29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

 Awards Ceremony: Monday, June 12, 2017 in New York City   

 Note: The number of finalists in a category is determined by the number of submissions in that category. Those marked with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamoslassen.com

 Lesbian Fiction

  • *A Thin Bright Line, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, University of Wisconsin Press
  • Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson, Amistad
  • Bull & Other Stories, Kathy Anderson, Autumn House Press
  • The Day After Death, Lynn C. Miller, University of New Mexico Press
  • Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Pretend I’m Your Friend, MB Caschetta, Engine Books
  • Tears in the Grass, Lynda A. Archer, Dundurn
  • They May Not Mean To, But They Do, Cathleen Schine, Sarah Crichton Books

Gay Fiction

  • *The Angel of History, Rabih Alameddine, Atlantic Monthly Press
  • *Black Deutschland, Darryl Pinckney, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • *The Cosmopolitans, Sarah Schulman, The Feminist Press
  • *Hide, Matthew Griffin, Bloomsbury USA
  • *Jazz Moon, Joe Okonkwo, Kensington Books
  • *Moonstone, Sjón, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • *The Rope Swing, Jonathan Corcoran, Vandalia Press
  • *What Belongs To You, Garth Greenwell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Bisexual Fiction

  • *Beautiful Gravity, Martin Hyatt, Antibookclub
  • Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Mouth to Mouth, Abigail Child, EOAGH
  • When Watched, Leopoldine Core, Penguin Books

Transgender Fiction

  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, Kai Cheng Thom, Metonymy Press
  • If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo, Flatiron Books
  • Small Beauty, jia qing wilson-yang, Metonymy Press

LGBTQ Nonfiction

  • *Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair, Sarah Schulman, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • *Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York, Donald Albrecht, Skira Rizzoli
  • Ghost Faces: Hollywood and Post-Millennial Masculinity, David Greven, State University of New York Press
  • *How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France, Knopf
  • *Pride & Joy: Taking the Streets of New York City, Jurek Wajdowicz, The New Press
  • Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Duke University Press Books
  • *The Estrangement Principle, Ariel Goldberg, Nightboat Books
  • The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability, Kristen Hogan, Duke University Press Books

Bisexual Nonfiction

  • Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me, Ana Castillo, The Feminist Press
  • The Body’s Alphabet, Ann Tweedy, Headmistress Press
  • I Have Devoted My Life to the Clitoris, Elizabeth Hall, Tarpaulin Sky Press
  • Women in Relationships With Bisexual Men: Bi Men By Women, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli and Sara Lubowitz, Lexington Books

Transgender Nonfiction

  • *Life Beyond My Body: A Transgender Journey to Manhood in China, Lei Ming, Transgress Press
  • *Outside the XY: Black and Brown Queer Masculinity, Morgan Mann Willis, Riverdale Avenue Books
  • Outspoken: A Decade of Transgender Activism and Trans Feminism, Julia Serano, Switch Hitter Press
  • Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir, Samuel Peterson, Transgress Press
  • You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death and Transition, Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolbloom, Coach House Books

Lesbian Poetry

  • Bestiary, Donika Kelly, Graywolf Press
  • Complete Works of Pat Parker, edited by Julie R. Enszer, Sinister Wisdom/A Midsummer Night’s Press
  • Journal of Ugly Sites, Stacy Szymaszek, Fence Books
  • Night, Etel Adnan, Nightboat Books
  • play dead, francine j. harris, Alice James Books
  • Swarm Queen’s Crown, Stephanie Adams-Santos, Fathom Books
  • The Old Philosopher, Vi Khi Nao, Nightboat Books
  • You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Arisa White, Augury Books

Gay Poetry

  • DIG, Bryan Borland, Stillhouse Press
  • Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong, Copper Canyon Press
  • Primer, Aaron Smith, University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Rapture, Sjohnna McCray, Graywolf Press
  • The Halo, C. Dale Young, Four Way Books
  • The Taxidermist’s Cut, Rajiv Mohabir, Four Way Books
  • Thief in the Interior, Phillip B. Williams, Alice James Books
  • Trouble the Water, Derrick Austin, BOA

