Male Sex Work and Society

Posted by Kevin on September 25, 2014

male sex workMale Sex Work and Society. Edited by Victor Minichiello and John Scott. Harrington Park Press. 2014. $50. 507p. PB. 978-1-939594-01-3.

Extensively researched from cover to cover, Male Sex is a highly accessible tome. Seventeen chapters discuss every possible aspect of male sex work, including the history, the issues male sex workers face, and ways that male sex work is treated in various parts of the world. Male Sex not only focuses on workers who service male clients but also explores workers who work with female clients. The male role in this line of work is a fascinating topic the book wholly explores.

To the reader who may be coming to this book with zero prior knowledge, it does an excellent job introducing sex work before slowly delving deeper into the multitude of issues that sex workers face, including the grassroots initiatives workers are taking on in helping protect colleagues. Male Sex showcases these initiatives through screen shots of websites, such as HOOK Online.
Most interesting is the rise of social media and the role the internet plays in sex work. Thirty years ago, workers relied on print media to advertise their services; with the advent of social networking sites and phone apps, finding work has been made much easier. Male Sex dedicates an entire section to this topic alone.

Academic, public, and GLBT libraries would benefit greatly by including this book in their collection. Whether for sociology, GLBT, or public health sections, Male Sex can be suggested to patrons to give them a view into the world of male sex work. The book is highly recommended for readers 18 years and older.

Reviewer: Talia Earle

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Switchblade

Posted by Kevin on September 25, 2014

switchbladeTaite, Carsen. Switchblade. [Luca Bennett Bounty Hunger series]. Bold Strokes Books. 2014. $16.95. 231p. PB. 978-1-62639-058-4.

The third book in this mystery series begins as Luca heads to the bondsman to get some more work to pay her bills. While rounding up the usual suspects, she finds herself with both a dog and a mystery involving corrupt cops, drugs, and a rookie who took the fall for what was obviously someone else’s fault. Luca must also decide if she wants to be friends or more-than-friends with her ex-girlfriend or the new woman on the scene. Between her love life and her working life, Luca has a lot on her plate.

Very much a typical mystery/private investigator story along the lines of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, this genre writing does not detract from the story. With a scruffy appearance, rundown apartment, and all her savings in a coffee can, the flawed, believable protagonist typifies the standard private investigator character. The mystery’s solution is fairly obvious from the beginning, but watching Luca struggle through the story and discover the answers on her own is enjoyable.

The compelling pace and suspenseful tone of this book will keep readers turning the pages to see if their suspicions are correct. This book would be a good addition to a public library’s mystery collection.

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

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Categories: Adult,Fiction,Mystery

No Boundaries

Posted by Kevin on September 24, 2014

no boundariesFord, Donna. No Boundaries. Bold Strokes Books. 2014. $16.95. 256p. PB. 978-1-62639-060-7.

Gwen has just moved with her dog to rural Tennessee for a fresh start away from her mistakes. Andi, also hiding from a difficult past, lives in the same small town. The locals are accustomed to Andi’s reclusive ways but become curious when she and Gwen start spending time together. Although Gwen and Andi are attracted to each other from the start, Andi keeps pushing Gwen away. When Andi’s secrets come back to haunt her, she has to decide whether to tell Gwen the truth or spare her the pain by breaking up with her.

The plot is familiar: person #1 and person #2 are perfect for each other, but at least one of them is hiding a secret which, when discovered, requires both of them to make decisions about their future. With little action in No Boundaries, Andi and Gwen’s relationship carries the novel. Although the characters are realistic and well-defined, the events require a suspension of belief to accept that two lesbians could both flee to the same rural town in Tennessee.

This book would make an excellent addition to a public library’s romance novel collection or as a summer read beach fans of Karin Kallmaker’s writing.

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

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Pearls of Asia

Posted by Kevin on September 19, 2014

pearls of asiaGeiger, Lee. Pearls of Asia. The Writer’s Coffee Shop. 2014. $25.95. 200p. PB. 978-1612132440.

A well-known San Francisco anchorwoman is found murdered, and Inspector Mac Fleet follows leads that take him to Pearls of Asia, an exclusive restaurant where the waitresses are all Asian transsexuals. The conflict of interest builds as Mac begins falling in love with an employee, Sheyla, who has information Mac needs to complete his investigation. As the clues add up, Mac has to decide which is more important: his feelings for Sheyla or discovering the anchorwoman’s murderer.

This fairly short novel reads like a standard mystery/investigator story, with clues for the reader to follow, twists in the plot, and an investigator who frequently puts himself in harm’s way in order to find the answers. Add in a host of trans* characters, and this should be a perfect queer mystery. Unfortunately, Mac Fleet is fairly ignorant when it comes to the trans* community, which is surprising considering his lifetime of work in San Francisco.

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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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