history

Women on Fire: Marie Equi & Mary MacLane

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, two American women challenged social norms and pushed themselves, and the world around them, to their limits. Mary MacLane, hailing from Butte, Montana, bucked convention for a shining moment in the sun, for a chance to live life as fast as she could instead of accepting a life that didn’t fit. Marie Equi always strove for the betterment of working class communities and advocated suffrage for women. She left high school to work in a textile mill, only to return to academia with a vengeance and graduate from medical school.

Both women seemed larger-than-life. And yet, despite the indelible impressions they left on their time and place, Marie and Mary all but disappeared from collective consciousness, even within their own lifetimes. Neither women expected to fade from the history pages they had helped write. Historian Michael Helquist drew from numerous resources to resurrect Equi’s life. Melville House reissued MacLane’s memoir through their Neversink Library (which follows the sentiment that when you have your best books by your side, you’re never alone and never totally bereft).

It’s the last day of Women’s History Month, but, as we all know, women are making history every minute of every day. Learning of LBGTQ2IA women in history is one of my passions and someday I will visit the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City. Also, check out the Gay Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest‘s website. Please share books by or about historical figures in the comment section below. I would love to add to my personal library!

 

Marie Equi was bold, brassy, smart, and driven by her social conscience. Born in 1872 in New Bedford, Massachussets, she grew up in a large, working-class Irish-Italian family. She was never one to let her social or economic circumstances (much less allow society to dictate to her based on her gender) keep her down or accept the status quo. The roller coaster of her life includes forays into homesteading near the Dalles in Oregon; treating San Francisco earthquakes victims in 1906; supporting striking laborers; and providing abortions. Not to mention her relationships with strong, community-minded women. 

Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions by Michael Helquist
Publisher: Oregon State University Press
Released: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-87071-595-2

Check your local public library for availability. I asked mine to purchase it and they did! Join the discussion on Goodreads.

wood floor

Mary MacLane was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on May 1, 1881. Growing up in small Minnesota and Montana towns, she yearned for adventure, unconventional thrills, and helter skelter big city pulsations. She wrote for her school newspaper, as well as kept a diary of her experiences and inner-life. Originally published by Herbert S. Stone & Company in 1902 as “The Story of Mary MacLane” (that title reflects a change from the author’s more fiery, intended title “I Await the Devil’s Coming”, as noted in the book’s 2013 foreword by Jessa Crispin). The memoir was lauded by critics and launched into bestseller status by a voracious public. MacLane’s conversational style and openness about most facets of her life connected with many readers. I can only imagine her Twitter feed and YouTube channel. 

I Await the Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane
Published by Melville House
ISBN: 9781612191959
Publication date: March 2013

Check your local public library for availability. Join the discussion on Goodreads.

Categories: biography, history, lgbt, Memoirs & Autobiographies | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

When We Rise

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Tonight ABC will air the first installment of its new miniseries, When We Rise, starring Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Carrie Preston, and Rachel Griffiths. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black derived partial inspiration for the script from Cleve Jones’ memoir of the same name. The series chronicles LGBT activism during the 1970s and 1980s. It is essential to understand and appreciate where we come from. It is also imperative to raise awareness that there is still much more that all of us can do. I hope that the miniseries does both. The Human Rights Campaign and Glaad are but a couple of the organizations that are working to ensure equal legal rights for LGBT+ persons and encouraging discussion. Click on the images below to learn more about who these organizations are and what they are doing.

hrc-logo  glaad

Since I don’t have a cable subscription, I’ll have to wait a bit until I can watch it (sigh). I was hoping it would be available for purchase à la carte from Amazon, much in the way that I purchase upcoming seasons of The Walking Dead so I can watch episodes the day after they air. In the meantime, I’ll listen to Jones’ memoir on my commute. Every person I read or listen to enriches my understanding of the LGBT+ history. Everyone relays their life through the lens they wear; that being said, I know I can’t count on one book to give me the whole story. I am always in search of more information and I hope you are, too.

When We Rise Book Cover

Cleve Jones’ memoir is a sweeping, profoundly moving account of his life from sexually liberated 1970s San Francisco, through the AIDS crisis and up to his present-day involvement with the marriage equality battle. — summary via NoveList Plus

When We Rise
Cleve Jones
Narrated by Cleve Jones
Produced by Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio
Length: 9 hours, 31 minutes
ISBN-10: 1478942754
ISBN-13: 9781478942757
Released: November 2016

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, Audiobooks, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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Further Readings

If you are a fellow LGBT+ history enthusiast and are interested in learning more about activism, you may also enjoy reading:
*Note: this list focuses on United States’ history.

Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage EqualityThe Gay Revolution: The Story of the StruggleDifferent Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights MovementImage result for fire breathing lesbian avengeraint-gonna-let

Categories: audiobooks, essay, film adaptations, history, lgbt, Memoirs & Autobiographies, nonfiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Inaugural Flowers

Earlier today, as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed (after watching a bunch of Obama and Biden videos on YouTube this morning), I came across a couple posts mentioning how Trump did not have a poet at his *cough* inauguration. Presidents since JFK have invited poets to speak (although none of them have been of the Republican Presidents) at their inaugurations. I’m far from surprised that someone who revels in being a Philistine would not deviate from his party predecessors. 

Poetry is for everyone. Silly, serious, high, low, it speaks to our lives no matter where or who we are. I say 2017 is a year that deserves a flood of poetry. I sprawled on my living room floor this morning, surrounded by wonderful volumes and I felt a little bit better.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), a lauded US poet of the 20th century, would have shone brightly on an any President’s inauguration day. She was a consummate perfectionist, so while I would have loved to hear her read, I can’t imagine her completing (and feeling satisfied with) a new poem in a short period of time. A couple of years ago, I stumbled across Reaching for the Moon, a biopic on her relationship with Lota de Macedo Soares (1910-1967), a Brazilian architect. The film is based on Carmen L. Oliveira’s Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares. An English translation was published by Rutgers University Press in 2002.

Your library may not have it, but ask if they’ll do an ILL (interlibrary loan) for it. You will hopefully be surprised that your library has not only the means, but the badass and coolness to go through with the request. The film is available on Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, and Vudu.

Poems is a collection of Bishop’s previously published poetry. It includes Questions of Travel (1965), dedicated to de Macedo Soares. “Shampoo” (p.82) is one of my favorites because of the transformation (or rather, the revelation) of the ordinary into the extraordinary. Beautiful reminders to slow down.

The shooting stars in your black hair
in bright formation
are flocking where,
so straight, so soon?
—Come, let me wash it in this big tin basin,
battered and shiny like the moon.

You can borrow this book from your local public library, as well as purchase it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your neighborhood bookstore.

Categories: history, lgbt, poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading Resolutions for 2017

 Oh, reading challenges. I love them, and yet, I fare better with the types of reading challenges that quantify, rather than qualify, my choices. For example, Goodreads only asks how many books I plan on finishing between January and December. That’s pretty straightforward, simple, and, in some ways, not that much of a challenge. I can set the bar at 5 books, if I wanted (I would wither away if I was only able to read five books in a year).

My excuses/reasons for failing to cross the finish line of the 2016 PopSugar challenge are many. I’m like that dog in the Pixar movie “Up”; I get distracted by every book that crosses my path. There are certainly not enough hours in the day for work, commuting, and my myriad of interests. I am also unable to read less than ten trillion books at a time. There is currently one book in my glove compartment of my car; an audiobook in my car’s disc drive and on my smartphone; Analog magazine on my phone for endless lines at the grocery store; eBooks on my Nook; and on and on.

I don’t give myself a hard time for not living up to my own reading standards. It’s supposed to be so many other things above and beyond a mere assignment. I will, however, craft mini challenges for myself that highlight voices and genres I haven’t spent much (if any) time with. And then there is the news… So long 2016!

How about you?

Categories: anthology, audiobooks, erotica, essay, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, history, Holiday, horror, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, nonfiction, novella, paranormal, poetry, primary sources, retellings, romance, romantic friendships, short stories, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Eleanor & Hick

Two audiobooks have been released this year about the 30+ year relationship between former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena “Hick” Hickok. The relationship began as a romance and mellowed into a sustaining, supportive friendship.  

Volumes have been written by and about Eleanor and to a more limited extent, you can find writings by and about Hick. Every nook and cranny of Eleanor’s life poured over by historians, journalists, critics, and politicians. Happily, however, these two books contribute to a more complete view of the women behind the personages. I’m miles behind folks, though, since I have only just now got my hot little hands on a copy of Empty Without You, a collection of the letters, annotated by Rodger Streitmatter. I recommend listening to Loving Eleanor and Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady. It isn’t necessary to start with one over the other, though. Enjoy!

 

loving-eleanor

 

 Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert is told with through the framework of a fictional memoir written by Hick and left with the voluminous correspondence she shared with Eleanor (known to her, fondly, as Madam, ER, and Eleanor). The letters were donated to the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, with the provision that they remain sealed until ten years after Hick’s death. Albert, known for The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter and mystery series, draws from extensive research to pen a vivid story surrounding the the two women’s romance and friendship. Albert includes information at the end of the story for readers who want to find out more. She also clarifies which parts of the novel are creative license. These additions reflect important truths that were hidden away or reinterpreted by persons who found the letters unpalatable. Albert highlights Doris Faber’s 1980 biography of Hick, which demeans its subject; a result, Albert writes, of Faber’s disapproval and disgust with the relationship revealed by the letters. The novel spans four decades, covering the women’s first meeting prior to FDR’s term as Governor of New York until Hick’s death in 1968. It’s an engrossing read. Told through Hick’s eyes, it takes on an especially personal, candid tone.