Transgender Poetry

  • even this page is white, Vivek Shraya, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • The Romance of Siam: A Pocket Guide, Jai Arun Ravine, Timeless, Infinite Light
  • Reacquainted with Life, Kokumo, Topside Press
  • Safe Space, Jos Charles, Ahsahta Press
  • Sympathetic Little Monster, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Ricochet Editions

Lesbian Mystery

  • Blood Money Murder, Jessie Chandler, Bella Books
  • Bury Me When I’m Dead, Cheryl A. Head, Bywater Books
  • Collide-O-Scope, Andrea Bramhall, Ylva Publishing
  • Final Cut, Lynn Ames, Phoenix Rising Press
  • Pathogen, Jessica L. Webb, Bold Strokes Books
  • Requiem for Immortals, Lee Winter, Ylva Publishing
  • Under Contract, Jennifer L. Jordan, Clover Valley Press
  • Walk-in, T.L. Hart, Bella Books

Gay Mystery

  • Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean, Blind Eye Books
  • Homo Superiors by L. A. Fields, Lethe Press
  • Lay Your Sleeping Head by Michael Nava, Korima Press
  • Nights in Berlin by Janice Law, Head of Zeus
  • Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery by J. Aaron Sanders, Plume

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

  • *A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, Christina Crosby, NYU Press
  • A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder, Ma-Nee Chacaby, University of Manitoba Press
  • *Im Just a Person, Tig Notaro, Ecco
  • *Indomitable: The Life of Barbara Grier, Joanne Passet, Bella Books
  • The Wind Is Spirit: The Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde, Gloria I. Joseph, PhD, Villarosa Media

Gay Memoir/Biography

  • *Books For Living, Will Schwalbe, Knopf
  • *Boy Erased, Garrard Conley, Riverhead Books
  • *Capsid: A Love Song, Joseph Osmundson, Indolent Books
  • *Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann, Frederic Spotts, Yale University Press
  • *Lust & Wonder, Augusten Burroughs, St. Martin’s Press
  • *One Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, Michael Schreiber, Bruno Gmuender Books
  • *Proxies, Brian Blanchfield, Nightboat Books
  • *When We Rise, Cleve Jones, Hachette Books


Lesbian Romance

  • The Scorpion’s Empress, Yoshiyuki Ly, Solstice Publishing
  • Coils, Barbara Ann Wright, Bold Strokes Books
  • Finding Lizzie, Karma Kingsley, NineStar Press
  • Little Lies, Lila Bruce, Self-Published
  • Lost in the Starlight, Kiki Archer, K.A. Books
  • *Loving Eleanor, Susan Wittig Albert, Persevero Press
  • *Perfect Pairing, Rachel Spangler, Bywater Books
  • *The Liberators of Willow Run, Marianne K. Martin, Bywater Books

Gay Romance

  • Into the Blue, Pene Henson, Interlude Press
  • Pansies, Alexis Hall, Riptide Publishing
  • *Femme, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books
  • Rank, Richard Compson Sater, Bold Strokes Books
  • *Country, Jeff Mann, Lethe Press
  • Adulting 101, Lisa Henry, Riptide Publishing
  • Rented Heart, Garrett Leigh, Riptide Publishing
  • Caught Inside, Jamie Deacon, Beaten Track Publishing

LGBTQ Anthology

  • ALPHABET: The LGBTQAIU Creators from Prism Comics, Jon Macy and Tara Madison Avery, Editors Stacked Deck Press
  • *Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry, Martha Amore and Lucian Childs, Editors, University of Alaska Press / Snowy Owl Books Imprint
  • *No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies, E. Patrick Johnson, Duke University Press Books
  • *The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care, Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • *Queer, David J. Getsy, MIT Press

