Monthly Archives: June 2016

“A History of the Grandparents I Never Had” by Ivan Jablonka— Finding His Past

a history of the grandparents I never had

Jablonka, Ivan. “A History of the Grandparents I Never Had”, Stanford University Press, 2016.

Finding His Past

Amos Lassen

Ivan Jablonka’s grandparents’ lives died long before he was born. Matès and Idesa Jablonka were his family and they were perfect strangers to him. When he decided to uncover their history, he had little information to work with. All that they left behind were two young children, a handful of letters, and a passport. They had been persecuted as communists in Poland, as refugees in France, and then as Jews under the Vichy regime and their short lives were lived. As a historian, Jablonka had to step back from his family and then to totally immerse himself in it. There the conflicts of scholarly research and personal commitment, between established facts and the passion of the person recording them, between history and the art of storytelling.

Jablonka traveled to three continents and met the few survivors of his grandparents’ era that were still alive as well as their descendants, and some of his far removed cousins. He investigated twenty different archives and as he researched, he thought about his own family and his responsibilities to it. He owed this to his father, the orphaned son, and to his own children and “the family wounds they all inherited”.

There is little about the Holocaust that has not been said. Historians and survivors have tried very hard to re-create what happened so others would know about it. In the past, Jablonka had written several scholarly works about orphaned children in France. Now he writes about a single orphaned child—his father, Marcel, who was born in 1940 to Matès and Idesa Jablonka who died in Auschwitz.

Because of his determination Jablonka did exhaustive research and met with three different generations of people. He not only found all of the primary sources that he could but he also went through all of the secondary sources that were available.

Jablonka’s research took him to Parczew, the town where his grandparents were natives and he snows how Nazis and murdered more than 6,000 Jewish inhabitants and then how the pogrom that followed in 1946 emptied the town of Jews. What we are reminded of all thorough the book is that he is a historian who has to deal with his own emotions and thoughts since he is writing about his family. He gives no judgment even when he meets people who are the counterparts of his own grandparents and are still dealing with the horrors that they had to endure.

In studying the Yizkor Bukh — a compilation of personal accounts left by Parczew’s Jews, he finds clues about his grandparents that lead him to police reports and conversations with far removed family members and he slowly pieces together their lives. He learns that they were Communists and that were dissatisfied with their religion and their government.

Because of his grandfather’s Marxist faith, he responded to the injustices of society and, in fact, he and his wife went to jail in 1934 for denouncing police and government brutality. When they were released three years later, anti-Semitic violence was so prominent and dangerous that they left Poland. There was no way to get to America and since they were avid anti-Zionists they were unwilling to go to Palestine. They managed to get to France where thousands of Polish Jews had done the same. Having no papers or work, the Jablonkas, who now had two young children, they worked very hard to survive.

In 1940, however, the Germans invaded France and Mates joined the French Foreign Legion and fought in western France at the Battle of Soissons. From this point on the Jablonkas lived from arrest to arrest and they were ultimately incarcerated at Drancy camp and then sent to Auschwitz with 1000 other French Jews. Unable to find an exact date for his grandparents’ death, Ivan Jablonka assumes that his grandmother was gassed upon arrival. The two children were saved but you will have to read the book to get that part of the story.

This is not an easy book to read. Not only is it emotional, the stories are complicated but fascinating. You feel the grandson’s love for the grandparents he never knew. It is documented history that is beautifully written and, at times, heartbreaking. We learn new and important facts about family and history and get a story told by a wonderful storyteller. Jablonka combines historical investigation with personal meditation to give us yet another look at the Holocaust that forever remains something of an enigma in the world today.

“Naked Ibiza”—- New from Bruno Gmunder

gmunder

naked ibiza

”Naked Ibiza”

Dylan Rosser started working for Naked Ibiza four exciting years ago. After visiting Ibiza regularly since 2000, he decided to leave London for it, with the intention of photographing models outdoors in nature, something that was new to him after primarily indoor studio work. “I wanted to work with more models in different locations at different times of the year to provide a more vivid picture of this Mediterranean island paradise,” he puts it.

