Category Archives: GLBT short stories

“Trans Teen Survival Guide” by Fox Fisher and Owl Fence— All you Need to Know To Know

Fisher, Fox and Owl Fox. “Trans Teen Survival Guide”, Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2018.

All You Need to Know

Amos Lassen

Frank, friendly and funny, The “Trans Teen Survival Guide” is “frank, friendly and funny”. But more than that, it is filled with valuable information for transgender and non-binary teens. It is a book that keeps them informed, empowered and armed with all the hints and tips, confidence and practical advice that are needed to navigate life as a trans teen. Fox and Owl Fisher try to answer every question that has to do with trans life. There are chapters on coming out, on proper pronoun usage, how to put on a packer and how to get through cross-hormonal therapy to name just a few.

Fox and Owl are Trans youth activists Fox and Owl put the focus on self-care, expression and pride your unique identity. Because they themselves are trans Fox and Owl are able to tell what it is like to be trans teen and help save some with potentially life-saving advice on dealing with dysphoria or depression. Here is a look the major issue of gender identity and we see that gender is a complicated social construct and is a difficult concept to define.

Being trans means being different and I believe that no harder one tries, the definition becomes more and more difficult. Here is where this book really helps. It is such an important addition to our literature.

 

“Of Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock” by Eric Stanislaus Stenbock— A Decadent Writer

Stenbock, Eric Stanislaus. “Of Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock”, MIT Press, 2018.

A Decadent Writer

Amos Lassen

“Of Kings and Things” is an introduction to the decadent writer Stanislaus Eric Stenbock for the general reader. It is made up of morbid stories, suicidal poems, and an autobiographical essay. W. B. Yeats, the poet, called Stencock a “scholar, connoisseur, drunkard, poet, pervert, most charming of men,” Count Stanislaus Eric Stenbock (1860–1895) is the greatest exemplar of the Decadent movement of the late nineteenth century.

He was a friend of Aubrey Beardsley, patron of the extraordinary pre-Raphaelite artist Simeon Solomon, and contemporary of Oscar Wilde. Stenbock died at the age of thirty-six as a result of his addiction to opium and his alcoholism, having only published three slim volumes of suicidal poetry and one collection of morbid short stories. He was a gay man and a convert to Roman Catholicism who owned a serpent, a toad, and a dachshund called Trixie. It was said that toward the end of his life he was accompanied everywhere by a life-size wooden doll that he believed to be his son. His poems and stories are filled with queer, supernatural, mystical, and Satanic themes and original editions of his books are highly sought by collectors.

“Of Kings and Things” is actually the first introduction to Stenbock’s writing for the general reader, offering fifteen stories, eight poems and one autobiographical essay.

Lilith’s Legacy: Prose Poems and Short Stories” by Renee Vivien— First English Translations

Vivien, Renee. “Lilith’s Legacy: Prose Poems and Short Stories”, Snuggly Books, 2018.

First English Translations

Amos Lassen

“Lilith’s Legacy” is made up of four entire collections of the prose poems and short stories of the lesbian Symbolist “Renée Vivien” that have never before appeared in English. These are “Fjord Mists”, “From Green to Violet”, “The She-Wolf Lady”, and “Christ, Aphrodite and Monsieur Pépin”.

This is the first of a projected three volumes of Vivien’s work in translation., collects all the short work published under that name. Vivien is the pen name of Pauline Mary Tarn (1877–1909), a London-born woman who settled in Paris in the late 1890s and became part of the famous lesbian literary and social circle surrounding Natalie Barney; all of her published work was written in French. Her poetry and prose unite symbolist and decadent language and influences with the realities of her life as a lesbian. Some of the work collected here is minor, such as the early snippets and prose poems that begin the book. Vivien’s reworkings of folk tales and Bible stories (such as “The Veil of Vashti,” in which Vashti refuses her husband’s summons to emulate Lilith are original and beautiful). Her series of horror stories in which male narrators fail to understand or work well with the competent and spectacular women around them reflect society of the time and are quite dark. Some of Vivien’s writing has been translated before, but these new translations are comprehensive and readable and give the English speaking world a chance to read her.