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult

  • Beast, Brie Spangler, Alfred A. Knopf
  • Girl Mans Up, M.E. Girard, Harper Teen
  • Gravity, Juliann Rich, Bold Stroke Books
  • Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley, Dial Books
  • Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee, Duet
  • Our Chemical Hearts, Krystal Sutherland, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
  • *Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin, Balzer + Bray
  • The Midnight Star, Marie Lu, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers


  • Barbecue/Bootycandy, Robert O’Hara, Theatre Communications Group
  • Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week, Lois Fine, Playwrights Canada Press
  • Perfect Arrangement, Topher Payne, Samuel French, Inc.

LGBTQ Erotica

  • Camp Rewind, Meghan O’Brien, Bold Strokes Books
  • Roped In, Marie Sexton and L.A. Witt, Amber Quill
  • Steel and Promise, Alexa Black, Bold Strokes Books
  • Soul to Keep, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Bold Strokes Books
  • Skyscraper, Scott Alexander Hess, Unzipped Books

LGBTQ Graphic Novels

  • Active Voice The Comic Collection: The Real Life Adventures Of An Asian-American, Lesbian, Feminist, Activist And Her Friends, Written by P. Kristen Enos with Heidi Ho; Illustrated by Derek Chua, Leesamarie Croal, Casandra Grullon, Beth Varni, Dan Parent, Furia Press
  • *The Case of Alan Turing: The Extraordinary and Tragic Story of the Legendary Codebreaker, Eric Liberge and Arnaud Delalande, Translated by David Homel, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Ed Luce, Fantagraphics Books


  • *All Good Children, Dayna Ingram, Lethe Press
  • The Devourers, Indra Das, Del Rey
  • *Irish Black, David Lennon, Blue Spike Publishing
  • Kissing Booth Girl, A.C. Wise, Lethe Press
  • *Lily, Michael Thomas Ford, illustrated by Staven Andersen, Lethe Press
  • A Little Queermas Carol, Sassafras Lowrey, PoMo Freakshow
  • Style of Attack Report, By Ras Mashramani, Rasheedah Phillips, Alex Smith, and M. Eighteen Téllez, Metropolarity
  • Will Do Magic for Small Change, Andrea Hairston, Aqueduct Press

LGBTQ Studies

  • Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two Spirit Memory, Qwo-Li Driskill, University of Arizona Press
  • *Homintern, Gregory Woods, Yale University Press
  • Indian Blood: HIV and Colonial Trauma in San Francisco’s Two-Spirit Community, Andrew J. Jolivette, University of Washington Press
  • Melodrama: An Aesthetics of Impossibility, Jonathan Goldberg, Duke University Press
  • Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men From The March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis, Kevin Mumford, University of North Carolina Press
  • *Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution, Omar G. Encarnación, Oxford University Press
  • *Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics, Timothy Stewart-Winter, University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display, Jennifer Tyburczy, University of Chicago Press

“The Invention of Judaism” by John J. Collins— The Role of Torah in Ancient Judaism

Collins, John J. “The Invention of Judaism: Torah and Jewish Identity from Deuteronomy to Paul”, University of California Press, 2017.

The Role of Torah in Ancient Judaism

Amos Lassen

Many assume that Judaism is the Torah and the Torah is Judaism. However, in “The Invention of Judaism”, John J. Collins persuasively argues this was not always the case. The Torah became the touchstone for most of Judaism’s adherents only in the hands of the rabbis of late antiquity. For 600 years before this, from the Babylonian Exile to the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, there were enormous variations and diversity in the way the Torah was understood. Collins gives us a comprehensive account of the role of the Torah in ancient Judaism by exploring key moments in its history, beginning with the formation of Deuteronomy and continuing through the Maccabean revolt and the rise of Jewish sectarianism and early Christianity.

