Category Archives: GLBT poetry

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

“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  “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.” – 

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


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.
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”).

“The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and other Identities” edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrill— Looking at Who Our Young Folk Are


Levithan, David and Billy Merrill (editors). “The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and other Identities”, Embers, 2006, reprint 2016.

Looking at Who our Young Folk Are

Amos Lassen

Today teenagers are very aware of their sexuality and identity than we ever were and they begin looking for answers and insights, as well as a community of others. In order to help create that sense of community, Young Adult authors David Levithan and Billy Merrell have collected original poems, essays, and stories by young adults in their teens and early 20s. “The Full Spectrum” is an anthology that includes a variety of writers (gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transitioning, and questioning) who have written on a variety of subjects including coming out, family, friendship, religion/faith, first kisses, break-ups, and many others.

I do not know how I missed this when it was originally published ten years ago but I was happy to see it at my neighborhood bookstore (yes we still have those in Boston) and so I bought a copy and brought it home and spent the rest of the enjoying it. It certainly stands by its purpose of helping “all readers see themselves and the world around them in ways they might never have imagined”. It is designed for readers in grade 8 and up and consists of works that were submitted anonymously through the book’s website that the editors created in conjunction with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Levithan and Merrell then selected 40 essays, mini-autobiographies, poems, and photographs that chronicle the lives of 21st-century young people, between the ages of 13 and 23.

We have “real-life stories about coming out, falling in and out of love, mistaken identities, families and friends, misplaced affection, confronting homophobia, and more”. A selection by a female-to-male transsexual teen describes his first trip into the men’s restroom and we read about the relationship of a young man and his “trash-talking, pot-smoking, horror-movie-loving burnout” that shows us the borders between romance and friendship. There are stories of young gay men, lesbians, and transgender youth.

As could be expected, there are many stories about isolation but there are also those that are about becoming aware of and involved in a LGBT community. The anthology is made up of forty non fiction selections of which all are written by people who are under the age of twenty-three. The diversity that we see here is a reflection of the diversity of the LGBT community. By sharing the truths that we read here (the writers use their real names) change can indeed occur. This is who we are and the young writers bring hope and heartache together and show us the commonalities of the desire to feel accepted and loved and definite hope comes through. Ten years ago this book would probably never have been possible.



“How the Boy Might See It” by Charlie Bondhus— The Sensual, the Spiritual and the Carnal: Poem


Bondhus, Charlie. “How the Boy Might See It”, Revised Edition, Jane’s Boy Press, 2015.

The Sensual, The Spiritual and the Carnal: Poems

Amos Lassen

“How the Boy Might See It” is a revised edition of poems by Charlie Bondus and it includes the previous work along with some new poems. Through the poems, we explore the sensual, the spiritual in lyrical beautiful language as we read of the beauty of being alive. There is heartache and humor and sex and sexuality. Bondus writes about the search for love and feeling and how we are affected by the universe in which we live as well as forbidden joys and pleasures.

“Love is Love: Poetry Anthology: In Aid of Orlando’s Pulse Victims and Survivors” edited by Lily G. Blunt— Beautiful Tributes

love is love

Blunt, Lily G. “Love is Love: Poetry Anthology: In Aid of Orlando’s Pulse Victims and Survivors”, Illustrated by Jay Aheer, CreateSpace, 2016.

Beautiful Tributes

Amos Lassen

As beautiful as this book is, I wish we did not have to see it published and that those to whom it is dedicated were alive to read the poems in it. However, it did not happen that way. We will never forget June 12, 2016 when the most horrendous mass shooting in US history and an unfathomable act of hate was directed at the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida. The horror of this tragedy shook the world and millions were shocked and appalled at the senseless violence that destroyed so many innocent lives. The final count was 49 dead plus the murderer who does not deserved to be counted as one of the dead.

To show solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting, a group of LGBTQ and straight allies, from all over the world, came together to produce a collection of poems in celebration of love and acceptance.

“Love is Love: Poetry Anthology” is a result of that coming together and is dedicated to the families and victims of the shooting and all proceeds of this work will be donated to Equality Florida’s Pulse Victims Fund. The authors, along with the readers who purchase this work, seek to contribute to the lives of those who still suffer from the consequences of evil that was directed toward them. The poets included, along with the rest of the world, offer some positivity and compassion in the face of such bigotry.

