Monthly Archives: June 2014

“I Am J” by Cris Beam—Who He Really Is

I am J

Beam, Cris. “I Am J”, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011.

Who He Really Is

Amos Lassen

J never felt like the other guys and he was certain that sooner or later everyone would understand who he really was: a boy who had been mistakenly born as a girl. However,  as he grew up, his body began to betray him and he  stopped praying to wake up a “real boy” and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible — from his parents, from his friends, from the world. But after his best friend deserted him, He decided that he was through with hiding and the time had come to be who he really is. He is determined to see this through. He was born as Jennifer but always thought that he was a boy inside a girl’s body. When he was in elementary school he refused his mother’s dressing him in dresses and instead chose the clothes that boys wear. His mother is Puerto Rican and his father is Jewish and they want him to think about the future. They want him to one day get married and have a family but this is not what he wants at all. He knows that others do not understand him and he is misunderstood and anxious about what the future will bring. After he argues with his best friend, he is alone and the time has come for him to break out, he feels and he begins classes at a school for queer and transgender kids.

He cannot seem to connect with anyone because he has to act one way and feel another way. He is tired of hiding in clothes and decides to explore testosterone treatments and thus he begins on a journey that will test him and his patience, his maturity, and his commitment. J is a complex, conflicted character whose emotional journey will resonate long after the book is done.  This is an inspiring novel about deciding to lead the life one is meant to—regardless of  cost.

It took him running away from home and enrolling in a special school for gay and transgender teens to realize that the time had come to act. He even finds a girlfriend, Blue, a straight female artist who believes J is a boy and to whom he must eventually confess the truth. It took until he was 18 to begin getting testosterone  shots. He applies to and is accepted at college to study photography as a transgender young man, and holds out hope that one day his parents will accept him as well.

In J, Chris Beam has created a vivid character. The story is narrated in the third person and it is based in reality and fascinating to read. J is not a very likeable character but then he has a lot going on. This is a moving look at a teenager’s gender transition and coming of age. His family does not understand what is going on with him but they want to remain close. J struggles just to be and it is to author Beam’s credit that she created such a character—someone we love to hate until we understand more of what is going on. His character advances realistically with each event he goes through and every battle is like the battles that other transkids at school still play. His internal battles become more and more real and we see that in his external appearance. Reading this gave me a better understanding of the trans world and I know I will be using it as a reference from now on.

 

“The Joy of Atheism” by Daniel Curzon—- “The Unholy Bible of Non-Belief”

the joys of atheismCurzon, Daniel. “The Joy of Atheism “, IGNA , 2014.

“The Unholy Bible of Non-Belief”

Amos Lassen

Daniel Curzon must know when I need cheering up because this new book was perfectly time to give me a boost. The title is a bit misleading since the book is not about atheism directly. It is actually a compendium that aims at getting rid of religious beliefs and I do not remember having this much fun with a book in a long time. Using as his sources “The Holy Bible”, “The Penguin History of the World”, “The History of the World in One Volume” and so on, Curzon uses the facts supplied as well as other facts from a lifetime of religious indoctrination to “rephrase and rearrange” everything as much as possible. The result, to me at least, is hysterical but I am fairly sure that the multitudes will not agree. What Curzon gives us is the unholy bible of non-belief.

Let me just cite some of what we have here:

“Sign of the Cross—making the sign of the cross that Jesus of Nazareth died on before or after hitting a home run is a sign of poor sportsmanship because it one ups the other players who think God is on their side.” Curzon then asks “if competing signs of the cross cancel each other out.”

“Bible—a book so holy that to read it carefully purifies the brain and eliminates critical thought. According to Tim Schmeyer in “Bible Study”— ‘After the living food of God’s word is chewed (observation) and digested (interpretation) it is then sent to various parts of the body that need it.’ Exactly when this word of God turns into feces is not spelled out, but, if you start an analogy, finish it. The Bible justifies slavery, since even Jesus bade slaves to be obedient to their masters”.

“Judaism—the religion of the Jews, which shows great patience in waiting for the Messiah, or possibly great impatience, depending on one’s point of view because nobody is good enough to be the Messiah. Unfortunately often pronounced ‘Judy-ism’, leading many to think that it is a cult devoted to the worship of Judy Garland, an American entertainer [who was not Jewish but she married a Jewish man]. At least it is not a missionary religion.”