Embracing her sexuality as a lesbian in Paris in and her introduction to Natalie Clifford Barney, an American lesbian heiress in Paris greatly influence her work. Vivien’s poetry was influenced by Keats, Swinburne, Baudlaire and Hellenic culture. After bouts of sexual indulgence, drugs and anorexia, Renee died from pneumonia in 1909.

During her lifetime, she published fourteen books of poetry, two novels and three books of short stories. she is credited with bringing Sappho’s sexuality out of the shadows and spent time translating the known works of Sappho into French, illuminating the Greek poetess’ lesboerotic passions. It is through Renee’s works that Sappho has attained the level of muse, goddess of lesbian passion and love.

 Vivien was a woman ahead of her times. She wrote stories and poetry on strong-willed heroic women facing seemingly insurmountable problems in a time when women were encouraged to embrace the domesticity of a drab housewife. Although Renee was a very prolific writer, it is her relationship with Natalie Clifford Barney that interests readers the most.

“If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi: Stories” by Neel Patel— The Complexities of Modern Life

Patel, Neel. “If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi: Stories”, Flatiron Books, 2018.

The Complexities of Modern Life

Amos Lassen

We live in a world where stereotypes have taken on lives of their own or so it seems even though we know that stereotypes are commonly held lies. Neel Patel looks at stereotypes and undermines them in eleven very sharp stories. Almost all of his characters are first-generation Indian Americans that face the coming together of the old world and the new world, the differences of small town and big city, the collisions of traditional beliefs and modern rituals.

Patel looks at Indian-Americans and dares to write about subjects that are often overlooked or laughed at such as “helicopter parents, conflicts between spouses, sibling rivalry, racism, sexual orientation, and identity.”

We feel his deep empathy even when his characters infuriate us. He explores universal themes in unexpected ways and excels at portraying nuanced characters. We see the gap between how characters experience their lives and how they are expected to be seen—and how those gaps can become life-changing fissures.

Neel Patel writes with wisdom and compassion and is fun to read because his characters are human and their stories are simply told. Most important is that he writes about the freedom to be flawed.

We meet “terrible spouses, warring siblings, unapologetic liars, and naive kids, searching for happiness, love, or maybe just sex”? The stories are moving, thoughtful, entertaining, and discomfiting and we get a different look at Indians in America. The characters are both sympathetic and deeply flawed. We have two brothers mixed up in an elaborate web of envy and loathing; a young gay man who becomes involved with an older man whose secret he could never guess; three women who almost throw off what society asks of them and a young couple dealing with community gossip.

All of the characters have to deal with moments of truth and have to make a decision that will have serious ramifications.

It is important to state here that while a majority of the characters are of Indian descent, any reader of any background will be able to identify with these characters and their experiences. When reviewing a collection, I do not usually summarize each story but here I want mention a few of them.

“Just a Friend,” is about a young gay man wants to know the secrets his older, married boyfriend has been hiding—but doesn’t quite expect what he finds out;

“God of Destruction,” which tells of a woman enchanted by the wi-fi repairman.

“Hare Rama, Hare Krishna,” juxtaposes a teenager’s navigating his parents’ marital troubles with his acknowledgment of his own sexuality, and all of the good and bad that comes with that.

“If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi” is about the relationship of two brothers from the teenage years through adulthood.

“World Famous” and “Radha, Krishna,” are connected. They follow a young man and a young woman who were thrown together as children but went their separate ways, and then reconnected in adulthood, only to find that their lives had been deeply scarred.

The character development in all the stories is amazing and the stories were very so different than what I usually expect in short stories. Patel gives us humor, emotion, sexuality, empathy and even surprise at times. We care about and feel for, the characters even those we do not like or understand.

The stories reflect the complexities of modern life and Patel wonderfully captures everyday emotions and there is something to be taken from each of the stories.

