In this latest collection of essays, writer and performer S. Bear Bergman keeps his focus on queer and trans communities, but he has narrowed his subject matter to ideas of family–chosen, biological, and those that blur the lines. The title refers to a particular taxonomy of families. Family by blood and marriage are familiar enough to most. Family by wine, he writes, are the bonds formed in a community shared by consistent meals such as Shabbos or Sunday dinner. The last, “glitter,” is a way of denoting queers who create family of and among other trans people and gender and sexuality outlaws.
With an appealing voice, both beautiful and clear, Bergman’s essays are generally well crafted around a specific incident or thought, with many spirals and tendrils but always coalescing around the central idea. The love that Bergman feels for his son, his husband, and scads of others is palpable in every syllable. And while this cannot serve as any kind of Transgender 101, or LGBT 101 (nor is it intended to do so, by any stretch), it provides many valuable lessons about how some queer people choose to create their lives, as well as some barriers in the way.
In one interstitial chapter, Bergman speaks directly to his readers who may not be immersed what feels like an extended clique of cool urban queers (the clique in which this reviewer also resides). He addresses it to those who think, “I want that, or some parts of that, and it feels like there’s no way I can ever, ever have it.” He assures the reader, “You can have it,” and goes on to give some tips about how to access those communities: for example, “Attend lectures and demonstrations and plays and concerts; they’re free up at the university,” or “Go to meetings, even if it means taking three buses and ramen for lunch to do it.” Valid advice, but still inaccessible for an untold number of people.
Many times while reading this book, I felt vicariously loved and supported in an extended international queer family. At other times, I felt lonely and resentful that this guy was waxing rhapsodic about great his life is and how much everyone loves him while many others are struggling to make meaningful connections due to disability, mental illness, racism, (trans)misogyny, classism, and a host of other reasons not excluding just plain disillusionment. These conflicting emotions make this a successful collection of essays because I was never I emotionally disengaged or disinterested.
This title is recommended for any collection that includes LGBTQ books or wants to, those that serve populations immersed in Bergman’s milieu as well as those removed from it.
Reviewer: Kyle Lukoff,
Librarian, Corlears School (NY)