John J. Collins is considered to be an influential scholar of the Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible. Here he surveys an enormous amount of literature, both primary and secondary, summarizes it masterfully, and then makes that his thesis. This is a wise and mature look at the place of Torah and it is beautiful to see Collins looking at alternatives proposed by others, both radicals and conservatives, and then taking the position best supported by the evidence and not leaning to either of these predetermined options. Writing about Torah is always important and what we get here is important to the history of the Jewish religion and affects both thought and practice.


“The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman— Rethinking Birds

Ackerman, Jennifer. “The Genius of Birds”, Penguin, 2017.

Rethinking Birds

Amos Lassen

Writer Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds. She travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research from the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia to the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia as well as the mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy to the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states. She shares the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds and also explores the newest findings about the brain of the bird itself. In this, she shifts our views on intelligence.

 Looking at the Clark’s nutcracker, we see a bird that can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember several months later. We meet mockingbirds and thrashers that can store 200 to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours. We learn that birds use their special genius in technical ways and Ackerman shares their social smarts of birds; how they deceive and manipulate, eavesdrop, give gifts, console one another, blackmail their parents, alert one another to danger, summon witnesses to the death of a peer and might even grieve. I doubt that we have ever considered these traits in reference to birds.

By adding personal anecdotes to science, we get quite a story that shows us how to appreciate the exceptional talents of birds and see what birds can reveal about our changing world. I doubt that I would have ever considered reading this if I had not been sent a review copy but now that I have read it, I am ready to learn more and more about our feathered friends.

Author Jennifer Ackerman is a wonderful writer who is just as fun when she is serious as when she is laugh-out-loud funny. I was surprised throughout and learned about how different types of birds bond, and how they teach their young to perform certain important actions they will eventually need to survive.

“The Genius of Bird” celebrates bids behaviors, patterns, reversal learning and the importance of studying birds in their natural environment to learn more and better understand them, This is quite a big read but every word is chosen to express something about birds. It is such a pleasure to be entertained while learning something (or a lot of something’s) new. I commend Ackerman’s ability to give usscientific concepts accessibly and lyrically. She gives many interesting facts that she and backs up with history or science. We gain “deep respect” for the birds as we read a moral consideration of the world.

Birds’ brains may be small and they are built differently from mammalian brains, yet they can still execute prodigious feats of intellect. Jennifer Ackerman has written such fascinating information that she leaves the reader wanting more. We learn how birds carry out their vast migrations, how they find their way home, why male birds sing from their hearts out why female birds choose their mates by these efforts and this is just a sampling. These and many other questions are explored, with no final answers and we get even more questions that make us want to find out for ourselves.

“Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace” edited by Yechiel Frish and Yedidya Hacohen— An Intriguing Life

Frish, Yechiel and Hacohen, Yedidya (editors). “Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace”, (Modern Jewish Lives), translated by Irene Lancaster, Urim Publications, 2017.

An Intriguing Life

Amos Lassen

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen is primarily known as the man who was the chief rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen. He was born in the year 1927 and his life is what epic movies are made of. He was an influential voice in the creation of the State of Israel. His father was Rabbi David Cohen, a famous Nazirite (religiously speaking a Nazirite is a man who is consecrated or separate and who has special responsibilities) and the younger Rabbi Cohen of Jerusalem grew up in the company of great Rabbis knowing that he, like his father, was destined to become a Nazirite. He studied under the influence of Rav Kook. During the 1948 War of Independence, Rabbi Cohen fought to defend the Old City of Jerusalem, until he was severely wounded and taken to Jordan as a prisoner of war.

He later became the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Air Force, and then governed as the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem with Teddy Kollek. Rabbi Cohen served as the Chief Rabbi of Haifa and President of their rabbinical courts for 36 years. He was important in many aspects of Judaism and the State of Israel and I feel sure that even those who knew him well will find many surprises in this wonderful biography that is almost a chronicle of Israel. Yet today, he is still thought of as the principle spiritual leader of Haifa.

