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.

Every Color of the Rainbow

Rainbow peopleRainbow peopleAh, the month of June! The days are long, summer is in the air, and people across the country and around the world are celebrating LGBT pride! For those of us sporting rainbow flags, it’s important to remember what they symbolize; diversity and inclusion.

It’s no secret that the most highly represented color in the rainbow is white. White privilege and the invisibility of other ethnicities in the LGBT community has been a constant problem ever since there was an LGBT community to speak of. Marlon Riggs was one of the first to confront the position of gay African-American men in his 1989 film, Tongues Untied. Fifteen years later, Dwight A. McBride released a collection of essays on race and sexuality called, Why I hate Abercrombie & Fitch, demonstrating that not much has changed. An assortment of recent articles, online essays, and blog postings has been compiled to show the current state of affairs, including the experience of LGBT Asian-Americans.

Many of the wisest and brightest minds to write about the intersections of race and sexuality come from the school of black feminism. Authors such as Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Barbara Smith, and many others have been fighting and educating for equality for years.
For additional reading, check out these titles: Dangerous Liaisons, The Truth That Never Hurts, One More River to Cross.

Let’s make this June a time to recognize the inequalities that exist, take a step away from our own habits, and look around at all the people who have different features, different cultures, and different stories than our own. We’ll all benefit!

Rainbow Picnic!

The whole family is invited to the Washtenaw Pride Picnic, 1-5 pm on Saturday, June 25 at Olson Park, 1505 Dhu Varren Rd, Ann Arbor. You bring your own food and beverages (no hard liquor) and fun stuff like a DJ, lawn games, face painting and relay races will be provided. More information can be found at the Facebook event page by searching for “Washtenaw Pride Picnic.” If you would like to volunteer, contact Scott Klee at scoklee@gmail.com. Everyone under the rainbow is welcome!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #252 - Fathers Found and Lost

Former Joffrey II ballet dancer Meg Howrey impresses reviewers with her debut Blind Sight.

Earnestly nice and innocent 17 year-old Luke Prescott grew up in a bohemian household surrounded by women. Then the father (a TV star) he never knew invites him to spend a summer in L.A. The two share some adventures but Luke finds out just a little more than he wants to know about this stranger, which in turn forces his mother to revealing some shattering secrets of her own.

Meg Howrey gives us "a smart, funny, and deeply moving story about truth versus belief, and what makes, and might break, a family".

Cate Kennedy won the 2010 New South Wales Premier's People's Choice (Literary) Award with her debut novel The World Beneath * *.

15-year-old Sophie accompanies her father on a backpacking trip through Tasmania in the hopes of establishing a bond with the father she’s never known. 25 years ago, her now estranged parents were part of the successful protest movement to save Tasmania's Franklin River. Sophie - sullen and stubborn, and Rich - hopelessly overconfident, soon find themselves severely unprepared for the arduous terrain and punishing weather.

"In elegant, fluidly written prose, Kennedy not only delivers scathing portraits of the ineffectual adults and the times that shaped them but also makes the epic wilderness another vividly rendered character in the story. A gripping debut."

* * = Starred reviews

Tales of the City

An incredibly colorful cast of characters and a funny, witty, irreverent style has made the Tales of the City series a modern classic. First published in serial form in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1972, Armistead Maupin’s outrageous stories of love and lust in the City by the Bay have been charming readers for more than 30 years.

In Mary Ann in Autumn, the eighth book of the series, Mary Ann Singleton returns to San Francisco, the site of all her youthful indiscretions. She moves in with her old friend Michael and his husband, and begins to confront the consequences of her past. Fans of the series will be happy to see most of the old favorites from 28 Barbary Lane, like Mrs. Madrigal and Mouse. Added to the mix are Shawna, a sex blogger, and her boyfriend Otto, a professional clown. Maupin is back to his sassy best with this novel. I just hope we don’t have to wait another decade for the next one.

Author Birthdays: Sackville-West, Spillane, Tharoor

March 9th marks the birthday of authors Vita Sackville-West, Mickey Spillane, and Shashi Tharoor.

