Monthly Archives: October 2014

“Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis” by Alexis Coe— A Look Back in Time

alice and freda

Coe, Alexis. “Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis”, Pulp/Zest Books, 2014.

A Look Back In Time

Amos Lassen

I never realized how much I do not know until I started reading seriously and I soon discovered that when I started to write book reviews that I had better have my facts together. When I started reading “Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis”, I was really aware what I did not know. I had never heard of this story—that in 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess. However it was not her crime that was so shocking, but what motivated her to commit the crime Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward. However, when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.

Freda adjusted easily to this but it stunned Alice who had a broken heart. She became more and more desperate as days passed. Soon her letters went unanswered and then her father’s razor disappeared. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat and her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night. Medical experts agreed that this was a dangerous and incurable perversion and the crime was publicly talked about. Alice spent months in jail until a jury of Memphis’s finest men declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later.

This book is the story of the Freda, Alice and so much more– a love story, a murder, a trial and it is illustrated with over 100 love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes— and we get a picture of the world that was then.

Alexis Coe did tremendous research to write this book including historical settings, background information, family information, and hand-written letters so this is the real thing. We must remember that back in 1892 in Memphis, the term same-sex love did not exist and it was impossible to think about it unless one had a direct relation to what we now regard as same-sex love. The only rational way to deal with it in the minds of the men who were considered the bet of Memphis was to label it as insanity. This was what the defense used for Alice Mitchell who killed the woman she loved because she could not have her. After all Alice had made the proposal and said she would dress as a man so they could marry.

We get a detailed look at a fascinating and tragic real life murder case and we also get a look at the attitudes of the American south. Freda and Alice were two middle class teenage Memphis girls who met at a type of finishing school. Alice fell passionately in love with Freda and Freda seemed to return her affection though remained flirtatious with men. Alice proposed the scheme where she would pass as a man and marry Freda and following the wedding they would elope to a new life in St. Louis. When this plan was discovered and stopped by Freda’s family members in the summer of 1891, Alice became increasingly obsessed with the girl who she considered her one true love. Then in 1892 shortly before Freda was to leave Memphis, Alice slashed her throat with a razor she had stolen for that purpose. Freda died soon after and it was suspected that Alice had planned to kill herself but was stopped from doing so. Then came the trial and her commitment to an insane asylum where she died at the young age of 25.

In my opinion, the value of this book is in what it has to say about the way sexuality was regarded and in some places, still is. We also get a good luck at the role of women and even race relations during the 1890’s. Aside from the illustration, photos and letters, there is an extensive bibliography and seventeen pages of research notes.


“IN BLOOM”— Neorealism and Memoir

in bloom poster

In Bloom

Neorealism and Memoir

Amos Lassen

 “In Bloom” came to be from the memories of writer-director Nana Ekvtimishvili’s youth in 1990s post-Soviet Georgia. She worked with co-director she Simon Gross and together they have captured those memories in every way possible so that we not only see and hear them but we actually feel some of them. In fact, we feel that we can actually touch and sense some of the visual objects and everything is very, very real.

in bloom1

 We meet Eka (Lika Babluani), and view her adolescent friendship and bond with Natia (Miriam Bokeria) as they grow up in a moment of great upheaval and change. Daily life remains almost the same but around the girls things are moving very fast. It was not a good time in Georgia. There were breadlines and schools were run strictly. Families suffered and intolerance was the rule of the day. Violence as everywhere. Natia gets a handgun from a male friend and she is to use it for self-defense. The streets of the city are filled with period and this is shown quite clearly here.

 Directors Ekvtimishvili and Gross give a film that is long on realism and we get the sense of what everyday life was then. The plot comes directly from the memory of Nana Ekvtimishvili and it follows inseparable friends Eka and Natia who are both fourteen years old and living in Tbilisi, the capital of the newly independent Georgia. Even with the violence, life just unfolds for Eka and Natia : in the street, at school, with friends or elder sisters who are already dealing with male dominance, early marriage and disillusioned love. Life just goes on.

