Binding the God

Mann, Jeff. Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the American South. New London, CT: Bear Bones Books, 2010. Paperback. 231pp. $15.00. Kindle Edition, lending enabled. $7.99. ISBN: 978-1-59021-219-6.

Lambda Award-winning writer Jeff Mann follows up on his Edge: Travels of an Appalachian Leather Bear with this second collection of personal essays. And these essays are deeply personal – reflecting both his deep affection for the land and people of the mountains and the deep pain the homophobia endemic to the region causes him.

Mann is a gay, pagan, leather bear, and in many ways, you might think this makes him out of place in the mountains of West Virginia. But he is also an Appalachian, and a country boy – and he can’t live comfortably away from the region and its people. Instead, he uses his multiple outsider status – gay, blue-collar, mountain, pagan, and bear – to educate and enlighten the classes he teaches and the communities in which he dwells. The essays in Binding the God will do the same for the urbane and sophisticated, the slender and smooth-chested, and the A-list gays, and will remind us all that the GLBT community and GLBT culture is everywhere.

That’s not to say that Mann’s home does not cause him pain. Despite his deep affection for the land and people of the Mountain South, he is acutely aware of its conservative politics. He looks around at the gym and sees a hot man, his perfect good ol’ boy type – and realizes the object of his affection is likely straight and even homophobic. But then, he has a great time bonding with the men painting his house, and they don’t mind that he’s gay, because he can talk trucks and cowboy boots and country music. Being a hill-queer may be a contradiction – but it’s one with which Mann has learned to live. And if he has to occasionally escape to gay-friendlier climes, the mountains always call him back home.

Some may be wary of the sexual content, but without it we’d get a distorted view of the very complicated Jeff Mann. The essay “Bondage Tape in Budapest,” for example, illuminates the relationship between leatherbear Mann and his vanilla partner. And when Mann talks about Tim McGraw, not just as a musician, but as a sex object – well, I can relate. I only ever listened to Tim McGraw because he looked hot on the album cover!

Recommended for all public and academic libraries, and particularly for those libraries serving GLBT or Appalachian communities.

Reviewed by, John Bradford
Head of Automation & Technical Services

Villa Park Public Library

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