The book gives special emphasis to Jerusalem as a spiritual city and to Haifa as a secular city (yet that began moving more toward spiritually when Rabbi Cohen was there).

In Rabbi Cohen’s diary is the record of the first Hallel prayer (song of praise) recited in the city of Jerusalem at the moment that Israel became a nation and for this alone, the book is worth a read… but there is so much more. The information we have here includes interviews with the rabbi himself and with members of his family and friends and excerpts from his diary that include vivid details of the battles he fought in and his imprisonment in Jordan. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Saks tells us that Rabbi Cohen was a man who was open-minded and had a great generosity of spirit. He was one of the guiding influences and founder of the Ariel Institute that came into being as a multi-faced institute of higher learning that trains rabbis and rabbinical barristers.

“Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics” by Jeremiah Unterman— Changing the Course of Ethical Thought

Unterman, Jeremiah. “Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics”, (JPS Essential Judaism), Jewish Publication Society, 2017.

Changing the Course of Ethical Thought

Amos Lassen

In “Justice for All”, Jeremiah Unterman shows that the Jewish Bible had tremendous influence on not only the Jews but also as the basis for Christian ethics and the broader development of modern Western civilization. The ethics of the Jewish Bible presents significant moral advances over

Ancient Near East cultures. We read how the Bible’s unique concept of ethical monotheism, innovative understanding of covenantal law, and messages from the prophets are the foundation of many Western civilization ideals. Unterman brings together biblical texts and the themes of what is going on today (immigration policy, forgiveness and reconciliation, care for the less privileged, and attaining hope for the future despite destruction and exile in this world). The goal of the Bible is to create holy and moral people and we see time and again that the Bible is a statement of intent and not just a collection of stories with ethical value.

Unterman has organized his book topically making it easy to find what we might look for.




“1944 Diary” by Hans Keilson— Nazis in the Netherland

Keilson, Hans. “1944 Diary”, translated by Damion Searls, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Nazis in the Netherlands

Amos Lassen

“1944 Diary” is an account of the Nazi-occupied Netherlands from one of Europe’s most powerful chroniclers of the Holocaust, Hans Keilson.

Hans Keilson was a German Jewish psychoanalyst who had sympathy for both the perpetrators and bystanders of the Holocaust as well as for victims and resisters. In the two books he previously published, he was hailed by critics and fellow authors as a genius.

After Keilson died at the age 101, a diary was found among his papers that cover nine months that he spent in hiding with members of a Dutch resistance group. The diary tells the story not only of Keilson’s survival but also of the moral and artistic life he was struggling to make for himself. Along with an encounter with a pastor who is sick of having to help Jews, and a day locked upstairs during a Nazi roundup in the city, the diary is full of reading notes on Kafka, Rilke, Céline, Buber, and others and is a feast of thought and reminiscence. Keilson had forcibly separated from his wife and young child, Keilson and was having a passionate love affair with Hannah Sanders, a younger Jewish woman in hiding a few blocks away. He wrote dozens of sonnets to her that struggled with claims of morality and of love.

The diary is a revelatory new angle on history we have heard many times before but this time it is very personal important novelists at a key moment of the twentieth century. Damion Searls who translated the novel sees it as a “spiritual X-ray of the mind and heart”. It is harrowing and beautiful at the same time and reveals a lot about the man who is still considered to be one of Europe’s most important novelists.

“THE LAVENDER SCARE”— The Witch Hunt That Was

“The Lavender Scare”

The Witch Hunt That Was

Amos Lassen

With the United States was gripped in the panic of the Cold War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deemed that homosexuals were “security risks” and ordered the immediate firing of any government employee discovered to be gay or lesbian. This brought about a vicious witch-hunt that lasted for forty years and ruined thousands of lives. At the same time, it forced an unlikely hero into the forefront of what would become the modern LGBT rights movement.