“Sweet and Low: Stories” by Nick White— Maculinity, Identity and Place

White, Nick. “Sweet and Low: Stories”, Blue Rider, 2018

Masculinity, Identity, and Place

Amos Lassen

The characters in Nick White’s story collection “Sweet and Low” are trying to figure what is the next step in life and that makes them just like us and certainly identifiable. They are all trying to figure out their next steps. These are all different kinds of people—widows, ex-lovers, teenagers and disillusioned yet all struggle with questions and decisions that will ultimately impact their lives. I found it hard not to like a book in which you realize you are reading about yourself.

White’s stories are beautifully written and beautifully compelling. White is quite a storyteller. We have both random stories and those that are lined and follow Forney Culpepper from boyhood to adulthood. I am not going to summarize all of them but I will share with you about a few. “The Lovers” is about a widow who is dealing with life without her husband and his lover who wants something back that he gave his man before he died. In “The Exaggerations”, we read about a young guy who lives with his aunt and uncle and is just entering the world of what adults do. A high school senior has to deal with a scandal in the family while at the same time cannot stop thinking of his school’s coach. This is the story of “Lady Tigers”.

The Forney Culpepper stories are built around the character of Culpepper (duh) and I really enjoyed those and am ready for more. In fact I am ready for more Nick White. It is his prose style more than the stories that kept me reading. It might also be that since I am originally from the south and educated there that these stories pulled me in. There is a grand touch of the moonlight and magnolias that we find in Southern literature here. On the other hand, these stories are deconstructed versions of Southern literature as we see via the flaws of the characters. One cannot anticipate what will happen in the stories and that adds to the great fun of reading them. With characters that are searching for who they are, you cannot go wrong by reading this collection. In fact, it is more of an experience than a read.

“Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions” by Orlando Ortega-Medina— Thirteen Stories

Ortega-Medina, Orlando. “Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions”, Cloud Lodge, 2017.

Thirteen Stories

Amos Lassen

Orlando Ortega-Medina’s “Jerusalem Ablaze” is a collection of thirteen short stories are about sexuality, death, obsession, and religion. Each story contains characters who are flawed individuals trying their best to make sense of their lives. Ortega-Medina says that, “the stories in the book come from below my consciousness. They are to entertain and not leave any kind of message. I think the interesting thing is how people read the stories and what they take away tells a lot about the people reading them. I don’t mind what people come up with as long as they were moved by the story.”

The darkly humorous stories are occasionally violent, often uncomfortable, and always populated with characters on a quest to find their place in the world. They were inspired by four periods of travel in his life: California, Quebec, Israel and Japan. Ortega-Medina said the Israel stories are the most biographical of the whole collection and are firmly rooted in his experiences and the time he spent searching for himself there.

“An Israel State of Mind” is perhaps the most biographical story in the collection. A recent high school graduate from Southern California arrives in Israel to spend a year working on a kibbutz. He hopes to rid himself of his desires; instead he is reunited with the man he loves.

The stories are not for everyone but there is a quality of writing here that is enticing and darkness. For example, the first story “Torture of Roses” is about a reviled aesthete who enjoys skewering his skin. He feels it is time to choose a young man to be his heir and servant. The two have a convoluted relationship and when the man is dying, his heir, has little pity left.

The stories explore the deep corners of the mind and the soul and are filled with hidden feelings and desires. These are stories of people looking for themselves are of those who have found it yet re afraid to show it to the world. It is as if we are looking at ourselves as we read.

The stories in “Jerusalem Ablaze” explore life’s imperfections and the fragility of the world. Each story introduces us to ordinary human beings who deal with compulsions or external influences. Styles of writing shift from sadness to creepy to affection to the macabre.

Because these are stories, characters had to be developed quickly but that does not mean that thy re not fully developed. In fact, I found some of the characters addictive and this led me to read the book in one sitting. The themes of sexuality, death, religion are present in almost all of them, albeit in different forms and different settings and we read the characters’ inner thoughts and desires which are much more important than the plot. In other words, these are characters that we care about.

