“LABYRINTH OF LIES”— Cover Ups

labyrinth

“Labyrinth of Lies” (“Im Labyrinth des Schweigens”)

Cover Ups

Amos Lassen

In 1958, the Second World War had been over for thirteen years and the Federal Republic of Germany was not only recovering but was booming. It seems that there were no more Nazis and no one had ever heard of the death and concentration camps. However, that all changed when journalist Thomas Gnielka (André Szymanski) recognized, in the person of a teacher, the former commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), a young prosecutor, decided to investigate this.

laby1

Now almost 70 years after the end of war, the poisoning of German society by Nazism remains an understandably troubling subject for Germans to address and acknowledge openly. Director Giulio Ricciarelli’s debut feature “Labyrinth Of Lies” looks at how a society that was supposedly and rightfully ashamed of its horrible transgressions went too far in burying its shame and this allowed the guilty to escape punishment for their crimes.

In the immediate years after the end of the war, the German establishment worked to erase the grim specter of the past that hovered over the country. Very few people (especially the young) were aware of the scope of the Final Solution and the reality of the concentration camps. Radmann learned that an Auschwitz SS guard was working as a schoolteacher and this was forbidden under German law. His immediate superior wants nothing to do with pursuing the man, and when Radmann informs the Ministry of Education of the teacher’s past, they take no action to remove him from his position.

However, Radmann refused to let the Nazi dark past of those who had not been punished to stay secret and with the help and support of the Attorney General of the German Republic, began a search for the both powerful and humble former Nazis who suffered no consequences for their actions. Radmann was dissuaded by many individuals and organizations and these included the U.S. Military.

I understand that the character of Radmann is a fictional composite of three prosecutors who participated in the Auschwitz trials. Prosecutor General Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss) was well aware of the Nazi plague, and he encouraged his young associate to pursue the matter. Working with Gnielka and concentration camp survivor Simon Kirsch (Johannes Krisch), Johann is shocked and stunned when he learns the vast dimensions of the Nazis’ machinery of extermination at Auschwitz and that many of those who ran the camp had comfortable careers in public service.

Alexander Fehling (Rolle: Johann Radmann)

Alexander Fehling (Rolle: Johann Radmann)

As he went through the chaotic records of 600,000 individuals stored at the U.S. Army Document Center, Radmann discovered that thousands of former Nazis had returned to their pre-war lives with no problems. He was aided by the testimony of Auschwitz survivors, his endearing and principled secretary Schmittchen (Hansi Jochmann), and a fellow prosecutor, who initially ridiculed Johann about the project.

One of the film’s most powerful moments is when Auschwitz survivors entered Radmann’s office, one after the other, to provide testimony. There are no words in the sequence— just a series of headshots of people with resolute, determined expressions and horror stories to recount. Schmittchen cannot contain her grief and shock.

In the beginning, Johann was exclusively focused on capturing Dr. Josef Mengele at the expense of lesser targets. After discovering that his girl friend Marlene’s father was a Nazi, Johann began to wonder about his own now-deceased father whom he had idolized and still idealizes. One of his superiors asked him if it was his goal to show that every young man in Germany was to wonder whether his father was a murderer.

“Labyrinth of Lies” very successfully dramatizes the events leading up to hearings that helped illuminate the truth about the death camps and had a strong impact in particular on a younger generation of Germans.

While the political aspects of the movie work well but unfortunately the more personal stuff doesn’t. The movie would have been so much more effective without it. Fehling does a fine job and he gives a brilliant performance. The rest of the cast is good as well.

“Eight Questions of Faith: Biblical Challenges That Guide and Ground Our Lives” by Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein— Life’s Biggest Questions

eight questions of faith

Goldstein, Rabbi Niles Elliot. “Eight Questions of Faith: Biblical Challenges That Guide and Ground Our Lives”, The Jewish Publication Society, 2015.