Vita Sackville-West was an English writer and aristocrat who won the British Hawthornden Prize twice. Born to a Baron, she had lived in the famous Sissinghurst Castle during her lifetime. Among her most well-known books are The Edwardians, which is about two aristocratic siblings in the early 20th century, and All Passion Spent, about an octogenarian woman who spurns the Victorian ideals.

Sackville-West, a bisexual, was lovers with fellow authors Violet Trefusis and Virginia Woolf; some of her letters to Woolf have been compiled into a book, and a book on Trefusis also contains correspondence between lovers.

Mickey Spillane was an American crime novelist, best known for his detective character Mike Hammer. Spillane was also into film; his novel Kiss Me Deadly was made into a movie, and the author himself actually played a detective in Ring of Fear.

Spillane's work in the hardboiled fiction genre is a bit different than many others. A writer for the Washington Post said in 2001 that "Spillane never really wrote sex scenes; he wrote about sexuality in a way that was unapologetically sensual and often seemed more provocative than the act itself". A good example is his first novel, I, the Jury.

Shashi Tharoor is an Indian writer and advocate, as well as a member of Indian Parliament and former Under-Secretary General of the UN. He has written both fiction and non-fiction, and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in 1991. His novels include the award-winning The Great Indian Novel, and Show Business, called by Booklist "an animated and deliciously satirical critique of the Bombay film industry".

Among Tharoor's non-fiction works are The Elephant, The Tiger, And The Cell Phone: Reflections On India, The Emerging 21st-century Power, which discusses India's highs and lows, and Bookless In Baghdad: Reflections On Writing And Writers, a collection of essays which Library Journal described as resonating "with readers of any nationality, helping them understand the global purpose of literature, feel the inherent responsibility, and hear a call to action".

The Future of Gender

Futuristic Man 2Futuristic Man 2 What would the world be like if 90% of its population was gay instead of straight? How would an all-female society interact with mixed gender societies? What would aliens think about human sexuality if they could study us? Science Fiction has always been used as a tool to observe how we live and interact as people. The following books explore the weird, wide world of gender and sexuality, and what odd permutations of the human equation we may have to look forward to in the future.

Herland – Three men exploring what was thought to be wilderness discover an advanced society made up entirely of women.

The Forever War – A time-travelling soldier witnesses humanity’s evolution away from heterosexuality and towards a more peaceful clone-based society.

Woman on the Edge of Time – One woman realizes that her actions will determine whether the future is a utopia of equality and community, or a nightmare of sexism, classism, exploitation and poverty.

China Mountain Zhang – Award winning novel about the growth and changes in one man’s life, mirrored by the changes in a future where China is the world’s foremost superpower.

The Wanting Seed – War, cannibalism, persecution of heterosexuals. This is the solution to world overpopulation, apparently. Needless to say, this book is controversial.

Hero – The gay son of a former superhero finds himself forced to use his own superpowers to protect the same society that persecutes him.

Trouble and her Friends – Fans of Neal Stephenson should check this out. Think cyberpunk with a butt-kicking lesbian protagonist.

Author Birthdays: Buchan, Isherwood

August 26th marks the birthday of authors John Buchan and Christopher Isherwood.

John Buchan was a Scottish novelist and Governor General of Canada. He wrote mainly adventure fiction, five books of which contain the manly and MacGyver-like character Richard Hannay. Three other stories by Buchan feature the middle-aged reluctant hero Dickson McCunn, whose adventures start in the book Huntingtower.

Baron Buchan also wrote historical fiction, like the mystery Witch Wood, which features romance and religion in 17th century Scotland, and even a novel about a terminally ill man, his death and redemption, called Sick Heart River.

Christopher Isherwood was an English-born American author. One of his novels, Mr. Norris Changes Trains, was inspired by his life as an expatriate in Berlin in the 1930s. The main characters include the narrator, William Bradshaw, and the masochistic Arthur Norris.

Another of Isherwood's novels is A Single Man, which centers on a middle-aged gay Englishman and his recent partner's loss, which he must learn to cope with. It was recently made into a film by Tom Ford, and it stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

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