16 Great Books to Read This Week
Ever since the U.S. federal courts required airlines to hire men as flight attendants, those serving were stereotyped as gay. Turns out many of them were. Now their stories are shared in this fascinating history of male flight attendants, which offers up insights on everything from gender issues and workplace changes to new theories on Gaetan Dugas (the flight attendant famously labeled "Patient Zero" in Randy Shilts' groundbreaking book on AIDS, And the Band Played On). From the first male Pan Am flight attendant in 1928 to 1971 when U.S. federal courts required every airline to hire men as flight attendants to 2010 when JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater cursed out a rude passenger and then escaped through the emergency exit slide, Plane Queer shares the hardships of these men in the air and on the ground. Readers get a glimpse into historic and modern notions of homophobia, AIDS phobia, and LGBT rights as they impacted the daily (and largely forgotten) lives of these men. An educational and informative must-read. (UCPress.edu, $24.95)
From promising new love to down right erotic heat, Best Gay Romance delivers both. The compilation of short stories includes gripping narratives from authors like Andrea Dale, Charlotte Dare, Cheyenne Blue, Anna Meadows, Radclyffe, and more. Whether it be the addictive and tumultuous emotions of a growing relationship or the trials of a lifelong partnership, the short stories contained within cover the entire spectrum of LGBT romance. (CleisPress.com, $15.95)
Britain's first out lesbian Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has brought forth two compelling collections of vibrant poems in Rapture and The Bees. She continues to impress with her themes of compassion and empathy, encompassed by her overarching senitments on love and reality. Emotions are spilled across every page and Duffy's assertion on how love shapes us is unmatched. Duffy's diversification in style, language, and form is unique as she always packs a deep and often jarring message to her readers.
(Rapture: FSGBooks.com, $15.00; The Bees: FSGBooks.com, $23.00)
The life of Gypsies is a relatively unknown one, a speculated upon mystery to many outside the Romany culture. And with generations having suffered persecution in the past, Gypsies tend to keep to themselves. If one chooses to leave, they leave forever. In the sequel to My life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies, Mikey Walsh does just that. As a young gay man, Walsh chose to leave the life at the age of 15 after grappling between a life with his family and a life he truly wanted to lead. Gypsy Boy on the Run tells the story of the boy that left, and the gang of gypsies that followed him, eager to claim their reward. (Macmillan.com, $24.99)
Growing up in a home waiting for that penultimate moment, the Rapture, is all Aaron Hartzler knew as a kid. But jumping into his teen years full of temptation, lies, and questionable friends, Hartzler realized there was too much fun to be had to check out so soon. Rapture Practice tells the hilarious and sincere true stories of the gay author as a boy, ultimately about struggling with what we all struggle with: discovering who we truly are while balancing that with staying true to where we come from.
The summer vacation between high school and college is supposed to be carefree, a limbo period awaiting the next big step in life. Not the case for Rowan Marks. Small town Ohio brings its fair share of conflict for Rowan when her brother develops a smoking problem and her best friend starts falling in love with her. But the conflicts explode when hearts get broken and a family is torn apart. The poignant coming of age story, from the winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, asks, when is the right time to give up and just leave? (BywaterBooks.com, $12.95)
Danny Kelly has vowed to stay in the closet until he graduates high school, which is becoming increasingly difficult in the nation's country music capitol. All he really enjoys is rock 'n' roll and fast cars but Danny is banned from the wheel until he turns 21. With defeated spirits, Danny discovers something, though, that puts every car in America and its driver in the path of danger. With the help of a gay 17-year-old, Danny can save the citizens of Nashville. But he might not be able to keep his secrets from his cute and charming new friend. The fast-paced page turner keeps you cheering for the young man fighting to save innocents and finding himself in the process.