Life’s Biggest Questions

Amos Lassen

I feel certain that the moment we enter an organized religion we are met with questions and that we have many questions. For me, that is one of the beauties of being Jewish—I spend a lot of time pondering and even less time arriving at answers but the time I spend thinking is my most valuable time of day. What makes it all so interesting is that, as the Torah says, there is nothing new beneath the sun. The same questions have been asked for generations and that just goes to show that there are no easy answers. These same questions that I ask have been asked by kings and prophets, leaders and followers, sinners and holy men.

Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein boils these down to eight questions that are found in the Bible and they explore the human journey from birth to death. These questions often deal with “existential experiences and themes as mortality, responsibility, forbidden knowledge, sin, and the afterlife”. Rabbi Goldstein brings together texts from the Bible, commentaries, philosophy, psychology, and literature and his own life experiences and then writes about them as meditation. While what he writes is somewhat universal, it is also very personal as we read it and apply it to our own lives.

Reading the introduction I learned about Goldstein’s three questions that brought him to write this book and I was stuck by how much they resemble my own. His first question deals with his marriage and while I am not married, I can understand that question to be about my relationship with others and whether these are honest relationships that will stand the test of time. The second question has to do with my relationship with my synagogue or temple. I love it but it indeed gets on my nerves once in a while. I have returned to the faith after years of living a secular life while helping to build the state of Israel. It took my return to America and the experience of Hurricane Katrina to make me understand that I needed to return to my religion and therefore to my temple. Goldstein was in the big city but I was in Little Rock, Arkansas having been evacuated there after the storm. I became active but as a reform Jew not as the Orthodox Jew that I had been raised. I rarely missed a Sabbath service but the temple seemed so unreal and there were so few that took it seriously. Moving to Boston changed everything. I was in a community of intellectuals who loved their faith and who participated regularly…or so I thought. Soon I realized that even with the few regulars, sincerity was missing. I hated those who pretended to be good Jews when in reality they had come to be seen by others. I tried to move on but I was tied to the temple and soon my worries passed and the sincerity that I looked for seemed to return. The third question answered itself when I moved from Arkansas to Massachusetts. Intellectually now I am somewhat satisfied but I know that these questions will return. With them will undoubtedly come the eight questions of faith that Goldstein gives us here and they are so simple and so much the kind of questions that we all have that there are no surprises:

“How do we live when we know we are going to die?”

“Why is humility so important?”

“Are we responsible for other people?”

“What is the purpose of human life?”

“Is some knowledge too dangerous to possess?

“Has God abandoned us?”
“How do we return when we have lost our way?”

“What happens to us after we die?”

Now that I am older and aging every day, I realize that the road home is a lot shorter than the road that brought me here and these questions always seem to be part of me. I search for the answers to them knowing that I will never find them yet I also know that many other people are asking the same questions. Rabbi Goldstein does not have the answers just as none of us do. But just as we are not alone asking these questions, neither are we alone looking for answers. The bible will not give us answers either but it will give us a sense of belonging and fellowship. Believe me when I say that it can be fun to try to find the answers. One of the things I do everyday is study Torah in Hebrew for at least an hour. It keeps my knowledge of the language fresh and satisfies my intellectual curiosity. With fifty years of graduate and undergraduate instruction under my belt, I find I still am intellectually curious.

Rabbi Goldstein tells us that we are on a journey and these questions become signposts on the way. They are the basis of human inquiry and the conversations and thoughts that come with them are far from easy. But Rabbi Goldstein is a good traveling companion and knowing he is there with me makes this journey less arduous. I do not need answers to be uplifted—I need to know that I am in good company and with the good rabbi and all of you I can tell that it is a good journey. The rabbi is here to give insights from his personal experiences be they philosophical or religious; it only matters that they are provocative and thoughtful. We are here to listen and contribute.

I sat down with this book this afternoon and I was determined to read it through without stopping and I did. I also realize that tomorrow I will have to reread it and stop and think about all that it says— to me that is what makes a book important and worth having in my library.

“Strong As Death Is Love: The Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, and Daniel, A Translation with Commentary” by Robert Alter— The Poetry of Translation

strong as death

Alter, Robert. “Strong As Death Is Love: The Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, and Daniel, A Translation with Commentary”, W.W. Norton, 2015.