 “In Bloom” is the Georgian entry for 2014’s Best Foreign Language Film. Even with the violence going on around them, the two girls and almost ready to become women and this is especially difficult in the patriarchs; society in which they live.

Eka grows up with her distant mother and aloof older sister while her father is in prison (for a crime that is quietly mentioned later). Her only bond seems to be with the outspoken Natia whose and where her father drinks and beats her mother. Many of the Georgian citizens are already dead in spirit and they state at the world with empty eyes.However, everything changes when Natia is abducted by one of her suitors and finds herself married off in an acceptable custom known as bride kidnapping.

We begin getting uncomfortable when Natia receives her gun and there seems to be a lot of tragedy heading towards us. When there is violence, it is not what we expected what would happen. Natia and Eka take different paths— confident Natia is a kidnapped bride (her family would be shamed if she were to refuse the aggressive suitor), while Eka begins standing up to her teacher and her mom and sister who show her no attention.


The lead actresses turns in wonderful performances and we see a country dying as two young females come of age. They have created something of a sanctuary in their friendships as battle lines are drawn around them.

 The two friends are inseparable and they try to find peace outside their family. Their days are filled with anxiety about what the future can possibly hold for them when the present is so full of the hardships and troubles. When Natia is ‘willingly’ married to a simpleton local who is much older, Eka must wait patiently in the wings for the opportunity to rescue her companion from her fate. Quite basically this a feminine look at the Soviet Union as it falls apart.

“The Deception of the Thrush” by Bruce Spang— How It Was

the deception of the thrush

Spang, Bruce. “The Deception of the Thrush”, Piscataqua Press, 2014.

How It Was

Amos Lassen

As I opened this book that is set in 1964, I tried to remember where I was back then. I was a junior in college and majoring in that lucrative academic subject of history and trying to decide how my life would go. It was a terrible time racially in America—Freedom Summer was going on and the Voting Act Law was signed by LBJ, American troops were about to be sent to Vietnam, the Beatles came to America and gay people lived their lives secretly. I had an idea that I might be gay but had not acted on it and it was nothing like it is today in this country.

Jason Follett, I figure, was two or three years younger than I was back then and we both had a secret. I was finishing college soon and he was just starting. Jason, like myself was a fraternity guy but he went for sports and I went to the library. He was in the Midwest and I was in the South and had I not read Bruce Spang’s wonderful book, “The Deception of the Thrush”, I would have never heard of him. We both shared the fear of what we might be. Jason acted on his more than I did—he violated a moral code to protect his secret, I sat and fretted. We both protested racism and the war and both of our fathers wanted us to be like everybody else, whatever that meant. I was too afraid to defy parental authority but Jason broke with his past and was fueled by the assassinations of the time.

It was a time when gays did not come out. Both Jason and I knew we were gay but we denied it to ourselves and thereby to others. We all know that every writer puts something of himself into every book he writes. Part of this story is very familiar and given the time in which it is set, I can only imagine that there is a lot of author Bruce Spang in this book.

While this is the story of a gay boy finding himself, it is not what I would call a gay novel. It is so unfortunate that many people feel that gay men are defined by their sexuality. I do not see us defining non-gay men as straight when we talk about them but I do see that when speaking about a gay guy, the word “gay” is usually used as part of the description—“You remember, Wayne, that gay guy in our high school biology class.” Rarely would you see that sentence without the word “gay’ in it. So this is a novel about Jason, not “gay” Jason, just Jason who happens to be gay.

Going back to the 60’s, many stayed in the closet so as not to embarrass the family by being out but there were other problems like getting a job, finding a place to live, meeting others. We were afraid to be out because we did not know how others would perceive us or we knew and hid it from them. We weren’t living lies, we were just existing.

Some of you may feel that I am skirting the issue of this book and that may well be true. I do not want to take away one minute of enjoyment of your reading this sincere and tender novel. Not only is it a great story but it is a literary feast—a story about growing up and self-acceptance and finally self-realization. I could probably comment on every sentence, describe every character and summarize each chapter but that only shows that I read the book. What I want you to see by what I wrote here is that the book affected me as I am sure it will anyone from my generation who reads it. It is also important for others to read it to see how it was and know that there might have been asking but there was no telling. Thank you Bruce Spang for taking me home again but I really like it much better the way it is today.

