“The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay in the Southern Baptist Church” by Michael Fields— Personal and Spiritual Recovery

thousand

Fields, Michael. “The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay in the Southern Baptist Church”, Langdon Street Press, 2014.

Personal and Spiritual Recovery
Amos Lassen

Michael Fields grew up in a strict Southern Baptist community in Nashville, Tennessee where his sexuality was considered to be a sin. Yet he can laugh at that and he invites us to laugh with him as we relive his childhood, meet some unforgettable characters and to join him in thought as he remembers his anguished prayers and his sexual awakening. He uses the Hindu symbol of the lotus with petals that unfold just as Fields story unfolds and blooms when he finds his “kingdom of heaven”. This is a personal and spiritual story as he discovers who he is amid metaphysical reflections and quite a wit.

Being from the South, I know what southern charm is and Fields oozes it. He also does something my mother taught me and that is if we cannot laugh at life than we really have no reason to live. If someone were to ask me what the gay community needs more than anything else, I would probably give a smart-ass answer and say spirituality. For some reason (or for good reason), many gays leave their religion when they come out and instead of finding some alternate kind of spirituality, they go on their way without it.

Fields gives us what he calls a memoir of contradictions “—of the joys and anguishes of growing up with body, mind and soul — which is to say human in all of the odd and lovely specificity that is Michael Fields.”

“As You Are” by Ethan Day— In Love with the Roommate

as you are

Day, Ethan. “As You Are”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

In Love With the Roommate

Amos Lassen

All Julian Hallowell has been able to think about for the last year has been Danny Wallace, his roommate. He knows that he is in love with him and it seems to be all he can think about. Danny actually owns a used textbook store and Julian, a bartender, has tried to get Danny to fall for him but it has not worked and Danny just says Julian as a roommate. When Andy Baker, a new guy, comes to town and asks him out, Danny is ready to go. Julian does not regard this lightly and has a plan to rid himself of thoughts of Danny and he is determined to find someone and perhaps Andy is the one. (Now tell me you have read this story before — we all have but this one is special.

We learn that Julian is the more serious of the two—Danny, seems to enjoy sex with no commitment and one-nighters suit him fine while Julian is looking for love. When I first started reading this, I had no idea that it was going to be a comic novel but even with some of the angst this is very funny read.

For me, Danny was quite easy to figure out but Julian who, at first, comes across as a buffoon is actually endearing and we root for him. The fact that Danny doesn’t see Julian for who he is provides some of the humor. Julian is young and not so innocent but he seems to know what he wants and when he doesn’t get that, he moves on to greener pastures. Julian is aware of his faults but lives with them. He is 30 years old  and he should be sure of who he is. He is on his fourth go at collage and his bartending is footing the bill for his education. Yet he still depends on his parents for help. He spends a lot of time with Gabby, his best friend and he also spends time thinking about the man he wants to settle down with. His problem is that the object of his affection is Danny who is with a different guy every night. Julian thinks that one day Danny will realize that the man that he lives with is in love with him but it did not happen. Julian reacts in a very childish way and goes after the guy that Danny had been out with. However there is a problem with Andy—not only is he a Republican but he is religious and Julian has a hard time with that.

 There is a problem: he is in love with Danny. And Danny is a man-heater that brings back a different boy every night. At first Julian dreamed that sooner or later Danny will awake one day to the realization that he was in love with Julian, but when that day never came, Julian behaved like a child to whom was refused a toy he wanted… the toy is not so good after all. And so now Julian wants to show to Danny that he can have a good man by his side, and the good man has to be Andy… but even if Andy kisses as a pro, and is handsome and with a wonderful job, he is also Republicans and very religious, two things that Julian is unable to move over on.

Danny likes the way he lives and is perfectly happy sleeping around and not becoming involved. Now I know some of you are waiting for me to tell you how it all ended but I have no intention of doing so. If you have read anything else that Ethan Day has written you know that he is a good writer who can tell a good story. If you have not yet read him, now is the time to start.

 

 

 

“The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature” edited by Ellen McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen— Coming in November, 2014.

cambridge

McCallum, Ellen and Mikko Tuhkanen (editors). “The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature”, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Coming in November 2014.