The Poetry of Translation

Amos Lassen

I have loved Robert Alter’s translation and commentary of “The Five Books of Moses” and so I naturally looked forward to reading his translations of the rest of the Hebrew bible. It is fair to say that he does not disappoint and I found this volume containing The Song of Songs; Ruth; Esther; Jonah; and Daniel to be sublime in that it provides readers with a range of pleasures and beauties not usually associated with the Bible. These later Biblical books are innovative, entertaining literary works in which unlike other biblical writings women take center stage often. The Song of Songs is a celebration of young love, frankly sensuous, with no reference to God or covenant (directly but certainly open to interpretation). In it are some of the most beautiful love poems of the ancient world. In the story of Queen Esther’s we see that shrewd triumph is also a secular entertainment, with clear traces of farce and sly sexual comedy. The character of Ruth embodies those “virtues of loyalty, love, and charity in a harmonious world” and in the book of Daniel we see that mystery and enigma replace harmony in the feverish dreams of the main character. We hear of the strangeness of the apocalypse that is later repeated in the Christian bible in the Book of Revelations and what we read carries over to the modern world in the lyrics of many songs, Jonah’s story of a giant fish who swallows and imprisons him inside of him for three days was by the command of God and it ends with questions not answered so that we can think about human limitations.

Alter’s translation and commentary are wonderful reads in that he adds his own special touch. We do not have to agree with what he says in order to enjoy what he writes and I can tell you that I do not always agree. However, I can deny Alter’s skill and his way with language. As he translates he explains things in such a way that we not only enjoy the text more but also actively learn while reading. We must keep in mind that every translation is a commentary. Alter’s literary themes are clear and he tells us about them early on in his preface.

This is a literary approach to the Bible that is excellent for study. Even for traditionalists, Alter provides a way to help us understand the literary characteristics of the different books of the Bible.

“Beyond Clueless” by Linas Alsenas— Marty, Jimmy, Felix and the Gang

beyond clueless

Alsenas, Linas. “Beyond Clueless”, Amulet Books, 2015.

Marty, Jimmy, Felix and the Gang

Amos Lassen

When Marty Sullivan’s parents send her to a private school, she feels that her life has ended. The school is Catholic and all-girls and she has to leave her best friend, Jimmy, who comes out of the closet, finds a boyfriend in Derek and a whole new group of friends. Marty feels left out and lonely but then she lands a part in the school musical, “Into the Woods”, and Jimmy and his new gang are in it, too. Things begin to look a but better when Marty develops a crush on Felix who is in the play with her. It is even better when she thinks that Felix seems to like her too. But the drama is not just it the play—it is just beginning in real life. What we see here is an honest look at the cluelessness of early high schoolers and a comedy of errors about modern adolescence.

Marty and Felix kiss in private and keep their relationship very secret. But Marty senses that there is something wrong, and Felix seems to be moving too quickly for her. Marty’s isn’t able to see the truth about Felix and some of the others in her circle.

There are some very funny moments but I had a problem with the stereotypes presented in the book. By this I mean the supposed new trend of females requiring gay best friends in order to complete themselves.

This is a quick read but the characters just seem to baa a bit shallow and not well developed. I liked the diversity in the story but it was all too predictable. Marty came across as way too gullible and it was easy enough to see early on that Felix was using her. Yet she turned out to be strong enough to deal with it. I am so glad that young adult fiction has begun tacking real ideas and situations and that kids today do not have to be as sheltered as my generation was.

“(DIS)HONESTY: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES”— We All Cheat

dishonesty

“(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies”

We All Cheat

Amos Lassen

Think about it—from ticket fixing in police departments to test-score scandals in schools, from elected leaders’ extra-marital affairs to financial schemes undermining the economy, dishonesty has become a major part of the news. What is so sad is that it’s not just true in the headlines – everyone cheats.