Pages: 128

Color: Full color

Cover: Hardcover with dust jacket

Format: 10 1/4 x 13 1/2″ (26,0 x 34,0 cm)

Preis: € 59,99 / US$ 69.99 / £ 49.99

ISBN: 978-3-95985-152-

“Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time” by Jeffrey Masten— The Relationship Between Sexuality and the History of Language

queer philologies

Masten, Jeffrey. “Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time”, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

The Relationship Between Sexuality and the History of Language

Amos Lassen

Author Jeffrey Masten sees the history of sexuality and the history of language are intimately related. In “Queer Philologies”, he studies particular terms that further show up the history of sexuality in Shakespeare’s time and he analyzes the methods we have used to study sex and gender in literary and cultural history. He has built his ideas on the work of theorists and historians who have, following Foucault, investigated the importance of words like “homosexual,” “sodomy,” and “tribade” in a variety of cultures and historical periods. Masten then argues that “just as the history of sexuality requires the history of language, so too does philology, “the love of the word,” require the analytical lens that Foucault provided in his studies. Masten looks at the etymology, circulation, transformation, and constitutive power of key words within the early modern discourse of sex and gender (terms such as “conversation” and “intercourse”, “fundament” and “foundation,” “friend” and “boy”), words that were used to describe bodies, pleasures, emotions and sexual identities. He analyzes the continuities as well as the differences between Shakespeare’s language and our own, and offers up a ?queer lexicon in which the letter “Q” is perhaps the queerest character of all”.

There is a lot to be learned here and the book is organized in such a way that learning is easy. It is Master/s new approach to the ways that norms and normativities are studied that makes this such a unique read.

Queer Philologies, Jeffrey Masten’s brilliant new book, makes the queerness of linguistic relations into the stuff of a genuine page-turner. Doing nothing less than reinventing the field of philology for the twenty-first century, Masten charts striking moments in the two-way traffic between words and world, exploring how accident and error figure in the shaping of sexuality and multiply its significations beyond all scholarly control. To dip into this book is to recognize that it’s destined to become a classic, one of the works without which queer theory and early modernism no longer can be thought.”—Lee Edelman, Tufts University

“When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know” by Wesley C. Davidson and Jonathan L. Tobkis— For Parents and Child

when your child is gay

Davidson, Wesley C. and Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. “When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know”, Sterling, 2016.

For Parents and Child

Amos Lassen

Coming out can be great difficulty for both parents and child. In “When Your Child is Gay”, Wesley C. Davidson, a popular blogger on gay rights issues, and Dr. Jonathan Tobkes, a New York City-based psychiatrist gives us a road map so that this delicate process can be easier navigated. The emphasis is on communication and unconditional love. Davidson and Tobkes help children and parents deal with their own feelings and thereby “identify and overcome barriers to acceptance, encourage strong self-esteem in their child, handle negative or hostile reactions to their child’s sexual identity, and more”. The book is filled with case studies and interviews and there are action plans and conversation starters that provide a positive, progressive guide to raising healthy, well-adjusted adults.

We look at the major topics of denial, guilt, fear, anger, shame, loss and these are in most cases is what hinders arriving at acceptance.  Davidson uses her own experience as a lead-in to the issue discussed in each chapter as well as interviews with straight parents who already crossed this Rubicon. These parents give tips on how to overcome issues that they once struggled with.  Similarly, LGBT adults share other stories on what worked or didn’t work in their own relationships with their parents and how they were able to deal with whatever issues that stopped them from achieving self-acceptance.  The interviewees come from a cross-section of America with different ethnicities and locales.

The foreword is written by gay Princeton student Cason Crane, who raised money for a suicide hotline of The Trevor Project for LGBT persons He raised money for the Suicide Hotline of the Trevor Project by climbing the Seven Summits, the world’s highest mountains, where he placed rainbow prayer flags. He is the founder of The Rainbow Summits Project. Learn more about him at casoncrane.com.

I wish I could say that this book has everything you need to know but unfortunately other not expected issues can arise. With the voices of a psychiatrist, straight parents and LGBT children adding information, this is about the best we have for now and that is a good thing. It is a positive and progressive guide.

Here are some examples of questions or conversation starters you can use with your child to demonstrate that you are interested in this aspect of his life and are not ashamed of having a gay child. Below is taken directly from the book to give you an idea of how it handles issues.

“How do you feel about being gay?”

The best way for you to help your child work through her own shame is by making it clear that you yourself are not ashamed. I have found that shame tends to be contagious. There are ways in which you may be perpetuating your child’s shame without even realizing it. Your children—both gay and straight—need to know that you are unambiguously on their side and willing to protect them.

“Who have you told so far that you are gay, and how have they reacted?”

It is rather likely that you are not the first person in whom your child confided about his sexuality, so you should make an effort to get brought up to speed. Your child will feel understood and supported if you convey your understanding of this difficult process and will appreciate your support as a parent.

“How has being gay affected your life, and has it changed your vision of your future?”

