see it the poet as authentic man and that peace and quiet can be found in the solitude of the woods and with nature. Dillard has found on his farm what he has searched for and he shares that with us. It is his originality and boldness that makes me who he is.

 

 

 

 

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

 Awards Ceremony: Monday, June 12, 2017 in New York City   

 Note: The number of finalists in a category is determined by the number of submissions in that category. Those marked with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamoslassen.com

 Lesbian Fiction

  • *A Thin Bright Line, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, University of Wisconsin Press
  • Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson, Amistad
  • Bull & Other Stories, Kathy Anderson, Autumn House Press
  • The Day After Death, Lynn C. Miller, University of New Mexico Press
  • Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Pretend I’m Your Friend, MB Caschetta, Engine Books
  • Tears in the Grass, Lynda A. Archer, Dundurn
  • They May Not Mean To, But They Do, Cathleen Schine, Sarah Crichton Books

Gay Fiction

  • *The Angel of History, Rabih Alameddine, Atlantic Monthly Press
  • *Black Deutschland, Darryl Pinckney, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • *The Cosmopolitans, Sarah Schulman, The Feminist Press
  • *Hide, Matthew Griffin, Bloomsbury USA
  • *Jazz Moon, Joe Okonkwo, Kensington Books
  • *Moonstone, Sjón, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • *The Rope Swing, Jonathan Corcoran, Vandalia Press
  • *What Belongs To You, Garth Greenwell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Bisexual Fiction

  • *Beautiful Gravity, Martin Hyatt, Antibookclub
  • Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Mouth to Mouth, Abigail Child, EOAGH
  • When Watched, Leopoldine Core, Penguin Books

Transgender Fiction

  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, Kai Cheng Thom, Metonymy Press
  • If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo, Flatiron Books
  • Small Beauty, jia qing wilson-yang, Metonymy Press

LGBTQ Nonfiction

  • *Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair, Sarah Schulman, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • *Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York, Donald Albrecht, Skira Rizzoli
  • Ghost Faces: Hollywood and Post-Millennial Masculinity, David Greven, State University of New York Press
  • *How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France, Knopf
  • *Pride & Joy: Taking the Streets of New York City, Jurek Wajdowicz, The New Press
  • Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Duke University Press Books
  • *The Estrangement Principle, Ariel Goldberg, Nightboat Books
  • The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability, Kristen Hogan, Duke University Press Books

Bisexual Nonfiction

  • Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me, Ana Castillo, The Feminist Press
  • The Body’s Alphabet, Ann Tweedy, Headmistress Press
  • I Have Devoted My Life to the Clitoris, Elizabeth Hall, Tarpaulin Sky Press
  • Women in Relationships With Bisexual Men: Bi Men By Women, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli and Sara Lubowitz, Lexington Books

Transgender Nonfiction

  • *Life Beyond My Body: A Transgender Journey to Manhood in China, Lei Ming, Transgress Press
  • *Outside the XY: Black and Brown Queer Masculinity, Morgan Mann Willis, Riverdale Avenue Books
  • Outspoken: A Decade of Transgender Activism and Trans Feminism, Julia Serano, Switch Hitter Press
  • Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir, Samuel Peterson, Transgress Press
  • You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death and Transition, Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolbloom, Coach House Books

Lesbian Poetry

  • Bestiary, Donika Kelly, Graywolf Press
  • Complete Works of Pat Parker, edited by Julie R. Enszer, Sinister Wisdom/A Midsummer Night’s Press
  • Journal of Ugly Sites, Stacy Szymaszek, Fence Books
  • Night, Etel Adnan, Nightboat Books
  • play dead, francine j. harris, Alice James Books
  • Swarm Queen’s Crown, Stephanie Adams-Santos, Fathom Books
  • The Old Philosopher, Vi Khi Nao, Nightboat Books
  • You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Arisa White, Augury Books

Gay Poetry

  • DIG, Bryan Borland, Stillhouse Press
  • Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong, Copper Canyon Press
  • Primer, Aaron Smith, University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Rapture, Sjohnna McCray, Graywolf Press
  • The Halo, C. Dale Young, Four Way Books
  • The Taxidermist’s Cut, Rajiv Mohabir, Four Way Books
  • Thief in the Interior, Phillip B. Williams, Alice James Books
  • Trouble the Water, Derrick Austin, BOA

Transgender Poetry

  • even this page is white, Vivek Shraya, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • The Romance of Siam: A Pocket Guide, Jai Arun Ravine, Timeless, Infinite Light
  • Reacquainted with Life, Kokumo, Topside Press
  • Safe Space, Jos Charles, Ahsahta Press
  • Sympathetic Little Monster, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Ricochet Editions

