Pride Booksapalooza 2024, part 2: Moving memoirs & fab nonfiction

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Saturday June 8, 2024
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Pride Booksapalooza 2024, part 2: Moving memoirs & fab nonfiction

Here comes the second of our Pride 2024 books roundup, where we present almost a dozen nonfiction and memoir titles guaranteed to educate you on LGBTQ issues, trans identities, sluts, former military officers, lesbian spaces, and spotlight the journeys of queer individuals from all walks of life. Enjoy!

'Breaking the Rainbow Ceiling' by Layla McCay
, $24 (Bloomsbury Business)
This informative guidebook by the policy director at the NHS Confederation examines why and how LGBTQ professionals and their careers are harmed by bigotry and homophobia.

Whether being overlooked for hiring opportunities or promotions, or being ignored by management when it comes to gender expression or career advancement equality, the profiles McCay offers will be an enlightening and eye-opening experience particularly for readers who have personally witnessed this kind of discrimination against co-workers, bosses, members of upper management, or against themselves.

She offers a selection of remedies to promote workplace inclusivity, but the ways to achieve them aren't as fully fleshed out as the problems themselves. Still, this is a necessary reminder that the workplace is also an environment that requires attention and great care when fostering queer equality across the board.

'A Great Gay Book: Stories of Growth, Belonging, and other Queer Possibilities,' Edited by Ryan Fitzgibbon, $50 (Abrams)
Fitzgibbon is the founder of "Hello Mr.," a 2013 queer magazine that enjoyed a 10-issue run until its final gasp in 2018. This book celebrates this smashing media sensation by highlighting the best of the articles that appeared within its pages.

Featured inside is a rainbow-hued goldmine of essays, photo journals, poems ("Good Dick is a Myth"), author interviews, profiles, art, and fiction from some of the most creative queer voices of the last decade, including a hilarious introductory essay from Fitzgibbon about his "alley afterlife" living situation in San Francisco's SoMa and Castro neighborhoods.

Plenty of provocative, sexy, fisty, foot fetish-y articles keep healthy libidos turning the pages. An interview with outspoken New York City-based drag sensation Lady Bunny and a profile of Patrick Haggerty, "a pioneer of modern gay country music" are stunning representations of our unique culture and the queer community members who keep it awash in color and spice.

'Why Are People Into That?: A Cultural Investigation of Kink' by Tina Horn, $25 (Hatchette)
Sex educator Horn examines gender, identity, and the wonderful world of fetishes in this provocative tour of some of our wildest kinks. With an approach that falls somewhere between piercing analysis and friendly conversation, the author probes the sexualization of feet, orgies, "sploshing" (wet, messy sex), spanking, fisting, cash-based sexual "findom" domination, and, yes, cannibalism (a footnote on the collection of toenails and pubic hair as "pet treats" is particularly fascinating, depending on the reader, of course.)

Throughout this erotic and immensely educative carnal class, readers will fall down a "deviant rabbit hole" while gaining insight and knowledge on how kink communities thrive and support each other, the nature of their particular proclivities, and insider knowledge how, as a professional dominatrix, Horn gets herself and others off. Kinksters (who enjoy reading), unite!

'A Place of Our Own' by June Thomas, $30 (Seal Press)
In this informative study, podcaster Thomas beautifully spotlights the lesbian community's struggle to find spaces and places to call their own. As ostracized as many other factions in queer culture have become, the author contends, lesbians have experienced particular difficulty establishing authentic locales to gather, exchange ideas, socialize, and support each other.

Her book profiles the many spaces that have risen above this conundrum to thrive and putting her personal history combined with experiences shared from LGBTQ leadership, entrepreneurs, business owners, and queer pioneers to impressive use, this report capitalizes on the importance of lesbian spaces, despite how queer culture seems to be moving away from its need for them.

'The T in LGBT' by Jamie Raines, $27 (SourceBooks/Vermilion)
Raines, a 29-year-old "trans guy from the UK," chronicles his journey from first realizing he was transgender as a child, to actively acknowledging and vocalizing it at 16, to the many nuances of becoming the man he is today. His book will be an invaluable source of information, tips, advice, and anecdotes for any reader contemplating, questioning, or embarking on their own gender journey.

The book also includes stories and words of wisdom from other trans writers who generous share their process and how they overcame the many obstacles (both social and clinical) to realize and actualize their authentic identities.

Most unique is Raines's tips for trans allies on ways to better support the community, a glossary of terminology, and detailed chapters intimately describing the author's own process toward becoming Jaime, from beginning to end. This is a terrific resource for trans readers and the folks who support them.

'Hiding For My Life: Being Gay in the Navy' by Karen Solt, $17.95 (She Writes Press)
Solt's intensive memoir captures the ordeal of her enlistment in the United States Navy for a four-year stint in 1984 while being queer and closeted. Her ascent from hesitant recruit to decorated official is honest and brazenly candid in detailing how damaging anti-gay military policies really are, particularly the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" years which were cloaked in bigotry, scandal, inequality, and human rights abuses.

Despite these developments, Solt's respect and love for the Navy and her veteran service for her country remain intact. This is an illuminative eye-opening memoir about serving one's country even while its policies counteract and decry one's own identity.