This is the first feature-length documentary film to tell the story of the U.S. government’s ruthless campaign in the 1950s and ’60s to hunt down and fire every Federal employee who was suspected to be gay. The McCarthy Era is remembered as the time of the Red Scare and the hunt for Communists in the United States, but it was also the Lavender Scare, vehement purge of homosexuals, which lasted a long time and ruined many more lives. Before it was over, thousands and thousands of Federal employees lost their jobs.

The film is based on the award-winning book by historian David K. Johnson and it opens up a chapter of American history that has never received the attention it deserves. We see the ways the Government used to identify homosexuals. We go inside interrogation rooms where gay men and women were subjected to horrible questioning. The stories that we see here and told by those who experienced them and these are first-hand accounts.

We see how the government’s actions brought about an anti-gay frenzy that spread throughout the United States at a time when The New York Times used the words “homosexual” and “pervert” interchangeably, and public service films warned that homosexuality was a dangerous, contagious disease.

There is no question that the story will make people angry and break hearts but the message that we get is inspiring and we become very aware of the sense of hope that was shared by so many good Americans who were forced to suffer at the hands of a few.

The irony is that instead of destroying American homosexuals, the actions of the government had the opposite effect and stirred a sense of outrage and activism that helped ignite the gay rights movement. However, this was at a terrible cost.

“HEARTLAND”— His Brother’s Girlfriend


Her Brother’s Girlfriend

Amos Lassen

Young artist Lauren (Velinda Godfey) is dealing with her girlfriend Nicole’s death after a long battle with cancer and she is now totally on her own.  Her conservative and religious mother (Beth Grant) is conservative, religious and in denial about her daughter’s sexuality. Justin (Aaron Leddick), her self-absorbed brother, is too busy with his own business to be there for her. As if that is not enough, when Nicole dies, Lauren loses both her job and her apartment and she is so broke that she has to move back to her family home in rural Guthrie, Oklahoma to deal with her grief and start her life anew.

Also living at home is Justin and his girlfriend Carrie (Laura Spencer) who are working on setting up a new local winery. When Justin has to go away on a trip, Lauren and Carrie begin an unlikely friendship that unexpectedly develops further into an emotional connection and then a physical relationship. When Justin discovers what is going on, he feels betrayed by both his sister and his girlfriend.

This is a sensitive and tender tale that deals with love, loss and family dynamics. It is interesting that Lauren’s sexuality is not the focal point of the story, and her mother is the only one that refuses to accept it; no one else has any problem with it at all. The bond that forms between these two young women is the result of the fact that they both have needs that seemingly can only by met by their being together.

Godfrey both stars and co-wrote the screenplay and this is director Maura Anderson’s first feature film. The cast is excellent all around. Crystal has been a widow for 15 years now and she spends her time scrap booking and going to church. She seems to always be in a good mood. She loves her daughter, but won’t accept the fact that Lauren is a lesbian.

Justin knows how to pray when he has to pray, and how to earn money when there’s money to be earned. Carrie, his fiancé, is from the Napa Valley, and she does not really fit into Guthrie.

“FtWTF: FEMALE TO WHAT THE FUCK”— The Construct of Gender in Western Society

“FtWTF: Female to what the fuck”

The Construct of Gender in Western Society

Amos Lassen 

“FtWTF: Female to what the fuck” is a documentary film that looks at the constructions of fe/maleness in western society and explores the lives of 6 people who cross the boundaries between these 2 genders. The purpose of this film is to create awareness for diverse transgender identities beyond the binary construct that exists today. Gender reassignment via hormones and/or surgery is only one part of the exploration of one’s identity and we must remember that not all trans people choose this route or want to. We explore life beyond the gender binary and look at the questioning of heteronormativity, the search for a livable masculinity that fits with one’s own trans* identity, friction with the wider queer-feminist community. We also look at coming to terms with change, grief, cyclical endings and new beginnings as we attempt to find out if there is ever really an endpoint or an arrival.