Forget Twilight; this is vampires and werewolves for queer women. Ancient vampire loyalties are put to the test in Rand's newest novel. Werewolf pack leader Sylvan Mir is forced into battle and must confront a one-time lover, vampire chancellor Francesca. Her role in a recent attack calls all allegiances betweent the two sides into question. A war looms near in the Adirondacks as sides clash and divided clans face obstacles. The renowned author packs the vampire tale with unexpected obsessions, violent betrayals, and erotic temptations. (BoldStrokesBook.com, $9.99)
What happens when you meet that one person who tests you in every way? Distrust, caution, desire, and temptation put pressure on everything you try to do. That's what Riley Connors is faced with when she meets Ali Garcia. Riley is a troubleshooter poised to bring criminals and thugs to justice when the law has overlooked them. But when Ali's in trouble, Riley's allegiances are questioned when she chooses between serving justice and her emotions. Injustice asks you, what would you do? Falling in love may be a powerful thing, but will it trump doing what is right? (LethePressBooks.com, $6.99)
Internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature Lillian Faderman writes the tale of Mary Lifton, a woman who abandoned her family for a life in New York in the 1930s. Becoming a garment worker and a member of the growing Jewish diaspora Lifton struggled to survive both economically and socially. And the goal of rescuing her family from Latvia seems impossible after Lifton suffers from two forced abortions and bearing a daughter she'd never see again. Faderman expertly explores a jarring view into the immigrant life of Jewish Holocaust survivors living in the US. (Beacon.org, $25.95)
Queer storyteller Ivan E. Coyote has created a diverse and charming array of vignettes for anyone who has ever fought to find who they really are. The stories are both comedy and sincerity, and they embrace the life of not knowing how to define normal, where you fit, and who you look to for modeling when you are questioning your own desires. Coyote's narrative spans from a tomboy childhood to a big city life for the girl who grew up loving playing hockey in northern Canada. (ArsenalPulp.com, $15.95)
Sometimes sacrificing yourself to understand the life of another can have a daunting but ultimately reciprocating effect. In the novel, which won Prix Médicis and is shortlisted for the European Book Award, when Eleazard Von Wogau begins editing the unpublished biography of the 17th-century Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher, his life starts turning upside down. His family takes vastly different paths when his wife leads a dangerous archeological expedition and his daughter drops out of school with her professor and her lesbian lover to explore drugs and to find herself sexually. Wogau tries hard to maintain a sane state of mind through it all in this mesmerizing saga that never ceases to suprise. Already translated into 14 languages, this is a novel that will stay with you longer than others. (OtherPress.com, $32.50)
The title is the question John Corvino sets out to address. Corvino, who last year authored Debating Same-Sex Marriage with NOM's Maggie Gallagher, rounds the country to pose his titular question (and others) in his short yet enlightening book. Corvino tries to make the argument for the moral value of same-sex relationships offering some insight into ongoing cultural conflicts and how to address LGBT inclusion in today's society. (OUP.com, $22.95)
Rafael "Rafe" Fannen has it rough at school. He is one of three students of color at an all-male Catholic college prep school. And the target on his back is made larger because he's gay. Fights in school and troubles at home raise the stakes for Rafe when he falls suspect to accusations of vandalism on campus. Whether it's the truth or not doesn't seem to matter if it's coming from the young black gay student. Bereft — the latest young adult novel from Victoria Brownworth's fledgling and impressive Tiny Satchel Press — takes a brutally honest pass at a 14 year-old's battle with racism, bullying, and homphobia and makes us look forward to the next book debut author Craig L. Gidney.
Gay mystery writer Neil Plakcy returns with his sixth novel of the acclaimed Mahu series. A young mother is murdered in Hawaii and leaves behind a complex web of business relationships and family turmoil. To solve her murder, openly gay Honolulu detective Kimo Kanapa'aka and his partner Ray Donne have to venture into deadly waters (that's the zero break, which is both metaphoric and literal). Relationships are at stake for Kimo, as well, and he must battle his most trying case yet. Plakcy, a gay surfer and native Hawaiian, still knows how to keep up the pace and keeps readers itching to turn the page. Bonus: You'll like the author's description of the word "mahu" even if you don't like mysteries. (MLRBooks.com, $14.99)
The spectacular and always emaculately dressed Wladziu Valentino Liberace was a world-renowned icon in entertainment for over four decades. For the first time ever, his Liberace Extravaganza! — a collection of his most outlandish furs, feather capes, bow ties, coats, suits, and more — are on display in this book. Some of his suits are priced at more than $24,000 with their Swarovski crystal rhinestones and fourteen-karat diamond-encursted buttons. With a foreward written by Liberace's principal designer and original sketches from his other designers as well, this first volume is one of a kind — just like the man himself. (HarperCollins.com, $29.99)