Category Archives: GLBT short stories

“The Dahlia Field” by Henry Alley— Fourteen Stories on Male/Male Attraction

Alley, Henry. “The Dahlia Field”, Chelsea Station, 2017.

Fourteen Stories on Male/Male Attraction

Amos Lassen

I believe that all gay man have two aims in life—to be able to face our inner selves and to have the opportunity to live a safe gay life. Both of these aims are found in each of the fourteen stories by Henry Alley even if the characters and the settings are widely diverse as they are here. We meet “the business man, the actor, the house painter, the arborist, the student, the scientist, the gardener, the professional athlete, the musician” and the women that are in their lives. Sometimes we forget that the coming-out process actually comes from deep within each of us and it is not a singular action that repeats throughout our lives and we certainly see that in these stories.

The real beauty in what we have here is the use of language. Writer Alley writes from the heart in rather simple prose that pierces the outer shell of his characters. As we read we get to know them and we understand why they think the way that they do. In coming out they reveal something from the inside and we share theirs and vulnerabilities. I remember reading a book entitled “How to Be Gay” and wondering why anyone would need to write much less to read a book based on learning how to be gay especially if we hold to the theory that we are born gay. I did not seem to consider that being gay depends on much more than sexuality and so much of this we learn from others. It is also a way of life and that is what we see so clearly here. Rather than go through each story and writing summaries, I chose to say that there stories iterate what so many think and do not know how to put into words. Henry Allen does that for us.

 

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?

“If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There” by Dave Madden— Gay in the American Midwest

Madden, Dave. “If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There”, Break Away Books, 2016’

Gay in the American Midwest

Amos Lassen

In Dave Madden’s collection of short stories we read about men who are different in the American Midwest. For example, We read of an HIV-positive chemist who uses football to connect with his brothers; a 17-year-old girl struggles with a cartoon cobra to avoid thinking about her mother who walked out on her; a hotel concierge starts attending Mass even though his partner was molested by a priest. These are struggles of people who try to figure out their place within families and communities, outsider are always looking in at the society that they yearn to be a part of. Our characters have been marginalized simply because they are different yet they want to be happy.

The stories are by turns humorous, heartbreaking, and haunting, and Madden’ prose is gorgeous and populated by well drawn characters that find a place in our hearts and minds and who remain with us after the covers of the book are closed.

“Eros and Dust: Stories” by Trebor Healy— The Lives of Gay Men

eros-and-dust

Healy, Trebor. “Eros & Dust: Stories”, Lethe Press, 2016.

The Lives of Gay Men

Amos Lassen

One of the authors that I always satisfy is Trebor Healy and I eagerly await the publication each new book of each new book that he writes. In this collection of short stories, Healy brings us quite a cast of characters and themes. We meet a guy who is addicted to meth yet is determined to find redemption in the New Orleans of after the devastation of Katrina, a clown in a circus who runs away from his lover and goes to Argentina, men who like youngsters, lovers on the internet and so on. There are stories of unbridled lust, the supernatural and sex all written in the gorgeous prose that Healy is known for. Yet here there is something else—vulnerability and we get this in even the most undesirable of his characters.

“Book Tales” by David G. Hallman— A Collection

book-tales

Hallman, David G. “Book Tales”, iUniverse, 2016.

A Collection

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I am not much of a short story reader and the only reason for that is personal choice. Sure, I have read and loved some short stories but if I have to choose between a collection of stories and a novel, I choose the novel. Yet every once in a while a short story collection comes along that bowls me over. “Book Tales” is such a collection.

I have always felt that the purpose of reading (for me, at least) is twofold—entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Now if you follow my reviews, you know that I do not always find intellectual stimulation in the books I review so I must rely on entertainment. Then along comes David Hallman who fulfills both requirements in one book of short stories. In this diverse collection of seven stories, there is something for everyone. Let me go a step further and say there is something special for everyone. Gay life, like all life, is filled with joy and heartache, pain and pleasure, drama and melodrama and the key is finding out how to deal with it all. Each of the stories here looks at aspects of life that deal with our social and personal relationships.

After all, is life not a relationship? I have just begun to look at it as such. The stories here are also gay stories but that does not mean there is no crossover to straight society. After all, outside of the bedroom we are all the same. Each of our characters is looking for something and is not that which we all do in life. Birth is a beginning, death is an ending and life is a journey that we all take.

