“Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: Perspectives on Marital Possibilities” by Ronald C. Den— What Awaitas

beyond-same-sex-marriage

Otter, Ronald C. Den. “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: Perspectives on Marital Possibilities”, Lexington Books, 2016.

What Awaits

Amos Lassen

Now that the debate over same-sex marriage in the United States has ended, what awaits us in the future is uncertain. What marriage will be like in the future has moved from academia and if you remember, Supreme Court Justice Roberts said in his dissenting remarks in Obergefell that constitutionally-mandated legal recognition of same-sex marriage can possibly mean that the states may also have to recognize multi-person intimate relationships as well in order to avoid discriminating against plural marriage enthusiasts. Marriage could, and perhaps should, look very different than it does today. Instead of settling the question of whether states “ought to abolish marriage, make it more inclusive, contractual, or call it something else”, we see here that there are normative, legal, and empirical questions that Americans must address before “they can deliberate thoughtfully about whether to keep the marital status quo where monogamy remains privileged”.

In the essays contained in this book, we read opinions on marital reform that are written for ordinary Americans, their elected representatives, and judges, so that they can ultimately decide whether they want to continue to define marriage narrowly, make it inclusive to avoid discrimination, or have the state leave the marriage business. Included here are eight original essays that explain important but often-neglected areas of the marriage issue. We see why marriage equality should be considered the beginning and not the end of progressive thinking about the future of marriage. It is important reading for those who are interested in where we will next go regarding justice and policy in terms of marriage.

The tenets of liberalism— freedom, equality, and fairness, give a straightforward answer to the question of marriage equality for same-sex couples but following that is a slew of questions that could possibly arise. The essays here deal with the most difficult results of governing intimacy. Among other topics, we read about life in a modern Mormon family and we receive an analysis of liberal neutrality as well as an argument against legal recognition of plural marriage. “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage” gives us an overview of many of the complex issues raised “by polygamy, plural marriage, polyamory, and the family forms to which these practices give rise.” The scholars included here are Sonu Bedi, Janet Bennion, Mark Goldfeder, Yosef Razin, Diane Klein, Andrew Lister, Ameneh Maghzi, Mark Gruchy, Kristin McCarty, Maura Strassberg and Olivia Newman. Elizabeth Sheff wrote the forward.

 

“The City of the Seven Gods” by Andrew J. Peters– Fantasy and Mythology

the-city-of-the-seven-gods

Peters, Andrew J. “The City of Seven Gods”, Bold Strokes Books, 2016.

Fantasy and Mythology

Amos Lassen

Andrew J. Peters has written a novel that is propelled by its fascinating characters. We meet Kelemun who was bought from his peasant parents to tend the inner sanctum of the house of Aknon where wealthy men pay exorbitant prices to see the beautiful servants of the god. Kelemun has been selected to bring offerings to Caliph, and has captured the fascination of the young prince Praxtor who has been spoiled by never having been denied anything his heart desires.

Ja’bar was hired to take care of wayward proselytes for the high priest Aknon-Horheb. In Qabbat’lee, we see that this is good paying work for a Stripeling (a jungle savage in the eyes of the city natives, and if he’s stingy and stays out of trouble, it will buy him a plot of river land).

However, we learn that the beauty and splendor of Qabbat’lee is simply a mirage that disguises corruption. When Kelemun and Ja’bar’s fates bring them together for a night of betrayal, their only hope for redemption and survival seems to be with one another.

Because this is a fantasy, it takes a while to get into it— after all, we are entering a place that is unknown to us. The story is related in the alternating voices of Kelemun and Ja’Bar who met in the beginning of the story but then moved onto their separate ways. Kelemun who is angelic and a priest into the temple of Aknon. His job includes meeting and receiving pilgrims in their bedchamber and please them and he takes his work seriously because he feels his job pleases the gods. Praxtor, the son of the caliph has fallen in love with him and that is a difficult Kelemun who was actually sold to Praxtor and lives in his harem. However, because he had devoted his life to Aknon, he does not know how to react to his present state.

