Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Bi: Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid, and Nonbinary Youth” by Ritch C. Savin-Williams— Gender and Sexual Identities

Savin-Williams, Ritch C. “Bi: Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid, and Nonbinary Youth”, NYU Press, 2021.

Gender and Sexual Identities

Amos Lassen

Even with greatervisibility of LGBTQ people in American culture, the understanding of bisexuality is superficial even though five times as many people identify as bisexual than as gay or lesbian, and as much as 25 percent of the population is estimated to be bisexual. In his new book “Bi”, scholar of youth sexuality, Ritch Savin-Williams, looks at bisexuality as Gen Z and millennial youth and young adults are rejecting traditional labels altogether. Through interviews with bisexual youth from a diverse racial, ethnic, and social class groups, he shows us how bisexuals define their own sexual orientation and experiences and in their own words. We see how and why people might “identify as bisexual as a result of their biology or upbringing; as a bridge or transition to something else; as a consequence of their curiosity; or for a range of other equally valid reasons.”

We gain a way to think about bisexuality as part of a continuum seeing that “many of the young people who identify as bisexual often defy traditional views, dispute false notions, and reimagine sexuality with regard to both practice and identity.” Many young people experience a complex, nuanced existence with multiple sexual and romantic attractions as well as gender expressions, which are rarely and move back and forth over their lives.

This is an important new understanding of bisexuality as an orientation, behavior, and identity.  Bisexuality is seen as a valid sexual identity and we get a timely insight into the experiences of bisexual youth themselves.

There are those thatdoubt that bisexuality really exists, while others think that bisexuals are ‘closeted gays, curious heterosexuals, or maladjusted people who can’t decide what they want”. Savin-Williams’ book changes that by letting diverse individuals speak their own truths. through clear and compelling looks at bisexuality. Savin-Williams explains why young adults want to disrupt the binaries of their parents’ generation and create their own ways of understanding themselves and each other.  We see all of the many ways bisexuality has been misunderstood.

 

“The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception, and the Last Days of Robert Indiana” by Bob Keyes— Scandals and Rumors

Keyes, Bob. “The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception, and the Last Days of Robert Indiana”, David R. Godine Publisher, 2021.

Scandals and Rumors

Amos Lassen

When Robert Indiana died in 2018, he left behind dark rumors and scandal and an estate embroiled in lawsuits and facing accusations of fraud. He has been a reclusive, millionaire artist  Here, for the first time, are all the pieces to the strange true story of his final days, what happened afterwards, the deceptive world that surrounded him, art as very big business.Indiana refused to copyright his iconic LOVE sculpture in 1965. He was strange and tortured and he wanted to be both famous and a loner. Indiana surrounded himself with people to manage his life and work. Yet, he often changed his mind and often fired or made fun of those who worked with him. By 2008, when he created the sculpture HOPE(or did he?), he had signed away his work for others to exploit thus creating doubt about whether he had even seen artwork sold for very high prices under his name. 

At the time of his death, Indiana left an estate worth millions and suspicions. There were allegations of fraudulent artwork, of elder abuse, of caregivers who subjected him to terrible living conditions. There were questions about his inconclusive autopsy and rumors that his final will had been signed under force. There were also strong suspicions about the freeloaders who’d attached themselves to him. The people closest to him “covered their tracks and plotted their defenses.” 

With access to the key players in Indiana’s life, author Bob Keyes brings us the riveting story that gives us a rare inside look into the life of an artist as well as the often world of high-end art. We learn about art dealers, law firms, and local characters in Maine whose lives crossed his. 

This is a look into the life and death of a contradictory American artist whose work touched millions even as he lived and died in isolation, without love but with the loss of hope a great deal of money.

“Cruising for Conspirators: How a New Orleans D.A. Prosecuted the Kennedy Assassination as a Sex Crime” by Alecia Long— Remembering How It Was

Long, Alecia. “Cruising for Conspirators: How a New Orleans D.A. Prosecuted the Kennedy Assassination as a Sex Crime”, University of North Carolina Press, 2021.