“In (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies” we follow Israeli born Duke University psychology professor Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist who has a specific concentration on how and why people lie. Director Yael Melamede presents his story quite simply as an extended lecture that Ariely gives to a group of people. Sporadically throughout the film overhead shots show the individuals in crowds as unknowing subjects in one of Ariely’s elaborate social experiments. While his lecture is remains fascinating and captivating because of his research, Melamede intercuts this with various parts about “high-profile” liars like Joe Papp, a doping cyclist and insider traders. Someone does something wrong or transgresses and the situation grows out of their control until they are caught.

dis1

“We humans like to believe certain things about ourselves: that we are good and honest people, for one. Sure, we might innocently add a few inches to our…height on online dating sites, or fudge our taxes, but we are essentially virtuous”.

This is a documentary about why we lie and it shows the extent to which we fib (almost everybody does, it turns out, across nations and gender and social class). Perhaps most interestingly, it also how we shows us how we rationalize doing so.

In addition to Ariely’s experiments we see interviews from high-profile liars: Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee, a stock trader, Marilee Jones, MIT’s dean of admissions (who falsified her own academic history), ex-Manhattan stockbroker Garrett Bauer and former corporate lawyer Matthew Kluger, who hatched and fostered a complex insider trading scheme and Kelley Bolar a black mother who lied about where she lived in order to give her two daughters a better education. (She ended up being criminally prosecuted and serving jail time, a reminder of the ugly truth of our justice system.) While we do not get any exceptional insights, the film is full of interesting trivial examples (that in actuality are really not so trivial). We learn that bankers are twice as likely to lie as politicians, and swearing on a Bible does make us more likely to tell the truth. Despite pointing out the horrific consequences of large-scale deceit such as with the financial crisis of 2008, the tone of the film is somewhat optimistic.

dis2

As Ariely explored through his scientific experiments on lying, he selected a group of people to take a multiple choice math exam and let them decide how many questions they got right or wrong after shredding the exam sheet. They get paid if they answered all the questions correctly. Little do the test-takers know that the machine only shredded the sides of the paper, so Ariely has a way of knowing who lied and by how much they lied. His conclusions of that experiment and others are interesting but not shocking: everyone lies to a certain degree and has a “fudge factor” that allows for them to lie up to a point without sacrificing their dignity. We see that lying increases when two people collaborate together. In the interviews we have a wide variety of liars from cheating wives to bankers who explain what their thought process was when they were lying and even how they justified the lie to themselves. There is the banker who is guilty of insider and who justified it because many others did it and so it was okay. One of the interviewees states that “a lie is like a knife: it’s okay if it’s used to butter your own bread, but not if it’s used to stab someone”. I want to know more about that wisdom. What we do not get, and it is a pity, is insights and revelations about the root of lying. Could it have something to do with narcissism? It certainly is not enough to say that lying is simply an innate part of human nature and that animals also lie. This is a lively, witty and captivating film that has some interesting tidbits of wisdom. It could have been more profound but then we could also be lied to.

“The JPS Bible Commentary: Song of Songs” by Michael Fishbane, PhD— Songs of Passion and Praise

song of songs

Fishbane, Michael. “The JPS Bible Commentary: Song of Songs”, Jewish Publication Society, 2015.

Songs of Passion and Praise

Amos Lassen

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite parts of the Hebrew Bible has always been “The Song of Songs”. The passion of the words in both Hebrew and English strike me each and every time I read the wonderful poetry. However, do we really know what the Song of Songs is and what it means? Do we take it as an expression of the love one has for another? How do we explain the passion? Could the lyrics be about the covenant between God and Israel and that what we think of as romantic is actually religious? Then again, it might be something completely different than mentioned here. And this is what I love most about studying Hebrew scripture. No one has the correct answer if there even is one.

The Jewish Publication Society has a wonderful collection of commentaries to our bible and this is the latest addition. It includes a line-by-line commentary of the original Hebrew Bible text, complete with vocalization and cantillation marks right next to the JPS English translation. What really makes this special is that there are “four layers of commentary:

Peshat (literal meaning) where the focus is “on the grammatical meaning of the terms and phrases in their given content.” Here “the Song speaks about a maiden and her beloved.”