Ja’Bar is a Stripeling who has been raised as a slave but now is a free man who has to discover how to make a living. He works for Aknon-Horbeb who gives him a lot to do. giving him a lot of different tasks to accomplish. Ja’Bar is what I would call an alpha character. He is fine with that as long as he is paid for what he does because he is saving his to build a house in the countryside. Peters raises the question as to how far someone will go to see their dreams come together and he does so in lively prose and with a fascinating plot.

 

“Garden District Gothic” by Greg Herren— A Scotty Bradley Mystery

garden-distirct-gothic

Herren, Greg. “Garden District Gothic”, Bold Stokes Books, 2016.

A Scotty Bradley Mystery 

Amos Lassen

New Orleans has had its share of problems in the last ten or so years. We are all aware of how unkind the weather has been. Now the city is dealing with the death of Delilah Metoyer, a six-year-old beauty who was found strangled in the carriage house of her family’s Garden District mansion. The crime has never been solved and the Metoyer family that has come apart as a result of the crime is still shattered now some thirty years later. Delilah’s brother has turned to Scotty Bradley and asked him to finally find the murderer, putting “Scotty and his friends and family into the crosshairs of a vicious killer”.

If you have ever been to New Orleans, this book will make you remember everything you did there. .Having been raised in New Orleans, I can tell you that I was reminded of so much about the city.

Jesse Metoyer, Delilah’s half-brother, who had “disappeared” for those thirty years hires Scotty and his partners to look into it the case once again. This takes Scotty into family secrets and this is never a good place to be. We go into the Garden District and read about it gorgeous mansions where much of the aristocracy of the city lives.

Scotty Bradley is a life-long resident of New Orleans with psychic abilities and he loves his town. He is one-third of a gay polyamorous relationship who is nearing his fortieth birthday and is facing becoming an “older” gay man as well as the loss of his

psychic abilities after Katrina. He lives with his two partners, a former FBI agent turned professional wrestler and a spy and his nephew who moved in after having thrown out for being gay by his parents. We also meet many “typical” New Orleanians and this is a book that is propelled by its characters. However, because this is a mystery, to say anything about the plot might spoil the read for others.

I can say that this is a light read and for those of you who have read other books by Greg Herren know what I mean here. If you have not read Herren, you really should especially if you like to read about my hometown.

 

“It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt

it-looks-like-this

Mittlefehldt, Rafi. “It Looks Like This”, Candlewick, 2016.

Everything New

Amos Lassen

Every once in a while a new author comes along that writes so beautifully that I find myself at a loss of words. Rafi Mittlefehldt is such a writer—his prose is spare and totally understated yet lyrical. He introduces us to Mike whose family has moved to a new place and for Mike that means everything is new— a new state, a new city, a new high school. His father has even found a new evangelical church for the family to attend, even though Mike and his little sister, Toby, have no desire to go. Mike’s father wants him to give up his love of art and channel his interests into sports which would make him tougher but Mike feels that something is not quite right with what his dad asks him to do.

Then Mike meets Sean, another new kid, and they begin playing basketball, working together on a French project and hanging out after school. And then there was that night on the beach. Mike’s father kept watch on his son, as did Victor, a classmate at school and what should have been a beautiful experience of first love becomes a story of loss and what goes on in suburban America by those who consider themselves to be holier than thou.

Mittlefehldt exposes the undercurrents there and his story is both heartbreaking and life affirming in this young adult novel of “love and family and forgiveness—not just of others, but of oneself”.

Mike is at the center of the story; a quiet teen who like others his age is filled with self-doubt. Mike is a kind of teen “everyman” in that many of us have experienced what he was dealing with. Insecurity seems to go hand-in-hand with adolescence.

Yes, this is a coming out story but it so much more than that. It’s about first love, loss, and how as teens we are shaped by how we see ourselves. Mike is an introvert and he exists in a place that is hostile. He hides because he has reason to do so. He has every reason to hide yet he struggles against his world while knowing that it is impossible to do so.