I spoke in previous chapters about not making assumptions regarding how your child’s life will unfold simply because she is gay. A neutral, nonjudgmental way to initiate this conversation is to say something such as, “It’s so great that, in this day and age, gay people can have all of the things in their lives that straight people can have, like legal marriage and families of their own. Have you given any thought to what you want for yourself? We will support you in any way we can to help you accomplish whatever your heart desires.”

“Who haven’t you told yet, and what is your plan?”

Your child may want to discuss strategies for coming out to other friends and family members. It can be particularly hard to share the news with older family members from a different era. You may say something like, “Have you thought about telling Grandma? If you’d like me to help you figure out how to do that or to be there when you tell her, just let me know.

“EVERYTHING IS BROKEN UP AND DANCES”— The Struggle for Sanity After War

everything is broken up poster

“EVERYTHING IS BROKEN UP AND DANCES”

The Struggle for Sanity After War

Amos Lassen

Nony Geffen is a 30-year-old student living in Tel Aviv with his roommate Rotem, a musician and is secretly in love with Hadas. Nony is called up for a military operation in Gaza. The APC, in which he and his unit were riding was hit by a Hamas rocket and Nony is the sole survivor.  He comes back from Gaza a different person and is cared for by his parents and a military psychiatrist.

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After lengthy psychiatric treatment Nony starts to communicate again but he is convinced that he is ‘Amnon’, the deceased uncle for whom he was named. The psychiatrist instructs his friends and family to play along with Nony’s delusion that he is Amnon.

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“Everything is Broken Up and Dances” is a film about the never-ending struggle of Israel Defense Force  veterans for sanity Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nony Geffen wrote and directed his film.

“CALL ME MARIANNA”— Beginning Life Again

call me mairanna poster

“Call Me Marianna” (“Mów mi Marianna”)

Beginning Life Again

Amos Lassen

 Marianna Klapczyńska who began life as Wojtek Klapczyński, was married, had children, and at 47 after many, many painful years of reflection underwent a sex-change/gender reassignment surgery (in Poland) to become Marianna.  Polish law requires that a person requesting gender reassignment surgery to sue his/her parents for “bad upbringing” so that someone would be blamed. This proved to be a nightmare to Marianna. Even after her surgery her mother kept calling her Wojtek.   Marianna’s daughters rejected her as well.  The only one in the family who seemed understand (with understandable inner conflict and difficulty) was Wojtek’s/Marianna’s former spouse and she actually helped Marianna.

call me marianna

The first time we see Marianna she is on her way to court to comply with Polish law. Marianna is an attractive woman in her 40s who lives alone with a cat. She seems to be doing ok and gets the necessary permission and the surgery in Gdansk goes well. She has met a man who accepts her for what she is, but there are unexpected problems coming her way.

marianna2

The film follows Marianna as she confronts her past. She was married for 25 years and has two children, and is now trying to re-establish contact with Kasia, her ex-wife. However, it seems all of Polish society is ostracizing Marianna, or at least this is the feeling we get from the film. There are no scenes of outright aversion and we see that basically Marianna is on her own.

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Just before her surgery, Marianna starts her first relationship with a man, and that seems to now make her completely happy.  When she comes around after the operation she is seen on the phone talking excitedly that she feels that she has been re-born and at peace at last. This happiness doesn’t last very long, as she is quite soon back in the hospital, but this time fighting for her life as an excessive intake of hormones caused her to have a stroke.

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She must learn how to speak and try and get some movement back into her limbs. the normally very positive Marianna gets very depressed knowing that she now must face the fact that all her plans for the future must now be put on hold permanently.  Her mother adamantly refuses to come visit her on her sickbed, and her daughters will still not even acknowledge her, but her ex-wife Kasia is happy enough to turn up to celebrate Marianna’s birthday.

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We learn most of the troubled part of the story when Marianna sits in her wheelchair and participates in a reading of a play that she has written on her life.  This serves as a narration to the movie. Polish filmmaker Karolina Bielawska has been winning awards all over the world for this documentary and deservedly so. This is a very poignant look at transgender issues. And by the way, the new boyfriend has not only stuck around but he acts as both the force propelling Marianna’s wheelchair and the one that is encouraging her to have hope for her future.

