“BACK ON BOARD: GREG LOUGANIS”– The New Documentary about Greg Louganis is now on DVD

back on board

“Back On Board: Greg Louganis”

The New Documentary about Greg Louganis is now on DVD

Amos Lassen

Greg Louganis is a legend in the America because of becoming the first man in Olympic history to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic Games, winning four gold medalss, along with five World Championship titles.

He has also become another in that he has been (and still is) a trailblazer in the gay rights movement and being one of the most high profile figures living with HIV. “Back On Board: Greg Louganis” takes a look at him.

The synopsis reads like this: “Now 55, Greg Louganis was adopted before his first birthday and grew up in Southern California, taking up diving at age nine. Throughout a difficult childhood, he was forced to deal with depression, bullying and prejudice.

‘Louganis won the silver medal in the 10M Platform event at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal at age 16. In 1978, his diving skills earned him a scholarship to the University of Miami. Three years later, following the United States boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, where Louganis would have been the favorite in two diving events, he returned to Southern California to finish his degree and diving career at the University of California, Irvine.”

back1

“He became a full-fledged international diving star in 1984. At the Summer Games in Los Angeles, Louganis won gold medals in the 10M Platform and 3M Springboard events. Four years later in Seoul, he became the only male diver in history to win those events in back-to-back Olympic Games.”

“In one of the most notable moments of his storied career, Louganis suffered a cut on his head when he hit the diving board during a preliminary round of the Seoul Games, but went on to win his gold medals days later. Though the American public originally lauded Louganis for his competitive spirit, it was not known at the time that he had tested positive for HIV six months earlier. When Louganis later announced that he was HIV-positive, it sparked outrage over his original non-disclosure of the virus and sparked a nationwide conversation about HIV/AIDS and sports.”

“Greg Louganis announced to the world that he was gay in the mid-1990s, but it was a not a well-kept secret in the diving world before that. During his dominance in the 1980s, many sponsors knew of his sexual orientation, which limited his marketability – just one example of the homophobia and hateful rhetoric that followed him long before and after his official announcement that he was gay.”

“Ending a prolonged absence from the diving world, Louganis has returned to mentor the next generation of American divers. e offers unprecedented access to the Olympian as he struggles with financial security and reunites with the sport that he once dominated, but did not feel accepted in. The film examines the good times and bad times, including the choices, relationships and missed opportunities Louganis has experienced throughout his career as a sports pioneer”.

The film premiered on HBO in the US on August 4th and is now available on DVD,

“Chronicles of Logres: Sword of Logres: Part One, Volume 2″ by Philip Ambrose— Marcus and Toby

sword of legres

Ambrose Philip, “Chronicles of Logres: Sword of Logres: Part One, Volume 2”, Wilde City Press, 2016.

Marcus and Toby

Amos Lassen

We first met Marcus and Toby, two young students have established themselves in a parallel world in “Portal to Logres” and now we see that they must fight for their relationship and for their lives. Marcus becomes even ever closer to a charismatic but troubled Duke, while, at the same time, Toby finds he is linked to an ancient destiny.

Their both human and inhuman enemies everywhere and the two do not know who they can trust. It is was hard enough to keep their relationship going while being surrounded by who do not want that relationship to survive and there are others that do not want Marcus and Toby to survive. They must make critical decisions knowing that life is brutal regardless.

They travel to the fascinating vibrant capital city of Avalondun, where their fate awaits them and they have no idea what it will be. This is one of those that is hard to review without giving something that could spoil the read for others. I can tell you that I kept reading as fast as I could even though this is not the kind of book that I would usually read. The prose is crisp and fresh as are the character developments.

“The Harmony of Parts” by John Garabedian with Ian Aldritch— Making Sense of the World

the harmony of parts

Garabedian, John with Ian Aldrich. “The Harmony of Parts”, Orange Frazer Press, 2015.

Making Sense of the World

Amos Lassen

John Garabedian has been the host of Open House Party since 1987, an FM radio show that is aired every Saturday and Sunday night all over this country. Garabedian became a DJ when he was just fourteen-years-old and living in suburban Boston. He did so there, in Vermont and in Cape Cod and was partly responsible for the evolution of radio programming. He began at WORC in Worcester, Massachusetts where his first radio show was launched leading to Open House Party that became nationally syndicated and brought in millions of listeners. He gave many a boost to their careers. These include Lady Gaga, Rod Stewart, the Who and Taylor Swift to name just four.