Lesbian Mystery

  • Blood Money Murder, Jessie Chandler, Bella Books
  • Bury Me When I’m Dead, Cheryl A. Head, Bywater Books
  • Collide-O-Scope, Andrea Bramhall, Ylva Publishing
  • Final Cut, Lynn Ames, Phoenix Rising Press
  • Pathogen, Jessica L. Webb, Bold Strokes Books
  • Requiem for Immortals, Lee Winter, Ylva Publishing
  • Under Contract, Jennifer L. Jordan, Clover Valley Press
  • Walk-in, T.L. Hart, Bella Books

Gay Mystery

  • Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean, Blind Eye Books
  • Homo Superiors by L. A. Fields, Lethe Press
  • Lay Your Sleeping Head by Michael Nava, Korima Press
  • Nights in Berlin by Janice Law, Head of Zeus
  • Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery by J. Aaron Sanders, Plume

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

  • *A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, Christina Crosby, NYU Press
  • A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder, Ma-Nee Chacaby, University of Manitoba Press
  • *Im Just a Person, Tig Notaro, Ecco
  • *Indomitable: The Life of Barbara Grier, Joanne Passet, Bella Books
  • The Wind Is Spirit: The Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde, Gloria I. Joseph, PhD, Villarosa Media

Gay Memoir/Biography

  • *Books For Living, Will Schwalbe, Knopf
  • *Boy Erased, Garrard Conley, Riverhead Books
  • *Capsid: A Love Song, Joseph Osmundson, Indolent Books
  • *Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann, Frederic Spotts, Yale University Press
  • *Lust & Wonder, Augusten Burroughs, St. Martin’s Press
  • *One Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, Michael Schreiber, Bruno Gmuender Books
  • *Proxies, Brian Blanchfield, Nightboat Books
  • *When We Rise, Cleve Jones, Hachette Books

 

Lesbian Romance

  • The Scorpion’s Empress, Yoshiyuki Ly, Solstice Publishing
  • Coils, Barbara Ann Wright, Bold Strokes Books
  • Finding Lizzie, Karma Kingsley, NineStar Press
  • Little Lies, Lila Bruce, Self-Published
  • Lost in the Starlight, Kiki Archer, K.A. Books
  • *Loving Eleanor, Susan Wittig Albert, Persevero Press
  • *Perfect Pairing, Rachel Spangler, Bywater Books
  • *The Liberators of Willow Run, Marianne K. Martin, Bywater Books

Gay Romance

  • Into the Blue, Pene Henson, Interlude Press
  • Pansies, Alexis Hall, Riptide Publishing
  • *Femme, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books
  • Rank, Richard Compson Sater, Bold Strokes Books
  • *Country, Jeff Mann, Lethe Press
  • Adulting 101, Lisa Henry, Riptide Publishing
  • Rented Heart, Garrett Leigh, Riptide Publishing
  • Caught Inside, Jamie Deacon, Beaten Track Publishing

LGBTQ Anthology

  • ALPHABET: The LGBTQAIU Creators from Prism Comics, Jon Macy and Tara Madison Avery, Editors Stacked Deck Press
  • *Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry, Martha Amore and Lucian Childs, Editors, University of Alaska Press / Snowy Owl Books Imprint
  • *No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies, E. Patrick Johnson, Duke University Press Books
  • *The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care, Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • *Queer, David J. Getsy, MIT Press

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult

  • Beast, Brie Spangler, Alfred A. Knopf
  • Girl Mans Up, M.E. Girard, Harper Teen
  • Gravity, Juliann Rich, Bold Stroke Books
  • Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley, Dial Books
  • Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee, Duet
  • Our Chemical Hearts, Krystal Sutherland, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
  • *Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin, Balzer + Bray
  • The Midnight Star, Marie Lu, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

LGBTQ Drama

  • Barbecue/Bootycandy, Robert O’Hara, Theatre Communications Group
  • Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week, Lois Fine, Playwrights Canada Press
  • Perfect Arrangement, Topher Payne, Samuel French, Inc.

LGBTQ Erotica

  • Camp Rewind, Meghan O’Brien, Bold Strokes Books
  • Roped In, Marie Sexton and L.A. Witt, Amber Quill
  • Steel and Promise, Alexa Black, Bold Strokes Books
  • Soul to Keep, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Bold Strokes Books
  • Skyscraper, Scott Alexander Hess, Unzipped Books

LGBTQ Graphic Novels

  • Active Voice The Comic Collection: The Real Life Adventures Of An Asian-American, Lesbian, Feminist, Activist And Her Friends, Written by P. Kristen Enos with Heidi Ho; Illustrated by Derek Chua, Leesamarie Croal, Casandra Grullon, Beth Varni, Dan Parent, Furia Press
  • *The Case of Alan Turing: The Extraordinary and Tragic Story of the Legendary Codebreaker, Eric Liberge and Arnaud Delalande, Translated by David Homel, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Ed Luce, Fantagraphics Books