Derash (midrashic and religious-traditional sense) is an allegorical approach in which “the Song’s maiden is the personification of the people of Israel (sometimes as individuals, sometimes as the collectivity) and her beloved as the personification of God.”

Remez (allegorical level) looks at the text as a “philosophical allegory of the intellectual or spiritual life,” and sees it as speaking about “the human striving for perfection” and “God’s desire for the perfection of the human being and encouragement for the seeker of truth.”

Sod (mystical and spiritual intimations) sees the maiden and her lover as representatives of “male and female aspects of Divinity,” and Divine looks to “realize its own inherit harmony through love.”

Each section of the commentary analyzes the text using the four different types of interpretation. The beauty is that readers can either focus on one type of commentary, or study individual verses as seen through all four levels. The book also offers a history of the development of these commentaries as they relate to the text. “The JPS Bible Commentary: Song of Songs” is perfect for beginners and scholars seeking to uncover the meaning of this poetic and intriguing biblical work.

Author and scholar Michael Fishbane skillfully uses them all to provide the range of interpretations and ideas that have come out of this book. He also provides a comprehensive introduction, extensive endnotes, a full bibliography (traditional and modern), and many explanatory materials. 

The commentaries we have here interpret “The Song of Songs” historically, critically, and traditionally and that are based on sources from the ancient Near East, the entire spectrum of Jewish sources and commentaries, and modern critical studies.

Fishbane brings together his scholarly erudition, his poetic sensibility, this theological depth, and his mastery of the history of interpretation. Rabbi Jonathan Sachs says that this work is “A masterpiece of scholarship!” It opens the biblical dialogue of love says Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor emeritus, Divinity School, University of Chicago.

I am often asked if I actually read all of the books I review or do I just skim them. I actually read them but the way I read depends on the book I am reading. With something like “The Song of Songs” read every single word and often stop to think about what I have read. Quite naturally a book like this takes a great deal more time than a light novel and this basically true for the majority of the nonfiction that I read. Now let me say that I take my reviewing very seriously and I spend a lot of tine each day on it. I have a very strong work discipline and when I begin I cannot be disturbed. My friends know that and most of them know when I am working and they do not call or visit. This is one of those books that I take very seriously just as I take the time I spend each day studying Torah in Hebrew.

I love that there are so many different interpretations of the text and that they can be found in one place. These interpretations raise questions and finding answers is always fun even when they are not totally correct. The beauty of studying something that was written so long ago is that there is no totally correct answer. Here we see the sensual, the mystical and the spiritual coming together.

“The JPS Bible Commentary on the Song of Songs” is an incredible resource for reading and study and I am sure that I will be spending a lot of time with it. I look forward to those days.

“GAYBY BABY”— Four Kids with Gay Parents

gayby baby poster

“GAYBY BABY”

Four Kids with Gay Parents

Amos Lassen

“Gayby Baby” introduces us to four kids, Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham who share the fact that they all have gay parents. Set in Australia and by Australian filmmaker, Maya Newell, we are with the kids as they deal with the changes that life brings and while at the same time the world is dealing with marriage equality.

The documentary follows the lives of four kids – Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham – whose parents all happen to be gay. As they each wrestle with personal change, the outside world wrestles with the issue of marriage equality, and whether or not kids of same-sex families are at risk. We see gay relationships through the eyes of children.

gayby1

Opponents of same-sex unions argue that the best circumstances for children are to have both a mother and a father yet these kids show that this might not be exactly the case. We see here that children of same sex couples have the same challenges as any other family.  Gus loves watching wrestling even though his moms worry that it is making him too violent.  Ebony, a 12-year-old aspiring singer, wants to get into the prestigious Newtown Performing Arts High.  Graham lives with his dads in Fiji and is beginning to have trouble in school and Matt is having a crisis of faith because of the church’s position on same-sex unions.