The story of John Garabedian is not just the story of a successful radio show; it is the story of his struggles to understand how to live and make sense of the world while discovering and understanding its rules. In a sense this is a look at fulfilling the American dream.

Garabedian is the son of an immigrant mother who taught him to believe in the American Dream and gave him the passion to follow his heart. He chose not to follow the path others had set before him instead to make his own journey taking on the obstacles as his own. It was not easy as he had to deal with his being gay at a time when it was not easy to do so as well as fight to be able to build his first radio station.

I had not heard of Garabedian until I read this book as I am still somewhat new to the Boston area but I asked people who grew up here and everyone seemed to know who he was and how he affected their growing up. This gave me an “in” to his life and really made reading his book a personal pastime. Garabedian learned early on that one can only live a happy life when he opens his mind and allows himself to learn who he is and what he needs in life. We read of a man who was not afraid to work hard to achieve his goals even if it meant dealing with problems that many never have to face.

This is a brutally honest look at a person with determination who managed to get the parts of his life to work in harmony with each other. This is what gives the book its title. I found myself mesmerized over and over again as I read about Garabedian’s amazing life and how hard he worked to get to where he is. It is certainly no small feat to have a radio show weather fifty years and continue to stay strong.

This is quite a big book yet it reads quickly—over four hundred pages but it was over far too soon. There are photos throughout and at the end there is an album with pictures of the author with a virtual who’s who in the music industry. Each chapter carries the name of a song. Great literature this is not nor does it intend to be. What made this such an interesting read for me is that I found that as I read about Garabedian, I reflected on my own life and to me that makes the read really worthwhile. I also learned a great deal about my adopted state of Massachusetts where I have been living now for five years. There is a lot here and it is fun reading about someone who knows everybody in the music scene….well, almost everybody. Garabedian tells us in the epilog that aside from Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and John Lennon, he has met every pop artist since the 1960s and states that “some are surprisingly short— most are really nice, and, a few are assholes”. How’s that for honesty?

“My Son Wears Heels” by Julie Tarney— A Mom’s Journey

Julies_Cover_Jacket.indd

Tarney, Julie. “My Son Wears Heels”, University of Wisconsin Press, 2016.

A Mom’s Journey

Amos Lassen

It has been quite a year for transgender issues— we have gone from a period of time of not hearing anything about them so their becoming part of the way we live. This is one mom’s story about raising a transgender child from toddler to adult and it is a different approach in that we hear from a parent who had to learn to deal with and accept her child. Julie Tarney’s only child Harry, told her when he was just two years old that in his head, he felt like a girl inside. She had no idea what that meant and how it would play out in her son’s life. Quite naturally this disoriented her and she did not know whether to encourage and support her child or what to do. She had no idea about whether she should set limits on his self-expression or even how to do so. She was not dealing with an idea she was facing a human child with feelings. She had no idea of what to do or where to turn.

This was in 1992 and the Internet had not yet come into its own and no one had yet written books for mothers about children dealing with gender issues. Here was a child facing very real ideas about his gender and words such as transgender, gender nonconforming, and gender creative were either rarely used or did not yet exist.

However, what there was were mainstream experts who went with the theory that feminine boys were the result of domineering mothers. Tarney had difficulty believing this lack of information and decided that she could not be bothered with what others thought, she cared about her child and she was in no way a domineering mother. That was what her own mother had been.

She was the only positive role model she knew and she was afraid of others judging her for making her son a “sissy” and so she chose to parent her child as she saw fit. She had no guidebooks or friends or professional to guide her and she made mistakes yet she learned to rely on her instincts. She listened carefully, kept an open mind, and as long as Harry was happy, she let him lead the way. She eventually realized that Harry knew who he was all along and it was her job just to love and support him unconditionally. She knew she had to let him be his real and his authentic self. This story of a mother embracing her child’s uniqueness and her own will resonate with all families.

This book so resonated with me as I have a nephew who began life as my niece. The times were difference and ‘nephew” waited until he was forty-years-old to begin living as his true self. That was some six or seven years ago and even though it was B.C. (before Caitlyn) there were resources and groups where my sister was able to learn and gain support. Add to that the fact that my nephew was already an adult and living his life made a big difference yet I am sure that parents go through the same kind of dealing with issues no matter the age of the child especially, “What will the neighbors say?”