LGBTQ SF/F/Horror

  • *All Good Children, Dayna Ingram, Lethe Press
  • The Devourers, Indra Das, Del Rey
  • *Irish Black, David Lennon, Blue Spike Publishing
  • Kissing Booth Girl, A.C. Wise, Lethe Press
  • *Lily, Michael Thomas Ford, illustrated by Staven Andersen, Lethe Press
  • A Little Queermas Carol, Sassafras Lowrey, PoMo Freakshow
  • Style of Attack Report, By Ras Mashramani, Rasheedah Phillips, Alex Smith, and M. Eighteen Téllez, Metropolarity
  • Will Do Magic for Small Change, Andrea Hairston, Aqueduct Press

LGBTQ Studies

  • Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two Spirit Memory, Qwo-Li Driskill, University of Arizona Press
  • *Homintern, Gregory Woods, Yale University Press
  • Indian Blood: HIV and Colonial Trauma in San Francisco’s Two-Spirit Community, Andrew J. Jolivette, University of Washington Press
  • Melodrama: An Aesthetics of Impossibility, Jonathan Goldberg, Duke University Press
  • Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men From The March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis, Kevin Mumford, University of North Carolina Press
  • *Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution, Omar G. Encarnación, Oxford University Press
  • *Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics, Timothy Stewart-Winter, University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display, Jennifer Tyburczy, University of Chicago Press

“The Education of a Daffodil: Prose Poems” by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub— From the Heart to the Page

Taub, Yermiyahu Ahron. “The Education of a Daffodil: Prose Poems”, Hadassa Word Press, 2017.

From the Heart to the Page

Amos Lassen

Every once in a while I come upon a writer whose words affect me and my life. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is such a writer and as I write this I am trying to remember how I first came upon his writing. I can’t recall if someone else recommended it to me or whether I just found it through luck. It doesn’t matter really except for the fact that it has influenced how I look at the written word and especially how I regard poetry. His poems are those that I read with tears in my eyes because of the way he treats language. Now in “The Education of a Daffodil”, Taub reflects on violence and does so as an outsider; Taub is a poet who seeks connection with the world and is one who has lived life from the outside looking in. He is a gay Jew and a lover who grew up in the Orthodox Jewish world and who thinks of himself as a daffodil, a beautiful flower who has endured pain and rejection yet, in my mind, a writer who blooms all the more because of it. If I am ever asked who my favorite modern poet, the answer is clearly Yermiyahu Ahron Taub.

All of us have at some time felt that we have been outsiders causing us to be frustrated because we cannot find a connection, we feel like fragile daffodils as Taub says. Dealing with rejection and non-communication is painful and once have experienced this, we never want to do so again. However, that pain is necessary for us to better understand who we are and so Taub takes us back to the pain so that we can recover from it. In this our poet becomes more than a poet— he is also a storyteller and something of a dramatist by throwing us cues to which we react. He has divided his book into two sections. In “Brief Histories of Fear”, Taub looks at small scale violence with a series of prose poems that are not connected until taken as a whole. It is here that he builds his mise en scene by producing an atmosphere of danger and fear of what is to come. We strongly sense dislocation and violence and as we read, we become part of his writing. We see the dependence on those who are the opposite of the figures that bring this hate and violence into our lives. “if Aunt Lavinia were here… I would not be so afraid”.

The poems in this section paint portraits of both the poet and of the various anti-heroes in differing times of crisis and, as Taub states introspection. Too often we do not look into ourselves where the answer may be waiting. It is here that we meet those who have influenced his life as created the moods he has gone through and those that are yet to come. He takes us by the hand and guides us through his life as an underling and to the point that he can stand and say that he is proud of who he is. You may question my use of the word “underling” but you only need to read this collection to understand why I chose it.

The second section, “Life Studies in Yellow and Other Primary Colors,” we right away see the interconnection between the poems in which the poet moves from being unaware and unknowing through violence until he can reach a point where there is balance and he can find the equilibrium that he needs. If we take the collection as a whole, we see that he achieves some kind of spiritual education that enables him to continue forward. “The daffodil has turned in the tank… slender of stem and bright of bulb”. That daffodil has “ventured into worlds alternative…” He no longer meets with “pity or revulsion or distance”. We have been with him as he went from innocence to brutality to balance. We have read his stories of loss and trauma, of being displaced, of xenophobia and of dealing with his sexuality to find his place in this world of ours. His past is as important as his present and future for it is from there that he arrives at the others. If there is a message here and I believe that there is a strong one, it is that one who does not examine his life to learn who he is remains just that— unaware, unknowing and far from finished. As the poet is transformed, we are there watching— not as voyeurs but as friends in whom he has trust. He has such confidence in us that we he lets us see the cruelties that he experiences (and that we also experience) and we see his survival and hope that we can do the same. In fact, I would venture to say that the book, is an ode to survival.

