LGBT community continued to turn out record amounts of literary prose
this past year — some of it shocking and thought-provoking, while
other tales were heart-warming and eye-opening. Whatever the case, there
was a lot to choose from. Here’s a taste of what I thought were
some of the best.
All American Boy” (fiction) by William J. Mann (Kensington). Mann’s
latest novel treads a far darker path than his previous explorations
of gay culture as Wally Day, a semi-successful actor, must return to
hometown to confront the ghosts of his past that he left behind years
ago. The results are powerful, deeply unsettling and not easily forgotten.
Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America” (non-fiction)
by Keith Boykin (Carroll & Graf). This book triumphs as a cogent analysis
and deconstruction of the down low phenomenon (as well as the backlash
caused by its exposure in the national media). One of its highlights is
Boykin’s systematic critique of J.L. King’s “On the Down
Low,” the book which first brought the issue to national attention.
Breakfast With Tiffany: An Uncle’s Memoir” (non-fiction) by
Edwin John Wintle (Miramax Books). When Ed Wintle agrees to take in his
volatile 13-year-old niece Tiffany (the product of a broken, dysfunctional
home), any hopes of an “Auntie Mame”-like bonding between the
two quickly goes out the window in this present-day take on gay childrearing.
Parents of all persuasions will empathize with Wintle’s selfless,
thankless situation, while those who can’t stand kids will come
away with their prejudices justified after reading this heartwarming
account of family values with a twist.
The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family” (non-fiction)
by Dan Savage (Dutton). As his 10th anniversary with his boyfriend Terry
approaches, Dan Savage starts getting pressured by his mother to get married.
Thus begins a heartfelt examination of gay marriage and what it means in
this case to all involved members of a family. This book puts a much-needed
human face onto one of our country’s most divisive issues and scrutinizes
it with humor and insight.
The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco” (non-fiction)
by Joshua Gamson (Henry Holt & Co.). Best known for his song “You
Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” the late disco diva Sylvester gets
the star treatment in this expansive biography, which offers a warts-and-all
account of the genderbending singer and the times in which he cavorted.
This is not only a great chronicle of an overlooked, pioneering musician,
but a wonderful portrait of San Francisco itself.
Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live Into a Place You’ll Love” (non-fiction)
by Nate Berkus (Hyperion). While home renovation has become a nationwide
craze, Berkus offers dozens of tips that are not only easily accomplished,
but easy on the budget as well. Openly gay and beloved by Oprah, Berkus
dispenses tips on organizing, accessorizing and personalizing your space.
The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln” (non-fiction) by C.A. Tripp
(Simon & Schuster). The late Dr. Tripp’s rambling treatise on
the possibility that our 16th President was sexually and affectionally
oriented toward men created quite a stir earlier this year. By showing
us Lincoln’s ribald wit and his intense male friendships, Tripp
turns Abe into an actual human being rather than the martyred saint most
learned about in school.
Luncheonette: A Memoir” (non-fiction) by Steven Sorrentino (ReganBooks).
When his father suddenly became paraplegic on Christmas Eve 1980, Sorrentino
moved back to his hometown and took over running his dad’s luncheonette.
Over the next four years, his career dreams evaporated, his sex life shriveled,
and his father’s health fluctuated precariously. A hugely engaging
and pungently narrated memoir, “Luncheonette” serves up a
satisfying recipe of pathos and bleak comedy with a delicious side order
Now Batting for Boston” (fiction) by J.G. Hayes (Southern Tier Editions
/ Harrington Park Press). This is a new collection of short stories — “hopefully…less
bleak” than Hayes’ previous effort, “This Thing Called
Courage” — that either take place in, or feature characters
from, South Boston (a hardscrabble Irish-Catholic enclave). They’re
all of a uniformly high quality and boldly experiment with a variety
of themes and lengths. Consider this another home run from a talented
Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star” (non-fiction)
by Tab Hunter and Eddie Muller (Algonquin). Hunter’s disclosure of
his homosexuality (one of Tinseltown’s worst-kept secrets) is hardly
a revelation, but he and Muller do it in such an affable, elegant fashion
that the results are disarmingly charming. Hunter might not tell all the
tales people would’ve liked him to, but he delivers an honest, sincere
account of what life in the closet was like for a ’50s heartthrob.
This book shows that there’s something to be said for taking the
The Tragedy of Today’s Gays” (non-fiction) by Larry Kramer
(Tarcher/Penguin). Based on a fiery speech Kramer delivered in November
2004, this blunt instrument of a book whacks us over our collective heads
for the state of affairs that we’ve allowed the gay community to
get into through complacency and denial. Kramer’s always been something
of a modern day Cassandra, but in light of events like the Supreme Court’s
current status, his ranting predictions seem even more eerily prophetic