What we see here is that the best kind of parenting is the kind that does not force a child to be what he is not. Here we have a parent that allows her child to express himself/ herself and has the freedom to walk on the path that he/she chooses. I could not help but feel that had there been books and material available, Tarney would still have allowed her child to chose the path that best fit. We have all been given the right to be different and to many of us that is a special blessing. We are meant to pass that along to others just as Julie Tarney did for her son.

This is a book that shows us just how far we have come in the last few years and in reality our journey is just beginning. We see here the purpose and need of a parent’s unconditional love for her child. It is so important to have a mother tell her story and not be blamed for her child’s feelings about gender. We see the argument of nature vs. nurture clearly here—at two years old Harry already knew that something was amiss. We also see that parents can come forward and not be condemned or silenced.

Julie Tarney opens up about her journey and shares interactions with family, friends, schools. She was determined to be the parent that her child needed and now she shares that with us. Here are the struggles and triumphs of raising a child who knew who he was, even when others did not. What a beautiful and powerful book!

“Treehab :Tales from My Natural, Wild Life” by Bob Smith— A Meditation on the World

treehab

Smith, Bob. “Treehab :Tales from My Natural, Wild Life”, University of Wisconsin Press, 2016.

A Meditation on the World

Amos Lassen

A book by Bob Smith is a cause for celebration—there is not a dull sentence anywhere and he shares his love for the world with us. In “Treehab” he meditates on “the vitality of the natural world” and as he does he gives us an intimate look into himself and into his life-changing illness. ”Treehab” is named after a retreat cabin in rural Ontario, a place where he can be with his thoughts and with himself and he tells us that he has always walked on the path less taken. He is the first openly gay comedian to perform on the “Tonight Show” and has been a successful comedian and writer of fiction and nonfiction. This time he gives us a collection of essays that explore his life and career.

Since 2007, Smith has lived with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and even though he now communicates through his iPad, his wit is still as sharp as ever. In “Treehab”, he writes about being a father, his past romantic encounters, his love of animals, his group of close friends he calls the Nature Boys, and his career as a comedian. His love of nature began when, as a boy, he received a subscription to the children’s version of “National Geographic”. He loves engaging with the environment and all of “its delights and discomforts” and it is this that is the heart of his book. He presents his observations on a variety of natural environments along details about his trips to Santa Fe, the Malibu hills, Alaska, and Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. We soon realize that each essay is a look at his thought processes on diverse subjects and he shares how he dealt with homophobic hecklers while on stage, the joys of parenthood, and his love of “all things Native American.”

He shares that his disease has been a trial but also that it has given him the opportunity to speak openly about any topic he wishes. Because he knows that “his relation to the universe might expire”, he can say what he wants. We immediately see that he has strong opinions yet his essays are funny and intimate but never self-indulgent. His one-liners are wonderful and they can be that way because nothing is off-limits.

I found the book to be centered around three major themes— facing life with ALS, dealing with  fatherhood with ALS and Smith’s relationship to nature. Each of these could have been a book in itself but we are lucky to get all three in one volume. We see right away that Bob Smith is a fighter, both for himself and for his children. He is also one of the most inspirational people I have ever met and I always look forward to seeing him. He can amazingly laugh at life and at his illness.

As I mentioned earlier, Smith’s relationship to nature began when he was a boy and explored the woods of upstate New York. What he found there kept him interested and as an adult he has explored remote places in the Alaskan wilderness. He tells us that “snakes and turtles, rocks and minerals; open sky and forest canopy; God and friendship” are integral parts of his life and as he inspires us, he is inspired by them to continue to live and to be a father to his children.

Smith’s wit is quite potent and equally disses global warming, equal rights, sex, dogs, Thoreau, and more but even more important than that is the fact that it is through his humor and wit that we see what makes him the lovable man that he is. Reading Bob Smith allows us to continue to see that life is perplexing, beautiful, strange, and totally worth celebrating.

I  learned some interesting facts about ALS; one of which is that two of Smith’s (and my) favorite writers, Henry Thoreau and Anton Chekhov, also had life threatening illnesses. They suffered with tuberculosis and while Smith does not compare himself to either (who could?), we sense his great admiration for them both as people and as writers.