David G. Hallman sees literature and sexuality as those forces that determine our identities and the kind of experiences we have. We see that in the different experiences of gays and straights. To reach his obvious goal of each story having something to say, Hallman brings together fact and fiction as well as literature and sexuality. This might not sound original but it is the way that he does so that is fresh and novel. There is also erotica here and there is literature. I base this statement on the literary and erotica works that I have read. Hallman takes on an expository mission looking at the connection between art and life and we sense his love for literature in what he writes. Each story is based on literature and the uniqueness with which Hallman integrates it into a story is nothing short of amazing. We have books that act as catalysts for action and we have books that serve as a way to introduce characters. We have a story about a writer and his famous gay novel in which we learn about how he came to write it and why it was so real for him. From the world of art we learn of sexuality and identity that we see reflected in the works of art that they produced. I have deliberately not named any of the stores and if you continue to read here, you will understand why. I do not like to give a heads up to a specific piece when the entire collection is so good. Some of you may find the sexual explicitness to be a bit too heavy and I am ready to disagree on that. The sex is not gratuitousness but there to help develop the character and the plot. We see the importance of sex in one’s identity and humanity. Stop and think if you have ever thought about yourself minus your sexuality. I cannot praise “Book Tales” too much and in fact, I am reading it for the third time. I originally got a copy before it was officially published and I was so impressed with it that I could not sit down to write about it. In fact it has taken me two weeks to write this and now I am determined to read it just for pleasure’s sake. But before I do I want to publicly thank David Hallman for writing this and for remembering me as a reviewer.

 

“At Danceteria and Other Stories” by Philip Walker Dean— A Debut Collection of Seven Short Stories

at-dancetria

Walker, Philip Dean. “At Danceteria and Other Stories”, Squares & Rebels, 2016.

A Debut Collection of Seven Short Stories

Amos Lassen

I am always amazed by authors who can say a lot in a short period of time even though, I must admit, that I prefer long fiction to short stories but that is something personal with me. Against the background of the devastating AIDS epidemic, Philip Dean Walker gives us seven short stories in just 91 pages. We get a mix here that is diverse and that highlights the literary talent of the author.  Celebrities are a major part of six of the stories and we meet them after they have died and are returned to life in new and unique settings. Just to give you an idea of what to expect, we meet Halston, Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Freddie Mercury, Sylvester, Keith Haring, Princess Diana, Rock Hudson and Jackie O and we do so at the most unlikely placers be it a leather bar or a drag show. Walker writes with camp but does not overdue it and the stories are all plausible and relatable (if we use our imaginations). While this collection could have been quite frivolous, Walker chose the AIDS epidemic as a background and we find the link between the story and the devastation of AIDS.

One of the stories, “The Boy Who Lived Next to the Boy Next Door” captures the confusion and panic that we all felt with the AIDS epidemic began. Our unnamed main character decides to refer to the epidemic as “Hot Guy Flu” and that is because those dying were all good-looking and sexy men. The result is that the average-looking guys moved up the ranks of desirability because they were not hot enough to become infected. You can imagine where that leads.

Because the book is short, it becomes a quick read and one that can be read over and over again and there is always something new to find.

Walker writes with a quick wit and irreverence and that makes me love him even more. Our past was beautiful one hand and terrifying on the other. It has taken us quite a long time to be able to laugh about AIDS and I am not sure that I am even ready to do so I tended to push the wit and humor aside and see the threat to our community. We did not yet use the word “queer” to describe ourselves and while some fulfilled the stereotype of the erotic and sex-crazy gay male, others certainly came nowhere close to doing so. What we really see in these stories about America in the 80s is that we did not know that we could be killed by just that—what we did not know. There is a sense of loneliness in the stories making us want to reach out to the characters and make them our own. Walker takes us on a journey that never disappoints and is important for us to read so that we can better understand ourselves. It is necessary to know our past if we want to have a better future and we must never forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Our behavior might be different than what us but we can remember or read about how it once was even when exaggerated here.

 

“She Married a Zombie Truck Driver & Five other “Trucking” Tales” by Robin Anderson— Eight Deadly Sins

she-married-a-zombie

Anderson, Robin. “She Married a Zombie Truck Driver & Five other “Trucking” Tales”, CreateSpace, 2016.

Eight Deadly Sins

Amos Lassen

A new book by Robin Anderson is always fun. I do not know how Anderson does it but he is always able to put a smile on my face and good feelings in my heart. “She Married a Zombie Truck Driver…” is a collection of short stories about the now “eight deadly sins”— greed, envy, anger, laziness, gluttony, lust, pride and despondency take us to places of “euphoria and tantalization”. Anderson has updated the traditional sins and added the sin of despondency to make them relevant to today and to make theme stories of wry humor. Because each story is unique and has its own offbeat humor, it makes it impossible to summarize them without spoiling the read. We have quite a cast of characters that includes Claudette Cavil-Carter, a representative of the world of avariciousness and Tom Tattoo Edwards who is there to try to help her take all of what she has with her when her time comes. This is like reading a cookbook of sins with each sin having its own recipe and outcome. Then there is the fact that we get eight sins in six stories that are truly “naughty” (Thank you Grady Harp for finding the word I was looking for).

