lgbt

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secret Heart

Image result for secret heart danielle dreger

Secret Heart, Danielle Dreger’s debut novel, strums the angsty heartstrings of its leading ladies: Avery and Madison. On first glance, the two girls could not be more different. Avery is openly queer, a badass rocker, an only child, and far from a star student. Madison is a poster child for perfection: stellar grades, student council President, soccer star, and all-around super nice person. Not that Avery isn’t nice 😉 Casual acquaintances for most of their high school lives, their lives intertwine on the inaugural meeting of their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (Lion Pride).

Senior year can be a crazy time and it’s easy to lose sight of which way points up. The instant chemistry and intense desire surprises both girls. Avery and Madison both face heavy expectations (from bandmates, parents, friends, Lion Pride). They struggle to find a personal balance for their lives after high school and if their burgeoning romance (plus the secrecy that Madison wants) is worth the stress. As I read, I marveled at the elasticity of their hearts. Was the trust worthily bestowed? How much of themselves, of their core being, would they be willing to sacrifice in order to appease others? 

Had I never met the most unreal-ly nice person before reading this book, I would have scoffed at a character so kind-hearted, successful, and popular. Madison’s life, however, is far from perfect and she plays her cards close to her chest. My inner cynic was pacified by the complexity embodied by both leads. They challenge stereotypes (Avery’s affinity for Taylor Swift and marathoning Zac Efron films with her best friend, Scott, for example) and some other surprises. By the end of the story, I was more satisfied with the characters’ personal growth than with their romance.

Secret Heart is a fun, angsty roller coaster of love and self-discovery.

“Avery’s Playlist” (condensed)

Dreger curated the perfect playlist for this book. The song selections in themselves reflect the storyline and emotional roller coaster of teenage romance. It makes me want to record a mix tape from vignettes of my own life. For a full set list, turn to pp. 247-248 of Secret Heart.

Secret Heart

Author: Danielle Dreger

Publisher: DDB Press

Released: October 2016
ISBN (print) 978-0-9977659-1-5                                      

ISBN (ebook) 978-0-9977659-0-8

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Don’t forget to check your local library for availability! A part of the proceeds from every book sold goes to support the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

 

Categories: lgbt, young adult, fiction, romance, librarians, friendship | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe Passage – audiobook review

Safe Passage [Audiobook]

 

Jules Delacroix, a former Olympic rower, now math teacher & rowing coach at an all-girls high school, inherits her great-aunt’s New Orleans home in the Garden District. She also inherits a safe full of her great-aunt’s secrets. Encoded letters, with what Jules at first mistakes for French, give her an excuse to enlist the translation services of the sexy French teacher, Gen. Once they figure out that the letters are layered in ciphers (drawing out Jules love of and skill at numeric codes) and then in French (not that Gen needs an excuse to stay on with the project; it’s très intriguing and damn, that Jules is one tantalizing package!). The safe also contains other clues, such as a sketch of a beautiful black woman, a journal, and an antique pistol. Together, the two women develop fantastic chemistry as they delve deeper into the secrets.

Jules receives emotional grounding from her friends Beth and Becs. The rapport between the friends flows naturally throughout the story, infusing the day-to-day, mystery, and romance with love and humor. One of my favorite moments comes when Jules refers to her friend Beth as a “Wal-Mart sports bra of support”. Jules’ friend Becs, a New Orleans police officer, calls her “the world’s most useless butch” in college, though Jules is an amazing cook.

E.V. Grove delivers an engaging, enjoyable performance. While I’m not an expert in the differences between regional Southern dialects, Grove’s voice places me among trellises, creeping vines, and humidity. Aside from being a bit quick at the beginning of the story, Grove provides great characterization and tone. Each woman springs to life, radiating charm, uncertainty, teasing, straight-forward, and eagerness.

There are also many instances in which there is not enough space in narration to denote change between sections. However, I think that is likely the result of editing. Overall, the production quality is good, pulling you into the listening experience, rather than popping you out. By the end of the two hours and twenty minutes, Owen’s storytelling and Grove’s narration left me wanting more.

