Voices Rising: Celebrating 20 Years of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Writing
Edited by G. Winston James and Other Countries
RedBone Press, $25
Other Countries was founded 20 years ago as a collective committed to black gay male writers and writing, back when a mere handful of emerging African-American voices could be found on gay bookstore shelves. This hefty collection of more than 100 contributions from more than 60 writers expands on Other Countriesâ original focus on men to include essays, short stories, poems, interviews, and play excerpts from lesbians as well as bisexual and transgender writers. The result is a rich and hefty reader, and a generous testament to black literary accomplishment. Established authors like Jewelle Gomez, Marvin K. White, Cheryl Clarke, Reginald Shepherd, Letta Neely, and Samuel R. Delany stand outâbut dozens of younger, newer voices also âriseâ in this historic anthology, so many so good that singling out even a few would do a disservice to the rest. Voices Rising is a hymn to the power of words to build community, express emotion, realize dreams, and explore the complexities of identity.
By Mark Doty
Got a dog in your life? Get ready, as you read, to grin with recognition and to weep in sympathy. Dogs Arden and Beau were minor characters in Heavenâs Coast, Dotyâs elegant memoir about the AIDS death of his lover Wally more than a decade ago. This equally elegiac remembrance is all about the pooches. Memories of romps in the woods and runs on the beach, celebrating the joyous physicality of a beloved pet, are rendered with tender amusement; those moments when a dogâs eyes reflect a manâs soul, expressing the intricate mystery of how dog and man meet in the world, are analyzed with poetic emotion. Thereâs no end of books about the role dogs play in our lives, about their ever-present unconditional love and their ineffable connection to our moods; Doty breaks no new ground in this joyous, heartbreaking celebration of the bond between man and mutt. The triumph of Dog Years is how Doty illuminates the livesâ-and the deathsâ-of his dogs with a lyrical and philosophical intensity that is warmly compassionate.
By Gerri Hill
Bella Books, $13.95
The formula for your typical Bella Books romanceâin this case, a romance-adventure mixâdoesnât change much from book to book: two lesbians who donât want to fall in love do, after many misunderstandings. What sets Hillâs fiction apart from that formula is the quality of her plots and her prose. The lesbians destined for love in this well-crafted novel are womenâs-self-help guru Sara, estranged daughter of a virulently homophobic presidential candidate, and Colorado homicide detective Jessica, assigned by mysterious federal agents to shadow Sara on a two-week mountain hike. Their inevitable romance evolves from prickly to passionate around evening campfires, and the adventure kicks in when a sniper hired by equally mysterious meanies starts picking off women on the hike. The race to safe haven that follows is brisk and thrilling, and Hillâs account of how the mystery of both the shadowy federal agents and the thuggish killers unravels is nicely unpredictable. The Target isnât literary art, but it hits the entertainment spot. .
Androphilia: A Manifesto Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity
By Jack Malebranche
Scapegoat Publishing, $12.95
Itâs guaranteed that anyone reading this review of Androphilia in a gay community newspaper will despise the book. The authorâs thesis, after all, is that there really ought not be anything like a âgay community,â and if there is, he wants no part of it. Nope. Heâs a masculine fellow, a manâs man who just happens to sleep with other men. So itâs tempting to write this screed off with a gay-icon quote (heâs not fond of gay adoration of divas, by the way) from, say, Bette Davis, something like, âBut ya are, Blanche.â But thatâs too simplistic a response to what is in fact a heartfelt argument that âthe gay identityâ is too sissy, too socialist, and way too libertine for this man-loving man. Thereâs a history of queer intellectuals insisting that theyâre too masculine to represent perceived gay stereotypes: Andrew Sullivan, Bruce Bawer, and Daniel Harris come to mind. Malebrancheâs manifesto is an extreme manifestation of their kind of stereo-phobia. Letâs just hate the book, acknowledge the authorâs personal honesty and articulate passion, and leave it at that.
Talking to the Moon
By Noel Alumit
Carroll & Graf, $14.95
Alumitâs impressive fiction debut, Letters to Montgomery Clift, was a distinctly queer coming-out novel filtered through a young American-Filipinoâs perspective. Talking to the Moon artfully flips the emphasis: though one of the central characters is a gay man, this book is more about Filipino experience in the United Statesâparticularly that of mailman Jory, shot by a crazed bigot, and his wife Belen, a weary nurse. Atmospheric flashbacks describe their earlier years in the Philippines, where she was an upper-class debutante and he was a poor-born seminarian, class differences that appalled Belenâs parents. Thirty years later, the couple has built a life in Los Angeles, though they mourn the accidental death of their first son and are bewildered by the gay life of their second son, Emerson, who too easily bottles up his emotions. A tidy subplot focuses on Emersonâs on-again, off-again romance with a Taiwanese flight attendant, but the heart of this sophomore success lies in its examination of how a quiet family copes with the sensational aftermath of a racially motivated shooting.Â
The Grave Tattoo
By Val McDermid
St. Martinâs Minotaur, $24
Did Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian return secretly to England from his South Seas exile on Pitcairn Island, where history says he died? Did the poet William Wordsworth tell Christianâs tale in a long-lost manuscript worth millionsâan incentive for murder? These are the questions confronting Wordsworth scholar Jane Gresham after torrential rains unearth a desiccated bodyâwith tattoos on its butt traceable to Christianâfrom the bogs of the Lake District, where she grew up. There are oodles of mesmerizing subplots and scads of complex characters in this stand-alone novel (a departure from her several series, one of which features lesbian journalist Lindsay Gordon). One of the gay characters turns out to be the storyâs venal villainâa nice touch; gays donât always have to be the good guys in queer fiction. Though thereâs a 200-year-old mystery at the center of this ambitious novel, and much blood is spilled, d, The Grave Tattoo is an audacious departure from an author best known for those earlier lesbian-detective tales and, more recently, for complex psychological thrillers.