The contributing Authors are: AC Benus, Aditus, Andrew Jericho, Ann Anderson, Ash Marie, Asta Idonea, Betti Gefecht, Cam Kennedy, Cynus Eldranai, Darren White, dughlas, Eddy LeFey, Eden Winters, EmiGS Em, F.E. Feeley Jr., Gelybi , Headstall, Jack L. Pyke, Jana Denardo, Jason Frazier, Jay Rookwood, J.L. Merrow, Karina Rye, Kathy Griffith, Kay Ellis, Kaye P. Hallows, Kit Loffstadt, Laura B. Damone, Layla Dorine, Lily G. Blunt, L.J. Harris, L.M. Somerton, Louis Stevens, L.S.K Harris, L.V. Lloyd, Lynn Michaels, Maggie Chatterton, Maria Siopis, Monika De Giorgi, Parker Owens, Patricia Nelson, Pelaam, Petra Howard, Ravyn Bryce, Rick R. Reed, Ruski, Valik and Addy, S.J. Davis, Skylar M. Cates, Star Brady, Steve Baldry, Susan Crane, Tamara Miles, Tash Hatzipetrou, Tim Landon, Tracy Gee, Vicki Tubridy, Victoria Kinnaird, and Wendy Rathbone.

“Chelate” by Jay Besemer— A Journey


Besemer, Jay. “Chelate”, Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016.

A Journey

Amos Lassen

Jay Besemer’s “Chelate” is a collection of poems that were written during the period that he was undergoing hormone therapy and gender transition. These are written about his journey to a new self. That transition, however is complicated because of a debilitating illness. The poems are powerful as the poet writes of being in a toxic body and what happens when great biological change takes place and how this affects consciousness and language. When one faces a difficult imperative and chooses to fight to live, many changes occur.

We immediately sense the shifts from exile and alienation to hope and anticipation and there are shown to us in short verses that show desire facing reality. What started out in uncertainty and commitment ultimately ends in self-recognition, and more uncertainty. A safe and necessary space where will, love, action, process, and documentation is created and inhabited.

We see that with trans people (like everyone else) are often forced into certain situations for which they are not prepared. Besemer has to create himself as a man. He has divided this collection into five sections— “Xenophila:, “Making & Unmaking”, “Adjustment Disorder”, “My Inheritance” and “Ordinary Wear and Tear” and each of these is a step in his transition as well as in his poetry. Below is a wonderful sample of what you will read here.

“i’m not interested in bombs or babiesor smart ways to interpret other people’s behavior : i’m a little kinescope or maybe a tortoise with long incongruous whiskers : at any rate i find my perspective to be unusual in most discussions : so trust me when i say that sometimes i want to bury myself in a pile of leaves until the wee families depart & the park gates close : sometimes i want to stand in a field of cows & sneeze for an hour : sometimes i want to drive down a deserted road to find the hidden ruin at the end & move in : these things feel reassuring : like bees, you know : how bees can find their homes even when their homes don’t exist : or like a star, following in the rearview : pushing the motor in the heart to click & hum in hope”.

“Radiance” by Emanuel Xavier— Survival is Splendid


Xavier, Emanuel. “Radiance”, Rebel Satori Press, 2016.

Survival is Splendid

Amos Lassen

I have had this new book of poetry by Emanuel Xavier for almost a month now but I decided to keep if for myself before letting others know about it. It is rare for me to find something so personal that I want to make it just mine but that is exactly what this poetry collection did to me. I have read and reread it almost daily looking for a way to truly express how I feel about this peek into the poet’s life and I have finally reached the point where I am ready to share my thoughts so that others can have the experiences I have had reading it.

“Don’t ask any questions.
I lie and live in the moment. Relax. Forget that this mouth is famous. These hands hold more than pens”

“Radiance” is not only special because of the beauty of the poems but also because Xavier suffered a health scare that made me wonder if we would ever have more poetry from him. Having read everything that he has written. I think it is fair to say that each book is a wake-up call that reminds us to live life to the fullest and to enjoy every moment. The beauty of Xavier’s poetry is its honesty which at times can shock but always leaves the reader feeling good.


respond quietly in the car so as not to alarm your boyfriend, your mother, your aunt. 
and he tries to convince you not to worry”.

We go back into the poet’s past to when he was a club kid in New York, learn about his family, about past and present lovers and the challenge of his recent health scare with brain cancer and see how “radiation became radiance” and “survival became splendid”.

“don’t be sad at the thought of not surviving this after everything you’ve already been through.

focus on the people walking by oblivious to

 head bandaged and fragile happy to be alive.

when he hangs up, note the silent anticipation. you could lie and say it was a wrong number. your mother will just continue complaining about her problems from the backseat.

you could change the station and ask everyone where they would like to go eat”.

I am always amazed at the beauty of the poet’s words in that knowing his past and how rough it was comes as quite a surprise. He always finds exactly the correct words to use to cast light on the reality of which he writes. His words are tender and sensitive especially when we realize that his life has not always been such yet somehow he manages to merge the two together. At times we sense he desperation between the poems but we see that as a good quality and not one that depresses but rather uplifts. I feel a sense of quiet and calm as I read and reality becomes quite beautiful. Here is what he has to say about the mendacity of life:

“We don’t always have the time
to truly listen to stories, clip our nails, nap with pets, enjoy our meals.
But it is in these rare moments
that we get a little closer to life”.

