Her Life

The past year has given us a number of excellent LGBT stories, especially from the L and the T. From graphic novels to memoirs to teen fiction, check out one of these incredible stories. You won't be able to put it down.

Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel - Bechdel's amazing 2006 graphic novel, Fun Home, told the story of her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up with him. Are You My Mother gives the same treatment to her other parent. With references to Virginia Woolf and various psychotherapists, Bechdel's recollections are as literary and allusive as they are fascinating.

Pariah - Alike is a 17-year-old living in Brooklyn with her mom, dad, and sister. She is starting to embrace her identity as a lesbian, but this causes tension between her mother and father who differ in their attitudes toward their daughter. Alike's home life and her friends constitute two different worlds, and her struggle to reconcile the two is heartfelt and compelling. This critically acclaimed film currently boasts a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson - Winterson recounts the story of her early life, growing up with a fanatical mother obsessed with hell and damnation, not unlike the mother character in Carrie. She tells of finding shelter in her local library, discovering poetry and the world of words, and eventually becoming an author herself. This book is a fascinating autobiography of a leading lesbian author. Don't miss it.

Albert Nobbs - The titular character, played by Glenn Close, lives in 19th century Ireland, a time and place unwelcoming of independent women. Nobbs is living the life of a man, working as a butler in an upper class hotel. Nobbs maintains an introverted personality in order to prevent any discovery of the nature of her gender, but when other employees of the hotel get too close, her carefully constructed walls are compromised.

The Difference Between You and Me, by Madeleine George - Two very different high-school girls, Jesse, a politically active outsider, and Emily, a popular girl on the student's council, have been having clandestine meetings in the third-floor library bathroom to kiss. The"opposites attract" formula is put to the test when the two find themselves on opposing sides of a battle about a megastore threatening to crowd out local businesses. This is smart, thoughtful writing that will entertain, but also make teens (and adults) think.

Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch - Fans of Tina Fey's Bossypants will be tempted to assume the two comedian-penned memoirs are similar, but Lynch's book is less jokey and more personal. She tells it all, from her teenage alcohol abuse to her success as a popular actress. Jane Lynch has led an amazing life, and I'm happy she put it all down on paper for our enjoyment.

LGBT Chorus: Confessions on a Choir Stage

January 20 and 21, 8 pm, Towsley Auditorium, Washtenaw Community College

Join the Out Loud Chorus for a retrospective of their favorites. Out Loud is Washtenaw County's original LGBT chorus. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, $5 for students, and free for the unemployed. Director Dan Gerics leads the chorus.

Comfort & Joy

British journalist India Knight's semi-biographical novel Comfort and Joy (2011) is "clearly warm-hearted holiday fun".

Christmas is the most important holiday for Clara Dunphy (a follow-up to My Life on a Plate, 2000). She demands nothing short of "perfect" for her family and friends, never mind family these days means 2 ex-husbands, 3 children, sisters, parents, in-laws, out-laws and sundry hangers-on. So on a frantic and rainy Dec. 23, after fighting the crowds on Oxford Street, a giant cocktail in the swanky hotel bar sounds like just the reward she deserves before heading home to a houseful of guests. But then a handsome stranger asks her to stay for another drink. Oh well, all good intentions...

As we follows Clara, "a witty, blackly funny everywoman" through three successive Christmases, we witness changing roles and shifting family dynamics. Well-paced dialogue and amusing and insightful anecdotes captures the spirit of the season while giving us a glimpse into one modern family's struggle with children, marital turmoil, and materialism.

In Kristin Hannah's Comfort & Joy (2005), recently divorced and having no family of her own, Joy Candellaro is beginning to dream of a new life with widower Daniel O'Shea and his son, Bobby, until a fateful Christmas Eve forces her to make a painful choice. A modern-day fairy tale of a woman who gets a miraculous chance at happiness.

I first read Jim Grimsley's memorable and moving Comfort & Joy in 1999. It is still one my favorite to revisit at Christmas time.

Ford McKinney is a devastatingly handsome, successful doctor, raised in an old Savannah family among good breeding and money. His longtime boyfriend, Dan Crell, is a shy hospital administrator with a painful childhood past. When the holidays arrive, they decide it's time to go home together. But the depth of their commitment is tested when Ford's parents cannot reconcile themselves to their son's choices. "Grimsley triumphs in (this) novel in which two unlikely lovers must reconcile what is expected of them with what they know in their hearts is right."

Wishing you comfort and joy this holiday season...

2012 Rainbow Project Book Nominations

The Rainbow Project presents an annual bibliography of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age. The list is created each year by the GLBT Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the ALA. Check out the Rainbow Project’s website for a full list of the 2012 nominations. For a list of the nominated books held by AADL, click here.

Donovan’s Big Day: A beautifully illustrated picture book about a young boy and his determination to do everything just right on his parents’ wedding day.

Huntress: Prequel to the critically acclaimed Ash. Two teenage girls, a warrior and a sage, undertake a dangerous journey to the city of the Fairy Queen to save their world from destruction.

Gay in America: A photographic survey of gay men of all walks of life from across the country.

I am J: One of the best books ever written about the complicated life and relationships of a transgender teen.