I debated with myself as to whether summarize each story or just look at the book as a whole. I realized that it would be difficult to do each story without a spoiler so I generalize here. This is a fascinating read written in gorgeous prose that has something for almost everyone who enjoys dark literature.

30th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners (2018)

30th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners (2018)

Lesbian Fiction

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado, Graywolf Press

Gay Fiction

After the Blue Hour, John Rechy, Grove Press

Bisexual Fiction

The Gift, Barbara Browning, Coffee House Press

Bisexual Nonfiction

Hunger, Roxane Gay, HarperCollins

Transgender Fiction

Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, Bogi Takács (ed), Lethe Press

LGBTQ Nonfiction

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Haymarket Books

Transgender Nonfiction

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, C. Riley Snorton, University of Minnesota Press

Lesbian Poetry

Rock | Salt | Stone, Rosamond S. King, Nightboat Books

Gay Poetry

While Standing in Line for Death, CA Conrad, Wave Books

Transgender Poetry

recombinant, Ching-In Chen, Kelsey Street Press

Lesbian Mystery

Huntress, A.E. Radley, Heartsome Publishing

Gay Mystery

Night Drop, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

The Fact of a Body, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Flatiron Books

Gay Memoir/Biography

Lives of Great Men: Living and Loving as an African Gay Man, Chike Frankie Edozien, Team Angelica Publishing

Lesbian Romance

Tailor-Made, Yolanda Wallace, Bold Strokes Books

Gay Romance

Love and Other Hot Beverages, Laurie Loft, Riptide Publishing

LGBTQ Erotica

His Seed, Steve Berman, Unzipped Books

LGBTQ Anthology

¡Cuéntamelo! Oral Histories by LGBT Latino Immigrants, Juliana Delgado Lopera, Aunt Lute Books

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult

Like Water, Rebecca Podos, Balzer + Bray

LGBTQ Drama

The Gulf, Audrey Cefaly, Samuel French

LGBTQ Graphic Novels

My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Emil Ferris, Fantagraphics Books

LGBTQ SF/F/Horror

Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Tor Books

LGBTQ Studies

Punishing Disease: HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness, Trevor Hoppe, University of California Press

“The Affliction: A Novel” by C. Dale Young— Telling Stories

Young, C. Dale. “The Affliction: A Novel in Stories”, Four Way Books, 2018.

Telling Stories

Amos Lassen

Dale Young’s “The Affliction” is a novel that is told in short stories that bring together people who are not want they seem to be. We meet Javier Castillo who was born with the ability to disappear; Rosa Blanco who sits in her small kitchen musing over a moment from the past over and over again and Leenck who is aware of his impending death, but no one is aware of him. These and other characters are the people who live quiet lives, the kind of people that we never hear about and rarely, if ever see. They now move forward in lyrical prose. They hide and their lack of visibility affects those who love them and those who fear them. Most of us live in the present and have knowledge of the past and thoughts about the future. Some are obsessive bout the past and in fear of the future and some just are in the present.

Stories like people in that we can take each differently and in many cases we do so based upon our own life experiences. In communities of marginalized people, the ability to disappear comes with the marginalization. Like the stories in which these characters appear, they are unpredictable and varied. Then we realize that the way we know people, is often through the stories we hear about them but what about those that we do not hear about? These are the people that C. Dale Young introduces us too and as he does, we take them in. The stories are linked and we are taken to visit places where, like I said, we ordinarily would not go. What is so beautiful here is that in reading these stories, we actually experience them and they are transformative. I want you to see that I make this claim without telling a word about any of the stories because I do not think it is fair to do so. I want the stories to affect you the way they have affected me as personal thoughts. Every person will find something in these stories to identify with or to even call his/her/their own.