Amos Lassen

One of the books I am really looking forward to is “The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature” and the main reason that it is coming for Cambridge which is know for its high quality publications. I understand that the volume gives us a “global history of gay and lesbian literature that covers a wide range of topics, from Sappho and the Greeks to contemporary science fiction and fantasy” to queer modernism, diasporic literatures, and responses to the AIDS crisis. The volume is grounded in current scholarship and this history provides new critical approaches to gay and lesbian literature that will serve the needs of students and specialists alike.

Written by leading scholars in the field, “The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature” is going to be one of, if not, the definitive reference for gay and lesbian literature for years to come.

“YOU AND THE NIGHT—- A FILM BY YANN GONZALEZ

presents

YOU AND THE NIGHT

A FILM BY YANN GONZALEZ

Starring Kate Moran & Niels Schneider

Special Screening with Director Yann Gonzalez
& M83′s Anthony Gonzalez In Person!

Wednesday, April 30 at 7:30pm
Aero Theatre
1328 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Note: Screening is open to the public and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis
View Trailer
In the debut feature from Director Yann Gonzalez, young couple Ali (Kate Moran) and Mathias (Niels Schneider) invite a dream team to their place for an orgy – the Stud, the Star, the Slut and the Teen – and the partygoers end up baring their souls as well as their bodies. Leavened with campy humor and a wonderful electronic score by M83, this audacious film is a surprisingly affecting meditation on much more than sex. “Deliriously theatrical, flagrantly cinephilic, unabashedly provocative, Yann Gonzalez’s YOU AND THE NIGHT is the kind of movie that restores your faith in auteur filmmaking.” – Robert Koehler, Film Comment
98 Minutes • Drama • Not Rated • In French with English Subtitles

“GAMING IN COLOR”— The Queer Gaming Community

gaming in color 

“Gaming In Color”

The Queer Gaming Community

Amos Lassen

“Gaming in Color” is a new documentary that explores the queer gaming community, ‘gaymer’ culture and events, and the rise of LGBTQ themes in video games. An interesting fact is that “a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer gamer has a higher chance of being mistreated in an online social game”.  While diverse queer themes in storylines and characters are still mostly rarities in the mainstream video game industry, we see here how the community culture is shifting and the industry is diversifying thereby helping with queer visibility and acceptance of an LGBTQ presence.

Gaming_In_Color1

“’Gaming in Color’ exists for anyone who believes that the pixelated world can be a better place for everyone, no matter who they are”.  We are aware that bullied and abused youth look for comfort in a world that is not real; in a video game, and find that their one hope of sanctuary, their escape into a virtual universe, is filled with hatred.

“A lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer gamer has a higher chance of being mistreated in a social game. The power dynamic of a geek society tips against them. Diversive queer themes in storylines and characters are still mostly an anomaly in the mainstream video game industry. However, the gaming community is far more colorful than one may expect. ‘Gaming In Color’ shows that there is a full spectrum of gamers picking up their controller to play”.

The film looks at the queer aspect of gaming culture and the LGBT presence there. There is even a convention—GaymerX (2013) and it was a step forward for our community. Just about that time, “more popular mainstream and indie games featured a greater amount of gay and lesbian characters than ever before, helping with visibility and acceptance”. The video games universe will only continue to improve and diversify both in its community and industry but we must “elevate the conversation about inclusion and respecting one another – not in spite of our gay ‘geekiness’, but because of it”!

After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $50,000, the LGBT video game culture documentary “Gaming in Color” has just been released. “It focuses on gaming in American society as a whole, the few LGBT characters in narratives currently seen in video games, and the growth of the queer geek community over the past few years”.

“The film includes interviews with a variety of industry professionals, academics, and fans, including Riot Games’ George Skleres and Colleen Macklin, a professor at Parsons the New School for Design”.

“In a statement to the press, director Philip Jones said that “through the voices and experiences of our hardworking and talented cast, [Gaming in Color] shows what a strong and passionate movement that diversity and acceptance in video games has become. It really is an inspiring call to action.”

Copies of the film are available on the film’s website via instant streaming and HD downloads on a “pay what you want” basis.

