Kitty Genovese : the Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America

Posted by Kevin on September 16, 2014

Kitty GenoveseCook, Kevin. Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, and the Crime that Changed America. Norton. 2014. $25.95. 242p. HC 978-0-393-23928-7.

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York City as she returned home after her job as a bartender. This event led to the creation of protective Good Samaritan laws in many states and research into the “bystander effect,” in which crowds of people watch a violent crime and choose not to help because they believe that someone else will step up to help. Cook maintains, however, that although people failed to help Kitty while she was stabbed, the story is not as simple as it seems. Drawing from eyewitness accounts, court transcripts, interviews, and newspaper articles, the author paints a picture of a neighborhood where most people were likely asleep or assumed that the noise, typical in a growing city where people stay awake throughout the night, was simply the scream of a silly, possibly drunk young couple out too late at night. The book purports that the murder of Genovese, a lesbian, was not a hate crime, but rather a crime of opportunity.

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Uganda, United States and Europe: The Anti-Homosexual Law of 2014

Posted by Kevin on September 15, 2014

ugandaStevens, ML. Uganda, United States, and Europe: The Anti-Homosexual Law of 2014. ML Stevens. 2014. $5.38. 83p. PB. 978-1-49956-738-0.
This work by ML Stevens details both the cultural/political issues in Uganda and the development and repercussions of Uganda’s legislation outlawing the practice of homosexuality. The author’s intent is to describe the dire situation Uganda finds itself in and what response would be appropriate from the powers of North America and Europe.

The author’s passion for this topic is obvious from the first page of this book. Unfortunately, only 83 pages of content forces many issues to be glossed over or simply stated without any background, evidence, or research to support the author’s point. The large typeface, odd line spacing, and multiple typographical and grammatical errors detract from the author’s important message. The style of writing is reminiscent of a high school research paper.

The countries of Africa face many difficulties: political issues, tribal issues, and the AIDS crisis, to name a few. Certainly the treatment of LGBT individuals is also of great importance, but this work will not help this topic to garner the attention it requires. With additional research and the assistance of an editor, this work will be ready to add to an academic library’s collection.

Reviewer: Jenni Frencham, Librarian
Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward (CA)

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Beyond Magenta

Posted by Kevin on September 11, 2014

beyond magentaKuklin, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Candlewick Press, 2014. $22.99. 182p. HC. 9780763656119.

Beyond Magenta profiles six trans teens who discuss their gender identities, family relationships, transition processes, experiences with societal acceptance and rejection, and plans for the future. Each profile references a participant’s many interests and identities without downplaying the importance of their trans identities. Most of the participants are also represented by excellent photographic essays, which offer compelling glances into their personalities.

Kuklin includes a small amount of commentary from herself and people close to the teens, but the book’s focus always remains on the teens’ often emotional stories and experiences. She has worked closely with participants to “make sure that everything written was honest and authentic” and carefully avoids inserting her voice into the teens’ narratives. Some readers may wish that Kuklin had edited the material more aggressively, however, so that the narratives flowed more smoothly.

Beyond Magenta’s contributors represent an inclusive cross-section of the trans community. Several of them identify as people of color; and they express a number of different gender identities, including binary (trans women and men) and non-binary (gender queer and gender fuck) identities. One intersex teen also shares their story in the book. Each one analyzes gender and sexuality differently, and some readers may find some of their analyses stereotypical or reductive. It’s important to remember, however, that teens–both cisgender and transgender–are often working to develop an understanding of societal gender roles and how they relate to them. The comments shared in this book are honest expressions of that process.

Some readers might also wish to see more representation of rural teens’ experiences; all except one of the participants was recruited through the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, giving the book a strong focus on the New York metropolitan area. While it is impossible for six teens can truly represent the experiences of all trans youth, Beyond Magenta can be commended for offering an inclusive and thoughtful set of perspectives.

After the teens’ powerful stories, Kuklin’s bibliography is a disappointment. The first book mentioned is J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen, which has been widely discredited for its blatant transphobia, unscientific assertions, and breaches of research ethics. Except for this regrettable selection, the bibliography appears to be intended for people rearing or researching trans children rather than for trans teens and their friends. Notably, Kuklin includes only one YA fiction book in her bibliography, though several excellent titles featuring trans protagonists have been published in recent years (Cris Beam’s I am J and Kristin Cronn-Mills’ Beautiful Music for Ugly Children spring immediately to mind).