Now this is just a taste—there is so much more and while some consider this to be anti-religion and disrespectful, I say. “get a life” and get this book. It is all fun (I think). I have to get back to it now so we’ll discuss it more later.

“Torn Blood” by David J. Bain— Looking for the Answer

torn blood

Bain, David J. “Torn Blood”, Bo Iti Press, 2013.

Looking for the Answer

Amos Lassen

The right of Israel to exist in the world today has certainly been questioned time and again. There are many who believe in Israel’s right to be here but they cannot say why and only a relative few understand that Israel has a historic claim to the land. Then there are those who know and understand why Israel’s claim is contested.

“Torn Blood”, David Bain’s first novel pulls us into the situation and we begin to understand the Middle East a bit better. There is an overall plot, several subplots and intrigues in which we find ourselves involved as we read.

The novel is about enemies who are locked into a battle to destroy Jerusalem’s Jewish residents. They face a difficult and existential choice—there is the safety from persecution that American can offer as opposed to their commitment to the land that they call home and that calls them home. Author Bain asks a significant question here—can there be justice for people who have been persecuted and maligned because of who they are? (In this case, the Jews). What he does here is reveal the truth of Jewish rights to a homeland in Israel. Bain’s novel attempts to answer that question.

To write this novel, Bain did extensive research of which we are constantly aware as we read. He gives us a detailed historical background which explains the significance of Israel as a Jewish homeland and the seeds of dissension and extremism among Palestinians who believe this same land is rightfully theirs. Meanwhile, “Torn Blood” imagines a full-scale campaign to wipe all Jews off the face of the Earth.

 When the novel begins we meet a diabolical scientist in Kazakhstan who explains why and how the chemical weapon Anthrax is the most reliable and effective way to kill the Jews and he does so to a group of like-minded Jihadists. In the 500 pages that follow, we see the threat of annihilation rise as it is contrasted with the resolve and the spirit of those on both sides.

 Central to the story is a naïve, but potentially heroic new recruit to the U.S. consulate in Tel Aviv, Addison Deverell. It is through Deverell’s eyes that we experience much of the action, as he slowly finds himself at the center of the struggle. Addison Deverell watches the conflict escalate while another character, Dr. Janelle Henning in Oregon is contacted by a messenger, drawing her into this tale. Knowing the history of what is going on helps us to understand the situation ever better but here it is not totally necessary. Bain’s research makes everything crystal clear.

 The story is about a terrorist group determined to destroy every Jew in Jerusalem. There is a complex calling for skill and daring and  it relies on advanced off the shelf technology. We are immediately pulled into the story as it moves toward an amazing climax dealing with Israel’s Special Forces and a band of terrorists. While the excitement of Torn Blood will grab readers the author imbues each page with research of the area’s history, Zionism, and the importance of Jewish people around the world.

 In the Prologue we are given the background that will have us turning pages as quickly as possible. From the starting point in Kazakhstan, the novel breaks into three separate compelling story lines each inter-related to one another. The first is about Deverell who is assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Addison arrives in Israel three weeks before his scheduled reporting date as he is determined to get a “feel” for the country and to find out why for so many years there has been never ending animosity and hatred between Jews and Arabs. As Addison would painfully learn, he never anticipated the problems his early presence would cause and did not realize that embassies function under specific rules and protocol. He forces the Embassy’s Deputy Administrator to find him an escort until his reporting date which is a breach of the rules and the protocol he has been given. Hafiz IbnMansur is charged with the task of acting as Addison’s escort, however, because he could not stay with him until his reporting date, a young woman, Elizabeth Daniels of Messianic Jews International replaces him. Addison does not want to only visit Israel but he is also determined to travel to the West Bank and Gaza to get a better understanding of the Arab Israeli conflict. What he does not realize is that this would embroil him and his escort in a dangerous life-threatening situation.

 The second thread involves a school administrator, Dr. Janelle Henning from Wilsonville, Oregon who receives a mysterious letter from the Ukraine that will lead to her discovery of some very staggering data about herself and her natural parents.