“An American Memory” by George Seaton— The Reality of Our Lives

an american memory

Seaton, George. “An American Memory”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

The Reality of Our Lives

Amos Lassen

Whenever I have the chance to meet with some of the younger gays I always feel I should remind them that they are standing on the shoulders of those who came before and that all that we have today is because someone dared to stand up for what he/she believed in. Some of them are eager to hear the stories from “Back in the day…” and others could care less just as we behaved when our fathers told us about walking five miles barefoot in the snow to get to school. So much has happened in the last forty years with the LGBT community that it is almost incomprehensible. Some of us learned who we were early on and others  did so with the Stonewall Riots. Most of us felt the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and all of us now benefitting from a new age for our community. Most of us are now living, as George Seaton says, “the new reality of our lives”. His new book, “An American Memory” is set in Denver, Colorado and narrated by one man who shares with us his gay community. He is a people watcher who tells us about places and people and his social life from 1969 to 1982.

This collection of short stories is populated by mainly gay men but they have habits and ways of life that are not necessarily representative of any one sexual lifestyle. Michael is our narrator and he shares stories from his adult life and then moves back in time to his adolescence when he had to deal with bigots who did not understand who or what he was. He went into the Army to serve his country and he realized that he just did not fit into what straight society expected of him. He was 24 years old when he came out—it was the time of AIDS and we did not know if we would live or die. It was a time of great fear and unrest for gay men.

The book consists of observations and descriptions about a time when we were regarded as outcasts. We lived in our own neighborhoods and we were labeled (as Americans wont to do). We found the gay and lesbian community lumped in with the other groups who lived on the margins of society—the Hippies, the  rebels and what have you. We were supposedly going through a phase in which we eschewed society and religion. But then….along came AIDS and homosexuality hit the headlines. People whispered about the gays they knew and we found ourselves to be thrown into the untouchable caste. We did not deserve anything much less equality and we were responsible for bringing this terrible disease to the world.

 Suddenly, everyone became aware of the secret lives of friends and neighbors. Homosexuals had become the untouchables, sub-humans that did not deserve fair treatment or equal rights. Now things have changed but we cannot forget where we came from and George Seaton sees to that in his always readable prose. 

“WALKING WITH THE ENEMY”— The Horrors of WW II and this Movie

walking poster“Walking with the Enemy”

The Horrors of WW II and this Movie

Amos Lassen

There were big hopes hanging on “Walking With the Enemy” but unfortunately that did not pan out as expected. The film, which is based on a true story, follows the lives of two Hungarian men who are swept up in the horrors of the Second World War. Hungary was a German ally that had not seen the atrocities that other European countries had witnessed. As the war moves toward its climax, Germany starts doubting the loyalties of the Hungarian leadership, particularly Regent Miklos Horthy (Ben Kingsley) who tries to steer his country between the terror of Nazism and the threat of oppression from Communist Russia. Ultimately he cedes power to another political party or his son will be executed. As the whole thing unfolds, many citizens are forced underground or ghettoized. Elek Cohen (Jonas Armstrong) is separated from his family but determined to find them.

walkingwiththeenemy1

The movie shows us brave Jews standing up to the Nazi death machine. We see helpless Jews loaded onto cattle cars and headed for the camps. We see good Germans who are unwilling to participate in the genocide of a people and we see both Hungarian anti-Semites and Hungarian nuns who sheltered the oppressed. This is a film that has everything a good Holocaust film needs but it has no heart and no soul.

I think that is because the film tries too hard to do too much. It wants to be fair to both sides of every issue and in doing that it loses any emotional connection it might have had. Something else is missing as well—Jews were killed with the greatest efficiency in the shortest amount of time in Hungary—some 400,000 were done away with in less than two months. This is hinted at but never explained and here is where the film begins its slide downwards.

During most of the war, Hungary was an Axis ally. In one sense this was good for the Jews because there were no Nazis stationed there. Horthy was able to protect his people from the worst of the German race laws. There were several geopolitical forces at play in Hungary and it is clear that Horthy tries to forge a separate peace with the Allies in 1944, the Nazis invaded Hungary and brought the Final Solution with them. It was not long before Hungary also saw the deportation and death of her Jews.

Elek Cohen escapes from a labor camp and steals a Nazi uniform and is soon mingling with SS officers so that he can get information for the anti-Fascist underground. He works with Carl Lutz (William Hope), the Swiss diplomat issuing letters of protection to Hungarian Jews. Lutz reportedly saved upwards of 62,000 people. Cohen uses his fictitious rank to waylay Jews who are being marched to death camps by telling the Nazis that the Jews have been assigned to other work details. Cohen is actually based on Tibor Rosenbaum, a true hero but in the character of Cohen here, it is more than  a change of name. It is really interesting how the film shows a native Hungarian speaking German so well that he is able to pass as a Nazi officer. In the real story of Rosenbaum, he was not passing as a Nazi but as a member of the Arrow Cross that was an anti-Semitic political party that helped the Nazis in exterminations of Jews.