Thoreau, he tells us, was ardently against slavery and Chekhov traveled to Sakhalin to write against Russia’s prison system. Both of these writers knew thatvdeath was coming for them, but they kept writing and fought for other suffering people. Smith’s cause is climate change. It is just amazing that a man who has so much to worry about in his life also cares enough to make sure that our environment in safe for others. I have been slow to deal with climate change— it had never been one of my priorities. One of the rabbis at my temple is really big into and honestly, I could not understand why this is such an important part of her life. I was always more concerned about who would be the next Jonathan Swift, Tennessee Williams or W.H. Auden to worry about the weather, etc (and I had been through Katrina) but after reading Bob Smith’s observations and thoughts I understand so much more. The world we live in has been lent to us during the time we live and it is important that it is the kind of world that those who follow us can live in.

Reading Smith’s observations on LGBT literature also gave me a wake up call. I became part of the LGBT community at a time when it was problematic to be openly and since we could not be a part of the larger culture, we developed one of our own. Our literature reflected who we are and how we live and if was often angry and depressing. That began to change with Stonewall and it did not take long before we had our own sections in bookstores and libraries. Like I said, it was ours and it was written by us and for us. As time moved forward and acceptance was easier to achieve, out literature stayed on the same LGBT shelves. Smith tells us that the stories he writes are not “gay stories” but stories about everyone. Reading novels lets understand other people (and ourselves). Smith says that segregating our literature and keeping it separate in a bookstore is “like putting Philip Roth in a straight Jewish section”.

Sometimes it is just too easy to remember that just because we are gay, we are people as well and to have sexuality define who we are is discrediting. What I love about this book is Smith meditates on the fragility of life and the importance of acceptance, love and the new family. However, he does not do so alone—we are pulled into his meditation circle and hang on to his every word.

I went back to thoughts of when I was young and found so much value in common items. We did not have the Internet or the smart phone to provide instant gratification. We found joy in going to the library and finding a “Dr. Doolittle” or “The Hardy Boys” novel and we would treasure them as if there were no others. Taking the bus or riding the trolley was a big deal and playing outside in the evening as our parents sat with neighbors on front porches was paradise. How quickly we forget— but let Bob Smith remind you of what being young and innocent is all about.

Here is Bob Smith, a many faceted gem who has done so much for us and never expected thanks. He just wants us to know who we are and remember who we were and he does so with his eloquent command of language that had me holding back tears of joy as I went over every sentence. This is the true beauty of being alive and we all owe Bob Smith a big thank you and a hug.

“Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories” by Kathleen Collins— Sixteen Stories

whatever happened to interracial

Collins, Kathleen. “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories”, (Art of the Story), Ecco, 2016.

Sixteen Stories

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I had never heard of Kathleen Collins until I read this book but I am now certainly glad that I am familiar with her writing. Kathleen Collins was a groundbreaking African-American playwright, filmmaker, and educator who has been largely forgotten since her early death in 1988 at age 46. She was the first black woman to produce a feature-length film, and when that never-before-released movie, “Losing Ground”, finally premiered at Lincoln Center few years ago, it played to sold-out audiences for three weeks. Collins also wrote short stories, although her fiction was never published in her lifetime, or in the years since until this book.

In these sixteen stories, Collins writes with brutal honesty about the experiences of women and African Americans from the perspective of the seventies and eighties. She captures everyday lives and does so with grace and humor. She also intimately writes about race, gender, family and sexuality. She presents us with a look at race in the 1960s; something that only those of us who lived through that period can sense what is was like to be Black and female in this country.

She writes of the mingling of politics and desire and the quest for a place that is exotic and different while looking at the historical context in which the stories take place. Collins has preserved the past and what it was to black, young and in love amid the Civil Rights movement. She covers the themes of self-determination, group affinity and individualism, lovers and the power plays between them in ways we have not seen before. 

We read of “parents and children, blacks and whites, blacks and blacks, lovers, intellectuals, artists, dreamers, strivers, braggarts and idealists” and they all wan the same thing— justification for their lives and to be able to share that with others. This is a look at interracial America that we have never had before in that is a look at both white and black striving for the same goals

The characters here are conscious of their race but it is not what determines how they travel through life and/or make choices. With Collins the profound becomes personal and intimate and this is something I wish we would see from more writers. The stories make the black experience part of the characters’ lives and I emphasize the word “part”— black is only a part of who they are. I am not much of a short story reader mainly because I prefer to be involved with a book over a longer period of time but these stories not only allowed me to get to know the characters but to see them as friends and contemporaries. I grew up in the South in the 60s and dared defy my family by attending a southern integrated university where I met “some of the characters I read about here” but had forgotten them. This book puts them back into my life and I am so grateful for that.