 Finally we have the Palestinians and the Mujahideen Islamic Jihad (PMIJ) that calls for the complete annihilation of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. To accomplish this feat they devise an imaginative scheme requiring the participation of several of their venomous associates whereby anthrax will be discharged from the tallest building in Jerusalem. This means that there must be the recruitment of several Israelis who will be deployed on the single greatest mission Israel has ever faced.

Bain brings us a thrilling story with suspense, history, travelogue, current events and some touching characters. I did find the book to be a bit too long and there were several unnecessary passages. But then again, I could feel that way because Israel is my home and I am very familiar with the whole situation.

This is a timely book and I admire how Bain presents the Jewish rights to Israel and the historically important city of Jerusalem, a city co-habited by Israelis and Palestinians. This is a problem that goes far back in history. Bain gives us the Jewish spirit, but he also very carefully explains the viewpoint of the Muslims who daily struggle to regain what they believe is their land, their home. In the opening of the book there is a strong statement about those of the Muslim faith – that only approximately 1% of Muslims are radical Jihadists, that the in excess of 1 billion Muslims in the world embrace peaceful coexistence.  By providing facts such as this, the novel is far more credible. The Muslims here are terrorists and the book is a study of the long-standing conflict over Israel’s statehood and the suppurating influence of the threat of such a small faction of Jihadists.

.This book has it all: entertainment, action-packed adventure, intrigue, suspense, thrills, surprises, as it flawlessly describes the various characters, locations and events that take place. The detail gives us a vivid picture that allows us to feel as if we are at the site of the action. 

“SECOND OPINION: LAETRILE AT SLOAN KETTERING”— A Hero–Ralph W. Moss

second opinion

“Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering”

A Hero— Ralph W. Moss

Amos Lassen

“Second Opinion” is the story of a young science-writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who risked everything by blowing the whistle on a massive cover-up involving a promising cancer therapy.

The war on cancer began in the early 1970s and it set the stage of new ideas about fighting the menace. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is America’s leading research center and it received the assignment of testing an unconventional drug called “Laetrile”. The idea was to curb the public’s “false hope” in the alleged “quack” therapy. Ralph W. Moss PhD, a young and eager science writer, was hired by Sloan-Kettering’s public relations department in 1974 to help brief the American public on the center’s contribution to the War On Cancer. One of his first assignments was to write a biography about Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, one of the Center’s oldest and leading research scientists as well as the original co-inventor of chemotherapy.

Moss met with Sugiura and he discovered that Sugiura had been studying this “quack remedy” in laboratory mice, and with unexpectedly positive results. Shocked and bewildered, Moss reported back to his superiors what he had discovered but was met with backlash and denial from Sloan-Kettering’s leaders on what their own leading scientist had found. Moss tried to publicize the truth about what Sugiura found even when diplomatic approaches failed. Moss was forced into living a double life—he continued to work as a loyal employee at the center and he tried to help fellow employees leak the information to the American public. This was the beginning of a new underground organization called “Second Opinion”.

 Fueled by respect and admiration for Sugiura—Ralph W. Moss attempted to publicize the truth about Sugiura’s findings. And after all diplomatic approaches failed, Moss lived a double life, working as a loyal employee at Sloan-Kettering while also recruiting fellow employees to help anonymously leak this information to the American public—through a newly formed underground organization they called—“Second Opinion”.

This is the remarkable true story of a young science-writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who risked everything by blowing the whistle on a massive cover-up involving a promising cancer therapy.

Ralph W. Moss is the author of the infamous book “The Cancer Industry”. His latest book, “Doctored Results” was released in February 2014. As a medical writer, Moss has written 15 books on questions relating to cancer research and treatment. Moss is a graduate of New York University (BA, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1965) and Stanford University (MA, 1973, PhD, 1974, Classics). The former science writer and assistant director of public affairs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (1974-1977), for the past 35 years Moss has independently evaluated the claims of conventional and non-conventional cancer treatments.