The plot of the film is so disjointed that it is hard to follow and it is totally confusing. With all of the information that we now have about the Holocaust there is no reason for a film not to be historically accurate. This  film is almost 80%—am I to understand that what Rosenbaum did was not heroic enough to be in a movie? I am quite sure that there are many, many people who will disagree with that. . What could have been a story of remarkable real-life heroism comes off as embarrassing and clumsy.  This year has not been a good year for Holocaust movies and here is strike three after “The Book Thief” and “Monuments Men”.

“THE JEWISH CARDINAL” (“Le métis de Dieu”)— A Catholic Jew

the jewish cardinal

“THE JEWISH CARDINAL” (“Le métis de Dieu”)

A Catholic Jew

Amos Lassen

This is a story that I never thought that I would hear. Jean-Marie Lustiger is the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants who has maintained his cultural identity as a Jew even after converting to Catholicism at a young age. He later became a priest and was appointed Archbishop of Paris by Pope John Paul II. He has risen quickly thorough the priesthood and eventually found a way to celebrate his dual identity as a Catholic and a Jew. In the process he made friends and enemies from both groups. When the Carmelite nuns decided to build a convent at Auschwitz, he was the mediator between the Jews and the Catholics. His own mother had died at the camp. The film is a historical narrative of his exceptional life.

This is a film that deals with identity and Judaism and Catholicism; both the separation and the hope for reconciliation. The Cardinal faced some difficult decisions like on the convent at Auschwitz as well as the maintenance of a Jewish identity while accepting Jesus. He did not renounce either religion even though many felt that he should take a side.

This is a movie that challenges and is also “loving, beautiful, and intelligent”. ThsDVD includes the short film KOSHER, a French film by Isabelle Stead about a lonely Orthodox Jewish boy and the pig who miraculously shows up and sets his imagination off and running.

kosher

Isaac is five years old and is cute as he can be with his hair like a mop and thick glasses. The other kinds make fun of him but Isaac has something special. One morning a pig showed up on his doorstep and this gave Isaac hope but upsetting his Orthodox Jewish family. Isaac’s parents are forced to step in and break Isaac’s innocence and his faith as well as his friendship with the pig. In nine short minutes, we get quite a look at childhood innocence.

“Don’t Be So Gay!: Queers, Bullying, and Making Schools Safe” by Donn Short— Bullying as a Constant Reality

don't be so gay

Short, Donn. “Don’t Be So Gay!: Queers, Bullying, and Making Schools Safe” (Law and Society), UBC Press, 2013.

Bullying as a Constant Reality

Amos Lassen

Bullying is one of the terrible things about growing up and it has, of late, been recognized as “a real threat to students’ physical and psychological well-being — particularly in light of recent teen suicides linked with homophobia in schools. Despite a shift in public attitudes and legislative responses to the problem, bullying remains a constant reality for many queer youth in schools”. Here Donn Short considers the effectiveness of anti-harassment policies and safe-school legislation to address the problem of homophobic bullying.

 Short spent months in ten Toronto-area high schools interviewing queer youth and their allies. He has concluded that the current legislation and the way it deals with  what is going on in schools is more transformative than responsive and proactive.

It suggests that while effective legislation is vital to establishing a safe space for queer students, other influences — including religion, family beliefs, and peer pressure may be more powerful.

He uses students’ own experiences and thoughts on how safety is pursued in their schools and how their understandings and definitions of safety might be translated into law and policy reform and he shows us a new perspective on a widely debated issue.

Short’s interviews capture beautifully the worlds of some “out” high school students and his analysis shows some new ways of looking at these young people and the policies.

Short consulted with the foremost experts on safety for queer kids in schools — the queer youth themselves. They see heteronormativity as an immediate threat and Short highlights ways that educators and lawmakers can deal with and mitigate it. It’s not enough to tell bullied kids that it will get better sometime later and this book shows how changing cultures can make it better now.

This is a timely and empowering work that gives GLBTQ youth a voice in addressing the problem of homophobic school bullying.