Kuklin’s book can serve as a good introductory resource for family members of trans and questioning teens as well as for teens interested in learning more about their trans peers’ experiences. Beyond Magenta leaves something to be desired, however, as a resource for trans youth themselves. The teens’ stories, while powerful, lack context. Kuklin includes a short section on the medical aspects of transition but includes nothing about trans politics, culture, history, legal issues, or sexuality. Each of these would have provided additional insights on the book’s narratives.

While it is heartening to see trans teens represented in first-person narrative form, this reviewer hopes that this is but one of many opportunities for trans youth to share their stories in print. Magenta is recommended for libraries that collect teen memoirs and interviews.

Reviewer: Jane Sandberg, Librarian
Burlington (WA) Public Library

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Categories: Nonfiction,Youth

Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran

Posted by Kevin on September 11, 2014

professing selvesNajmabadi, Afsaneh. Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran. Duke University Press Books. 2014. $99.95. 418p. PB. 978-0-8223-5557-1.

Homosexuality is a capital offense in Iran; however, transsexuality is not. The government even provides the funding necessary for transmen and transwomen to obtain hormones or other medical procedures in order to be their true selves. At the same time, gay and lesbian people are executed by the Iranian government. When a country’s government is also its ruling religious body, as in Iran, religious laws and state laws quickly become intermingled. In Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran, Harvard University historian Afsaneh Najmabadi explores how the acceptance of transsexuality and the rejection of homosexuality has shaped the queer community in Iran. Drawing from legal, psychological, medical, historical, and religious texts, Najmabadi describes how the Iranian government became invested in determining who is a “true” transsexual and who is not.

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The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians

Posted by Kevin on September 9, 2014

reappearing actFagan, Kate. The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians. Skyhorse Publishing. 2014. $24.95. 200p. HC. 978-1-62914-205-0.

Recounting her experience on the University of Colorado’s women’s basketball team, Fagan tells how she aligned herself with the team’s evangelical Christians on her team. Although not from a religious family, Fagan attended Bible studies and worship services and attempted to convince others to repent. During this time, she realized that she was a lesbian and found her new-found faith to be in conflict with her newly-discovered orientation. This memoir describes Fagan’s struggles to reconcile her beliefs with her orientation and the effect on her relationship with her teammates.

The memoir is unusual not because of Fagan’s struggle with her beliefs and her orientation but because she was not reared in a religious home. Rather than growing up with internalized homophobia as many religious persons do, Fagan chose to spend time with evangelical Christians during college. While she recounts many occasions when she attended Bible studies or prayed and worshiped with her teammates, Fagan never describes a conversion experience. In the language of the evangelical Christians whom she befriended, she was never “saved” or “born again.” Her struggle, then, with her orientation focuses more on how her teammates would react rather than how God would react. Although she did come out to a couple of teammates, there was never a big coming out experience where she admitted to the entire team that she was a lesbian and had to deal with the ramifications. Fagan herself states that she chose, as she claims many others in college sports do, to keep her orientation to herself and only tell a few close friends.

A good memoir, Fagan’s book includes many details about basketball games, places where her team traveled, etc. Sports fans will enjoy her style of storytelling. The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians would be a good addition to any public library’s collection.

Reviewer: Jenni Frencham, Librarian
Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward (CA)

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An Unspoken Compromise: A Spiritual Guide for LGBT People of Faith

Posted by Kevin on September 8, 2014

unspoken compromiseTimane, Rizi. An Unspoken Compromise: A Spiritual Guide for LGBT People of Faith. HawkFish Publishing. 2013. $19.99. 178p. PB. 978-1484872468.

Born and raised in the West African nation of Nigeria, Rizi Timane realized as a child that he was a boy although he was born with a girl’s body. African culture and his family’s fundamentalist Christian beliefs, however, taught him that being LGBT was a cardinal sin. He struggled for many years with his identity, coming out first as a lesbian and finally as transgender. Timane learned to reconcile what he knew to be true about himself with what he thought to be true about God. An Unspoken Compromise is Timane’s message to members of the LGBT community, especially those who are struggling to reconcile their orientation or gender identity with firmly held religious beliefs.

Although the title leads the reader to believe that the book will be a spiritual reference book similar to Matthew Vines’s God and the Gay Christian or Justin Lee’s Torn, the first 100 pages describe the author’s childhood, young adulthood, coming out experiences, and transition. At the end, a 24-page appendix serves as a memorial to LGBT victims of homophobic rape in Africa. The remainder of the book discusses Timane’s interpretations of the so-called biblical “clobber passages,” a topic covered extensively by other authors. The book would benefit from some editing.

