August 22, 2014

‘The River’s Memory’ by Sandra Gail Lambert

Posted on August 20, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Not long ago, on a trip to Miami, I sat in the Charlotte airport waiting for my connecting flight, thinking about the art and literature of Florida. As a reasonably well-read and cultured New Englander, all that came to mind were Carl Hiaasen, Karen Russell, Art Deco, and the Indigo Girls’ song, “Salty South.” I’m fascinated by the unique art each geographical location in the US produces. For one country, our regions are so distinct, so unto themselves, and while strip malls and box stores do their insidious homogenizing work, I continue to seek out the ideas, expressions, geology, landscapes, flora and fauna that define a region. Reading Sandra Gail Lambert’s remarkable debut novel, The River’s Memory, I’ve found another name to add to my Florida list. (more…)

‘He Mele A Hilo: A Hilo Song’ by Ryka Aoki

Posted on August 12, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Nona Watanabe makes her humble chicken dish so well it might just be a divine calling, but her outfits and skin are never quite the “right” colors for her to feel like she belongs. Her boyfriend Harry can fish and never return empty-handed nor unsatisfied with his simple life, but he can’t shake the memories of his long-dead wife in order to fully embrace his second chance at love. Steve Yates is the richest man on Earth and has just bought a gorgeous stretch of Hilo coastline, but his money can’t purchase the one thing he wants most: his wife’s health. Kam Schulman, haole that he is, moved to Hilo after Hawaii’s music called to him, but he can’t be sure his new bandmates acceptance isn’t provisional. And Noelani Choi is the most naturally gifted hula dancer on the island, but her desire for meaning has drawn her away from the dance and towards an alienating obsession with Jesus. (more…)

‘Wilde Stories 2014: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction’ Edited by Steve Berman

Posted on August 11, 2014 by in Fiction, Speculative

Begun in 2008, the annual series Wilde Stories has striven to provide the best in gay speculative fiction (much as its companion series Heiresses of Russ strives to do for lesbian speculative fiction). The latest installment in this series contains fourteen selections published during the calendar year 2013, which first appeared in other anthologies, literary magazines, and three first appeared online (two at Both female and male writers are represented. In his introduction, Berman notes that this installment happens to contain only writers who have never been published in this series before: a sign that perhaps the field of gay speculative fiction is expanding. Berman certainly has an expansive definition for speculative fiction:  four are outright horror, several more blur the line between horror and dark fantasy, most seem set in some version of our world (two are clearly set on another world), one is a historical fantasy, and one is steampunk. Several of the stories defy easy classification, straddling different sub-genres, and a couple do not even strike me as obvious speculative fiction. (more…)

‘All I Love and Know’ by Judith Frank

Posted on August 10, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Relationships can be a source of strength and a solace. Matt learned that when he gave up his druggy friends in New York for the older Daniel in Northampton, Massachusetts. But tragedy tests couples, regardless of how established they are. The death of Daniel’s twin brother and his wife in a café bombing in Jerusalem was devastating. But after gaining custody of their two young children, Matt and Daniel have no choice but to carry on. Judith Frank’s All I Love And Know is a quick-witted and moving novel that acutely explores the ways in which families mourn, the toll death takes on relationships and the resilience that allows people to survive–all against the backdrop of a uniquely tempered portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (more…)

‘Let Me See It’ by James Magruder

Posted on August 5, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

James Magruder’s Let Me See It  (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press) is a collection often interlocking stories that follow the lives of Elliott Biddler and Tom Amelio, first cousins who grow up separately in places like Kansas City and Chicago and find each other as they come of age as gay men in the 1980s. Much of the poignant beauty of Magruder’s book hinges on the very different ways the two young men confront their sexuality and the crises and consequences that await them in adulthood. (more…)

‘Looking After Joey’ by David Pratt

Posted on August 2, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Calvin, an aging gay man who ticks the minutes of the evening down anticipating the porn he will watch when he returns home, is about to get a surprise. For one, he’s about to get sucked (pun intended) into the world of gay porn. Not the adult industry, but into actual porn-land, where every man’s girlfriend is away for the weekend (and they’re just horny, and have needs, you know?), the pizza delivery guy never has change but can always work something out, and every body is perfectly sculpted. ThinkPleasantville, but with more lube and moaning. (more…)

‘A Safe Girl to Love’ by Casey Plett

Posted on July 20, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Relationships, friendships, fleeting acquaintanceships, sexual encounters–throughout Casey Plett’s debut short story collection, A Safe Girl to Love, none end in a way that’s neat or satisfying. Shards of them–of the tiniest moment of letdown, words unsaid, a fumbled revelation–become lodged deep in the protagonist until they work themselves up to the surface again, often coming out sideways. The pain and the lessons cycle through heartache, awareness, perhaps something resembling peace, until the next encounter that sets off the balance again. Stumbling towards love–from others, from the self–is a messy affair for the twenty-something not-children yet not-quite-adults of Plett’s worlds. (more…)

‘The Walk-in Closet’ by Abdi Nazemian

Posted on July 20, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Kara Walker—the protagonist of Abdi Nazemian’s first novel The Walk-in Closet—is ready for a new life. And she’s not exactly picky. On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, still reeling from an old break-up and stuck in a dead-end Hollywood job, Kara is ready to make some compromises if it means she’ll experience something close enough to happiness. But close enough, we learn, is intolerably far from the real thing. (more…)

‘O, Africa!’ by Andrew Lewis Conn

Posted on July 14, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

There are many ways in which Andrew Lewis Conn’s new novel could have gone wrong. Mixing fact and fiction; combining silent filmmakers with Harlem gangsters, and Jewish Americans with ‘Darkest Africa’; and featuring both straight and gay interracial romances, Conn is walking a very fine line with this book. That he manages to pull it off and O, Africa! works so effectively—being by turns amusing and haunting, serious and sly but ultimately moving—is quite a triumph for its author. (more…)

‘Haffling’ by Caleb James

Posted on July 8, 2014 by in Fiction, Young Adult

Sixteen-year-old Alex Nevus lives in the East Village with his family, attends Stuyvesant High School, and generally tries to keep his world from falling apart. Admirably, he has succeeded in doing so—until the morning his schizophrenic mother goes AWOL and misses her annual redetermination review with the Department of Social Services; unless he can find her, and convince the review board that she is at least minimally functional, both he and his younger sister Alice will be taken from her custody and placed back into foster care. Using the GPS on his cell phone, he tracks her to Fort Tyson, in the northernmost remote corner of Manhattan—and finds himself in another place altogether. And then Alex’s life really implodes. (more…)