'Swole: The Making of Men and the Meaning of Muscle' by Michael Andor Brodeur, $27.95 (Beacon)
In this dynamic, muscular debut from Brodeur, a Washington Post classical music critic since 2020, the history, culture, and many allures of bodybuilding are analyzed with great care and creative attention. The author adds personal quips to his assessment of muscle training which adds flavor and a somewhat humorous edge to stiff materials and historical details which could be considered overly academic.

He describes in detail his own training regimen and frequent "super-inflated" state after a rigorous workout, and his personal satisfaction at "being immediately assessed and addressed by strangers as a meathead."
Elsewhere, Brodeur delves into the trivia of heavy lifting and divulges factoids and lesser-known information about how gym culture is addictive, sexy, culturally ostracized, queer-centric, and, yes, good for the mind, body, and soul. Queer bodybuilders may want to crack the covers on this erudite report and feel the pump of information, wit, and history.

'Sluts: An Anthology,' Edited by Michelle Tea, $17.95 (Dopamine Books)
This provocative collection, the inaugural publication from newcomer Dopamine Press, contains a vast array of insightful essays, sexy fiction, nonfiction, seasoned opinion, and spicy perspective for and about promiscuous cultures.

A must-have for sexually aware sluts everywhere, the book is edited by veteran author and outspoken literary disruptor Michelle Tea, who cast a wide net searching for potential contributors who could dedicate their artistry to the "concept of SLUT."

Nonfiction author Amanda Montell dives right in with her assessment of the work "slut" and how its morphed and evolved over time across numerous cultures.

Gary Indiana discusses his penchant for anal sex through the lens of a selection of other male sex partners in "My Hole," Cheryl Klein remembers first hearing the word "slut" in grade school and examines its implications in an entertaining thoughtful essay on her sexual evolution in "Woman in Background."

This a book about promiscuity and all its nuances, so there are stories dripping with hypersexual detail, like Baruch Porras-Hernandez's long carnal night at a San Francisco sex club and observances and memories from Brontez Purnell as he joins the cruising culture of "Sniffies."

The biggest takeaway from this immense anthology is its ability to remove shame from the act of sex, the discussion of sex, and the freedom we, as self-confirmed sluts, enjoy in having as much sex as we can.

"I wanted it to be like a treasure box," Tea writes, "a tome of surprise. I plan to assemble future anthologies similarly." Grab this "slightly enormous" sexy book by its pages and dig in.

'My Body is Paper: Stories and Poems' by Gil Cuadros, $17.95 (City Lights Books)
Cuadros (1962-1996) published his debut collective of stories and poems, "City of God," in 1994 and it was met with widespread acclaim as a classic examination of Los Angeles Latino communities from the perspectives of numerous narrators who ranged in age, queer experience, and mood.

This new book collects the remainder of his archival writings that weren't included in his debut and aptly commemorates a literary artist whose life was cut short at age 34 by the AIDS epidemic.

These reflections, obsessions, erotic musings and queer ruminations focus on the human body with all its wonders, pleasures, and sufferings, spirituality, and the survival of not only the Latinx communities and the queer children emerging from them, but of the survival of the spirit.

There are stories of his father, a masculine construction worker, who Cuadros both feared and admired; a futuristic tale of a man and his partner giving birth; a somber poem about the author's increasingly devastating symptoms of AIDS and his lover who faithfully remain by his bedside. This is an important work of art from a beloved writer and observer who died just as his best work emerged.

'All About Yvie: Into the Oddity' by Yvie Oddly, (Greenleaf)
Certainly the dark horse memoir of the summer is "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 11 winner Yvie Oddly's entertaining and endlessly alluring self-portrait.

Dedicated to their cats, the book traces the genderqueer star's early years when they were better known as Jovan Jordan Bridges, growing up in Denver, Colorado, their burgeoning interest in sexuality, gender, and drag performances, coming out, and their ascent to stardom on the 11th season of the drag competition.

While the book indeed follows the typical patterns of a typical memoir, Oddly, who identifies as a "queer-leaning gay" employs an affable writing style and conversational tone which instantly draws the reader in and leaves them wanting more.

Co-written by media writer and superfan Michael Bach, the superstar drag queen doesn't skimp on the intricate details of their life such as being the grandchild of Denver Black Panther leader Lauren Watson, the obsessive audition tapes for the show (they auditioned three times before being scheduled for the mandatory psychological evaluation needed in order to be cast), their marriage in 2023 to partner Doug (an attorney they met on Grindr just prior to their appearance on "RPDR") or the darker essences of their life such as being diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes Oddly to retreat in pain after their performances.

"RPDR" superfans will gag over the amount of "tea" gossip and behind the scenes action they share in this candid look at a drag star, the experience of getting there, and how being authentic is the key to everything in between.

'Thom Gunn: A Cool Queer Life' by Michael Nott, $45 (Macmillan)
Nott, who co-edited "The Letters of Thom Gunn" in 2022, moves further into the life of the award-winning queer British poet Thom Gunn (1929-2004) in this distinguished, illuminating biography. Gunn was traumatized at the suicide of his beloved mother and turned to prose and poetry to sooth his broken heart.

Author Nott treads along the boundaries of Gunn's life as his poetry took on as many iterations as his personal relationships did, including an in-depth look at his open partnership with Mike Kitay with whom the poet lived with in the Haight in San Francisco for a good deal of his adult life where sex, drugs, and poetry dominated his every waking moment. This will definitely become a keepsake item for queer poets and any Thom Gunn fan.

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