I just got back from the Lambda Literary Award nominees reading at the Sulzer branch of the Chicago Public Library and it was so fabulous, I’m going to make you all go read these books. There was nonfiction and poetry, in addition to fiction that ranged from romance to mystery to SFF to litfic. The authors and audience came from as far away as New Orleans and Minnesota, and we all hung around for way too long afterward telling everyone how fabulous the whole thing was.
Best of luck to all of the authors with the awards! I’ve already loaded up my Kindle and I’m ready to dive in.
WHAT COLOR IS YOUR HOODIE? ESSAYS ON BLACK GAY IDENTITY by Jarrett Neal
Neal read from his essay “Guys and Dolls”, about male role models and He-Man dolls, about mythologizing a junior high coach and the first time he looked at a man, that coach, and realized he found him beautiful. Neal is a terrific public speaker, so this already entertaining essay was particularly brilliant when read aloud by him.
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT by Zane Thimmesch-Gill
I met Zane before the reading started when I sat next him and his friend. They’d driven in from Minnesota for the reading and I’m so glad he did. Hiding in Plain Sight is about growing up queer and homeless and I’m just happy I had a happy Zane sitting next to me early on, so my heart didn’t break all the way when he did his reading.
I’m so excited to get this book! Even though I’ve promised myself I won’t add anymore hard copies to my bookcases, I’m totally breaking the rules for this one. Pohlen read from his chapter on the 70s and told a fantastic story about protesters who used the media to bring attention to gay rights activism by breaking into politicians’ public events and even newscasts. The story about Walter Cronkite, whose broadcast to 60 million viewers was interrupted by a protester stepping onto the set with a sign and sitting on Cronkite’s desk when the station cut the broadcast, was terrific. That the end result was a $450 fine for the protester and the chance to talk to Cronkite in court, followed by Cronkite beginning to cover LGBT rights issues in his newscasts a month later, was brilliant to hear.
TEACHING A MAN TO UNSTICK HIS TAIL by Ralph Hamilton
Hamilton read four poems from this collection and they were a lovely mix of history and pop culture, mourning and humor, loss and nostalgia. I loved the poem about Sappho, if she’d existed in 16th c. Japan, and another one about a man missing his ex.
“…Fact is, I sat in
the dark just to breathe his air, to be
where he’d been like a movie-dog
lying down at Boot Hill on his master’s
MINOTAUR by JA Rock
JA Rock read from the opening chapters of Minotaur and I did my best not to laugh so loudly that I embarrassed her. Minotaur is a retelling of that myth, set in a 1930s home for wayward girls. I sometimes forget–because her writing is so brilliant and so often dark in its focus–just how goddamn funny she is. Even better, she writes the best real people I know.
“I don’t trust heroes; I don’t think I should. At Rock Point, many of the girls liked stories that ended happily, or at least offered a sense of closure. But I liked tales with abstruse people screwing and killing their way toward ambiguous outcomes. I liked shadows. And I liked gore.
And secretly, I liked redemption. I liked monsters who regretted and heroes who mustered a revolted sort of compassion for their enemies. Even better were the heroes who saw villains as a mirror—not one that reflected the world precisely as it was, but one that showed the hero what she might become.”
(As of today, this book is on sale for $2.30 at the Riptide May the Fourth sale!)
THE CHEROKEE ROSE by Tiya Miles
I’m reading this book ASAP. Miles was studying the history of slaves on a Cherokee plantation at the Chief Vann House in Chatsworth, Georgia when funding was running out for the historic site. This got her thinking about what would happen if the house had been put up for auction. The Cherokee Rose is the story of the three women who wind up meeting each other on the plantation, the ghost of another long-gone woman, and the secrets they all have.
BOYSTOWN 7: BLOODLINES by Marshall Thornton
Thornton read from the seventh book in his Chicago-set mystery series, but I’ve linked to a collection of the first three books in the series that’s available for the cost of one Thornton book. I loved Thornton’s voice, and the secondary character (a teenage hustler the narrator and his boyfriend have taken in) who totally stole the scene.
MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL by Blythe H. Warren
The cover of Warren’s book makes me think of Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful, and that’s an instant rush of nostalgia and teenage lust/angst. The narrator who plays the drums got them from her abuelo, Papa Nestor, and the story of that gift, shortly before the girl loses him, both charmed and moved me.
SOMETHING LIKE STORIES by Jay Bell
Jay Bell read from the latest book in his Something Like… series, a collection of short stories featuring characters from the earlier books in the series. The excerpt he read was sweet and funny and full of memories of loss while trying to move past them.
Thank you, Lambda Literary and the authors and the Sulzer Library for the terrific evening. And for the latest blow to my ever-growing TBR!