In 1994, Ralph W. Moss was formally invited by Harold Varmus, MD—the director of America’s National Institute’s of Health (NIH)—to be a member of the NIH’s Alternative Medicine Advisory Council where Ralph became a co-founding advisor to the NIH’s Office Of Alternative Medicine (now NCCAM). His articles and scientific communications have appeared in The Lancet, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the Journal of the American Medical Association, New Scientist, Immunobiology, Anticancer Research, Genetic Engineering News, Research in Complementary Medicine, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, and Integrative Cancer Therapies (SAGE), of which he is Corresponding Editor. His op-ed “Patents Over Patients” appeared in the New York Times.

“The Mausoleum of Lovers Journals 1976–1991” by Herve Guibert— A Fascinating Read

mausoleum

Guibert, Herve. “The Mausoleum of Lovers Journals 1976–1991”, Nightboat, 2014.

A Fascinating Read

Amos Lassen

Herve  Guibert (1955–1991) was a French writer and photographer. He was a critic for “Le Monde” as well as the author of some thirty books, most notably “To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life”, which is an intimate portrait of Michel Foucault and played a significant role in changing public attitudes in France towards AIDS.

“Mausoleum of Lovers”, a journal, is used as an atelier that forecasts the writing of a novel, which does not materialize as such. The journal itself takes it place. The sensual exigencies and untempered forms of address in this epistolary work use the letter and the photograph in a work that hovers between forms, in anticipation of its own disintegration.

“My Favorite Uncle” by Marshall Thornton— Changes

my favorite uncle

Thornton, Marshall. “My Favorite Uncle”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

Changes

Amos Lassen

Martin Dixon was leading a quiet peaceful life until Carter, his Christian eighteen-year-old nephew showed up at his house and tells him that he is gay. At first thought Martin wanted to send him back to his parents bunt then he learns that in order to cure his gayness he has been in a mental hospital and so he realizes that the boy is going nowhere but staying put. As can be expected the two men began to work each other’s nerves and they both decide that the best solution to Carter’s problems is to have a boyfriend.

When we first meet Carter, he is a bit of a mess and we might expect after having been through the “gay cure”. He just can’t seem to get anything together yet we feel sorry for him because of who he is and what he has been thorough. After all, his Christian parents sent him away to be cure of his attraction for other men and he is so lucky that he had enough sense to leave the place where his deprogramming was to take place. He knows he cannot go home so he goes to his favorite uncle, Martin, who is also gay. Martin has quite the life with living in Hollywood and Carter knows he has made the right choice even though Martin is not so convinced.

Carter has assumptions about Martin which unfortunately for him are not true. From this point on the two men are the odd couple

Martin is gay and lives the glamorous life that all gay –they try to help each other to be happy but it just does not work. Martin is a thinker and he thinks too much and Carter does think much at all, about anything. Martin tries hard to get Carter on the right path and he does so by relating incidences from his own life. (Remember how we reacted to hearing our parents tell us how it was and how they did?). Then Martin realizes that what Carter needs is a man.

. Martin over thinks everything while Carter thinks very little about the choices he makes. Martin tries to steer Carter into a good life by relating his own life stories. Carter sees Martin as a man who would be happier if he had a man.

Carter is a teen and therefore knows it all and Martin is the adult who would love to see Martin live at his own place. This is the cause of a lot of humor and the fact that the two do not understand each other makes for some interesting happenings. The two, with no evil intentions, give each other some rough times. The book began as a comedy but we see it s a comedy with some important messages. Ultimately Martin and Carter find a common ground and each helps the other to a better life. I have always enjoyed Marshall Thornton’s writing and this shows that there is still plenty left to share with us.

“The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood” by Richard Blanco— A Memoir

the prince

Blanco, Richard. “The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood”, Ecco, 2014.

A Memoir

Amos Lassen

Richard Blanco is the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet whose live certainly changed when President Obama chose him to write the poem for his inauguration. Now we all want to know about Blanco and here he tells us of his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities. This is a poignant, funny and inspiring book and Blanco certainly is proof of how a life can be changed in a split second.

Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: his parents’ nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba and his imagined America, the country he saw on television as he watched reruns of “The Brady Bunch” and “Leave it to Beaver”. He dreamt of an exotic life in America and in fact he would have been satisfied just to see it. He began to question his own cultural identity and he chose to do so in words—he saw himself as a writer and as an artist and this helped him accept himself as a gay man.