*A note—I will indeed review this book eventually but it is going to take a little time because it has really hit me hard. So be patient–it is not often that I find a fellow traveler in a book I review.

“Does She Love You?” by Rachel Spangler—In Love with the Same Woman

does she love you?

Spangler, Rachel. “Does She Love You?”, Bold Strokes Books, 2013.

In Love with the Same Woman

Amos Lassen

Annabelle Taylor and Nic McCoy have been loving partners for thirteen years. Annabelle is a sweetheart and she is filled with love and possesses an inner strength. Nic, on the other hand, has not had it so easy. She came from nothing and has been able to move up and have a good life and she really wants to make sure that Annabelle also has a good life. The relationship seems great until……….we meet Davis Chandler, a woman who has not been lucky in love yet somehow she feels that her life has taken a turn for the better when she realizes that she is dating the girl that she has always dreamed about. That girl, however, happens to be Nic McCoy and we see that Davis and Annabelle love the same woman.

The three women all share one trait—each is working hard to rebuild her life. Each woman has had some kind of shocking revelation that causes her to question all she knows about herself and all that each knows about the others. They face struggles as they strive for some kind of redemption while questioning truth, trust and even love.

Nic has been the dishonest woman of the three—she really thinks that she is in love with both women and she either has to find a way to keep them separate or accept that she needs both in her life at the same time. Then there is the issue of whether a relationship based upon lies can exist. Lies play a major part in the novel and sometimes they are quite shocking, so much so that I found myself turning pages as quickly as possible. Rachel Spangler has the gift of not only being able to write emotions but to do so that the reader also feels them. She also has created fascinating characters that are identifiable and very real. I thought to myself that even though the three main characters are gay women, this is not just a lesbian novel—it is a novel about people and how they react to situations that are new and almost out of the range of one’s comprehension.

As a gay man reading a lesbian novel (and I do read and review lesbian novels), I was quite worried about how I would react to the lovemaking scenes but I did just fine. There have been books where I would just skip those pages but Spangler had me roped in and I did lift my eyes from the page until I finished the book.

Everything began so simply—Nic and Davis met at a bar and Nic is swept up by Davis, so much so that she forgot that she was in a wonderful relationship (The grass is always greener….). There was excitement for Nic as well as a challenge—-she sees the signs but ignores them.

We can only imagine how Annabelle felt about what was going on right under her nose. She loved Nic and wanted her to be happy but it did not take long for the whole business to blow up and both Davis and Annabelle are not sure of anything that each had with Nic. Ultimately Nic destroys that which she loved and herself in the process. It was so easy to really abhor her—she was cheater who did not know how to deal with others and she was so dumb that she destroyed everything she touched. But then the others allowed it to happen.

The prose is pristine and the plot totally interesting but painful probably because many of us have seen something like this really happen. I am still reeling a bit as I write this review and I must say that the main thing that this book did for me was to cause me to take a good look at myself and think about what my real values are. That does not happen from reading someone else’s words.

“Drama Queens and Adult Themes” by Kevin Klehr— Fabien and Friends

drama adult

Klehr, Kevin. “Drama Queens and Adult Themes”, Wilde City Press. 2014.

Fabien and Friends

Amos Lassen

 Adam is an art student who has fantasies about the nude model Mannix who models for his class even though he and his partner Wade have been together for almost twenty years. Watching Mannix and Adam is Fabien, a male witch (warlock) from the “afterlife” and he has cast a lustful spell on the two guys. What Fabien does not know is that Guy, Adam’s guardian angel is watching but has no idea what is causing what is happening. Guy wants to find a way to save Adam’s relationship and Fabien and his group wreak havoc on Adam, Mannix and Wade.

I have tried to classify this book but have been unable to as it crosses genre—it is paranormal, science fiction and romance all together. This is the second book in Kevin Klehr’s “Drama Queens” series and this book lets us know that more will be coming.