All: A James Broughton Reader
Edited by Jack Foley
White Crane Books, $18
James Broughton was a poet, filmmaker, and all-around faerie for whom effervescent joy was a way of life. More than a gay artist, he âmade art gaily,â as this marvelous potpourri of excerpts from his journals and reprints of his poetry attests. One chapter assesses several of his many short avant-garde films, the first of which he made in the 1940s, the last of which he made in the â70s and â80s together with Joel Singerâthe man he married in 1976, way before gay marriage was in the news. Editor Foley contributes a lengthy interview with Broughton, conducted in 1997, two years before the poetâs death at age 86. But the real spirit of this collection springs from the poems, which infuse whimsy with a spirited wisdom thatâs always playful, often intense. Broughton published more than 20 collections of verse in his lifetime; this rich sampler, smartly compiled with a caring touch, is a delicious introduction to the words of a shaman whose life, as much as his art, celebrated the necessityâand the funâof love. e.
The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein
By John Lauritsen
Pagan Press, $16.95
According to this exercise in enthusiastic scholarship, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley didnât write Frankenstein. Her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, didâand independent scholar Lauritsen has the footnotes to prove it. The first edition of the gothic classic was published in 1818, ascribed to âAnonymousâ; Maryâs name popped up on a revised second edition, published in 1823, the year after the poetâs death; her presumed authorship was cemented with 1831âs bowdlerized edition, the one most of us have read. Lauritsen can be pedantic at times, but his spirited dissection of the âMary Shelley mythâ is convincing, as is his defense of the novelâs literary virtues. But prime proof for Lauritsen that Mary isnât the author of the iconic novel stems from his well-reasoned assertion that male love is its dominant theme.
Reading âgayâ into the story of a monster and the man who created him isnât much of a stretch, really, and the author of this hobbyhorse study is quite limber about it.
BOOKS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Dykes to Watch Out For cartoonist Alison Bechdel is following up her highly acclaimed graphic memoir, Fun Home, with a second volume, Love Life: A Case Study, coming eventually from Houghton MifflinâBechdel signed a contract for the book, which sheâs working on, earlier this year...
GERTRUDE STEIN and Alice B. Toklas, the legendary lesbian couple whose life stories apparently havenât yet been totally told, are the subject of Janet Malcolmâs Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, from Yale University Press; itâs partly a biography focusing on how they survived during World War II, and partly a psychological reading of Steinâs modernist masterpiece, The Making of Americans... FORMER MTV PRODUCER Terrance Dean plans to be upfrontâsort ofâabout the âdown-lowâ world of closeted rap musicians and other recording and performing personalities types inÂ Hiding in Hip-Hop: Confessions of a Down Low Brother in the Entertainment Industry.
The book wonât specifically name Deanâs closeted industry colleagues and boyfriends, said a spokeswoman for Atria Books, which is publishing the memoir next year. âBut letâs put it this wayâyouâll know who they are,â she teased. âItâs a no-holds-barred look at Hollywood and hip-hop and whoâs living on the down-low.â"
LESBIAN AUTHOR JANE RULE was inducted earlier this year as a member of the Order of Canada, established in 1967 to recognize outstanding Canadian achievement and service; itâs the countryâs highest honor for lifetime achievement. Rule, who emigrated from the United States to Canada in 1956, is author of a dozen books, including the classic Desert of the Heart and Memory Board. âI am often dubious about awards. I think they are often given and withheld for the wrong reason,â the author told Vancouverâs Xtra West. âBut this particular one touches me. Iâve had a wonderfully productive and happy life here,â where âopenly gay people are acknowledged.â Rule will receive her honor later this year in a ceremony presided over by Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean, Queen Elizabeth IIâs representative in Canada, along with another of the 89 recipients, lesbian musician Connie Kaldor. Rule was also a recipient in January of this yearâs Alice B. Medal, awarded to outstanding writers of lesbian fiction, along with Alison Bechdel, Gerri Hill, Lori L. Lake, Lee Lynch, and Marijane Meaker.
Richard Labonte has been reading, editing, selling, and writing about queer literature since the mid-â70s.