His memoir here traces his life in America and he writes of those who influenced him. His writing is sensitive and contemplative as well as poignant and funny. He paints pictures with words and his narrative is colorful. We actually sense the colors, the sounds and the textures of the Miami where he grew up and he shares with us the importance of being an American (for many of us, this is a given but for those who come here it is a different situation altogether). Blanco’s story is one of becoming and not just being. We see how he has been shaped by his experiences, his memories and his stories and we learn of the love, the yearning and the tenderness that defines him and his life.

“SUCH GOOD PEOPLE”— A Gay Couple with an Unusual Problem

“Such Good People”

 A Gay Couple with an Unusual Problem

Michael Urie (Ugly Betty, Partners) and Randy Harrison (Queer As Folk USA) take the lead roles as ‘A young, gay couple who discover a secret room filled with cash while house-sitting for wealthy friends… who die while out of the country’. So what are they going to do about it?

The great cast also includes the likes of Scott Wolf, Ana Ortiz, James Urbaniak, Drew Droege, Tom Lenk, Lance Bass and Alec Mapa.

The film premiered recently as the Miami Gay And Lesbian Film Festival and is now work its way out across the festival circuit. Hopefully we’ll all be able to see it soon. You can find out more over at the film’s website.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFJqo-SWVqM 

“SOMEWHERE IN PALM SPRINGS”— Animated Gay Web Series

“Somewhere In Palm Springs”

Animated Gay Web Series

somewhere-in-palm-springsThere are quite a few gay-themed web series out there, but not that many are animated. A new one has arrived though –” Somewhere In Palm Springs” – which has launched its first two episodes.

Here’s the synopsis: ‘Life is hard when you’re young, dumb and hungry…poolside in Palm Springs, California. Somewhere In Palm Springs is the harrowing tale of 4 friends forced to wait a normal amount of time for their lunch to arrive to their lounge chairs — they share hopes, dreams, neuroses, and the sordid details of their various one night stands. They may be vapid, but, hey, at least they’re vapid.’

Drew Tarver (How I Met Your Dad) and Jimmy Fowlie (Go Go Boy Interrupted) provide voices, with Nate Clark and Allen Loeb writing each episode. Allen then designed the characters, and Nate animated them.

 You can follow the show at somewhereinpalmsprings.com.

 

 

Wanna share?:

“Can’t Get Enough: Erotica for Women” edited by Tenille Brown— Insatiable Desire

cant get enough

Brown, Tenille (editor). “Can’t Get Enough: Erotica for Women”, Cleis Press, 2014.

Insatiable Desire

Amos Lassen

Tenille Brown brings us a new anthology about insatiable desire. Twenty-seven stories by authors such as Miel Rose, JoAnne Kendrick, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Allison Wonderland, Jacqueline Applebee, Madison Einhart, Tilly Hunter, Tasmin Flowers, Blair Erotica, Heidi Champa, Lucy Felthouse, Beatrix Ellroy, Preston Avery, Medea Mor, Louise Blaydon, Monica Corwin, Giselle Renarde, Kyoko Church, Anika Ray, Hilary Keyes, Sophia Valenti, Erzabet Bishop, Harper Bliss, Kissa Starling, Shoshanna Evers, Tenille Brown and Annabeth Leong introduce us to people who just cannot get enough.

The stories are diverse and dynamic and there is something here for everyone. “This courageous collection overflows with the type of erotica that will leave readers breathless, blushing, and begging for more. Brimming with stories from today’s top talents, “Can’t Get Enough” is destined to become a must-have for every carnal connoisseur.”—Alison Tyler, author of Dark Secret Love and The Delicious Torment.

Here are people who know what they want and do what it takes to get it. It is all about desire that controls and the characters here have a good time and do not have to deal with shame and/or guilt. We see desire as a good thing and while this book s entitled “Erotica for Women”, men can enjoy this as well and as a man I am saying that these stories are very hot! The characters are open to new ideas and new play and they are bold and filled with self-respect. They present a whole new way of looking at and dealing with desire. All of us love the idea of love and I am sure that most of us are lustful to a degree. Have a look here and you might just change the way you feel about sex, love, lust and desire.