 Because Fabien was bored, the decided to stir up something buy interfering in the lives of the members of a long-term gay couple. Ipan, another character from the afterlife really tries to help Adam and the guys and he becomes very upset with Fabien’s selfishness and cannot understand why Fabien has to wreck two lives because has nothing better to do.

Guy, the angel who has been guarding Adam since he was a youngster let Adam know who he is and this was against the rules but he does not like what he sees going on and decided that he had to do something about it. I felt sure as I read that this was just not a story about the failure of monogamy or the lack of fidelity in gay relationships; after all, that has done, redone and done again. Now I am sure that there are those that will argue with me about this but I could not help but think that perhaps the idea of the “gay lifestyle” means that we are free to do what we want, i.e. sexual activities and we really need not answer to anyone except ourselves. However, we must ask that if a person is involved in a relationship with another, does he have the right to have sex with whomever he wants?

I do not know much about author Kevin Klehr but I did know that it was not my business to ask him how he felt and I figured that I might find the answer in his writing. So yes guys there is a message here but not hardly the one we would expect.

The book is essentially about Adam and even though Wade is his partner we do learn much about him. Now Mannix is the extra guy and we really only know that physically he is very fine and we are told that he is generous with his feelings. He is also the catalyst for the action. Now I realize that what have I just written does not answer anything about what this book is trying to say. That is for each reader to discover and he will probably see it as it fits into his life.

I have had this book for about a month now and I wanted to make sure that I gave it a fair review especially because I so liked the first book in the series, “Drama Queens with Love Themes”. When I really like a book I want to makes sure that the review fits my feelings so I have deliberately taken my time in writing this. Both Adam and Wade succumb to Mannix’s seductive appearance and shy manner. None of the three guys know that they are being manipulated by otherworldly gods from the afterlife. Klehr wants the gods to also have some fun and we indeed see this as life becomes a bit harder to deal with for the three men who become pawns. The gods seem to think that discord is good for a few laughs. Klehr certainly knows how to tell a story but I am still not sure if we were laughing at the characters or at ourselves.

News from R. Camina and “UPSTAIRS INFERNO”

upstairs poster
Camina Entertainment
October is GAY HISTORY MONTH and FIRE PREVENTION MONTH – poignant for Upstairs Inferno: The documentary. To finish the film, we are required to license the news footage and photos. I hope you can help!


UPSTAIRS INFERNO – Gay History Month and Fire Prevention Month

I am incredibly grateful for all the support we’ve received since we first announced this project. Only with the support from people like you, have we gotten as far as we have. Donations to previous campaigns helped us cover final production expenses (including camera, gear and light rentals, a production crew, car rental/gas, travel and lodging). Those donations will also help us cover our post production costs related to color correction and audio mixing.

The remaining balance will also help put a small dent in our expenses to license photos and news footage. (I was shocked to find out that the cost to license newspaper photos range from $250-$375/each and that news footage can cost up to $90/second!!!!!! That adds up very quickly!) This far exceeded my initial estimate.)


This is why I am reaching out to you. Believe it or not, licensing for all the photos and news footage comes close to $20,000!!!! I have crunched the numbers every which way and there doesn’t appear to be a good way around it.

I know it’s close to the holidays and money is limited. So rather than launch a campaign for the full $20K, I hope to raise a fraction of the licensing fees. (The arbitrary goal of $7300 = licensing for 4 of the most critical news footage reels.) However, the further we go over our goal, the closer we will be to releasing the film.

If you’ve been waiting to donate, please visit our campaign now <CLICK HERE> (Campaign ends on Sunday, Nov 23rd)

By contributing to the production fund, you can get some amazing perks! We even added some BRAND NEW PERKS during this cycle. Make sure you check out to see what else we added!!!

I hope I can count on your support. Campaign ends on Sunday, Nov. 23rd.
No time to waste.
Your donations will be greatly appreciated.