Remembering How It Was

Amos Lassen

I was living in New Orleans when district attorney Jim Garrison decided to arrest Clay Shaw on March 1, 1967. What followed was a series of events that led to the only prosecution in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In years following, Garrison remained in the news and many concentrated on how a conspiracy like this could possibly have worked. Alecia Long in “Cruising for Conspiracy”  shows that the Shaw prosecution was not based in fact but “was a product of the criminal justice system’s long-standing preoccupation with homosexuality.”

Garrison worked hard to have his case taken seriously.  He went through New Orleans police files and as he did, there was constant harassment of the city’s gay community. Many were arrested as Garrison used accusations based on nothing and homophobia to present what he felt was a plan to assassinate the President.

Both a narrative of the courtroom and a look at the horrors of homophobia, we see how Garrison’s unjust prosecution still is used by conspiratorial thinking.

Now others can feel what members of the New Orleans gay community endured as Garrison evoked his reign of terror. Long’s research and conclusions are amazing and this is a book I found impossible to put down.

Deep Sniff: A History of Poppers and Queer Futures” by Adam Zmith— A Look at Poppers

Zmith, Adam. “Deep Sniff: A History of Poppers and Queer Futures”, Repeater, 2021.

A Look at Poppers

Amos Lassen

Adam Zmith gives us “the long history of the quick rush from sniffing poppers” and shows how poppers “has released the queer potential inside us all.”  Through historical research and societal observation, we see the power of poppers. Zmith combines history of bar raids, viral panics working out through a collection of ideas about identity, sex, utopia, capitalism, law, freedom and the bodies that we use to experience the world. 

We look at the history of poppers through reality of identity and freedom and queer futures, going back to their Victorian discovery and moving forward to today’s gay culture. We get history, science and science fiction as well as idea for the future. Both a history of science and a cultural, political and sexual history, “Deep Sniff” has a lot to say. After reading the fascinating history of poppers, Zmith examines queer futures.

The book was so well researched and well written and brings together queer past, present, and future through poppers. Coming in at under 200 pages, this is an absolutely fascinating read.

“Long Term: Essays on Queer Commitment” edited by Scott Herring and Lee Wallace— Commitment

Herring, Scott and Lee Wallace, editors. “Long Term: Essays on Queer Commitment”, Duke University Press, 2021.

Commitment

Amos Lassen

The contributors to Long Term use Looking at commitment in all its guises including relationships beyond and aside from monogamous partnering, the contributors to “Long Term” examine “the tension between the popular embrace and legalization of same-sex marriage and the queer critique of homonormativity as an opportunity to examine the myriad forms of queer commitments and their durational aspect.”  These include chosen and involuntary long-term commitments to families, friends, pets, and coworkers; to the care of others and care of self; and to financial, psychiatric, and carceral institutions. Addressing the enduring challenges of chronic illnesses and disability, including HIV and chronic fatigue syndrome; theorizing the queer family as a scene of racialized commitment; or relating the grief and loss that comes with caring for pets, we see that long term offers a fuller understanding of queer commitments with intimacy, mortality, change, dependence, and care.

Contributors include Lisa Adkins, Maryanne Dever, Carla Freccero, Elizabeth Freeman, Scott Herring, Annamarie Jagose, Amy Jamgochian, E. Patrick Johnson, Jaya Keaney, Heather Love, Sally R. Munt, Kane Race, Amy Villarejo, Lee Wallace