In one of the blurbs of the book by others, I came across a Yiddish word that OI have not heard in years— “schlimazel” or one suffers but not by his own hand. Rather he is set apart by others and the result is not only that separation but separation from himself as well. It is possible to move from that as we see here and we become aware of what happens if one does not.

I have met Yermiyahu Ahron Taub and actually spent a weekend with him here in Boston when he came for a poetry festival a couple of years ago. I did not see the guy who appears in the earlier poems but rather the man who has found who he is and is confidant in that.

Stop to think for a moment how often you feel transformed after closing the covers of a book. It does not happen often but it will happen here and I promise you that. We must celebrate survival without ever forgetting how we got to it.

 

Six poems also have a Yiddish version.

 

“Avowed” by Julie Enszer— Changes

Enszer, Julie. “Avowed”, Sibling Rivalry, 2016.

Changes

Amos Lassen

Most of us can agree that the tremendous progress that the LGBT community has been able top achieve in the last few years is something we would never have thought that we would see in our lifetimes. We soon realized that if we want these freedoms to work for us and for the overall good of America, me must take them seriously as these are very serious changes that usher in an entire new world. Julie Enszer is one of my favorite poets and I anxiously await every new verse she writes. What she does in “Avowed” is react to the new freedoms as she explores her own relationship with her wife, Kim,

Her relationship with the larger LGBT community and her relationship with her country. Enszer is a wise woman who sees things as they are and then shares them with a touch of humor, eroticism and compassion. Every time I meet a guy who then introduces me to his husband or a woman who introduces me to her wife, I find myself a bit shocked to hear this words and about the whole concept of same-sex marriage. But the shock I receive is indeed positive and so very welcomed.

What I so love about Julie Enszer’s poetry is that she never forgets who she is and uses that in her writing. She is at home quoting or paraphrasing Jewish sources and integrates them into her verse and I often sit back and think about the research she has done just to get her idea across to her readers.

Many of her poems allude to her marriage to and partnership with Kim in which she celebrates their union. They have been together for over fifteen years but could not become a legal couple until the Supreme Court decision.

“we sign a ketubah

break a glass, stand

before G-d and our

families, make promises.….

Only we wonder

Why does the state take

so long to catch up”?

I love the playful eroticism of ”Connubial Hour” of the wedding night— a night with “no bloodstain, no mystery, just relaxed intimacy of long-time lovers and a Thai meal afterwards. I doubt that there are many poets that can make “vaginal mucus” sound as poetic as it does here. In “Imperfect”, Enszer tells us that marriage is more than just a piece of paper, “things don’t always fit. Fold, adapt, squeeze into form. Make do”. In a sense, she even takes Judaism to task and changes one word in a prayer that I recite every morning thanking G-d for making me a man; “everyday/I thank God/I was born a woman.” We get a mixture of politics, religion, visibility and love throughout the collection.

In questioning the institution of marriage, we see that the lesbian bride understands and was part of the fight to make our marriages legal and in LGBT society, marriage is so much more than just a piece of paper. For the poet, it has been a hard and long battle and a journey.

I usually do not publicly choose a favorite poem in an anthology but I cannot leave writing about “Avowed” without mentioning “A Lesbian Fantasia on ‘Angels in America’”. I absolutely love this poem as it brings us back to one of the most important dramas in LGBT history while shifting its emphasis to women. Enszer looks at Tony Kushner’s work with the idea of finding hope but instead finds anger…

“and Kushner gives me no model

no hero

just anger at G-d

who has abandoned us”…

we won’t die secret deaths any more

we will be citizens

the time has come

you are fabulous

each and every one

and I bless you

more life

the great work begins”

I remember sitting in the theater and hearing those words and weeping openly. I have not read them for many years but there are still as vibrant as my first encounter with them. The “great work” began and is continuing and as a minority that has suffered so greatly, we need to pat ourselves on our backs but never lose sight of our journey.

I am running out of special places on my desk for certain books that I love but I will a place for “Avowed”. Julie Enszer’s partnership with Kim is personal while our partnerships with each other are now public and have created a very powerful bond and movement. I must thank Julie for reminding us of that.

This is a “bittersweet journey of a lesbian couple’s struggle through the happily ever after with an edgy and humorous perspective that dares to share deep truths about desire, sex, and love”. Those truths are for and about us all.