My Right Self: Color Portraiture and Documentary Photography Exploring Issues of Gender and Identity

My Right Self will be on display at the Michigan Union from November 14 - 20 and at the Hatcher Graduate Library December 2 - January 2. The exhibit reveals transgender issues and rights that are particularly relevant to contemporary questions of social justice and human rights. These images and accompanying text are meant to confront and dispel myths and misperceptions around marginalized and disenfranchised communities. For more information please contact thl-outreach@umich.edu.

AADL Talks To Jim Toy and Jackie Simpson

November 18 marks the 40th anniversary of the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center, making it the oldest LGBT student organization in the country. I spoke with Jackie Simpson, the director of the Spectrum Center, and Jim Toy, one of the two people who founded the organization in 1971. Jackie and Jim talked about the beginning of the organization, its history and ongoing development, and the challenges and joys of the center today. Make sure to visit the Spectrum Center’s website to check out all the great events planned for the anniversary weekend!

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Coming Out, Standing Up

Expertly turned phrases and pithy remarks have long been the sword and shield of LGBT people making their way through life. Look no further than Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, the patron saints of savage wit and wisdom. Today is National Coming Out Day, when we are encouraged to celebrate being out and open about ourselves. Nobody does this as well as the wielders of words, the Valkyries of verbosity, the champions of chortling, the legends of laughter. I’m talking of course, about gay and lesbian comedians, people who make a business of opening their lives up to other people and encouraging laughter.

The diversity of LGBT folks is reflected in the wide variety of comedic performers. You couldn’t get much more opposite than the prim and proper English archetype Stephen Fry and the extremely raunchy John Waters.
Matt Lucas is a sketch comedian most famous for his series Little Britain.
Margaret Cho is most well known for her hilarious stand-up routines, but she also has a hand in fashion design, music videos, and social activism.
Wanda Sykes, named one of the 25 funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly, has been doing comedy in television and films as well as on-stage for the past two decades.
Oh, and then there’s this comedian named Ellen. Maybe you’ve heard of her?

Just Because I Am

Join us Monday October 3rd from 7:00-8:30 PM to see this moving documentary. The film follows a group of LGBT Windsor teens and young adults for a six-month period as they prepare their performance of Waking Up Blue, an original play that shares many of their own true experiences. The film takes the viewer through the journey of this youth group, led by an enthusiastic mentor, who gives a response to homophobia by creating a performance on love, respect and tolerance. While experiencing the transformative energy of art and the empowering effects of self-affirmation, these youngsters also face aggravating homophobic reactions unleashed by their collective coming out in this traditionally conservative border city. Artists/Filmmakers Gabrielle Pescador and Juan Javier Pescador will be on hand to lead a discussion following the screening of their 60-minute film. "Just Because I Am" is not rated.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #286

Back in June, Nancy Pearl raved about Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding *. She read a preview copy and was doing some heavy-duty hand-selling. This week, NPR gave it a glowing review.

Henry Skrimshander, the star pitcher of Westish College's Harpooners is on the brink of greatness, destined for big league stardom, rising above his small-town roots. However, an errand pitch goes disastrously off course, making havoc with the lives of 5 individuals.

Henry's confidence is deserting him, his bright future is in jeopardy. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate, is caught up in a dangerous affair. The college president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, is home licking her wounds from a failed marriage, looking for a fresh start. Mike Schwartz, Henry's best friend and team captain, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own.

"Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment--to oneself and to others."

"Harbach paints a humorous and resonant portrait of a small college community while effectively portraying the Wisconsin landscape and a lake that provides an almost mystical source of solace and renewal."

A big-hearted and defiantly old-fashioned coming-of-age story in the tradition of Chaim Potok's The Chosen, John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and Scott Lasser's Battle Creek.

Harbach, a native of Wisconsin (Harvard and University of Virgina) is the cofounder of literary journal n + 1. This is his debut novel.

* = Starred review

Dan Savage Loves Libraries

“I want to emphasize the subversiveness that I think you librarians have by providing access to this information.” Dan Savage, author of several books and creator of the Savage Love column and podcast, spoke at the annual ALA conference in New Orleans last Friday. Savage praised libraries for providing critical access to information and resources for all people, even (and especially) when that information is controversial. He recalled his own days as a teenager when he would go to the Chicago Public Library to find answers to the questions he had about his developing sexuality. Savage stated that libraries are often the only resource troubled kids have to look for the answers to questions that they don’t trust their parents or peers with.

Access to information is a very personal subject to Dan Savage, who created the It Gets Better Project, an internet-based project with the goal of reaching out to depressed and suicidal LGBT youth. The project was designed to reach isolated young people who are dealing with bullying, abuse, hostile parents, or oppressive communities, all because of their (real or perceived) sexual identities. Thousands of grown-up LGBT people, celebrities, and organizations have contributed supportive videos to the project, all with the message that life is going to get better for these kids. Savage has also released a collection of essays in a book, It Gets Better, with contributing authors such as David Sedaris, Tim Gunn, Ellen Degeneres, Suze Orman, President Barack Obama, and tons more. Check out the book or BOCD at AADL, or visit the It Gets Better Project’s website at www.itgetsbetter.org.

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