We have an encounter with gender transgression, by which the gender border is crossed in the same direction each time: from a specific starting point (female/woman) to a temporarily open end point (“what the fuck”). The filmmakers portray six people who for different reasons take on a transgender identity and live it out in different and changing ways.

Our protagonists confront the conditions consequences, and sometimes bizarre circumstances of their decision. They do so in open and sometimes humorous ways and it is amazing to see this.

“FtWTF” has faced the tremendous challenge of bringing gender transformations onto the screen without tragedy and pathos. The film, which can be situated at the center of queer art production does this by engaging in political analysis and well-informed on feminism. The people we meet here are heroes of gender difference, heroes who live their desire for masculinity, and constantly critically question in his own way.

Katharina Lampert and Cordula Thim directed this story of the six people who fit somewhere along the genderqueer spectrum, but most of them are still undecided exactly where they want to be right now on this sliding scale. All of them were born as women but have chosen to transition to some degree to either become transmen or settle for a non-binary role. On camera they speak about their journey to date and what it means to them. 

Several are like Mani who is self-assured about the fact that he does not want to be regarded or defined by either of the traditional genders, and even though he is comfortable with this, those that he meets often finds that outsiders/strangers experience difficulty with accepting this. Nick who is at ease with his new body and with his ongoing relationship with polyamorous Deniece who seems to enjoy shocking people with her own fluidity.

What is shocking to discover is the bureaucracy that Austrian society make anyone undertake if they wish to have their new gender accepted, such as the months of paperwork just to be allowed to adopt a new name that is not on the ‘official register’ of approved names.  We learn that before 2010 any FTM had to undergo a hysterectomy before they could be legally change their gender. 

This is a compelling film that continues the essential dialogue about helping understand all the many differences within the trans and genderqueer community.

“Sins of Our Fathers” by A. Rose Mathieu— A Mystery

Mathieu, A. Rose. “Sins of Our Fathers”, Bold Strokes, 2017.

A Mystery

Amos Lassen

Attorney Elizabeth Campbell was raised in the lap of luxury but has turned her back on it and has been finding emotional fulfillment working at a nonprofit legal clinic. Her parents are not happy about this. She has learned how to use the law to fit her needs and this has led her to work with a Catholic priest investigating the case of a simple man with the IQ of a child but who has confessed to a brutal killing. While the case has kept her busy, she faces a more serious personal trial and challenge that comes in the personage of Detective Grace Donovan who is determined to keep her client locked up.

The mayor wants to prove that what he and his office does is fair and he has asked various organizations that provide legal help to those who cannot afford it to have another look at cases to see if convictions have been just or not. When Elizabeth reads the case of Raymond, the man with the low IQ who has been sitting in jail because of the murder of a priest, something does not seem quite right/, put away for a priests murder, the case does not sit right with her. The more she reviews the case, the more she is warned to not get involved in it but she is unable to let it go.

Elizabeth is a woman with lots of heart and she follows what it tells her. In this case, she is on a fairly dangerous mission and we see that she has little fear. She wants justice for Raymond and as his case is reopened, murders start again but this time Raymond is locked up so we know he is not involved.

Elizabeth follows her gut and digs for clues, demanding justice for the perceived innocent man. As Raymond’s case is re-opened as the murders start again, same modus operandi only this time Raymond was behind bars. Because this is a mystery I am limited by what I can say about the plot but I can tell you that tension builds from page to page. I mentioned something earlier about a police detective named Grace and almost led you to believe that there is a romance here. However, this is not a romance even though there are romantic elements in the story. Perhaps the romance will be covered in a sequel.

I am amazed at how well this is written as a first novel. There is great use of details and twists throughout the plot making us turn pages quickly. It is very easy to fall in love with Elizabeth and to want to reach out to Raymond. Reaching out to and or identifying with characters is something that lets me know I am reading a good book. That is what happens here.