Safe Passage
Kate Owen
Narrated by E.V. Grove
Published by Less Than Three Press and Produced through Audible
Length: 2 hours, 19 minutes
ASIN: B00SLW82PY
Released: January 2015

Available as an audiobook from Less Than Three Press, AmazonAudible, and iTunes. It is also available as Spanish and French language ebooks! I think that’s a sign to brush up on my French 😀

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

 

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, lgbt, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Must Love Chickens

must-love-chickens

Jea Hawkins’s charming romance, Must Love Chickens, bonds two women over, among other things, the love of a precocious chicken named Esmerelda. It is Esmerelda who truly tips the scales between Jess Morgan and Natalie Wells, two women who have seemingly nothing in common.

Natalie is at dead ends with her job as director of a small art gallery in New York City. Several exhibitions have failed to generate interest and commissions (the life-blood of the gallery’s existence). Throw in a dash of phoning it in, an ambitious underling… and Natalie finds herself packing up for a job interview as a farm hand at an orchard. Owner and operator of Morgan Orchards, Jess couldn’t be happier with her bountiful McIntosh apple crop. However, the increased work exhausts both her and her long-time hand, Joe. When Jess reviews Natalie’s qualifications, or lack thereof, she is quick to scratch her name off the short (and uninspiring) list of applicants. 

At first glance, Natalie and Jess are city and country, two women with lives lived on polar ends of the universe. However, it becomes quickly apparent that both women possess a strong drive and desire for meaningful lives. What starts off for Natalie as just a job, something to exhaust her in mind and body, becomes a surprising avenue for fulfillment and love. The attraction and rapport between them develops easily as they bond over chores and chickens, though their initial assumptions of each other and baggage constantly pull at them. 

While Natalie has fled the trappings (and suffocation) of her city life, she is unable to ignore it. Newly found purpose, love, and confidence help her confront the boogeyman of her life: her grandmother. Jess, on the other hand, drowns out her pain in hard work. What ultimately makes this romance work is that they bring out the best in each other. They try to uncover what they really want out of life, as well as what they are willing to invest in the world.

The cast of rural, community folk give the setting a lived-in feel. Chosen family, Joe and Kate, who works as the orchard’s manager and part-time matchmaker, form a support network for both women and add much needed prodding and levity. Only a few hours from New York City, the town is a small, tight-knit community where folks know you by name and lend a hand if you need it. It’s not without flaws; privacy is often at a premium. Yet, it is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or a weekend.

Must Love Chickens is the kind of comfy romance that I read with ice cream, tea, and/or pizza (or homemade mac ‘n cheese, etc.), curled up on a futon with my cats. And it doesn’t hurt to imagine Diane Lane in a starring role, either.

Must Love Chickens
Author: Jea Hawkins
Publisher: Wicked Hearts Publishing

Released: November 2016
ASIN: B01N0F3S05

Available from AmazonJoin the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: lgbt, romance | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

Sexy, suspenseful, and full of surprises, The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales features an array of previously published short stories starring women of color. Tawanna Sullivan serves up a sampler platter of genres: erotica, horror, suspense, thriller, fantasy, and romance. This slender volume is the perfect companion for any spare moment or a leisurely morning.

Just Desserts mixes a tryst and voyeurism between two couples stranded at an airport. The Getaway runs off to the countryside in the midst of a murder investigation. How far would you go for the woman you love? Operation Butch Ambush forces two groups with opposing gender ideals (Butch/Femme Preservation Society vs the Toi Bois’ “no matter whom you find yourself attracted to, be fierce enough to admit it and act on it” philosophy) to team up in order to save fellow butches from a reality television show. Famished reminds me of those six word memoirs. Though it’s only a page (a page meaning a Samsung Galaxy 5 screen-sized page), the story follows a relationship’s devolution over sack lunch; the ending offers smug satisfaction. The collection’s titular story, The Next Girl, involves a complicated case of romantic dibs between two friends.