My Ten Best LGBT Book List 2016— My Personal Choices

My Ten Best LGBT Book List 2016

My Personal Choices

Amos Lassen

These were the ten books I loved this year and I give them to you in no special order. This are purely my personal choices and for those of you who know me and my year-ends lists know that I prefer to have my list be as diverse as possible. There were many more ten books that I loved this year and perhaps later I will do an also loved list. The biggest surprise was that I seemed to have liked non-fiction this year more than fiction. The book descriptions are taken from Amazon.com

“Christodora” by Tim Murphy (Grove)

In this vivid and compelling novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. The Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbor, Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was once a celebrated AIDS activist but is now a lonely addict, becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, Milly and Jared’s adopted son Mateo grows to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers. As the junkies and protestors of the 1980s give way to the hipsters of the 2000s and they, in turn, to the wealthy residents of the crowded, glass-towered city of the 2020s, enormous changes rock the personal lives of Milly and Jared and the constellation of people around them. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and attempts by activists to galvanize a true response to the AIDS epidemic, to the New York City of the future, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, illustrates the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings to life the ever-changing city itself.

“One-Man Show” by Michael Schreiber (Bruno Gmunder)

Bernard Perlin (1918-2014) was an extraordinary figure in twentieth century American art and gay cultural history, an acclaimed artist and sexual renegade who reveled in pushing social, political, and artistic boundaries. His work regularly appeared in popular magazines of the 1940s, fifties, and sixties; was collected by Rockefellers, Whitneys, and Astors; and was acquired by major museums, including the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern. His portrait clients included well-known literary, artistic, theatrical, political, and high society figures. As a government propaganda artist and war artist-correspondent, he produced many now-iconic images of World War II. From the 1930s on, he also daringly committed to canvas and paper scenes of underground gay bars and nude studies of street hustlers, among other aspects of his active and dedicated gay life.

Socially, he moved in the upper echelons of New York gay society, a glittering “cufflink crowd” that included George Platt Lynes, Lincoln Kirstein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler, Paul Cadmus, Jared French, George Tooker, Pavel Tchelitchew, Truman Capote, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Jerome Robbins. He also counted among his most intimate companions such luminaries in the arts as Vincent Price, Clifton Webb, Ben Shahn, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, Aaron Copland, Christopher Isherwood, Don Bachardy, Martha Gellhorn, Betsy Drake, Muriel Rukeyser, Carson McCullers, Philip Johnson, and E.M. Forster. Yet he was equally at home in the gay underworlds of New York and Rome, where his unbridled sexual escapades put him in competition with the likes of Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams.

In “One-Man Show”, Michael Schreiber chronicles the storied life, illustrious friends and lovers, and astounding adventures of Bernard Perlin through no-holds-barred interviews with the artist, candid excerpts from Perlin’s unpublished memoirs, never-before-seen photos, and an extensive selection of Bernard Perlin’s incredible public and private art.

“How to Survive a Plague” by David France (Knopf)

The definitive history of the successful battle to halt the AIDS epidemic—from the creator of, and inspired by, the seminal documentary How to Survive a Plague. A riveting, powerful telling of the story of the grassroots movement of activists, many of them in a life-or-death struggle, who seized upon scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, this small group of men and women chose to fight for their right to live by educating themselves and demanding to become full partners in the race for effective treatments. Around the globe, 16 million people are alive today thanks to their efforts. Not since the publication of Randy Shilts’ classic And the Band Played On has a book measured the AIDS plague in such brutally human, intimate, and soaring terms. In dramatic fashion, we witness the founding of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), and the rise of an underground drug market in opposition to the prohibitively expensive (and sometimes toxic) AZT. We watch as these activists learn to become their own researchers, lobbyists, drug smugglers, and clinicians, establishing their own newspapers, research journals, and laboratories, and as they go on to force reform in the nation’s disease-fighting agencies. With his unparalleled access to this community David France illuminates the lives of extraordinary characters, including the closeted Wall Street trader-turned-activist, the high school dropout who found purpose battling pharmaceutical giants in New York, the South African physician who helped establish the first officially recognized buyers’ club at the height of the epidemic, and the public relations executive fighting to save his own life for the sake of his young daughter. Expansive yet richly detailed, this is an insider’s account of a pivotal moment in the history of American civil rights. Powerful, heart wrenching, and finally exhilarating, How to Survive a Plague is destined to become an essential part of the literature of AIDS.

“When We Rise” by Cleve Jones (Hachette)

The partial inspiration for the forthcoming ABC television mini-series!