When Mike and Sean understand that they love each other, there is a beautiful sweetness and tenderness to their story. We sense that all is not going to be a bed of roses and yet Mike is able to become the person he needs to be. He is lucky enough, as my friend Leslea Newman says, have “the help of understanding friends, a few kind adults, a faithful dog, and Toby, the greatest little sister since Phoebe Caulfield”.

We feel what Mike feels when he realizes that he is not the person that his parents expect him to be and the fact that he tells us his story in the first person, he becomes someone we feel we know. He is quiet but that is not to be mistaken for his being passive—he is all he can be. We are reminded, yet again, that it is not always easy these days to come out (it is certainly easier than it was). Being gay can also still mean being or shunned or ostracized. Here it is handled deftly and beautifully but it is part of growing up. There is a sense of hopelessness as well as a sense of hopefulness. Author Rafi Mittlefehldt’s lovely and direct writing goes right into the heart of Mike’s struggle to embrace his true self and to take control of his life and this is something that we do not see enough of. This is a big novel (although I hesitate to say so because I do not want you to think that it loses any of its intimacy) that moves forward slowly and deliberately. We receive a look at what teens think when they realize that they are gay and we do not get the happy ending we want. What we do get is a feeling of hope that Mike’s future will be one of tolerance (as much as I hate that word) and acceptance.

 

 

“Appealing for Justice: One Colorado Lawyer, Four Decades and the Landmark Gay Rights Case: Romer V. Evans” by Susan Berry Casey— A Place at the Table

appealing-for-justice

Casey, Susan Berry. “Appealing for Justice: One Colorado Lawyer, Four Decades and the Landmark Gay Rights Case: Romer V. Evans”, Gilpin Park Press, 2016.

A Place at the Table

Amos Lassen

 Jean Eberhart Dubofsky came of age when there was trouble everywhere and this trouble was propelled by grave injustice. “Appealing For Justice” tells the story of Dubofsky, a shy, unknown woman found her place at the table and led the way breaking down barriers and helping shape the direction of history. Throughout her story we see that injustice, discrimination, and inequality were just beneath the surface of the country. Yet Jean Dubofsky made history in 1979 when she was the first woman appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court and then made history again in 1996 at the U.S. Supreme Court when she argued and won the landmark gay rights case, Romer v. Evans. “Her journey from helping to shape and implement the strategy that led to the passage of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, to bringing the first slavery lawsuit since the Civil War, and finally winning at the U.S. Supreme Court is not simply her story, it also is the a story of an entire generation”.

This is the story of one woman but her story was a pivotal one in a very important civil rights lawsuit and writer Susan Berry Casey shows that while this is a story about one woman but it is also the story of a generation and social justice. We see how change can happen when one is passionate and we clearly see how one person affects an entire movement. Below is the table of contents:

PART ONE:  

  1. Berlin  
  2. Stanford University
  3. From Betty Crocker to Capitol Hill  
  4. No Ladies Need Apply  
  5. The Tornado

PART TWO:  

  1. Washington D.C. 1968  
  2. Confronting Slavery  
  3. Heading West to Colorado  
  4. The Political Game  
  5. The First Woman Deputy Attorney General

PART THREE:

  1. The Witch Hunt  
  2. The First Woman Justice  
  3. Storm Clouds Inside the Court  
  4. The Accusation  
  5. Topeka. Again.  
  6. Professor Dubofsky

PART FOUR:  

  1. Equality or Hate?  
  2. A Stunning Election Defeat  
  3. The Battle for Gay Rights

PART FIVE:  

  1. Let The Trials Begin  
  2. A Risky Legal Gambit
  3. Appealing for Justice
  4. The Supreme Effort  
  5. Nine Justices  
  6. Waiting For History

 

“The Ones” by Daniel Sweren-Becker— We Are Not Created Equal

the-ones

Sweren-Becker, Daniel. “The Ones”, Imprint, 2016.