Many of the stories felt like they ended abruptly, the rest of the tale just beyond the precipice. Granted, the author does note that a few are flash fiction pieces. Despite this, Sullivan creates vivid scenes and complex characters. The dialogue and pacing flow easily, adding to the overall immersive, enjoyable reading experience. She is currently at work on her debut novel. I’m excited to see how her talent at the abbreviated short form translates to feature length.

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales
Author: Tawanna Sullivan
tpsulli publications

Released: January 2017
ISBN: 9780998432717
ASIN: B01MS3AKYU

Available from Amazon and KoboJoin the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: erotica, lgbt, romance, short stories | 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

The Year of Needy Girls

Image result for the year of needy girls

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith is an uncomfortable and compelling look at residents of a small New England town. When ten year-old Leo Rivera is abducted by his neighbor, Mickey Gilberto, from his front yard in the East-side of town and later discovered dead, the people of Brandywine, Massachusetts become frenzied with fear, sorrow, and anger. Soon after his discovery, Dierdre, a French teacher at Brandywine Academy, located on the West-end of town, a private all-girls school, is accused of molesting one of her students. 

The townsfolk, already divided as the East-end and West-end, struggles to process the heinous crime and reconcile it with their differences. A snowball effect sweeps up everyone in its path as tensions rise during the investigations. Most residents of the West-end are affluent caucasians. Their children attend prestigious private schools, such as Brandywine Academy and rarely visit the East-end of town, even if they have a chaperone present. The residents of the East-end are more diverse. Many folks come from primarily working class backgrounds, speak a language other than English in the home, and have family members who immigrated to the United States within a generation or two.

The charges brought against the teacher add pressure to Dierdre’s and Sara Jane’s (SJ) five-year relationship. As the accusations fly, the tenuous threads binding the two women together stretch taut. The fall-out forces both women to confront long-held grievances and desires in their relationship. They also become subject to an attack reminiscent of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign; a challenge they both handle in different ways.

The novel is divided between the perspectives of Dierdre; SJ, a librarian at Brandywine’s East-end branch with a connection to Mickey Gilberto; interludes that focus on the female students of Brandywine Academy; and letters to the editor of the town newspaper. There are marginalized community voices that also surface intermittently. Despite the victim’s home in a Brazilian East-end neighborhood, however, readers are confined to the lens’ of the “needy girls”. “Needy girls”, how Dierdre frequently refers to her students, is applicable to the adults, as well.

The novel deals in perceptions, muddled motives, and doubt.  There are plenty of uncomfortable moments when readers dance up to the edge with Dierdre as she makes observations about students’ lives beyond the classroom and as she examines her own role in the drama. Despite discomfort expressed by characters at the teacher’s devotion to her students’ lives, both in and out of the classroom, Smith does not make it easy for readers to define Dierdre. Smith also brings into play comparisons between the teacher and Mickey Gilberto. On the other side, SJ is isolated in their relationship. Her struggle to find satisfaction and need in her work, to find a place where she isn’t second or third, drives her narrative. However, her part in this tale is not as cut and dry, either.

The Year of Needy Girls revels in ambiguity. At every turn I felt compelled to question my own assumptions, as I judged the protagonists and secondary cast. I’m still mulling over motives and ethical questions raised in the story. Readers who enjoy moral dilemmas and the drama of small town New England life, filled with wonderful detail and told at a snowballing pace, will relish Smith’s debut novel. 

***Also, does anyone else think that the woman on the cover looks like Krysten Ritter à la Jessica Jones?***

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith
Published by Akashic Books
Released: January 2017

ISBN-10: 1617754870
ISBN-13: 978-1617754876

Available from Akashic Books, AmazonBarnes & Noble, and other retailers. Be sure to check your local public library for availability.

Join the discussion on Goodreads! Bonus discussion guide available on Akashic Books’ website.

Categories: fiction, lgbt, literary fiction | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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: , , , | Leave a comment

Solace: Writing, Refuge, & LGBTQ Women of Color

Adobe Photoshop PDF

How do you define solace and where do you give it, find it, take it, share it? Solace: Writing, Refuge, and LGBTQ Women of Color, from BLF Press, anthologizes the voices of thirteen LGBTQ women of color. In the preface, editors S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle share the impetus for and the importance of assembling this collection, especially in light of anti-LGBT legislation and violence in 2016. 