“You could read Cleve Jones\\\’s book because you should know about the struggle for gay, lesbian, and transgender rights from one of its key participants–maybe heroes–but really, you should read it for pleasure and joy.”–Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me

Born in 1954, Cleve Jones was among the last generation of gay Americans who grew up wondering if there were others out there like himself. There were. Like thousands of other young people, Jones, nearly penniless, was drawn in the early 1970s to San Francisco, a city electrified by progressive politics and sexual freedom. Jones found community–in the hotel rooms and ramshackle apartments shared by other young adventurers, in the city\\\’s bathhouses and gay bars like The Stud, and in the burgeoning gay district, the Castro, where a New York transplant named Harvey Milk set up a camera shop, began shouting through his bullhorn, and soon became the nation\\\’s most outspoken gay elected official. With Milk\\\’s encouragement, Jones dove into politics and found his calling in “the movement.” When Milk was killed by an assassin\\\’s bullet in 1978, Jones took up his mentor\\\’s progressive mantle–only to see the arrival of AIDS transform his life once again.

By turns tender and uproarious, When We Rise is Jones’ account of his remarkable life. He chronicles the heartbreak of losing countless friends to AIDS, which very nearly killed him, too; his co-founding of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation during the terrifying early years of the epidemic; his conception of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the largest community art project in history; the bewitching story of 1970s San Francisco and the magnetic spell it cast for thousands of young gay people and other misfits; and the harrowing, sexy, and sometimes hilarious stories of Cleve’s passionate relationships with friends and lovers during an era defined by both unprecedented freedom and violence alike. When We Rise is not only the story of a hero to the LQBTQ community, but the vibrantly voice memoir of a full and transformative American life.

“What Belongs to You” by Garth Greenwell (Picador)

On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want.

What Belongs to You is a stunning debut novel of desire and its consequences. With lyric intensity and startling eroticism, Garth Greenwell has created an indelible story about the ways in which our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.

The Sea in Quiet Tonight” by Michael Ward (Querelle)

“”In this insightful and inspirational memoir, Michael Ward returns to the early years of the AIDS epidemic, when so little was known and so few who were diagnosed survived. He chronicles in candid detail his partner Mark’s decline and eventual death. By looking back on these devastating events, the author not only honors a generation lost to the illness but also opens a vital window onto the past, before medication helped save lives and when HIV/AIDS was usually a death sentence. “In his heart-wrenching debut memoir, former psychotherapist Ward provides an intimate portrait of the early days of the AIDS epidemic through the lens of his romantic relationship with the sea-loving Mark Halberstadt, the 100th patient in Massachusetts to be diagnosed with the disease. Following their chance encounter on Fire Island, a “combination of Mecca and Oz” for gay men in the 1970s and early ’80s, their infatuation blooms into a long-distance courtship between the East Coast and Florida before the tragic turn in Mark’s health. Ward’s attention to detail proves invaluable in documenting the anxiety of these uncertain years, when mysterious stomach pains and fevers suddenly progressed into fatal conditions that “arrived like lightning bolts.” The book includes important glimpses into the emerging AIDS subculture—such as Louise Hay’s first support groups and the founding of Boston’s AIDS Action Committee by Larry Kessler—but the disease is secondary to how romantic love and commitment are strained when confronted with the unimaginable. “I feel like a leper,” Mark says from his hospital room, which is labeled “Precautionary Isolation”; visitors are required to wear gowns, gloves, surgical caps, and masks. Ward never hesitates when peering into the abyss of this traumatic time, and the result is a courageous and necessary addition to the canon of AIDS literature.” — BookLife. “Ward is a talented storyteller who’s created a compelling, emotionally rich tale out of a difficult, tragic time in American history. Anyone looking for more insight into the AIDS epidemic from a deeply personal perspective will likely benefit from this book. It could have been incredibly difficult to read about someone watching their partner struggle through disease, but Ward handles his and Halberstadt’s story with admirable grace.” –Kirkus

“Radiance” by Emmanuel Xavier (Rebel Satori)

“Emanuel Xavier’s newest book radiates in diverse directions, back into a past of New York club kid glamour and violence, into a family history of lost connections, and into loves forfeited and found-all of which the poet illumines with steady-eyed honesty. Finally, as he confronts a health challenge to the very brain that is the root-place of these sharp and poignant poems, radiation becomes radiance, a hard-won inner light that lets us all see how ‘splendid is our survival.'” –David Groff, author of “Clay”

The beauty of Xavier’s poetry is its honesty which at times can shock but always leaves the reader feeling good. –Reviews by Amos Lassen. Radiance is dedicated to survivors everywhere, bringing urgent attention to the perils of the marginalized in the wake of the Pulse Orlando Massacre and the challenges of the Black Lives Matter movement. –Charlie Vazquez for latinorebels.com.  “Sometimes a crumb falls / from the table of joy,” Langston Hughes wrote, and Emanuel Xavier, in evoking those small pleasures–the taste of mangoes, smell of coffee–is capturing those crumbs … He does so amidst much testament to the horrors of injury, loss and mortality. These poems move and speak: one can imagine their delivery at the microphone, and yet at the same time they so powerfully address the reader as private experience. — Lambda Literary 