“Melodrama: An Aesthetics of Impossibility” by Jonathan Goldberg— Looking at Melodrama Through a Queer Lens

melodrama

Goldberg, Jonathan. “Melodrama: An Aesthetics of Impossibility”, (Theory Q), Duke University Press, 2016.

Looking at Melodrama Through a Queer Lens

Amos Lassen

Melodrama is defined as a situation or series of events during which the characters involved have exaggerated emotions. Jonathan Goldberg looks at the ways that film and literary melodrama gives us an aesthetics of impossibility. Film director Douglas Sirk said that melodrama is the “impossible situation” because of its impasses in sexual relations that are not simply reflections of social taboo and prohibitions. Using this as his focus, Goldberg looks at films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Todd Haynes that correspond to what Sirk had to say. In doing so, he shows that melodrama is “a form combining music and drama” and then follows this definition through melodrama as it appears in –as he explores the use of melodrama in Beethoven’s opera “Fidelio”, films by Alfred Hitchcock, and fiction by Willa Cather and Patricia Highsmith (including her Ripley novels). Goldberg maintains that music and sound provide queer ways to promote identifications that go beyond the bounds of the categories of identification that are uses to “regulate social life”. Music, drama and visual representation come together in order to make melodrama indeterminate thus making it resistant The interaction of musical, dramatic, and visual elements gives melodrama its indeterminacy, making it “resistant to normative forms of value and a powerful tool for creating new potentials”. 

Goldberg brings queerness, melodrama and impossibility together and shows how it, by dealing with limitation, shows that nothing is what it seems to be and their are options as to how it is read, heard and seen.

The book is divided into two parts; “The Impossible Situation” and “Melos + Drama” and we see that it is the rhetoric of “moral peril” that brings in the queer aspect of melodrama. Goldberg gives us an extensive bibliography and he opens our eyes to see something that should have been obvious to us all along.

Below is the Table of Contents:

Preface  ix

Acknowledgments  xvii

Part I. The Impossible Situation

  1. Agency and Identity: The Melodrama in Beethoven’s Fidelio 3
  2. Identity and Identification: Sirk—Fassbinder—Haynes  23

Part II. Melos + Drama

  1. The Art of Murder: Hitchcock and Highsmith  83
  2. Wildean Aesthetics: From “Paul’s Case” to Lucy Gayheart 133

Coda  155

Notes  169

Bibliography  187

Index  197

“DEAD END DRIVE-IN”—- The Price of Admission is the Rest of Your Life

dead end drive

“DEAD END DRIVE IN” 

“THE PRICE OF ADMISSION IS THE REST OF YOUR LIFE”

Amos Lassen

In the near future, a teenage couple is trapped in a drive-in theater that has become a concentration camp for social outcasts. The inmates are treated to drugs, exploitation films, junk food, and new wave music.

dead1

Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, we see that in the future, the government has decided that unruly teenagers have run so wild and so rampant that they are quarantined inside drive-in theaters where violent entertainment and junk food will be enough to appeal but for inmate Crabs (Ned Manning), the artificial society is something to be rejected so he can get back to his family after having gotten stuck at the drive-in while out on a date in his brother’s car. His girlfriend, Carmen (McCurry), is tested as he decides to put his plan into action.

dead2

Once at the drive in two tires of Ned’s brother’s car are stolen meaning that he and his date are stuck there among a violent group of xenophobic youngsters who spend their days hanging out in a diner and stirring racial hatred. With the exception of Crabs, the rest of the drive-in population doesn’t seem to question why they remain there, or even mind that they are stuck.

dead3

The movie is done in comic-book colors that at times is distracting. The film is like a dream and a bit otherworldly. Yet, there’s still much to enjoy.