“As a community, where can we find solace from the microaggression and violence enacted upon us on a daily basis? How do we amass the hope that heals our wounds as we traverse a world that seeks to destroy or repress and suppress us, simply for daring to live our truth? Who dares to shield us from the constant barrage of hatred and disdain that we face in our communities, at our places of employment, in our own families and homes?” (Preface, x-xi)

The authors delve into how, why, and where they find solace and/or make solace for themselves. Broad experiences inform the expressions compiled here. The result is a beautiful, poignant blend of poetry, prose, and photographs. If you’re like me and enjoy the tactile pleasures of a physical copy, the velvety cover and technicolor images will most definitely deliver extra comfort and joy as you read.

In their respective essays, Almah Rice (“Remedios”) and Claudia Moss (“Solace in Words”) reflect on the life-giving sustenance found in the written word. Both writers use wonderful imagery to convey just how integral words are in their lives. Readers who find refuge in and draw inspiration from the world of words will find kindred spirits in Rice and Moss. 

“So I strapped a book’s spine to my own and grew taller, stronger. Yes, words hold me up and still do. Or, I can re-myth the scoliosis I was diagnosed with as a child as an attempt to curve around words, language my trellis.” (Rice, 90)

As we move through life, we are also faced with how we define solace can influence the world around us. Hala Aurangzeb’s piece, “Pummel”, confronts the abusive nature of its subject’s solace. In Eunice Sierra-Gonzalez’s poem “Queer Brown Girl”, solace is offered through shared experience.  

In Kendra N. Bryant’s “A Lesbian Teacher Tries to Teach Compassion”, she encourages her students to engage in critical thinking and discussion regarding race and sexual orientation. Despite the strong backlash against her intentions, she takes solace in the long view. 

“… I’m going to rest in the notion that people will come to understanding when it is time for them to understand.” (Bryant, 32)

Nik Nicholson, librecht baker, M. Shelly Conner, Sheila Tartaglia, Eliana Buenrostro, Mica Standing Soldier, Dr. Nubian Sun, and Imani Sims, contribute nuanced pieces that grow with each reading. They explore layers of solace found within multiple identities; transformation and perseverance; past and present; and beyond.

Solace: Writing, Refuge, & LGBTQ Women of Color encourages all of us to engage in meaningful contemplation and dialogue with ourselves and with each other.

Solace: Writing, Refuge, & LGBTQ Women of Color
Edited by S. Andrea Allen & Lauren Cherelle
Published by BLF Press
Scheduled Release Date: January 31, 2017
Presale: December 1, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9972439-6-3
ISBN (epub): 978-0-9972439-5-6

Available from BLF PressAmazon, and other retailers. Check with your local public library on how you can recommend titles for addition to the collection.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: anthology, essay, lgbt, nonfiction, poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Buffering by Hannah Hart – audiobook review

hannah-hart-audiobook

Buffering is that time you spend waiting for the pixels of your life to crystallize into a clearer picture; it’s a time of reflection, a time of pause, a time for regaining your composure or readjusting your course.

Hannah Hart, host of “My Drunk Kitchen” on YouTube and author of My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut (2014), shares her life experiences in her new memoir, Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded. Hart infuses her memoir with the warmth and humor that endears her to fans. The author shares her experiences of growing up in California with a fractured family; her struggles with sexuality, self-harm, faith, and fame; and more. Her conversational style of writing made me feel like she was riding in the passenger seat of my car as I commuted. All of the exclamation points, italics, and caps found in the text are brought to life as she reads.

Readers and listeners who have never watched her videos or read her previous book, will still find connection through the trials and triumphs of Hart’s life.

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded
Hannah Hart
Produced by HarperCollins
Length: 5 hours, 59 minutes
ISBN-10: 1441719202
ISBN-13: 978-1441719201
Released: October 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!

***Quotes come minus pagination because I do not have a text copy of the book. Remember rewinding a cassette or CD in an attempt to write down song lyrics? Yep, this was just like that.***

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

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