“In Xavier’s poetics, identity is radiance (light, energy), and like Keith Haring’s radiant babies, we’re all in the process of becoming.” – Urayoan Noel, The Harriet Blog for The Poetry Foundation. “Taken as a whole, the poems narrate the life, in vignettes, of a flawed but deeply sympathetic man who is rendered raw and vulnerable on the page … The poems are memorable, the feelings they will evoke in you are real and complicated, and the journey they will take you on is surprisingly large in scope.” – readdiversebooks.com 

As in his title poem, Radiance, the tenderness of Emanuel Xavier’s words are in stark contrast to the hard and often painful realities they convey. Yet, the two are masterfully melded to create beautiful stories in poems that are at once sad and encompass a sense of yearning. Radiance is the type of read that calms the nerves until the reality of what it conveys pierces one’s heart and not with cupid’s arrow. –Nancy Mercado, editor of the Nuyorican Women Writers Anthology

Urgency and despair wrestle in the restless poems of Emanuel Xavier’s Radiance. As Sinatra’s singing voice grew richer, more resonant, more heartbreaking after his celebrated breakup with Eva Gardner, Xavier’s poetic voice strikes new notes, new registers, both diving and soaring. –Michael Broder, author of This Life Now and Drug and Disease Free In Radiance, Xavier scours the words of his poetry and the reader is given a keen clear look at reality. I love Emanuel! –Miguel Algarin, founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

“Foucault in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden” (Starcherone)

Michel Foucault famously wrote, “I am fully aware that I have never written anything other than fictions.” In this polylingual, operatic fantasy comprised of invented letters, most of them unsent, set in Sweden during February 1956 while Foucault was undergoing a Swedish winter, the philosopher finds himself not just researching, but living through, his work to come, Madness and Civilization.

Foucault, in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden is a masterful work of introspective beauty. Its layers of meaning cascade across its pages in recursive waves of polysemous speech. The text is at once concerned with the emotional truth of its characters’ experiences and with the lived truth of Foucault’s philosophy. Joyce achieves all of this with a deft hand, a multilingual pen, and an ear for what we mean when we speak and how we speak when we mean. —The Public, Buffalo

The novel affords a compelling meditation on what we might call the nexus of madness, philosophy, and literature, one that conveys a productive and troubled time for Foucault with an intensity and artfulness befitting of one of the most artful philosophers of the twentieth century…. Everything about Joyce’s Foucault is alluring, and his characterization will seduce the philosopher’s devotees and doubters alike.–Electronic Book Review

Oscillation is a key component of the novel’s structure and, in a larger sense, is related to states of absence and presence, linguistic or otherwise… [and] absence looms large in Foucault in Winter… [which] manages to interweave intimate details of passionate relationships with kernels of Foucault’s thought… —American Book Review

This is an emotional, transportive novel that recalls a time of literary passion. It is a work that begs to be read aloud, regardless of its challenging polylinguality; to be heard, felt and absorbed…Foucault, in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden floats between ideas and language, madness and civilization, and, in the process, finds emotional gravity. —New Orleans Review

“Gay Gotham” by Daniel Albrecht (Rizzoli)

Uncovering the lost history of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender artists in New York City. Queer people have always flocked to New York seeking freedom, forging close-knit groups for support and inspiration. Gay Gotham brings to life the countercultural artistic communities that sprang up over the last hundred years, a creative class whose radical ideas would determine much of modern culture. More than 200 images—both works of art, such as paintings and photographs, as well as letters, snapshots, and ephemera—illuminate their personal bonds, scandal-provoking secrets at the time and many largely unknown to the public since. Starting with the bohemian era of the 1910s and 1920s, when the pansy craze drew voyeurs of all types to Greenwich Village and Harlem, the book winds through midcentury Broadway as well as Fire Island as it emerged as a hotbed, turns to the post-Stonewall, decade-long wild party that revolved around clubs like the Mineshaft and Studio 54, and continues all the way through the activist mobilization spurred by the AIDS crisis and the move toward acceptance at the century’s close. Throughout, readers encounter famous figures, from James Baldwin and Mae West to Leonard Bernstein, and discover lesser-known ones, such as Harmony Hammond, Greer Lankton, and Richard Bruce Nugent. Surprising relationships emerge: Andy Warhol and Mercedes de Acosta, Robert Mapplethorpe and Cecil Beaton, George Platt Lynes and Gertrude Stein. By peeling back the overlapping layers of this cultural network that thrived despite its illicitness, this groundbreaking publication reveals a whole new side of the history of New York and celebrates the power of artistic collaboration to transcend oppression.