We see that there is really nothing all that is unique, special or different about the children of same-sex couples.  All of these kids have their own separate challenges and they do necessarily have anything to do with their parent’s sexual orientation. They are completely “normal” (whatever that means) individuals, who don’t really need to be in a “traditional” family unit.

gayby2

Probably the only real expectation are possibly Matt’s moms, who are actively campaigning for the legalization of gay marriage in Australia and we watch a scene that involves the family going to meet Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the middle of her unsuccessful re-election campaign.  Matthew, a young teen has been resisting adopting his Catholic mother’s strong religious faith, but is so supportive of her lesbian lifestyle since she divorced his father. He even wrote a letter to Gillard in which he says, “I have two mums, and I’m proud of it”.

gayby3

Gus who I wrote earlier is passionate about wrestling has worried his mothers who think that he might become too much of an “alpha male” to fit into the family. We see that their worries are needless because when they go out shopping together, he tries on different shades of lipstick and not only upsetting his mothers but the sales clerk as well. Yet, at home he wrestles with his younger sisters so we see that he does not suffer because of the lack of a male influence or a father.

gayby4

Ebony auditions to be accepted to one of the schools of the performing arts because she wants to be a singer and she thinks that having two lesbian mothers will not be an issue.Neither of the mothers can work full time because Ebony’s younger brother has severe epilepsy and needs constant attention. They do hairdressing that puts quite a financial strain on their family. Ebony is quite a mature young lady add she says that she is not worried about her classmates being tolerant and says that “if they have a problem with it, they’re not worth it.”

gayby5

Graham was adopted by his two dads at a time that he could not speak because of the terribleneglect from his birth family. He has learning disabilities but that does not stop him from being a cheerful and bright young boy. When the family moved to homophobic Fiji because of work, he knows that he needs to be discreet about his home life. His dads tell him that Fiji does not like gay people so to others they one is to be a father and the other is to be a caretaker. Graham’s dads risk sharing the truth with Graham’s teacher who not only takes the whole situation on board but also happily volunteers to give Graham some private tutoring to help him catch up with his classmates. Both Graham and his older brother have two fathers who love them totally.

Since this documentary focuses on the children, we learn very little about the parents and I wish we had learned a bit more as well something about the children before they came to their present families.

“THE GRID: ZOMBIE OUTLET MAUL”— A New Animated Feature

TGZOM.POSTER.SMALLER

“The Grid: Zombie Outlet Maul”

A New Animated Feature

Amos Lassen

I am sure we all remember when animated films were for children and the adults that went were usually parents taking the kids to the movies. Times have changed and so has animation as we see with the success of so many animated films in the past few years. Now we go a bit into the future and the paranormal with Linda Andersson’s “The Grid: Zombie Outlet Maul”.

Thea and Hazel_new

It all starts when electrical devices come to life after an offshore nuclear plant explosion, and take over the abandoned Anameter Coast. Life is grand for Creative Outlet (the voice of Deborah Stewart) and her friends until they realize they must fight for their lives against a bumbling band of bullies, The Voltz Gang (car battery chargers), who now work for the evil and damaged Power Plant named Drusilla.

Grid Gang_webpromo full pic-2

Remo, a nebbishy remote control (the voice of Harry M. Ford) runs through town to warn his friends at the Energy Bar while being chased by The Voltz Gang. When he  arrives, Hazel Switch (the voice of Thea Gill) and her band, Switch Hazel can’t hear his pleas over their loud rock music. It isn’t until he proves to bar owner, Auto d’Fuse (MJ Lallo), that they need to shut down the bar to avoid being attacked. First they have to get permission from Mane (Danny Pardo), who is outraged by the idea of taking the bar off the electrical grid.

After much consideration, the Energy Bar friends head to the beach to ride out the emergency. But when Gennie the Generator (Leah Cevoli) runs out of fuel, they find themselves growing weaker by the moment, since they are no longer able to recharge.

Michelle and Angry Bottom-2

It really hits home when Auto sees his girlfriend, Elwira Buss leading a group of zombie outlets across the sand. The friends realize that their “zombiehood” is not far off if they can’t figure out something soon.

“Finding Masculinity: Female to Male Transition in Adulthood” by Alexander Walker and Emmett J.P. Lundberg— Transgender Men Beyond the Traditional Narrative

finding masculinity

Walker, Alexander and Emmett J.P. Lundberg. “Finding Masculinity: Female to Male Transition in Adulthood”, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2015.