Table of Contents

Foreword: Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey / E. Patrick Johnson  vii
Introduction: A Theory of the Long Term / Scott Herring and Lee Wallace  1
1. Committed to the End: On Caretaking, Rereading, and Queer Theory / Elizabeth Freeman  25
2. Loss and the Long Term / Amy Villarejo  46
3. Unhealthy Attachments: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Commitment to Endure / Sally R. Munt  63
4. A Lifetime of Drugs / Kane Race  89
5. Death Do Us Part / Carla Freccero  117
6. Never Better: Queer Commitment Phobia in Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life / Scott Herring  134
7. Race, Incarceration, and the Commitment of Volunteer / Amy Jamgochian  155
8. The Color of Kinship: Race, Biology, and Queer Reproduction / Jaya Keaney  175
9. Toward a Political Economy of the Long Term / Lisa Adkins and Maryanne Dever  199
10. Serial Commitment, or, 100 Ways to Leave Your Lover / Annemarie Jagose and Lee Wallace  223
11. The Long Run / Heather Love  250
Contributors  267
Index  271

“Sexuality:The 1964 Clermont-Ferrand and 1969 Vincennes Lectures” by Michel Foucault, edited by Claude-Olivier Doyon— A Re-examination

Foucault, Michel “Sexuality:The 1964 Clermont-Ferrand and 1969 Vincennes Lectures”,Edited by Claude-Olivier Doron. General Editor: François Ewald. English Series Editor: Bernard E. Harcourt. Translated by Graham Burchell. Foreword by Bernard E. Harcourt., Columbia University Press, 2021.

A Re-examination

Amos Lassen

 Michel Foucault’s “The History of Sexuality” was published in 1976 had a huge influence across the humanities and social sciences. Foucault’s interest in the history of sexuality began as early as the 1960s, when he taught two courses on the subject. These lectures give important insight into the development of Foucault’s thought yet have remained unpublished until recently.

This book presents Foucault’s lectures on sexuality for the first time in English. In the first series, held at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1964, Foucault asks how sexuality comes to be constituted as a scientific body of knowledge within Western culture and why it derived from the analysis of “perversions”—morbidity, homosexuality, fetishism. The subsequent course, held at the experimental university at Vincennes in 1969, shows how Foucault’s theories were reoriented by the events of May 1968; he refocuses on the regulatory nature of the discourse of sexuality and how it serves economic, social, and political ends. Examining creators of political and literary utopias in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from Sade to Fourier to Marcuse, who attempted to integrate “natural” sexualities, including transgressive forms, into social and economic life, Foucault elaborates a double critique of the naturalization and the liberation of sexuality. Together, the lectures span a range of interests, from abnormality to heterotopias to ideology, and they offer an unprecedented glimpse into the evolution of Foucault’s transformative thinking on sexuality.

Foucaultclaimed that he was writing texts to depart from himself and he succeeded in this.  His early lectures on sexuality give us a chance to follow his theoretical thought as ideas take shape under very specific historical conditions. These lectures provide deep insight into the structures of power, knowledge and desire that continue to regulate bodies as well as opportunities for linking to other moments of rebellion, opposition and, even, abolition. 

Foucault gave these at a time when homosexuality was still considered a clinical pathology and a crime and when the notion of gender had not yet become a leverage of political emancipation for feminist and trans movements. We see the archeology of contemporary queer and trans critical languages. Foucault rethinks sexuality using Sade, Bataille, Restif de la Bretonne, or Fourier, and fighting with Freud, Marx, Melanie Klein, Marcuse, or Wilhelm Reich in order to get into an academic, political, and discursive field dominated by epistemic violence against sexual minorities. These lectures are necessary in order to understand Foucault’s critical project but and how different discourses on desire, pleasure, and sexuality define our present. 

Table of Contents:

Series Foreword, by Bernard E. Harcourt
Foreword to the French Edition, by François Ewald
Rules for Editing the Texts, by Claude-Olivier Doron
Translator’s Note, by Graham Burchell
Abbreviations
Part I. Sexuality: Lectures at the University of Clermont-Ferrand (1964)
Lecture 1. Introduction
Lecture 2. The Scientific Knowledge of Sexuality
Lecture 3. Sexual Behavior
Lecture 4. The Perversions
Lecture 5. Infantile Sexuality
Part II. The Discourse of Sexuality: Lectures at the University of Vincennes (1969)
Lecture 1. The Discourse of Sexuality
Lecture 2. The Transformations of the Eighteenth Century
Appendix to Lecture 2
Lecture 3. The Discourse of Sexuality (3)
Appendix to Lecture 3
Lecture 4. Legal Forms of Marriage Up to the Civil Code
Lecture 5. Epistemologization of Sexuality
Lecture 6. The Biology of Sexuality
Lecture 7. Sexual Utopia
Appendix to Lecture 7
Appendix. Extract from Green Notebook no. 8, September 1969
Course Context, by Claude-Olivier Doron
Sexuality: Course at the University of Clermont-Ferrand (1964)
The Discourse of Sexuality: Course at the University of Vincennes (1969)
Detailed Contents
Index of Notions
Index of Names

“The Monster I Am Today: Leontyne Price and a Life in Verse” by Kevin Simmonds— Price as an Icon, a Diva, a Woman and a Patriot

Simmonds, Kevin. “The Monster I Am Today: Leontyne Price and a Life in Verse”, Triquarterly Books, 2021.

Price as an Icon, a Diva, a Woman and a Patriot

Amos Lassen

Leontyne Price is one of the twentieth century’s most revered opera singers and the first African American to achieve international acclaim. Through poetry and prose, writer and musician Kevin Simmonds looks at Price as an icon, a diva, a woman, and a patriot and himself as a fan, a budding singer, and a gay man. He does so through passages that look at Black identity, Black sound, Black sensibility, and Black history. 

The book is structured  like an opera with an overture, acts, and postlude and guides the reader through “associative shifts from arias like “weather events” and Price’s forty-two-minute final ovation to memories of Simmonds’s coming of age in New Orleans.” He brings together lyric forms and the biography of one of classical music’s greatest virtuosos and composes a duet that spotlights Price’s profound influence on him as a person and an artist.

“Karol Radziszewski: The Power of Secrets” by Michal Grzegorzek, et al.— Queer in Eastern Europe

Grzegorzek, Michal et al. “Karol Radziszewski: The Power of Secrets”, Sternberg Press, 2021.

Queer in Eastern Europe

Amos Lassen

In 1989, a great political change was coming to Poland. With the fall of the Berlin wall and the advent of capitalism, the people behind the Iron Curtain would be free. 

Karol Radziszewski was nine years old and living in Bialystok. In a graph-paper notebook, he drew pages and pages of princesses, dogs with mermaid tails, and mysterious seductresses with firm bosoms which would eventually become covered with arrows shot into a heart or a flame. The secrets of these notebooks were off limits to everyone. 

Today we see these drawings as self-portraits of the adult artist that fill Radziszewski’s enormous queer archive. He is a man of many faces: artist, curator, film director, and avid collector who skillfully navigates the visual and performative arts. Above all, he is the creator of the Queer Archives Institute, a performance and informal organization struggling with the suppressed, yet surprisingly beautiful queer memory of Central and Eastern Europe. 

The artist’s special montage of archival materials which is self-made, ready-made, or inspiration for artistic extrapolation presents new ways of understanding history, memory, or legislation. Facts and fantasies are blurred giving us documentation from scraps of memories. There are false trails to suggest alternative paths of remembering. 

The secret performativity  are not just stories of the past but  queer potential of the future that is revolutionary in nature, change, and the promise of freedom. 

Contributors includeMichal Grzegorzek, Fanny Hauser, João Laia, Élisabeth Lebovici, Katarzyna Przyluska-Urbanowicz, Dorota Sajewska, Barbara Steiner, Wojciech Szymański.

“Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection” by Sam Apple— An Important but Hated Man

Apple, Sam. “Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection”,  Liveright, 2021.

An Important Yet Hated Man

Amos Lassen

Sam Apple brings us the extraordinary story of the Nazi-era scientific genius, Otto Warburg,who discovered how cancer cells eat.Warburg, a Nobel Prize winner was a cousin of the famous finance Warburg’s and was widely regarded in his day as one of the most important biochemists of the twentieth century. His research was integral to the understanding of cancer. He was also among the most hated people in Nazi Germany. He was a Jewish homosexual living openly with his male partner and representing all that the Third Reich despised. Yet Hitler and his top advisors dreaded cancer, and protected Warburg in the hope that he would be able to cure it.