“Flying Without a Net” by E.M. Ben Shaul (Interlude)

Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality–until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life but confused by Avi’s observance. Dani can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.

“This is a unique and beautiful book, with a story that took me to being a fly-on-the-wall over these wonderful characters’ shoulders. I can imagine that this kind of story will mean a lot to people who come from a similar faith—but even if you, like myself, are not of that faith, it doesn’t lessen the gentle rhythm of this book. A fantastically written debut”.

Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?

“Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry” edited by Martha Amore and Lucian Childs— Alaskan Diversity

building-fires-in-the-snow

Amore, Martha and Lucian Childs, editors. “Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry”, University of Alaska Press, 2016.

Alaskan Diversity

Amos Lassen

Alaska has always been known for the diversity of its population that is made up of “people with many different backgrounds, viewpoints, and life experiences”. “Building Fires in the Snow” gives us a look at the diverse lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through stories and poems collected in this anthology. We see an Alaska that shatters stereotypes and reveals a side of the state that few have seen until now.

What we see here is a depiction of the gay experience away from its typical milieu and are reminded that the LGBT community is everywhere and not just in big urban centers like New York, Boston and San Francisco. The focus here is on the relationship between the writers included and the wilderness that surrounds them. What we see here is not at all unfamiliar as LGBT film face the same issues everywhere whether that is on Fifth Avenue or the Alaskan wilderness. Yet if I had to pick a single theme to characterize this collection it would be the word love. Editor Martha Amore shares the way Alaskans love and make families while editor Lucien Childs writes of the struggle one has trying to fit in.

Community, which is so important, is evident throughout the writings and we see it as powerful and tender as well as a way to survive. When one is a member of a community there is both comfort and strife but these are not isolated issued.

We notice that there are no Alaska Native voices are represented in the book. I find this to be and I wish that they were included. This anthology is a wonderful addition to both the Alaskan and the LGBT canon— especially the selections that deal with the search for place, love, and adventure lie at the heart of the Alaskan experience. We read of the ultimate human experience but we also see that this can keep LGBTQ Alaskans from finding employment, housing, and other elements of what we call a civilized life. The conversation has only just begun in Alaska.

We cannot just look at this book as a collection of short fiction and poetry by LGBTQ Alaskans but rather we must look at the way it depicts the LGBT experience away from what is its typical milieu. We are all aware that literarily speaking, the city of New York is the center. Yet we also know that LGBTQ people and art are everywhere and that is what this anthology shows so perfectly. It represents the variety of who we are and the selections all deal with the usual topics of coming out, first love and societal rejection. There are stories that will always be important and here they also reflect the environment, spirituality, rural life and isolation and that is what makes this collection both unusual and unexpected.

In the introduction, editors Martha Amore and Lucian Childs outline the collection and give us a We see the breadth of subjects Alaskan writers cover on an individual level and because the writers showcased are not easily categorized, we have cause for celebration. If I have a problem with the anthology, it is that it includes too much. But this is not really a problem when we see the end result. I believe that the reason this book is so important is contains a wide variety of racial, religious and economic backgrounds, even within its Alaskan home. As different sexual orientations become more visible, it becomes more and more important to show the range of experience that exists within the community. We certainly see here that there is more to the LGBTQ world than can ever be considered.

 

2016’s list of most-banned books is dominated by LGBT authors

LGBT books dominate 2016’s most-banned list

2016’s list of most-banned books is dominated by LGBT authors

Nearly half of this year’s most-banned books list have LGBT themes, signalling a worrying trend.
Banned Books Week aims to challenge censorship in schools and libraries across America by raising the profile of books that have most frequently been objected to and removed from collections.
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country.
2016’s list of most-banned books features, as usual, a number of LGBT-related books that homophobic and transphobic bigots have demanded removed.
Ranking at number three on the most-banned list is I Am Jazz by transgender teen author Jazz Jennings – which recounts her real-life experience of living as a trans kid, and educates and helps others.
Number four on the list is Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin, another book featuring young transgender people discussing their own identities.
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Out feminist Alison Bechdel’s award-winning autobiographic comic Fun Home ranks in at 7 for purported “graphic images”, presumably referring to the depiction of her early sexual experiences with women.
Republicans in South Carolina previously tried to strip funding from a university because its library contained ‘gay themed’ content including a copy of Fun Home.
Rounding out the list at number 10 is young adult novel Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, for obvious reasons.
The ALA said: “This list is a snapshot of the reports we receive every day.
“Our goal is not to focus on the numbers, but to educate the community that censorship is still a very serious problem.
“Even with all of our efforts to follow up and provide support, surveys indicate that up to 85% of book challenges receive no media attention and remain unreported.”
The full list is below:
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).