Karen White narrates this story with a wonderfully straight forward style suited to the personality of it’s primary voice. Lorena eschewed jewelry for suits; built a successful career as a journalist; and relished solitude, a stark contrast to the life she lived while active and as part of Eleanor’s life. Skilled narrators resist exaggerated imitations of real persons. Eleanor Roosevelt has a very distinctive voice. White’s performance of ER reflects the cadence produced by a patrician upbringing. I enjoyed the depth of her delivery, as the emotional weight of ER’s experiences, hopes, and passions, pour through the speakers.

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of these audiobooks via the links below.

Loving Eleanor
Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Narrator: Karen White
Produced by Tantor Media
Length: 10.5 hours
Release date: March 22, 2016

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, Barnes & Noble, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

 

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eleanor-and-hick

Eleanor and Hick is a sympathetic, well-researched exploration of the relationship between the two women. While not all readers will agree on the weight or interpretation of the materials sources, the book will definitely inspire spirited conversation.Author Susan Quinn delves into primary source material and other resources from collections housed at the FDR Library, the Library of Congress, and universities, in order to present a balanced, informed, and contextual look at the women’s lives together and as individuals. 

Narrator Kimberly Farr delivers a solid performance. Her frank tone, with upticks of emotion for direct quotes, draws out the public and private personas of Eleanor and Hick.

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady
Author: Susan Quinn
Narrator: Kimberly Farr
Produced by Penguin Audio
Length: 13 hours, 44 minutes
Release date: September 27, 2016

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, Audiobooks, Barnes & Noble, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

 

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Rodger Streitmatter curated and annotated a collection of letters Hick and Eleanor wrote to each other. He provides important context and discussion of their relationship. Prior to her death in 1968, Hick donated thousands of these letters to the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, with the directive to keep them sealed until ten years after her passing. When the cache became available to researchers, some were dismayed and unsettled by what they discovered. One of Hick’s biographers, Doris Faber, produced a less than favorable book after she read them, according to the author’s note at the end of Loving Eleanor. I’ve just picked up a copy for my own library and look forward to reading them.

Empty Without You
Editor: Rodger Streitmatter
Published by Free Press
Originally published in 1998
Hardcover, paperback, and ebook copies are available. Don’t forget to check with your local public library for availability.

Categories: audiobooks, history, lgbt, Memoirs & Autobiographies, primary sources, romance, romantic friendships | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

LGBT Audiobooks 2015 Listen List

The following is not a comprehensive list of LGBT audio books.  It’s a small selection of the audio books that I listened to in 2015.  Since I spend a large part of my week commuting to work, I listen to a lot of audio books.  If I don’t enjoy a narrator’s style or find them wrong for the story, I don’t waste time and move on to the next one.  As a rule of thumb, I recommend listening to at least the first disc (or Part 1 if it’s an e-audiobook) before deciding on whether you want to listen to the rest.

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Landing by Emma Donoghue, read by Laura Hicks

A benefit of listening to someone else read a story is learning the correct way to pronounce a name.  I had pronounced Síle as See-leh when it actually sounds like Shee-luh.  Laura Hicks bridges both worlds the listener travels to as the story unfolds.  She creates interesting and distinct characters in Dublin, Ireland and Ireland, Ontario.

Síle is never in one place for very long.  Life as a flight attendant keeps her on the move: a layover in Toronto, Canada; home for a few days in Dublin, Ireland; or an overnight somewhere else.  For the most part, she’s okay with her life as is, even if it no longer fits in the same way as it once did.

Jude enjoys life in her small town (Ireland, Ontario), curating for the local history museum and living with her mother.  However, Jude’s life is upended when her mother falls ill and forces her to board a plane to bring her home (and only a deep love can make her set even one pinkie toe on a plane).

The two women meet in the middle (literally, thousands of feet in the air).  At first, they’re just pen pals, but then their relationship evolves into much more.  Emma Donoghue conveys the emotional challenges that falling in love with someone who lives in another country brings.  There are all manner of hurdles (small town vs big city; Ontario vs Ireland; homebody vs wanderlust) that could halt the romance.  However, the novel leads the women through them, in a relatively believable fashion, and it would have felt right for the women to go their separate ways or stay together.

