Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Fall for a good read


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Short story shelf: Fresh Complaint: Stories (FSG), the first short-story collection by Jeffrey Eugenides, author of the groundbreaking gender identity novel Middlesex as well as The Virgin Suicides, features 10 stories. They include "Air Mail," which was selected for the 1997 edition of The Best American Short Stories by "Brokeback Mountain" author Annie Proulx.

Outside is the Ocean (Univ. of Iowa Press) by Matthew Lansburgh, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, consists of 15 linked short stories about German immigrant Heike, who has been making her way in America since she left her homeland at 20.

Edited by gay writer Benjamin Taylor, Debriefing: Collected Stories (FSG) compiles all of late queer writer and intellectual Susan Sontag's short fiction under one cover, with "Project for a Trip to China" and "Unguided Tour" included among the 11 stories.

Novel pages: Set in contemporary Israel, The Book of Love and Hate (Akashic) by Lambda Literary Award-winning author Lauren Sanders follows failed Olympic speed skater Jennifer on a quest to find her missing billionaire father as she encounters "fake Orthodox Jews, queer Palestinians on the run" and a host of others.

Lately, gay actor and vlogger Jeffery Self has been making a name for himself as the author of Y/A novels, including 2016's Drag Teen. His new Y/A novel A Very, Very Bad Thing (Push) is about the things that teenage boys do in the name of love and how quickly they can go wrong, especially when one is the son of a homophobic TV evangelist.

An Unkindness of Ghosts (Akashic), the sci-fi debut by Rivers Solomon, takes place aboard a spaceship named Matilda, and features a teased and taunted main character named Aster, described as "odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn," who is on a mission to discover the potential connection between the deaths of her mother and the Matilda's potentate.

A Y/A novel in verse, Vanilla (Push) by poet Billy Merrell, is said to be a story of "coming out, coming into your own and coming apart" that is alternately heartbreaking and hopeful.

The Off Season (Univ. of Wisconsin Press) by author and educator Amy Hoffman, a Provincetown-set "comic, romantic romp," finds artist Nora, relocated to the queer tip of Cape Cod with her partner Janelle for some healing and inspiration, getting more than she bargained for.

In Marriage of a Thousand Lies (Soho), the debut novel by SJ Sindu, we meet Lucky and Krishna, a married Sri Lankan-American couple who are actually a lesbian and a gay man. The pair's sham marriage is threatened when Lucky reconnects with her first lover Nisha, who is preparing to enter an arranged marriage.

Between nonfiction covers: In the Province of the Gods (Univ. of Wisconsin Press) follows disabled gay poet, playwright, memoirist, educator and activist Kenny Fries as he makes a return visit to Japan shortly after his HIV diagnosis.

Logical Family: A Memoir (Harper), the long-awaited memoir by Armistead Maupin, the beloved author of the Tales of the City series, is a revealing chronicle of the gay writer's personal journey from the deep South to Vietnam to San Francisco.

A comprehensive history of LGBTQ music, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music (Overlook) by Darryl Bullock begins with the tragic losses of talent in 2016 (including those who died at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando), then ventures back to New Orleans in the 1910s before spinning back, like a record, to the present day.

Award-winning, Grammy-nominated, Guggenheim fellow and composer-pianist-activist-educator Fred Hersch has many notable achievements to his name, not the least of which is being an openly gay, HIV+ man in the world of jazz. He writes all about it in his memoir Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz (Crown Archetype).

With the controversial proposed ban on transgender personnel serving in the military on everyone's mind, Tell: Love, Defiance and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights (ForeEdge) by Major Margaret Witt with Tim Connor takes readers back to the 1993 passage of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and its 2011 repeal.

Called "the first definitive biography" of celebrated Broadway caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, known for his distinguished New York Times drawings, the only things missing from Ellen Stern's Hirschfeld: The Biography (Sarah Crichton Books) are the drawings themselves.

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