Autumnal readings: A Fall queer reading list for 2008

Look at the calendar. It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are getting chillier and you’re probably thinking of ways to make good use of all that time you’ll be spending indoors. Or, maybe you’re in the mood to get some holiday shopping out of the way. If you’re a reader, or if there are readers on your gift list, then you are in luck as there are plenty of books with which to fill up your autumn hours, or to give as presents.

LGBT Non-Fiction
It’s been another banner year for LGBT titles, and the choices for the fall season are abundant. This is especially true when it comes to non-fiction works. Subtitled “an oral history,” “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South” (The University of North Carolina Press, 2008, $35) by E. Patrick Johnson, Professor and Chair, Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University, gives “voice to a population rarely acknowledged in Southern history” via a series of fascinating interviews.

Matt Rothschild’s memoir “Dumbfounded” (Crown, 2008, $23.95) bears the telling subtitle “Big Money. Big Hair. Big Problems. Or Why Having It All Isn’t For Sissies.”

The award-winning “Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice” (Yale University Press, 2007, $13) by Janet Malcolm, about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, is newly available in a paperback edition. In “Are You Guys Brothers?” (Author House, 2008, $16.95), Brian McNaught writes about his longtime relationship — 30 years — with spouse Ray. Feminist and bi writer Jennifer Baumgardner puts human (and in some cases, familiar) faces on a complex issue in “Abortion & Life” (Akashic, 2008, $16.95).

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Martin Duberman has written more than a dozen non-fiction books including “Cures: A Gay Man’s Odyssey,” “Stonewall” and “The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein.” Duberman, who is also a playwright, has four of his plays — “In White America,” “Posing Naked,” “Mother Earth” and “Visions of Kerouac” compiled under one cover in “Radical Act: Collected Political Plays” (New Press, 2008, $18.95).

LGBT Fiction
One of the most promising fiction debuts of the years can be found in “The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second” (Kensington, 2008, $15) by gay writer Drew Ferguson. Ferguson has crafted a contemporary coming-of-age tale that is at turns heartbreaking and humorous.

Lammy-winner Shawn Stewart Ruff makes his debut with the novel, also a coming-age-story titled “Finlater” (Quote Editions, 2008, $15.50).

Several gay fiction writers are returning to print this season. Mattilda Sycamore Bernstein is back with the novel “So Many Ways to Sleep Badly” (City Lights, 2008, $15.95). For those who enjoyed “Father’s Day,” the first novel by Philip Galanes, his second work of fiction is titled “Emma’s Table” (Harper, 2008, $23.95). Bart Yates has returned with “The Distance Between Us” (Kensington, 2008, $24). Acclaimed novelist Larry Duplechan makes one of the boldest comebacks of the year with “Got ’til it’s Gone” (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008, $17.95), his first novel in 15 years (!). “Men Without Bliss” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, $24.95) is a collection of short stories by Rigoberto Gonzalez.

LGBT Presence
In ever increasing numbers, GLBT writers and characters are figuring prominently in mainstream writing. “It Is Romance,” from the brilliant new short story collection “Demons In The Spring” (Akashic Books, 2008, $24.95) by novelist Joe Meno, is about a gay high school teacher who falls madly and deeply in love with his students, male and female, who are in the Model United Nations for which he is faculty advisor.

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The extremely well-timed “State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America — 50 Writers on 50 States” (Ecco, 2008, $29.95) edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey is a wondrous essay collection. There are a few recognizable LGBT names among the contributors including Alison Bechdel (on Vermont), Randall Kenan (on North Carolina), Carrie Brownstein (on Washington) and David Rakoff (on Utah).

Acclaimed gay writer David Leavitt was one of three writers on the “prize jury” for the 2008 edition of “The O. Henry Prize Stories: The Best Stories of the Year” (Anchor Books, 2008, $14.95), edited by Laura Furman.

LGBT Visuals
For those more visually inclined, there are a few options. Dale Lazarov, of sexually graphic comic series “Sticky” renown, has teamed up with illustrator Amy Colburn for “Manly” (Bruno Gmunder, 2008). Even without dialogue on the pages, the homo-erotically-charged illustrations for the three segments — one involving a cop, another about boxers and the third featuring a “hot librarian” — do all the talking. (See the interview in this issue for more on “Manly.”)

Cross-dressing American glam-rock legends the New York Dolls are celebrated in the shocking pink-covered photo book “New York Dolls: Photographs by Bob Gruen” (Abrams Image, 2008).
Although there is no photograph of gay jazz legend Billy Strayhorn, there is a quote about music that is attributed to him in the picture book “Three Wishes: An Intimate Look at Jazz Greats” (Abrams Image, 2008), which features photos of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Betty Carter, Marian McPartland and others.

Other Non-Fiction Titles
In keeping with the music theme above there is “The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008, $14.95). Singer and groundbreaking actress Diahann Carroll, who also counts Michael Feinstein and Bob Mackie among her friends, tells her story in “The Legs Are The Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying & Other Things I Learned Along the Way” (Amistad, 2008, $24.95). At the other end of the spectrum, Laurie Lindeen, who was in the all-female rock band Zuzu’s Petals, has written the rockin’ memoir “Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story” (Atria, 2008, $24). Finally, fittingly enough the book, “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)” (Knopf, 2008, $24.95 ), by Tom Vanderbilt is also available in an audio book edition perfect for listening to while stuck in, you guessed it, traffic.

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