We Are Not All Created Equal

Amos Lassen

Seventeen-year-old Cody and her boyfriend, James, were randomly selected before birth to receive genetic engineering. They are part of a group known as the Ones who are one percent of the population and they are healthy, beautiful, and talented. Some feel that is not fair that they have so much and there is fear and jealousy of the Ones’ success. This leads to the creation of the Equality Movement, which quickly gains enough political traction to demote Cody, James, and others like them to second-class citizens.

Cody knows even before the brick smashes through her window that it’s going to be bad. As their school, the government, and even family and friends turn against them, Cody begins to believe they have no other choice but to protect their own. She draws closer to a group of radical Ones led by the passionate and fevered Kai. James starts questioning just how far she is willing to go for the cause…

The reader gets a good look at the themes of justice, discrimination and terrorism and we see how they mix with actual science to create a frightening version of our near future. Daniel Sweren-Becker has written quite a thriller here.

We become aware of scientific possibilities, fractured morality, and brutal consequences and face the question of “If perfection becomes a liability, how far are we willing to go in the pursuit of it — or to stop it?” The story grips the reader and it is also cautionary about a situation that indeed could be.

While this was written for a young adult audience, this is a book that can be read by all ages. Its premise is disorienting and confusing with a unique premise and deals with ethical situations and dilemmas that have no answers.

Because it is set in a future that is close, it unnerves us.

 

“Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities” by Rogers Brubaker— Gender and Race as Forces for Change

trans

Brubaker Rogers. “Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities”, Princeton University Press. 2016.

Gender and Race as Forces for Change

Amos Lassen

The summer of 2015 brought us a couple of big changes. Olympian Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender and shortly afterwards, NAACP official and political activist Rachel Dolezal was “outed” by her parents as white thus causing a heated debate in the media about the fluidity of gender and race. We faced an interesting question. “If Jenner could legitimately identify as a woman, could Dolezal legitimately identify as black?”

Using the pairing of “transgender” and “transracial” as his starting point, Rogers Brubaker shows how gender and race which have long been understood as stable, inborn, and unambiguous, have opened up the forces of change and choice. Transgender identities have moved from the margins to the mainstream with almost unbelievable speed, and ethnoracial boundaries have become quite blurred. Paradoxically, sex has had a much deeper biological basis than race and choosing or changing one’s sex or gender has been more widely accepted than choosing or changing one’s race.

Few accepted Dolezal’s claim to be black, yet we now see that racial identities are becoming more fluid as ancestry (increasingly understood as mixed) and loses its authority over identity. As race and ethnicity, like gender have come to be understood not just as something we have but also as something we do. We have begun to rethink race and ethnicity by looking at the transgender experience that includes not just a movement from one category to another but positions between and beyond existing categories including “the malleability, contingency, and arbitrariness of racial categories”.

Gender and race are being reimagined and reconstructed and that is what “Trans” is about—it looks at new ways of thinking about identity.

Brubaker provides us with the wide-ranging exploration of tensions between givenness and chosenness in today’s identity discourse.

We are urged to think using the space that transgender reveals between culture and biology to understand how we experience race and ethnicity.

We now can rethink the politics surrounding those who choose racial and gender identities that go against the expectations of society. In asking important questions we see a new inquiry into why racial and ethnic categories are considered as more biological and less legitimately variable than sex and gender. Here is a very important and utile look at the directions that ‘transgenderism’ and ‘transracialism’.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

 

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Part One: The Trans Moment

1 Transgender, Transracial? 15

“Transgender” and “Transracial” before the Dolezal Affair 17

The Field of Argument 21

“If Jenner, Then Dolezal”: The Argument from Similarity 22

Boundary Work: The Argument from Difference 31

2 Categories in Flux 40

Unsettled Identities 41

The Empire of Choice 50

The Policing of Identity Claims 56

The New Objectivism 64

Part Two: Thinking with Trans

3 The Trans of Migration 71

Unidirectional Transgender Trajectories 74

Reconsidering “Transracial” 80

Transracial Trajectories, Past and Present 82

4 The Trans of Between 92

Transgender Betweenness: Oscillation, Recombination, Gradation 94

Racial and Gender Betweenness 101

Recombinatory Racial Betweenness: Classification and Identification 104

Performing Betweenness 108

5 The Trans of Beyond 113

Beyond Gender? 114

Beyond Race? 122

Conclusion 131

Notes 153

Bibliography 183

Index 229

“Queerly Remembered: Rhetorics for Representing the GLBTQ Past” by Thomas R. Dunn– How Change is Advocated