I have tried to show you some examples of what we read here but these only break the surface. There is so much to be gained here that you really have to read Xavier yourself and find where he fits into your life— and he will fit into your life.

“The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips” by Raymond Luczak— A Unified Vision of Love

the kiss of walt whitman

Luczak, Raymond. “The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips”,  Squares and Rebels, 2016.

A Unified Vision of Love

Amos Lassen

In “The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips”, Raymond Luczak recounts his unrequited love for a gardener while examining how Walt Whitman (1819-1892) lived as a gay man 150 years before. If you have read Whitman, you are aware of the way his poetry is infused with passion and while it may not come across as the way we see passion today, it provides a jumping off point for Luczak as he writes about how society and social changes have changed in the last century and a half. It is as if Luczak has inherited Whitman’s place poetically speaking and this is my opinion based upon what I read here. We read references here to Oscar Wilde who actually said that he still had the kiss of Whitman still on his lips, as well as Boyd Mcdonald, Gavin Arthur, Edward Carpenter and Thomas Eakins.

The poetry here is quite bold as Luczak presents his unified vision of love by incorporating all aspects of his definition of love including “all of its poetic manifestations: sensual, sexual, and textual, a source of electric vistas and voluptuous possibilities of spiritual renewal”. He also shares that it is not always possible to find the words necessary to express feelings. Luczak finds a sense of communion by maintaining a kind of communication with Whitman and, in effect, “uses” (for lack of a better word”) that communion to speak with his muse and to develop the way he feels about the unrequited love he feels for his gardener. (If I seem to be fumbling for words here, it is because I am…. What Luczak says here is so powerful that I find myself often shaking as I write). I am almost tempted to say that this is a non-poem poem in the way that it captures gay love both historically and in terms of modernity. I am terribly afraid of using the incorrect word to describe what I have read here lest MY interpretation becomes muddled. I find myself feeling as I did the first time I stood in front of a Picasso that reflected everything I ever felt in brushstrokes that I could never achieve.

“What now, Walt, do you think of today’s porn stars?
Their humongous cocks are perpetually stiff… They rarely smile at each other. No joy.”

“Things were simpler for men like us in your time”.

Poetry was also simpler back then when Whitman wrote of nature and instant gratification had not yet replaced love as a way to pass the time. I do not think we can read Luczak openly as we can read Whitman but then we did not have the freedom to love back then as we have today. Each word stuns me here and the best review that I can give is a non-review but an urging to find a copy of this wonderful excursion into gay love and read and savor it. You will not be the same person afterwards.




Publishing Triangle Announces Winners for Best LGBT Books of 2015

Publishing Triangle Announces Winners for Best LGBT Books of 2015

The Publishing Triangle, the association of LGBT publishing, has announced the winners for its 28th Annual Triangle Awards in LGBT Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Debut Fiction as well as (for the first time) Trans and Gender-Variant Literature.

Winners marked by three asterisks below. Those with a black asterisk have been reviewed at

Finalists for the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature

*The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press)

Debridement, by Corrina Bain (Great Weather for Media)

The Middle Notebookes, by Nathanaël (Nightboat Books)***

*Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities, by Jackson Wright Schultz (Dartmouth College Press)

Finalists for the Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction

Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Arsenal Pulp Press)

*The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, by Lillian Faderman (Simon and Schuster)

Honor Girl, by Maggie Thrash (Candlewick Press)

“No One Helped”: Kitty Genovese, New York City, and the Myth of Urban Apathy, by Marcia M. Gallo (Cornell University Press)***

Finalists for the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction

*Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage, by Barney Frank (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)*** TIE

*A House in St. John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents, by Matthew Spender (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

*It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, by Michelangelo Signorile (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)*** TIE

*Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of AIDS by Dale Peck (Soho Press)

Finalists for the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry

Bodymap, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Mawenzi House/TSAR)

Fanny Says, by Nickole Brown (BOA Editions)

Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life, by Dawn Lundy Martin (Nightboat Books)

No Confession, No Mass, by Jennifer Perrine (University of Nebraska Press)***

Finalists for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry

Boy with Thorn, by Rickey Laurentiis (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Chord, by Rick Barot (Sarabande Books)***

Farther Traveler, by Ronaldo V. Wilson (Counterpath Press)

The Spectral Wilderness, by Oliver Bendorf (Kent State University Press)

Finalists for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction

Blue Talk and Love, by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (Riverdale Avenue Books)

Bright Lines, by Tanwi Nandini Islam (Penguin Books)

*Hotel Living, by Ioannis Pappos (Harper Perennial)

One Hundred Days of Rain, by Carellin Brooks (BookThug)***

Finalists for The Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction

*After the Parade, by Lori Ostlund (Scribner)

JD, by Mark Merlis (Terrace Books/University of *Wisconsin Press)

*A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday)

*A Poet of the Invisible World, by Michael Golding (Picador)***

*Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)