2017 Over the Rainbow Non-fiction Nominees

By Anne Moore  

Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory, 2nd ed. by Qwo-Li Driskill. University of Arizona Press, 2016. Both a brutal history of colonial intrusion on native peoples and a call to action for asegi (strange spirited) indigenous people to reclaim an ancient, non-binary history of sexuality, the author (Cherokee, poet, historian) uses primary documents to illuminate a world invaded under the justification that ‘savage’ cultures had to be ‘civilized’… and part of that ‘savagery’ was the existence of gender identity Westerners couldn’t understand.

Ask a Queer Chick: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life for Girls Who Dig Girls by Lindsay King-Miller. Plume, 2016. A series of essays about lesbian life based on the advice column of the same name. Topics are written to address both queer and straight readers and include dating, sexual relationships, being out at work, and finding allies.

Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman. Viking, 2015. A richly crafted memoir about a gay son and his aging octogenarian mother. As her health declines, the son returns to the small Missouri town and the house he grew up in, from New York City, to care for her. Despite the passage of time and the decline of both Betty’s and the town’s health, not much has changed in their relationship.

A Body Undone: Living On After Great Pain by Cristina Crosby. “Sexual Cultures.” NYU Press, 2016. One month after her fiftieth birthday, the author becomes a quadriplegic after breaking her neck in a bicycle accident. In this memoir, she writes about her changing feelings toward her body, her relationship, and her own sense of self.

Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley. Riverhead, 2016. Conley, a son of a pastor, tells how his struggle with his sexuality brought him to checking into an ex-gay conversion therapy program during his late teens in 2004. He gives a stark look into how he survives the abusive program, struggles with his faith, and comes to terms with his sexuality.

The Cambridge Companion to Lesbian Literature Edited by Jodie Medd. Cambridge University Press, 2016. Representations of lesbian identities, sexuality, and communities in literature from the medieval era to the present are examined as only the Cambridge Companions can, with academic, yet accessible articles on essential authors such as Willa Cather and Audre Lorde, and literary movements, theoretical arguments, and periods. This text is a useful introduction to the variety of lesbian writing.

The Courts, the Ballot Boxes, and Gay Rights: How Our Governing Institutions Shape the Same-Sex Marriage Debate by Joseph Mello. University of Kansas Press, 2016. This well-written and organized book examine how issues, such as same-sex marriage, are shaped by the political system. In offering an extended analysis of the conservative opposition to marriage equality, the author illuminates for us how a political advantage at the ballot box shifts once the courts become involved.

Cursed Legacy: The tragic life of Klaus Mann by Frederic Spotts. Yale, 2016. Klaus Mann, son of Thomas Mann, was one of the first German writers to openly write gay plays and novels, and one of the first to criticize Nazism. He stood by his principles even as he was vilified both by the Germans and later, because he was an outspoken gay writer, by the Americans. He died too young, and this biography attests to both his genius and our loss.

Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports by Cyd Zeigler. Edge of Sports, 2016. A foremost expert in LGBTQIA athletics, Zeigler offers a perspective on the difficulties encountered by these athletes, as well as looking at key moments which have shaped their experiences. While LGBTQIA athletes have made tremendous strides, Zeigler points out how much remains to be done.

The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott. Knopf, 2016. A chronicle of the friendship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Pauli Murray: granddaughter of a mixed-race slave, lawyer, civil rights activist, minister, and co-founder of the National Organization for Women. The book explores the professional and social cost of Murray’s race and gender, in the context of her correspondence with Roosevelt, mentions issues of her gender fluidity and same-sex relationships, and Roosevelt’s use of Murray’s advocacy for racial equality in her public writings.

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach. Dey St/William Morrow, 2016. Memoir of the Olympian and titan of women’s soccer, Abby Wambach, who in 2015 set the record for most goals scored for anyone, men, and women. Her voice comes through strongly, detailing her love/hate relationship with the game, relationships with her wife and close friends, struggles with addiction, and charting her own course through life.

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks. Knopf, 2015. In the last days of his life, the renowned physician and professor of neurology reflect on ideas that shaped his outlook and those things that gave him joy in these four essays that describe his life as a gift and do not view his terminal illness as a medical failure.