Transgender Men Beyond the Traditional Narrative

Amos Lassen

Trans gender people are coming into their own now and we are hearing more and more about them than we have ever heard before. Most of us have our own ideas about trans gender issues but as one who has experienced it in my own family, I want to tell you to be careful how you reach conclusions and that is because there is so much that those of us outside of the trans community do not know. Here we learn about some of the issues and the facts about the community and it does so by having members of the community speak for themselves.

This is a collection of stories from members of transgender male community that insightfully take us into the diversity of life experiences of transgender men. We read about how transition from female to male influences and impacts of transitioning on the job, emotional and spiritual growth, family, navigating the medical community, as well as romantic relationships. The stories within come from scientists, teachers, fathers, veterans, and artists who share how being visible as the masculine humans they identify as has developed, changed, and evolved their sense of masculinity. For me this book is very special as my former niece recently transitioned into my nephew and surprisingly enough, I, his gay uncle, am the family member that has understood it the least. Reading the stories here opened my mind and my feelings. I did not really know my nephew very well as we have never lived in the same place and I have spent the majority of my life away from the rest of my family. Getting together with him after many years of being separated was especially difficult because I only really remembered him as the young blonde curly-haired niece that I had seen as a child. Now at 40 years he was a professional man and academic and I felt very guilty about not having been part of his life. Evidently the family reaction to the transition (that was not negative) has since caused him to sever ties with all of us. The last I saw of him was some five years ago after not having been part of his life for more than forty years.

Now I can only wonder how it was to live life as someone you do not believe you really are. This is the main thing I learned by reading this very important book. So often what we read about trans gender people resembles tabloid journalism or lately about Caitlyn Jenner whose transition has made her even more of a celebrity simply because of who he was and who he is now. Suddenly becoming the poster child for trans people must be quite a burden but there is one major difference here. Caitlyn received almost unanimous support simply because of the person he was. Most trans people are not so lucky.

The authors of this book have done quite a service to all of us and we certainly sense the love with which this book was written. There have been serious books written before about the topic but this is by far the most comprehensive and personal of them all and I believe that is because it is about several different people who experienced several different transitions.

Many people have problems with understanding and accepting trans issues and it takes something that is written seriously and personally to help explain the entire process and ways of life. That is what this book does so beautifully. Because trans voices are so seldom heard, this is a fresh and vibrant look about those who do not take their gender for granted. There is diversity and variety here and many will be surprised that almost all of the contributors are living “straight” lives. It is also important that both ages and stages of transition are represented here. What we really read about are the people we work with, who teach our kids, who are next to us as we walk down the street. While the stories express the pain they have felt, they also express the joy they have while being who they really are. Isn’t that what all of us strive for?

“Legacy of Hephaestsus: A Corey Shaw Mystery” by Alex Morgan— Coming Home

legacy

Morgan. Alex. “Legacy of Hephaestsus: A Corey Shaw Mystery”, Wilde City Press. 2015.

Coming Home

Amos Lassen

Corey Shaw, we might remember, is a paranormal detective. This time we meet him as he comes home to Boston after having been on vacation in Norway and the Netherlands. While away, the largest yellow diamond in the world was stolen from a factory in Amsterdam and the man he had shared a one-night quickie in Oslo was killed and an attempt on his own life took place. Arriving in Boston, he finds his house broken into. Then a professor from Boston University who was on sabbatical in Norway disappeared. All hopes to relax after his vacation are shattered and Corey had to return to Norway and to find out if there id a link between the missing professor and the diamond. He realizes that this time his life in danger.

It is only fair to remark that for me this book had two minuses before I even started to read it. I am neither a mystery nor a reader of the paranormal and so my biases should naturally affect the way I read. Unfortunately they do and I just could not get into the book even though the writing is fine and the characters are well developed. I have enjoyed other writings by Alex Morgan but this one just did not do it for me and I am sure that is because of my own biases.