The fate of LGBT persons in Africa is an important topic, and I hope that Timane’s work heralds other authors to detail these own experiences. It is recommended as a memoir to public libraries.

Reviewer: Jenni Frencham, Librarian
Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward (CA)

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Paris Is Burning: A Queer Film Classic

Posted by Kevin on September 5, 2014

Paris is BurningHilderbrand, Lucas. Paris Is Burning: A Queer Film Classic. Arsenal Pulp Press. 2013. $14.95. 162p. PB. 978-1-55152-519-8.

A groundbreaking documentary from 1991, Paris Is Burning showcases the underground world of drag culture through drag balls and in-depth interviews with the participants. The film raises critical questions concerning race, class, sexuality, and gender identity in 1980s New York City.

Lucas Hilderbrand’s book is both an excellent introduction to the film for those who may have not seen it and a great beginner’s guide to New York City’s gay life three decades ago. In the book’s three parts, Hilderbrand provides a summary and closer look of the imagery of the film, the release and initial reactions of the film, and the ongoing academic and lasting effects of the film as well as information about the lives and effects of Paris on its participants.

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Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World

Posted by Kevin on September 4, 2014

universal hunksChapman, David L. and Brown, Douglas. Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975. Arsenal Pulp Press. 2013. $29.95. 303p. PB. 978-1-55152-509-9.

Filled with delightful historical photographs of body builders from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, Universal Hunks does not fail to deliver exactly what its title suggests. Every page is full of photographs, advertisements, and even propaganda posters featuring muscle men throughout the world and history. Hunks is definitely a feast for the eyes.

Brown introduces the book with an essay on the rise of popularity of the body builder in the late 19th century. Following sections for each geographical region of the world and short essays describe the impact of this emphasis on the male physique. It should be noted that Universal Hunks is a sequel of sorts to Chapman’s earlier book, American Hunks. Those interested in that focus should refer to that book, also recommended. Each photograph or advertisement has a caption, occasionally quite cheeky, interpreting what the particular piece represents, whether it be through an art historical, historical, or GLBT lens. The book frequently provides a short biographical note on a particularly famous muscle man and his lasting effect on the world of body building.

Universal Hunks would fit in well with a public or academic library’s art history, history, or GLBT collections. Due to the nudity included in this book, I would recommend this to patrons ages 16 and up.

Reviewer: Talia Earle

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Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival

Posted by Kevin on September 3, 2014

body countsStrub, Sean. Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival. Scribner. 2014. $30. 432p. HC. 978-1451661958.

“Powerful.” Lily Tomlin’s succinct thought on the cover of Body Counts ideally describes the book’s impact. Strub is an AIDS and LGBT activist, the founder of Poz magazine, U.S. Congressional candidate, producer of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, etc. etc. His memoir covers his personal and political life during the tumultuous AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and into the 90s. Seemingly present at all of the widely-publicized movements and protests, Straub name-drops so many well-known figures that the book feels like a gay version of Forrest Gump.

Strub’s activism calls for a cure as well as personal and social acceptance of the disease. His publication, Poz, aimed at the HIV/AIDS community, emphasizes living a full life with the disease rather than viewing it as a death sentence.

Body Counts is incredibly hard to put down. Strub’s heartfelt, warm, engaging tone includes a sense of humor. From an activist with seemingly unending amounts of creativity, Strub’s story will appeal to readers who lived through the AIDS crisis of the 80s and 90s, younger readers who take advances in AIDS research for granted and need to be reminded of the work that is left to be done, and anyone interested in civil disobedience and political activism. Public and academic libraries would easily find readers for this book.

Reviewer: Anna Fidgeon
Digital Learning Initiatives Librarian
California State University, Northridge

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Angels & Curves

Posted by Kevin on September 2, 2014

angels and curvesBerger, George. Angles & Curves. Queerteen Press. 2014. $13.95. 238p. PB. 9781497478794.

Steve, a transgender, asexual, and aromantic teen, lives in an alternate world much like the one today—except for the elves. That and the law (Statute 364, Section 227) that denies both State service and employment to a person under the age of 40 who did not pass all twelve years of school. In his second attempt to pass Year Twelve, Steve bonds with two elves, Heather and Gretchen, because they are all outcasts from society.

Angles & Curves contains a multitude of outlandish escapades: when you think Berger could not add anything more to the novel, he does. For example, elves are gravely affected by chocolate’s aphrodisiac qualities, and Steve soliciting a prostitute to impersonate his guardian at a parent teacher conference. All this is combined with contrived dialog as judges, police, officers, and teens swear at each other.

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Categories: Fiction,Youth