About Us:

Rainbow Poster Robert L. Camina’s previous documentary, RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE, recounted the widely publicized and controversial June 28, 2009 police raid of a Fort Worth,Texas gay bar that resulted in multiple arrests and serious injuries. The film, narrated by TV icon Meredith Baxter, screened over 40 times, including 32 mainstream and LGBT film festivals across the United States, Mexico and Canada. The film won several awards including 5 “Best” Film and 3 “Audience Choice” Awards. The film also received attention from the Office of the White House, Department of Justice and a division of the U.S. State Department.


“The Hilltop: A Novel” by Assaf Gavron— On the West Bank

the hilltop

Gavron, Assaf. “The Hilltop: A Novel”, Scribner, 2014.

On the West Bank

Amos Lassen

Ma’aleh Hermesh C is a community that sits on a beautiful and rocky hilltop in Israel’s West Bank. It does not exist in the eyes of the government of Israel but the military still feels that it must be defended. As we all know too well, the West Bank is contested land and it is being carefully watched by its Palestinian neighbors. Othniel Assis goes about his days planting and watching his goats as he takes care of his growing family. Being able to manipulate government agencies, Othniel sees to it that more settlers arrive along with mobile homes and the settlement begins to be.

Gabi Kupper is one of the steadfast settlers of Ma’aleh Hermesh and he is a free spirit, an idealist and former kibbutznik who is undergoing a religious awakening. His life, however, takes a different turn when his brother Roni comes to see him after having lived in America. He had been off seeking his fortune but he has returned to Israel without a shekel in his pocket.

Roni develops a plan to sell the olive oil from a neighboring Palestinian village to Tel Aviv yuppies and the settlement is quite dismayed by this. Then there is the arrival of a correspondent from the Washington Post and Ma’aleh Hermesh C becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal and faces its greatest test yet. Having lived in Israel for many years and being very aware of situations like this, I was sure I knew exactly where this book was heading. However, I was surprised to find myself not exactly correct in my thoughts. Author Assaf Gavron uses both satire and seriousness to take on the reality of life in Israel especially regarding the settlers of the West Bank and the country’s relationship with the United States and we soon see what the kibbutz movement and the West Bank settlements share in common. Gavron indicts Israel for its treatment of the settlements and shows us how Israeli society ignores the existence of Arabs. We see this in the three different but related stories that make up the novel.

 The first story is the establishment of the illegal settlement of Ma’aleh Hermesh C (MH-C). It is important to notice that the letter “C” is part of the name. Ma’aleh Hermesh A (MH-A) is a thriving kibbutz on the West Bank that has already sent out arms that became Ma’aleh Hermesh B (MH-B). Yet another group has decided to establish a settlement on a hilltop of land above an Arab town and on land that is partially set aside as a ‘preserve’. Like most of the other illegal settlements, it is led by ultra-orthodox Jews who believe that Judea and Samaria rightfully belong to Israel and that the Arabs who are there have been squatters for two thousand plus years.

 Othniel Assis had originally settled the hilltop as part of an agricultural station. This was the original purpose of the “preserve”. But (there always seems to be a but) Othniel has been inviting others to join him and now other families have move up to the hilltop and established MH-C. They not only have their trailers, they have built a synagogue, a day care center and a playground and Othniel uses his connections to get the Israel Defense Forces to set up an outpost there to protect the settlement. We can characterize Othniel as a conniver who uses what he has and knows to keep the settlement going both by legal and illegal means. (If you are an Israeli or have lived in Israel you know and understand the meaning of the word “protectzia”. Obviously this describes Othniel. It’s not what you know but who you know and how you use them). Othniel is actually quite a comic character and we really see this regarding the fence that is being built to protect Israel from infiltration by sabotaging forces. The fence is meant is go through part of the settlement of MH-C. Othniel tries to convince the authorities to put it through the olive orchards of the Arab town in the valley below. He has been told that the settlement is illegal and that it will be torn down, he still negotiates with the government authorities to pave the road up to MH-C and to also connect them to the national power grid.