Homintern: How Gay Culture Liberated the Modern World by Gregory Wood. Yale University Press, 2016. The word, “homintern” popularized in the 1930s, refers to an international conspiracy of homosexuals. Spanning continents, cultures, and the century since the trial of Oscar Wilde, this entertaining, impeccably researched text is filled with history, gossip, a well-curated selection of illustrations, and ultimately proves Woods’ thesis, that gay men and lesbians, through art and tenacity, did indeed liberate the modern world.

Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program by Douglas M. Charles. University Press of Kansas, 2015. A scholar on the history of J. Edgar Hoover’s reign of the FBI, Charles chronicles the wide-reaching efforts of intimidation and harassment of gays and lesbians, as well as the organizations that supported them. The FBI’s ‘Sex Deviates’ program amassed more than 330,000 pages of information, which were destroyed in the late 1970s.This work fills an important gap in history.

A House in St. John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents by Matthew Spender. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. Son of famed World War I era poet, Stephen Spender and his renowned musician wife, Natasha, the author’s memoir is a quest to understand his parents’ relationship with a detailed biography of their marriage in upper class 1950’s London. Their house was filled with notables of the time. His father continued to have relationships with men, his mother infatuations. Through anecdotes and history, he captures life in a house full of tension and genius, and how ultimately, we are shaped by the strangeness of our families.

I Can Give You Anything But Love by Gary Indiana. Rizzoli/Ex Libris, 2015. The memories from this multifaceted writer and artist have an astringent, biting edge, as recounted here. The writing is eclectic, sometimes satirical, and always real. The author spares no sin in an explicit, unflinching look at his sex- and drug-fueled life, from the punk movement to the AIDS crisis, in his unmistakable voice.

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2016. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tries to find the truth when her father shocks her with the news of her sex-change surgery. Questions of identity, rage, and history haunt her story: Hungarian or American, Magyar or Jew, victim or victimizer, man or woman? In the end, “in the universe, there is only one true divide, one real binary: life or death.”  Everything else is open to interpretation, acceptance, or denial.

Masculinities under Neoliberalism Edited by Andrea Cornwall, Frank Karioris, and Nancy Lindisfarne. University of Chicago Press, 2016. Examines the effect of neoliberalism on men’s experience and understanding of gender on a global scale, from Russia, China, Brazil, Angola, the UK, the USA, and more countries, through the lens of working life, sports, religion, parenthood, and more. This work would be useful for sociologists, queer, feminist, and masculinity theorists, and postcolonial studies.

Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir by Joel Grey with Rebecca Paley. Flatiron, 2016. The accomplished actor’s memoir expounds upon his wide-ranging career, from small Jewish theaters with his father to Broadway and his Tony-award winning role in Cabaret that later earns him an Academy Award. In an engaging voice, he shares his struggles with his mother, the support from his father and friends, challenges within his marriage, and his open acceptance later in life as a gay man.

Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High by Ken Corbett. Henry Holt, 2016. The emotionally-charged true story of a 14 year old murdering his transgender classmate at school, and the trial that followed. The author profiles the people affected by this tragedy, from the victim to the killer, to the families, classmates, and jurors involved in the case. He comes to a disturbing conclusion about our society, what we teach our children, and how we respond to hate crimes.

My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to Kickass by Julie Tarney, forward by Diane Ehrensaft. University of Wisconsin Press, 2016. At age two, Julie Tarney’s child stated ‘Inside my head, I’m a girl’. In the pre-Internet age, she felt disoriented but was determined to be a loving and supportive parent, doing the right thing for her child. This book chronicles the memorable mother-son relationship, which exemplifies trust, love, and best parenting.

New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics by Ramzi Fawaz. New York University Press, 2016. This work mines cultural theory to unveil the moral philosophy, political implications, and social semiotics woven throughout American comics in the 20th century. Densely-articulated readings of Fantastic Four, X-Men, New Mutants and other titles unpack the non-normative, outsider, queer, and excluded elements of American culture that readers connected with on a visceral level and that shaped society in ways the authors/artists/producers may never have envisioned.

Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis by Kevin Mumford. University of Minnesota Press, 2016. The author highlights a select few gay men, often obscured or forgotten, in the Civil Rights Movement.  Their voices have never been heard with such clarity. The author relies on primary documents, historicism, and social theory to explore how some men struggled with a culture of both racial and sexual oppression, from the 1960s into the 21st century.

