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.

Made in God's Image

Rainbow DoveRainbow Dove For Christians today there are few issues more divisive than that of LGBT people in the church. There are hundreds of books dealing with the intersection of homosexuality and Christianity. They all ask the same question: Is same-sex intimacy a defiance of God's will as given through the scriptures, or has a misreading of the scriptures led to a proscription of an aspect of our God-given sexuality? Many, many Christians have turned to reparative (conversion) therapy programs to change the homosexual impulses which they feel are unnatural into heterosexual impulses. These ex-gay ministries have been widely decried by almost all psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors, even the Christian ones, but for those who believe that they have no choice but to change, they offer a glimmer of hope. Do you know anyone who is struggling to reconcile their faith and their sexuality? Here are some items that will give you food for thought.

Stranger at the Gate - Written by Mel White, this book is a must-read. It was recommended to me by a counselor at my alma-mater, a nearby well-known Christian college.
For the Bible Tells Me So - A thoughtful documentary of several Christian families with gay family members. I liked how they showed parents of gay children at several different levels of acceptance.
Save Me - A beautiful movie about a man forced to attend a conversion therapy home, the woman who runs it, and each of their searches for hope and love.
Desires In Conflict - This book by Joe Dallas, the founder of Genesis Counseling, has been used and cited by conversion therapy proponents since its publication in the early '90s.
Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible - Lesbian pastor Nancy Wilson uses humorous anecdotes and biblical exegesis to deconstruct the "texts of terror" used as the basis of anti-homosexual Christian beliefs.

Stories of Christopher Isherwood

I had never heard of English-American author Christopher Isherwood until the opening of the recent film A Single Man, adapted from Isherwood’s novel. Christopher Isherwood tended to write stories that were at least partially autobiographical. For example, he and George, the main character of A Single Man (played by Colin Firth in an Oscar-worthy performance), were both Englishmen who emigrated to southern California and taught English literature at a large university. George also reflects Isherwood in terms of his mate. Each of them had a long-term relationship with a much younger man. Isherwood’s novel The Memorial was influenced by his own family history, specifically with his mother. His young life in Berlin was mirrored in The Berlin Stories, a pair of novels which became the basis for the film and musical Cabaret.

If you’re interested in a 100% pure biography, check out Chris and Don: A Love Story. This documentary tells the story of Christopher Isherwood and his longtime partner, Don Bachardy. Despite their large age difference, they lived together for more than 30 years.

A Single Man opens at the Michigan Theater this Friday.

Early December Books to Film

InvictusInvictus

A Clint Eastwood film, Invictus is based on John Carlin's Playing the Enemy : Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation.

Set in post-apartheid South African, Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, a rugby captain entrusted by Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) with bringing socially unifying sporting glory to post-apartheid South African during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (Dec. 11th)

The much anticipated The Lovely Bones is based on Alice Sebold's 2002 mega-hit. Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) plays Susie Salmon, a 14 year-old who has been murdered. As she watches over her family --- and her killer --- from heaven, she must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal. Also starring Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon.

Academy-award Director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), a pre-eminent maker of fantasy and horror films, manages to bring "a kind of dreamy meditation on the fragile boundary between life and death", unexpectedly "soothing and solemn", visually stunning. Can't wait. (Dec. 11th)

A Single Man is based on Christopher Isherwood's novel of the same title. Set in Los Angeles in 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, it is the story of a British college professor who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death of his long time partner. The story is a romantic tale of love interrupted, the isolation that is an inherent part of the human condition, and ultimately the importance of the seemingly smaller moments in life.

Colin Firth gives an award-worthy performance as George Falconer, and the all-grown-up "incandescent" Nicholas Hoult (cherubic in About a Boy) is Kenny - a lithe, graceful, angel of sorts. (Dec. 11th)

Up in the Air is based on Walter Kirn's 2001 novel about Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a corporate downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and after he’s met a fellow frequent-flyer of his dreams. (Dec. 4th)

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