The other two stories are also enmeshed into the Othniel narrative. Gabi and Roni are brothers who were orphaned and raised by their aunt on a kibbutz. The brothers are not at all alike and each made decisions about their lives and they both left the kibbutz. Now years later, they both are at MH-C. With them is the real story of the novel—how they live and how they react to and deal with Israeli society.

Here in America we get only a small idea of what is happening in Israel’s literature and that is why I prefer to read the books first in Hebrew and then in English if a translation is available. However this can be quite burdensome in that I subconsciously retranslate the text back into Hebrew as I read. Sometimes it is like reading two different books. In effect, the writers who are translated are usually the big names like Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua for example. These very same writers are older and more traditional literarily. They are the writers that are spoken about and respected (we can David Grossman and Aaron Applefeld to that group) and also those who still are responsible for helping to form our ideas about what Israeli fiction is and/or should be. However, they are what we call old guard and continue to write from their Jewish pasts in literary and elevated ways. We do not know much about the younger generation of literary Israelis with the excepting of, perhaps Etgar Keret and a couple of others. (This is something akin to listening to say Frank Sinatra instead of Miley Cyrus). But with this book we get Assaf Gavron, an Israeli bestseller and prize recipient.

Steven Cohen translated this novel and we see immediately that is realistic fiction with a touch of satire and humor and tells us how Israelis live today. “The Hilltop” looks at all the typical (whatever that means) ways that groups influence the culture of Israel. We read about Tel Aviv at night, the kibbutz, Israelis living in America but the focus is on MH-C, the settlement at the top of the hill (hence the name of the novel) on the West Bank, a community in the making.

It is important to remember that the Israelis who live in the settlements are, by and large, religious Jews and we really do not get the chance to read good press about them often. They are usually seen as colonizers and fanatics and since they have annexed Palestine, they create problems for a two state solution. I get the impression that Gavron is anti-settlers and settlement and we can read this book as a satire of how government and society collude. MH-C became a group of people living in Judea as religious zealots and Zionists.

Before anyone in charge realizes what’s happened, Ma’aleh Hermesh C has become a thriving community of about a dozen families, who see living in historic Judea as both a religious virtue and a Zionist achievement. For many of the Jews that live in MH-C living in the West Bank is a way to return to the early days of the Zionist movement in its early days. The book is in sync with the complexities of what is going on in Israel with regard to the settlements. Gavron gives us profundity along side of absurdity. Here we can better understand the political situation in the Middle East today and as we do we are totally entertained.

“Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice” by Mike Kelly— Jerusalem Bus Number 18

Bus on jaffa road

Kelly, Mike. “Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice”, Globe Pequot Press, 2014.

Jerusalem Bus Number 18

Amos Lassen

When I lived in Israel and would go to Jerusalem I often used the 18 bus to navigate the city and I was actually in Jerusalem the day this happened. It was February 22, 1996, a Sunday (a regular work day in Israel). Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld got on the bus, took seats and settled in as they began their ride across town. They were on their day to an archeological site and they would shortly be there. Then they turned onto famous Jaffa Road and stopped as a young man carrying a duffel bag came aboard. He was a regular looking Yerushalmi and no one paid any attention really as he sat down. But after traveling a few more stops, he stood up and pushed a button that was attached to his duffel bag and set off a bomb that killed everyone on the bus. Gone were Sara and Matthew and the bomber and 23 others. Sara and Matthew were Americans and their families wanted justice and answers.

What might seem as a simple story of a suicide bomber is so much more than that—the story goes from Jerusalem to the West Bank to a refugee camp to the White House, the Congress and an American courtroom where the families of the victims filed a lawsuit against Iran because she financed the bombing and then to a prison in the Negev in Israel where author Mike Kelly confronts the man who built the bomb that was used on the Jerusalem #18 bus.