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Snow Falls by Gerri Hill, read by Sara Hawthorne

A run-of-the-mill romance involving a curmudgeonly writer hiding in the mountains and a self-help author.  The two women are trapped together in a cabin after an avalanche blocks the roads.  Hawthorne’s narration is enjoyable and makes for a pleasant 5 hours+

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Tipping the Velvet by Sara Waters, read by Juanita McMahon

I had watched the BBC miniseries a million times before I listened to the audio book (I know, I know, I’m a terrible philistine for not having read the book first or even second before viewing the video version ^^).  Juanita McMahon seamlessly travels from one character to the next, drawing distinctions between different neighborhoods in England.  I felt the whole novel come to life between my ears.

Nancy Astley wends her way through Victorian England, winning hearts onstage as Nan King and offstage stumbling through various romances.  Each part of the novel finds Nancy struggling to figure out who she is and where she is going in life.

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Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by  Carrie Brownstein, read by the author

When it comes to memoirs and autobiographies, who better to narrate than the person who lived through the events unfolding between the listener’s ears?  In the audio version of a life, it feels much more intimate to hear all of the emotions unfolding as they recall past events.  Carrie Brownstein leads you through her musical journey with Sleater-Kinney.  She includes the highs and lows, not excusing herself for missteps along the way.  Rather, you hear how her choices build to bring her to where she is now.  And that’s a good thing.

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The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman, read by Donna Postel

Lillian Faderman’s latest non-fiction chronicles the gay right’s movement from the witch hunts of the Cold War era up through present-day.  It is by no means extensive, but will make a good supplement for any LGBT history collection.  Donna Postel narrates the events in a clear, easy-to-follow fashion.

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Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, read by Thérèse Plummer, J. Brian Hutchison, Michele O. Medlin, Mia Barron, and Ellen Wilbur

This production combines the dual talents of narrators Thérèse Plummer and J. Brian Hutchison, and original musical compositions that enhance the storytelling.  Zoe and Max Baxter grow apart after the stress of trying to conceive, among other factors, and divorce.  Later, when Zoe tries to have a child with her wife, Vanessa, he ex-husband and his family try to intervene.
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Hild by Nicola Griffith, read by Pearl Hewitt

This novel illuminates Hild of Whitby, a little known public figure made flesh and blood in this imaginative retelling.  Pearl Hewitt gives voice to the different dialects and social lives of the men, women, and children who people the early Middle Ages.  I highly recommend this one!

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A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, read by Simon Prebble

George, a British ex-pat and professor in Southern California during the 1960’s, loses his longtime partner.  We live through the eyes of George as he lives with his grief.  Simon Prebble blends snark, disdain, cynicism, sorrow, pain, and a touch of happiness as he gives voice to George’s thoughts and observations.

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Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr, read by Pam Ward

A thoughtful, well-researched account of Sally Ride’s life.  If you love outer space and Sally Ride, then strap your ears in for blast off in 5…4…3…2…1…!  Pam Ward’s voice takes the listener on a matter-of-fact, intimate journey of the woman we only knew before from a distance.  The author included the recollections of Ride’s partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, as well as the astronaut’s friends and family.

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Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris, read by author

A Choose Your Own Adventure type story on audio book, you ask?  Well, Mr. NPH explains the wonders of how it works.  He alternates between options, fact and fiction, both entertaining and informative.  Charming, funny, and a bit dishy at times, just like the man himself.

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Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming, read by author

Alan Cumming invites the listener in on very personal territory: his evolution as a person and his relationship with his family.  The highs and lows of his life are evident on every syllable.  And his Scottish accent is icing on the cake.  Thank you for sharing, Alan.

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Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, read by Scott Campbell

It’s hard for me to listen to this story without picturing Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger riding up into the mountains.  It’s a short story/novella, but the emotional journey that both author and narrator take you on will last a long, long time.

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Carsick by John Waters, read by author

This is one hitchhiker that you will definitely want to pick up.  What better way to enjoy Waters account of thumbing his way across the country than by listening to it in your car (or on your smart phone while you travel by plane, train, foot, or bus)?  The memoir is divided into three parts: best case scenario, worst case scenario, and the actual account.  It’s hilarious and awesome!  Go listen, go listen now!

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, read by Juliet Stevenson

Not all actors are capable of voicing animated characters or narrating novels.  Juliet Stevenson possesses the range to give life to Sarah Waters’ latest piece of historical fiction.

It’s 1922 and Frances Wray and her mother are struggling to make ends meet.  They rent out a room in their middle class home to a young couple, Lillian and Leonard Barber.  Lillian and Frances begin a romance that slams into more than one hurdle.  Disaster or a new beginning?  Tune in to find out!  Waters does a wonderful job drawing out class conflict, sexuality, and ethical and moral dilemmas.  The second half of the novel really put me in mind of Crime & Punishment.  The Paying Guests felt weighed down with intense emotions and difficulties, but there was enough levity and pinpricks of light to lift it up.

 

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, history, lgbt, nonfiction | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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