We see Warburg here as a forgotten, morally compromised genius who pursued cancer single-mindedly even as Europe was falling apart around him. While the vast majority of Jewish scientists fled Germany before World War II, Warburg remained in Berlin, working under the Nazi dictatorship. He awoke everyday in an elegant, antiques-filled home and rode horses with his partner, Jacob Heiss, before conducting research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Society.

Apple shows that Hitler and other Nazi leaders were deeply troubled by cancer rates across the Western world and they saw cancer as an existential threat similar to Judaism or homosexuality. They also saw Jewish and homosexual Warburg as Germany’s best chance of survival. We follow him as he finds  his central belief that cancer is a problem of metabolism. Though Warburg’s metabolic approach to cancer was considered groundbreaking, his work was soon eclipsed in the early postwar era, after the discovery of the structure of DNA set off a search for the genetic origins of cancer.

Now, Warburg’s theory returned to us as scientists have begun to investigate the dangers of sugar and the link between obesity and cancer and finding that the way we eat can influence how cancer cells take up nutrients and grow. Apple shows how Warburg’s work may hold the secret to why cancer became so common in the modern world and how we can reverse it

Warburg’s story is one of scientific discovery, personal peril, and the race to end a disastrous disease,  Bringing together science and history, Sam Apple educated us about cells, disease, and diet while telling a fascinating story. Through balanced and clear prose. We get a story that stuns us and keeps us turning pages.

We see what Warburg was like and get a taste of his nerve reading about his sending away a Nazi official who came to ask for his papers proving his Aryan descent. Warburg refused to meet with him because the official arrived at unshaven and smelled badly.  

 

While Warburg’s science is central to a revolution in thinking about cancer as a metabolic disease, Apple gives us a man who in all his brilliant, bizarre complexity was on the road to changing science. Here was a cell biologist who could not stand his fellow humans but devoted himself to saving them from cancer. Apple’s understanding of Warburg’s life and scientific legacy is perceptive and his biology lessons are a pleasure to read as is his history of the connections between Hitler and Germany’s early cancer research.

“Disrupting Dignity” by Stephen M. Engel and Timothy S. Lyle— The Seduction of Dignity

Engel, Stephen M. and Timothy S. Lyle. “Disrupting Dignity’, NYU Press, 2021.

The Seduction of Dignity

Amos Lassen

In 2015, the Supreme Court declared that gay and lesbian couples were entitled to the “equal dignity” of marriage recognition. With this, the concept of dignity became “a cornerstone for gay rights victories”. In “Disrupting Dignity”, writers Stephen M. Engel and Timothy S. Lyle examine the darker side of dignity and follow it through public health politics, popular culture, and law from the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis to today. They show how politicians, policymakers, media leaders, and even some within LGBTQ+ communities have used the concept of dignity as a way to shame and disempower members of those communities. We see how dignity and the race to be defined by its terms have become a tool of the state and the marketplace, limiting its more radical potential. 

our understanding of dignity is challenged as an unquestioned good. We become aware of the constraining work it accomplishes and the exclusionary ideas about respectability are promoted by it and the assertion of the worthiness of queer lives beyond the limits of dignity.

Here is “the political underbelly of dignity, disrupting the cornerstone of modern LGBT rights and liberties.” By examining and critiquing political, and cultural narratives, Engel and Lyle give us a wake-up call to those who have already fallen “promise” of dignity. Dignity is laid bare before us and we see it here as“a device of neoliberal discipline that divides political subjects into insiders and transgressive outsiders.”

“Disrupting Dignity” is an original argument that demonstrates “the rhetorical violence that ‘dignity,’ specifically, does to the queer worldmaking that happens in gay male sexual spaces.”