This is not just the story of the bombing but of the hardships that are part of the war on terrorism and the nature of the Israeli/Palestine conflict that has no end in sight. I was so totally engrossed in this book that I read it in one sitting and then thought about it constantly for two days. I doubt I will ever forget it. Even though the focus here is on one event, we see that Kelly is able to raise issues that are emotional as he discusses the policies, legalities and moralities surrounding a single act of terror. It is interesting that we empathize with the families of the dead—especially the Duker and Eisenfeld and at the same time he gives us the complexities of the struggle to punish and stop those specifically Iran. This is the story of the indomitable will of the human spirit to make peace with those who have no concept of the meaning of the word.

Here are innocent young adults lost to terrorism during a very complicated time. The research that was done is amazing and the prose is wonderfully readable. It reads like a novel and I found myself wishing that this was not a real story. We certainly feel the impact of terrorism and realize fully that its impact is very real.

“Gay Novels of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, 1881-1981: A Reader’s Guide” by Drewey Wayne Gunn— British Gay Fiction

gay novels of britain

Gunn, Drewey Wayne, “Gay Novels of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, 1881-1981: A Reader’s Guide”, McFarland, 2014.

British Gay Fiction

Amos Lassen

Although this book is not out yet, I want everyone to be aware of it as it fills the gap between American and British gay fiction. American gay fiction has received and still receives scholarly attention while some of the most important gay themed novels have been written and published “across the pond”. Not much attention has been given to developments in other English-speaking countries. This survey catalogs 254 novels and novellas by some 173 British, Irish and Commonwealth authors in which gay and bisexual male characters play a major role. The book is arranged chronologically from the appearance of the first gay protagonist in 1881, to works from the onset of the AIDS epidemic in 1981. There are in-depth entries that discuss each book’s publication history, plot and significance for the construct of gay identity, along with a brief biography of its author. Some of the iconic works included are Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890) and E.M. Forster’s “Maurice”(1913-14 written, published 1971) as well as lesser known but noteworthy novels such as Rose Macaulay’s “The Lee Shore” (1912) and John Broderick’s “The Waking of Willie Ryan” (1969), this volume–the first of its kind–enlarges our understanding of the development of gay fiction and provides an essential reading list.

“Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir” by Liz Prince— Refuting the Boundaries of Gender


Prince, Liz. “Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir”, Zest Books , 2014.

Refuting the Boundaries of Gender

Amos Lassen

 As she was growing up, Liz Prince wasn’t a girly girl; she did not do what other girls did but then she was not one of the guys either which she learned when her Little League baseball coach exiled her to the outfield instead of letting her take the pitcher’s mound. Liz was somewhat in the middle and here is her story of the journey she took and the struggle she had to find the place where she belonged. She shares this with us in her graphic novel that has gender boundaries as the theme of the book. What makes this interesting is that while the book is about refusing gender boundaries, it is also about embracing gender stereotypes. Author Prince also shows us that one can be just as much of a girl in jeans and a T-shirt as in a pink tutu. The memoir is presented in anecdotes and we follow the author from early childhood into adulthood as she explores her ever-evolving struggles and wishes about what it means to “be a girl.”

Prince perceived being girly by refuting it and then discovering through the punk community that one’s identity is whatever each person makes of it, regardless of your gender. Did you ever stop to think about who defines us and what we are? Certainly we would prefer being defined by the complete person but there are those whose insides and outsides just do not match.

Prince writes from the heart and shares her feelings of not being able to discover who she was. She hated dresses from the early age of 2 just as she hated the color pink, parties and dolls. She loved playing catch with the boys and adolescence was a real struggle for her. As a youngster, she did not know she was different until she went to school and learn that she was expected to follow what were known as the rules of gender.

This is an important book and valuable on many different levels. Prince looks at bullying, the fact that there are those youths that are not fully understood, and finally at self-love and self-acceptance. While this is quite an intense book, there is also humor here. What makes it different is the fact that it is a graphic memoir and the illustrations are great and give us a different approach that we have had in the past. The black and white drawings are perfect and they emphasize that this is no fairy tale.

Then we share the balance between courage and vulnerability that is so obvious here. This is Liz Price’s autobiography and it is humorous and sensitive especially since it makes us think while serving as something on a primer on gender. We get quite a look at the painful consequences of finding, expressing and establishing individuality. Prince always stood strong and never gave in.