Out of the Closet, Into the Archives: Researching Sexual Histories by Amy L. Stone and Jaime Cantrell, SUNY Press, 2016. This anthology reveals the archive as an ethnological exploration, from the community archives maintained by dedicated activists and enthused amateurs to the massively increasing university and college outposts. Researchers mine primary documents and ephemera for subtextual, contextual, and overt traces of gay, lesbian, and trans lives. “The case histories provided here testify to the value of innovative collections and the imaginative uses to which scholars can put them.”

Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics by Timothy Stewart-Winter. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. A case study of community activism and local politics examines how a movement that had been losing in the courts turned their record around and began to win. It focuses on three points: local context that coalesced the community; forging local partnerships for protection and later progress; and finally, how geographic co-location contributes or limits political power.

Queer Marxism in Two Chinas by Petrus Liu. Duke University Press, 2015. The two Chinas in the title are mainland China and Taiwan. The author of this academic work probes this important and often overlooked area of conflict between political and social spheres, analyzing how queer activists, engaging with the Marxist policies between and within the “two Chinas”, have formed unique and specific ways to resist oppression. Timely and instructive.

Romaine Brooks: A Life by Cassandra Langer. Abrams, 2015. A biography of the lesbian artist and expatriate American painter. Langer does not shy away from Brooks’ fascist leanings at the same time as she repositions Brooks as a cosmopolitan lesbian artist during a time when homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder.

Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began by Alex Cooper and Joanna Brooks. HarperOne, 2016. The story of 15-year-old lesbian Alex, whose Mormon family enrolls her in an unlicensed residential treatment program in Utah where she is physically and verbally abused. After several months, she escapes, and with the help of a legal team in Salt Lake City, wins the right to live as an openly gay teen. This is an important story exposing the horrors of gay conversion therapy and rehabilitation centers.

Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl by Rashod Ollison. Beacon Press, 2016. Ollison tells his excruciatingly honest experience coming of age in Arkansas in a working-class family dealing with poverty. When Ollison’s father abandons the family, he leaves behind the music that helps to shape Ollison’s identity and gives him hope. He also explores how masculinity and becoming aware of his sexuality at a young age affects him.

Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation by Jim Downs. Basic Books, 2016. Downs has written an essential historical text on gay life during the “forgotten” time between 1969 and the beginnings of the AIDS crisis. Using documents from large metropolitan LGBT centers, he explores communities like the Metropolitan Community Church and those formed in book stores, proving the ‘70s were more than pride marches, sex, and discos.

A Taste for Brown Bodies: Gay Modernity and Cosmopolitan Desire by Hiram Perez. Sexual Cultures Series. NYU Press, 2015. Scholarly, accessible work examines queer theory and shows how it has sidestepped the central concept of race. The author traces the history and impact of the eroticism of ‘brown bodies’ and its centrality in the purview of gay, white, Western colonialist thinking. The author’s close readings of queer theory texts and use of ‘brown’ mirroring, to some extent, the work of José Muñoz, help make this a revelatory work.

Undoing Monogamy: The Politics of Science and the Possibilities of Biology by Angela Willey. Duke University Press, 2016. The author takes the reader a step beyond the science: she gives an interdisciplinary reading of biopossibilities, politics, polyamory, and cultural norms with all their rigid failings, arriving not at a conclusion, but at an invitation to continue the debate. She ends with an explicit call for a “dyke science” to radically re-address how we approach the study of nature, culture, and community.

The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World: America’s First Gay Marriage by Michael McConnell with Jack Baker as told to Gail Langer Karwoski. University of Minnesota Press, 2016. A chronicle of the perils and triumphs of the first same-sex marriage to take place in the United States, which occurred on September 3, 1971. It explores the impact of their personal lives on their professional careers immediately and in the following decades.

Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality by Katherine Franke. Sexual Cultures Series. NYU Press, 2015. This academic work takes a legal and sociological perspective on gay marriage, making a dismaying case for sexual and racial exclusion under the guise of marriage rights. Shortly after slavery was abolished, laws were used to stoke hatred and restrict rather than protect rights; she warns of the possibility of similar outcomes, including the loss of an engaged and supportive GLBTQIA community, with legalizing same-sex marriage.


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