Bonus Materials include:

* Brand new 2K restoration from original film materials

* High Definition (1080p) Presentation

* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

* Audio commentary by director Brian Trenchard-Smith

* The Stuntmen, Trenchard Smith’s classic television documentary on Grant Page (Mad Max, Road Games) and other Australian stunt performers

* Hospitals Don’t Burn Down, Trenchard-Smith’s 1978 public information film told in pure Ozploitation fashion

* Behind-the-scenes gallery by graffiti artist Vladimir Cherepanoff

* Theatrical Trailer

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon

“The Dollhouse: A Novel” by Fiona Davis— The Barbizon and Women

the dollhouse

Davis, Fiona. “The Dollhouse: A Novel, Dutton, 2016.

The Barbizon and Women

Amos Lassen

Author Fiona Davis takes us into the New York City of the 1950s as well as into the world of the Barbizon Hotel for Women, where aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side as they tried to find success in their professions and their lives. Darby McLaughlin arrives at the Barbizon Hotel in 1952 with her secretarial school enrollment. She lacked the beauty and the stance and she stood out in contrast to others. Darby saw herself as plain and she was homesick but more than that she felt like she did not belong. She became friendly with Esme, a Barbizon maid and discovers a different side of New York City made up of jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin being used. She loved the music and the possibility of romance that seemed to be waiting for her.

Moving ahead fifty years, the Barbizon has been turned into condos and those that once lived there are long forgotten. However there is talk that Darby had been involved in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid 1952 and this still haunts the building as does the music that is heard from one of the owners’ rent controlled apartment. the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. Journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor is obsessed with the story of what happened back then and she begins to investigate.

“The Dollhouse” has dual storylines of two women who, while separated in age by decades, are still interested in the hotel as it once was and of some of thee women who once lived there— who wanted to make it in the big city, including Liza Minnelli, Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford, Joan Didion, and Sylvia Plath and who wanted to have careers in the city. 

Darby’s earlier friendship with Esme introduced her to places that were actually off-limits to the Barbizon residents. When Rose moved into one of the condos with her boyfriend, she learns of Esme and Darby and she wants to know more. She manages to meet with some of the older residents of the building to try to find out what actually happened back then.

The lives of the two women even though centuries apart entwine as we read. We read that Darby through her involvement with Esme got into trouble at secretarial school and at the hotel. Rose’s boyfriend’s daughter was having problems and she was asked to leave the apartment and if that was not enough, Rose also has an ailing father to take care of. It is the lives of Darby and Rose that the novel revolves around and as readers, we want to know more.

This story moves back and forth between 1952 and 2016, with the changing perspectives of Darby and Rose. The years are bridged by the mystery that changed Darby’s life. I found myself turning pages as quickly as possible yet not missing a word of the text and I believe that other readers will do the same.

“The Production of American Religious Freedom” by Finbarr Curtis— The Idea of Relgious Freedom

the production of american religious freedom

Curtis, Finbarr. “The Production of American Religious Freedom”, (North American Religions), NYU Press, 2016.

The Idea of Religious Freedom

Amos Lassen

While many Americans love religious freedom, few agree, however, about what is meant by either “religion” or “freedom.” In “The Production of American Religious Freedom”, Finbarr Curtis argues that there is no such thing as religious freedom seeing it as having no content and a changing idea depending on the situation. Many think of freedom as the right to be left alone yet “the free exercise of religion works to produce, challenge, distribute, and regulate different forms of social power”.

Curtis traces shifts in the notion of religious freedom in America history beginning with from The Second Great Awakening and moving through \ the fiction of Louisa May Alcott and the films of D.W. Griffith, through William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes Trial, and up to debates over the Tea Party. He shows how Protestants have imagined individual and national forms of identity. Al Smith who was the first Catholic presidential nominee of a major party challenged Protestant views about the separation of church and state. Curtiss analyzes Malcolm X’s more sweeping rejection of Christian freedom in favor of radical forms of revolutionary change. The final chapters show how contemporary controversies over “intelligent design and the claims of corporations to exercise religion are at the forefront of efforts to shift regulatory power away from the state and toward private institutions like families, churches, and corporations”. According to what we read here, we see that religious freedom is produced within competing visions of governance in a self-governing nation.

The concept of religion has always been difficult to understand and adding freedom to that makes it all the most difficult. Curtis gives us a revisionist history that challenges the concept and through case studies we see that religious freedom can be quite nebulous and is used as a tool for effective discipline and as a basis for identity within the larger society.