Our memories of the past differ as they should since we do not share a personal past. My past, for example, includes personal experiences that I prefer to keep personal and yet that past can be haunting and it can also be beautiful. Most of us are unable to tell as story the way Young does here. These stories share history and heart and while set in the Latino community, they could be set anywhere and at anytime. In rereading what I have said here, I realize that on one hand I have not said much and on the other, perhaps I have said too much but that is what we, philosophers, do. It is my goal to get you to take a look at “The Affliction: and taste its glorious prose. I think that once you do, like Javier Castillo, you will disappear for a while as you read what is here. Do not expect to close the covers and walk away from the book. It will stay with you and you will consider and reconsider what you have read.

30th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

30th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

Awards Ceremony: Monday, June 4, 2018 in New York City

Lambda Literary, the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature, announced the finalists of the 30th Annual Lambda Literary Awards – or the “Lammys,” as they are affectionately known.

The finalists were chosen from nearly 1,000 submissions and over 300 publishers. Submissions came from major mainstream publishers and from independent presses, from both long-established and new LGBTQ publishers, as well as from emerging publish-on-demand technologies. Visionary and Trustee Award honorees, the master of ceremonies, and celebrity presenters will be announced in April. The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony on Monday, June 4th in New York City.

“Celebrating our 30th year of Lambda Literary Award finalists is to recognize that this organization has been at the center of contemporary queer literature for decades,” said Lambda Literary Executive Director Tony Valenzuela. “This year is no different with another stellar list of authors demonstrating through their work that LGBTQ books tell richly textured stories about who we are in all our incredible diversity.”

Now in their thirtieth year, the Lambda Literary Awards celebrate achievement in LGBTQ writing for books published in 2017. The awards ceremony on June 4, 2018, will be held at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012). The red carpet and specially ticketed VIP cocktail reception will be held before the ceremony. The after-party, open to all with a general admission ticket, will follow at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012). For more information and to buy tickets, please visit Lambda’s website.

67 literary professionals, including booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, authors, academics and previous Lammy winners and finalists volunteered countless hours of reading, critical thinking, and invigorating discussion to select the finalists in 23 categories.

Those marked with an asterisk have been reviewed here t reviewsbyamoslassen.com. This is the first time I find myself amazed at how few of these books I have read and reviewed. But there is no turning back as I have 97 books waiting for reviews.

Lesbian Fiction

 

Gay Fiction

 

Bisexual Fiction

 

Transgender Fiction 

 

LGBTQ Nonfiction

  

Bisexual Nonfiction

 

Transgender Nonfiction

 

Lesbian Poetry

 

Gay Poetry 

  

Transgender Poetry

  

Lesbian Mystery

 

Gay Mystery

 

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

 

Gay Memoir/Biography

 

Lesbian Romance

 

Gay Romance 

 

LGBTQ Anthology 

 

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult 

 

LGBTQ Drama

 

LGBTQ Erotica 

 

LGBTQ Graphic Novels

 

LGBTQ SF/F/Horror

 

LGBTQ Studies 

 

“The Resilience Anthology”— A Journey

Heart, Amy, Sugi Pyrrophyta and Larissa Glasser, editors. “The Resilience Anthology”, Heartspark Press., 2017.

A Journey

Amos Lassen

I just received an announcement about “The Resilience Anthology” so I am passing it on to you.

“Take a journey through the worlds of over thirty (C)AMAB* trans writers in what is currently the largest collection of poetry and prose made for and by us. Featuring new work by Luna Merbruja, Magpie Leibowitz, Moss Angel, KOKUMO, Joss Barton, Ariel Howland, Casey Plett, Sascha Hamilton, A.K. Blue, Oti Onum, Rahne Alexander, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Lawrence Walker, Connifer Candlewood, Serafima Mintz, Talia Johnson, Tyler Vile, Lina Corvus, Bridget Liang, CHRYSALISAMIDST, Ana Valens, Larissa Glasser, Lilith Dawn, AR Rushet and more, including an introduction by Julia Serano!”

“Our writers featured in this book exist across the gender spectrum, but do not identify with their birth assignment. Many are trans women, but some are genderqueer, non-binary, agender, or all of the above.”