Reading Anderson is habit forming and I can no longer count how many books I have read, reviewed and relished. His output is so vast and such fun that I have given him his own section on my review site.

Anderson is wonderfully ridiculous and amazingly erudite and sophisticated. His seriousness is not in his plots but in his language and his usage of it to create situations that are off-color is a trait that he owns totally. I love his irreverence and the characters he has created here to reflect that. Don’t take my word for it— have a look for yourselves. You will never regret it.

The stories include “She Married a Zombie Truck Driver”, “The Advert” (yes, Anderson is British), “The Princess Michelin & Mr. Sprat”, “Eighty Six and a Half Percent”, “Four & Twenty Blackbirds” and “Seeing is Not Believing”.

 

“Unhinged” by Rick R. Reed— Just in Time for Halloween

unhinged

Reed, Rick R. “Unhinged: A Collection of Gay Horror”, Wilde City Press, 2016.

Just in Time for Halloween

Amos Lassen

We do not usually think of horror and romance at the same time yet in this new collection of six short stories by Rick R. Reed, we see that this is indeed possible. Reed takes us on a dark trip into a world where the fantasy and reality come together.

 “Echoes” is a story about a couple who is moving into a new apartment not knowing that there is a ghost in residence already. All that ghost wants is to have a chance to finally be put to rest.

In “How I Met My Man”, the LGBT community is attacked by a killer who has no boundaries. An uninvited guy came into Stephen’s home while he was not there- and returned the same night when he was. The story plays on the idea that there is someone in the house with you.

“The Man From Milwaukee” is a short, short story about the fragility of human nature and the ease there is in manipulating it.

Of course, we have a story with a vampire— “Sluggo Snares A Vampire” is about not knowing whom we are peaking with online. During the day, Sluggo works at a bank but at night, he becomes Sir Raven and when he invites a guest into his home one night, he discovers that his guest is a vampire.

The closet remains a popular theme in gay stories in “The Ghost” we meet two men who are having a sexual affair while one of them is still in the closet. Neither guy had any idea that he would fall in love and it takes a ghost to explain to them what love is all about.

Oliver’s husband was murdered and he senses his lover is still with him in “Incubus” and we see here that true love lasts eve after death.

We see that there is something for everyone here in this diverse collection that waves between romance and horror.

 

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”).

“Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories” by Kathleen Collins— Sixteen Stories

whatever happened to interracial

Collins, Kathleen. “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories”, (Art of the Story), Ecco, 2016.

Sixteen Stories

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I had never heard of Kathleen Collins until I read this book but I am now certainly glad that I am familiar with her writing. Kathleen Collins was a groundbreaking African-American playwright, filmmaker, and educator who has been largely forgotten since her early death in 1988 at age 46. She was the first black woman to produce a feature-length film, and when that never-before-released movie, “Losing Ground”, finally premiered at Lincoln Center few years ago, it played to sold-out audiences for three weeks. Collins also wrote short stories, although her fiction was never published in her lifetime, or in the years since until this book.

In these sixteen stories, Collins writes with brutal honesty about the experiences of women and African Americans from the perspective of the seventies and eighties. She captures everyday lives and does so with grace and humor. She also intimately writes about race, gender, family and sexuality. She presents us with a look at race in the 1960s; something that only those of us who lived through that period can sense what is was like to be Black and female in this country.

She writes of the mingling of politics and desire and the quest for a place that is exotic and different while looking at the historical context in which the stories take place. Collins has preserved the past and what it was to black, young and in love amid the Civil Rights movement. She covers the themes of self-determination, group affinity and individualism, lovers and the power plays between them in ways we have not seen before. 

We read of “parents and children, blacks and whites, blacks and blacks, lovers, intellectuals, artists, dreamers, strivers, braggarts and idealists” and they all wan the same thing— justification for their lives and to be able to share that with others. This is a look at interracial America that we have never had before in that is a look at both white and black striving for the same goals

The characters here are conscious of their race but it is not what determines how they travel through life and/or make choices. With Collins the profound becomes personal and intimate and this is something I wish we would see from more writers. The stories make the black experience part of the characters’ lives and I emphasize the word “part”— black is only a part of who they are. I am not much of a short story reader mainly because I prefer to be involved with a book over a longer period of time but these stories not only allowed me to get to know the characters but to see them as friends and contemporaries. I grew up in the South in the 60s and dared defy my family by attending a southern integrated university where I met “some of the characters I read about here” but had forgotten them. This book puts them back into my life and I am so grateful for that.