I have heard rumors, lately, of a poet once of the City of New York named Ahron Grinsberg, no wait, that’s my building manager, let’s see, yes, here: Allen Ginsberg. He seemed to have had a faint few followers when he resided in the formerly seedy East Village.
‘Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality’ by John Schwartz
New York Times journalist John Schwartz’ book Oddly Normal (Gotham Books) is about two straight parents’ efforts to help their son as he deals with a complex of problems related to sexuality and developmental difficulties. At a very young age, Joseph is identified by his parents as gay, but the drama in the book comes from psychological and social difficulties that keep Joseph bouncing around from therapist to therapist and in constant conflict with the school system in the New Jersey town where his family lives. Joseph’s problems become more complicated as he attempts to deal with them on his own, even as he attempts to come out at school, eventually resulting in a suicide attempt and a new openness with his family. (more…)
Beth Ditto’s memoir is PUNK, which, after learning about her through the pages of this book, I think is probably what she would see as the best possible compliment about her work. For those not familiar with Beth Ditto, she’s the lead singer of The Gossip, a Riot Grrrl band that first came into existence in Olympia and has since taken on the world, literally. Although still somewhat underground in the States (though that’s changing), the band has been at the top of the charts in Europe. I first became familiar with Ditto when I was a crusty punk kid in Portland back when the band was truly underground. I had my first threesome after a Gossip show, and when she appeared in “On Our Backs” everyone I know bought up all the issues – used them as our punk house versions of coffee table books, and we hung them on our bedroom walls. (more…)
One can’t really review a diary. The diarist has no control, try as hard as he might, over the narrative arc of his life. One evening might be full of glamorous people and fascinating drama, the following week may be dull and dreary. Words and emotions are deliberately rough and unedited. The best a reviewer can do is point out some of the more notable or juicy passages, so that readers, who may not have the time to read a 688-page-long final installment of a three-volume collection of diaries (with a glossary that runs 135 pages), can get something out of its publication. (more…)
Renaissance queer “credible” Sarah Schulman’s new memoir Israel/Palestine and the Queer International (Duke University Press) is part manual, part testament on how to learn from one’s ignorance. As the late, great lesbian literary critic Barbara Johnson explains,
An association between artistic creativity and mental illness is something many of us take for granted without questioning which came first or why the two should be linked. In her new graphic memoir, cartoonist Ellen Forney tackles that question in light of its impact on her work as an artist with Bipolar I Disorder. Her personal story is both funny and touching, but the research Forney did while trying to understand her own condition gives Marbles usefulness beyond the human sharing common to memoir. (more…)
Will Schwalbe has accomplished something incredible with The End of Your Life Book Club. He’s created a touching memoir that simultaneously provides an accounting of a bittersweet period of his life and celebrates the life-long good works of his amazing mother. (more…)
The worst thing about Cheryl Burke’s memoir My Awesome Place (Topside Press) is that it ends. I put off reading my copy for as long as possible, knowing that once I cracked the cover open and started reading, I’d be that much closer to finishing it. Cheryl Burke was a staple of the electric queer literary and performance art scene of the 90s, that pulsing circus of creativity and queerness and love and expression that we can only dream of today. During that period you could find Burke organizing badass poetry tours, tearing it up at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and appearing in countless anthologies over the years. At thirty-seven, when diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Burke high-fived a writer friend and remarked, “All I know is that I’m getting a damn book deal out of this.” Less than a year later she was dead, not because of the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but in an outrageous twist, from complications with her chemotherapy that medical professionals dismissed until it was too late. (more…)
Dreaming in French (University of Chicago Press) is a fascinating triple biography examining the effects of study abroad on three very different women. In a little over a decade, between 1949 and 1963, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis studied abroad in France. This unexpected combination of women, together in a single book, makes for an engaging read and a notable one for LGBTQ readers.
In his introduction to My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man’s Odyssey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Greek scholar Charles Rowan Beye tells the reader, “This is a personal memoir, but much of what I describe is commonplace experience for homosexual men.” Indeed, the odyssey we take with Beye echoes many gay lives chronicled over the past few decades. There aren’t many gay men born before 1960 who would disagree with Beye’s simple and piercing observation that being gay in his youth “brought a lot of misery.” But if Beye’s story rings true, it also reminds us that when we lump our stories together under the mantle of “gay memoir,” we do ourselves and our work a disservice. Beye’s story is his own story, even as it touches us in its familiarity. (more…)