queerly-remembered

Dunn, Thomas R. “Queerly Remembered: Rhetorics for Representing the GLBTQ Past”, (Studies in Rhetoric/Communication), University of South Carolina Press, 2016.

How Change is Advocated

Amos Lassen

“Queerly Remembered” looks at the ways in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GLBTQ) individuals and communities have turned to “public tellings of their ostensibly shared pasts in order to advocate for political, social, and cultural change in the present”. The LGBTQ community has learned that in communicating the past through the use of memory, is a very rich resource for looking at both the past and present opinions about the cause for equality. Thomas Dunn draws on the interdisciplinary fields of rhetorical studies, memory studies, gay and lesbian studies, and queer theory as he looks at the “ephemeral tactics and monumental strategies that GLBTQ communities have used to effect their queer persuasion”. He shows both

the challenges and opportunities that are posed by embracing historical representations of GLBTQ individuals and communities as a political strategy. The LGBTQ past has had to deal with the ravages of the AIDS epidemic, the attempts to silence the community and the often-divisive representational politics of fluid, intersectional identities. Our past has been filled with conflict even though today we have achieved rewards. By investigating rich rhetorical case studies through time and across diverse artifacts (including monuments, memorials, statues, media publications, gravestones, and textbooks), we see that the “turn toward memory” is a complex, enduring, and rich “rhetorical undertaking”. Dunn shows us that queer memory comes in many different rhetorical forms that recognize “queer monumentality” as a cultural value. We then see the promise and the problems of creating an affirming past that is politically salient.

 

“My Gay New Orleans: 28 Personal Reminisces on LGBT+ Life in New Orleans” by Frank Perez annd Jeffrey Palmquist— Not What I Expected

my-gay-new-orleans

Perez, Frank and Jeffrey Palmquist. “My Gay New Orleans: 28 Personal Reminisces on LGBT+ Life in New Orleans”, LL Publications, 2016.

Not What I Expected

Amos Lassen

Being from New Orleans and having come out there I anxiously waited to read this book. After all, I was a part of the gay community there and knew many people. However, this was such a disappointment in many ways and it really does not reflect on the wonderful culture that New Orleans offers to its gay community. I suppose I was angered by the fact that of the twenty eight personal recollections included several were written not by New Orleanians but my people who have visited the city and who could not have possibly understood what being gay there really entails. The blurb states, “So what is gay New Orleans and what does it look like? These are the questions this book seeks to answer”. These two questions were by and large only partially answered and while the book claims to be made up of “in effect, love letters to a city”, I did not sense that kind of love to be present here. I also question the statement that “it’s easy to be gay in New Orleans”. Today it might be easier but growing up gay in New Orleans was not easy by any means. New Orleans is a Roman Catholic city and the church has a great deal of say about what happens there. I remember all too well when the church banned films from being shown even when one of the films was by Tennessee Williams who claimed that he was often at home in New Orleans.

This could have been the book that so many of us waited for so long but unfortunately it needed a proofreader and an editor. I found myself to be more embarrassed by some of what it written here and this is not a book that will sell New Orleans to others despite a couple of excellent articles by established gay writers (i.e. Jameson Currier).

I found myself correcting comma splices and misspelled words as I read but I realized that I would not finish doing that so I gave it up. It always hurts me to write a less than favorable review and it hurts even more this time since the book is about my hometown. I really tried to like this book. Fourteen of the twenty-eight articles included are by people who do not live in New Orleans and there are very few women represented here. Keep that in mind when you are deciding to either buy or read this or both. The picture I received is totally uneven and it is not unique to a city that is known for its uniqueness.