“VICTOR XX”— A Coming-of-Gender Story

victor xx postr better

“VICTOR XX”

A Coming-of-Gender Story

Amos Lassen

Those who love him know him as Mari but strangers see him as Victor. Victor, we see, is a transgender boy who lives in a small village named Aguamarga in the South of Spain. Victor is filled with fear of telling his family and girlfriend that he feels like a boy and hides this important fact. Mari goes to the big city to live as a boy named Victor. The plot is about what Victor faces, and his decision to make his feelings heard about his gender. This is not only a coming-of-age story is also a coming-of-gender story.

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Victor likes to play with gender and he is not sure whether he is male or female. Everyone in his small fishing village knows him and going to the city makes him anonymous. However, secrets do not last forever and Victor has to deal with his mother and his girlfriend.

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Victor XX is a story of love and transsexuality, how social pressure affects a person and how hard it is to be oneself. Ian Garrido, directed this autobiographical story by and for people who do not fit the gender binary. This a movie built with people, not characters. The entire cast consists of actors without any previous experience.

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Victor’s emotional issues mirror Garrido’s own issues and emotions. Like Victor, Garrido grew up in a small village and was very afraid to talk about those feelings.

“Victor XX” won 3rd place at Cannes.

“FLATBUSH LUCK”— Romance, Comedy and Crime

flatbush luck

“Flatbush Luck”

Romance, Comedy and Crime

Amos Lassen

Casper Andreas who consistently brings us excellent gay-themed films has made gay cinema history with having two films at FilmOut, San Diego’s 18th Annual Film Festival. Opening the festival is “Kiss Me, Kill Me” (already reviewed at reviewsbyamoslassen.com) Closing the festival is “Flatbush Luck”.

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We meet Jimmy (Tanner Novlan) who was once important on Wall Street and who with his cousin Mark (Robby Stahl) is eking out his existence as a telephone repairman. The two men work hard to take care of the demands of their clients. Jimmy wants to return to former job and lifestyle and Mark who is due to be married is apprehensive and unsure that marriage and Donna (Jenna Perez) this is what he wants. He also finds himself very attracted to his masseuse (Juhann Cabera). While working on a house call Jimmy overhears illegal insider trading and convinces Max that they should tap the phone line and then become part of plan.

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To find out what happens next, you will have t find a film festival where it is being shown (and I am sure that there will be many) or wait until it comes out on DVD.

“DANNY THE MANNY”— A New Web Series

DANNY

“Danny the Manny”

A New Web Series

Amos Lassen

The first five episodes of Mike Roma’s new web series, “Danny The Manny” and they are really worth seeing. “Danny” (Danny Roma) plays an out gay man who’s been hired to look after a young boy called Quinn while his parent are working.

danny the manny

However, he isn’t 100% sure what he should do when he discovers that Quinn likes to cross-dress. He wants to be supportive but Danny isn’t sure whether Quinn is simply exploring gender as part of growing up, or if it is an expression of Quinn’s real gender identity. Roma has said, “My own story, coupled with my work as a babysitter, made me wonder about how we should raise kids in a day and age when being LGBT is more accepted than ever before. We’re now living in this gray area where gender is being questioned and roles are being capsized. My goal is to bring the subject out of the shadows, to urge others to question our own ideas, and to open up our imagination about what it means to be a girl or a boy.”

 

“OLD DOGS & NEW TRICKS”— ‘Where Were YOU When The Rights Went ON?’ Special

odnt

“Old Dogs & New Tricks”

‘Where Were YOU When The Rights Went ON?’ Special

Amos Lassen

It has been about two years since we have seen “Old Dogs & New Tricks” but I am glad to tell you that the guys are back with a fourth and final season. What we have here now is a half-hour special that was made to celebrate a year since the US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

Set on the morning of June 26, 2015, the plot resolves the cliffhangers from season 3 and shows just when and where the love-lorn Dogs (Leon Acord, Curt Bonnem, Jeffrey Patrick Olson, David Pevsner) heard the news coming out of the Supreme Court – and how they react.

old dogs

Series regulars Amanda Gari and Parnell Damone Marcano return, along with frequent special guests Rutanya Alda, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Bruce L. Hart, and Jeremy Bright. The special also guest-stars Teddy J. Garces and introduces new series semi-regular Brian Nolan.

This episode had been planned for a June release for a long time but what happened in Orlando almost changed that. Creator Leon Acord comments, “I immediately considered postponing. But almost as quickly, I realized we had to move forward. I don’t want to let terrorists change our lives. We don’t want to dismiss the anniversary of the most important day in the gay rights movement since Stonewall. And we felt the community could certainly use a little levity, especially now; a reminder of life the way it should be. Our community has always used comedy in the face of adversity. Hell, we practically invented the concept!”