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review 2014-08-08 20:53
A History of Gay Literature - The Male Tradition , by Gregory Woods
A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition - Gregory Woods

In 1998, the year of the publication of A History of Gay Literature - The Male Tradition, Gregory Woods was appointed Professor of Gay and Lesbian Studies at Nottingham Trent University, the first such appointment in the UK. According to Woods' website

 

http://www.gregorywoods.co.uk/pp003.shtml

 

the then Conservative shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe used the pages of the Sunday Mirror to denounce his career as ‘a phenomenal waste of public money’, while the right-wing British National Party saw the appointment as yet another sign of national decline. Such appointments have become a bit more widespread in the USA and the UK in the meantime, and a cottage industry of Queer Studies(*) has developed. As in many newly minted academic fields, there is a certain tentativeness in the books I've read on the subject which is expressive of a continuing search for the intellectual core and methods of the field, and there is a certain defensive polemicism against the ignorant and hateful libels of various homophobic critics. All of this is quite understandable, but one should be aware of its existence when going into the academic literature. (This book, published by Yale University Press and supplied with over 50 pages of endnotes and bibliography, is definitely academic literature.)

 

Woods' book would be more accurately titled A Brief History of Gay Literature in the European Tradition, because the small gestures made towards literature in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Chinese and Japanese are really unsatisfactory and there is no approximation to completeness even within the more narrowly defined confines I indicated.  In fact, the bulk of the text and the author's personal interest when engaging with the material are essentially limited to literature in English and French, with brief excursions into ancient Greek and Roman literature where there are no surprises in the texts he chose to discuss.(**)

 

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review 2014-07-13 17:23
Review: Caught in the Crossfire by Juliann Rich
Caught in the Crossfire - Juliann Rich

Juliann Rich’s debut novel Caught in the Crossfire is a new and much needed story in Gay YA literature.

 

The book is about a gay teen who is a devout Christian, and struggling to reconcile those two things. We first meet Jonathan at the beginning of a month long bible camp. At the beginning of the story, Jonathan is aware of his feelings for guys, but not too eager to try and understand them. We’re also introduced to Ian, the love interest, quite early. Ian, we learn, is also gay and is much more outspoken about gay rights. The beginning of Jonathan’s friendship with Ian is the catalyst to him really discovering his sexuality and forcing him to come to terms with what it means for him and his faith.

 

In a previous post, I mentioned how this book reminded me of fan fiction. That is not a diss at all– if you look down on fan fiction, you probably have never read a really really good one. The thing about fan fiction, is that it talks about sex in a very honest (and yes, explicit,) way. And because of this, it can show what consent and safety looks like, what the repercussions and aftereffects can be, better than anything else. That’s what made me reckon this book to fan fiction: the honesty with with Rich talks about sex. 

 

Two of the main supporting characters were a Native American woman, and a disabled man. I was happy when they came into the story, because all too often gay white boys become the face of diversity, and Caught in the Crossfire avoided that pitfall. The thing that made me particularly happy was that they weren’t given worth simply because a white guy decided to like them. They were fully formed characters who held their own space, and even gave HIM worth with their gazes. But it was also very clear they had lives of their own, outside of helping Jonathan– which is not only realistic, but also very respectful and unfortunately not often done.

 

Along the same lines, in many love stories between two guys, there’s always a female that falls into the “desperate cock-blocking bitch.” While there was a girl in this story that was interested in Jonathan, I think you would have to stretch very far to throw that at her.

 

This is an important book because although I’ve seen queer characters struggle with their sexuality because they’re in religious families, most of them at the end abandon the religion, and in some cases their entire religious community. Which isn’t to say that path is wrong– It’s just important to have stories about the kids who decide to go a different way. Although I think this is a book anyone would like, it’s an important book for queer teens growing up in Christian families, and the people who make up those families. Having gone through a situation like that myself, I found myself wishing I had this book four years ago so I could hand it to all my Christian friends.

 

A new era of Gay YA has come, that have queer characters that aren’t defined solely by their queerness. Caught in the Crossfire definitely falls into that camp. I don’t know how that’s possible, because Jonathan’s sexuality is sort of a huge part of the book, but somehow, he’s never defined solely or even predominately by his sexuality. Which was pretty cool, because like, as a queer teen, yes there is a lot I’m still exploring and some of my life is revolving around that, but not enough that it becomes the sole part of who I am.

 

And aside from all of that, the story was beautifully written and highly enjoyable. Usually in first person POV, I begin to feel like I’m in the author’s head instead of the characters– that didn’t happen with this book. I’d go so far as to say that this is the best first person POV I’ve ever read. Jonathan’s voice never wavered. The other character’s voices were also extremely clear and consistent. Juliann somehow mastered the art of capturing distinctly different voices without bogging the dialogue down with speech tics: I found that I always knew who was speaking before I read the tag.

 

The plot clipped along at a nice pace and no part of it felt like it dragged or was rushed. The description Juliann used really made me feel like I was there, seeing all of it. The characters were lovable and realistic, and all went on amazing journeys.

 

When I first picked up Caught in the Crossfire I honestly didn’t expect much from something so thin, but it took me places I did not expect. I read it in two days. I cried three times. And I would definitely recommend it. I can’t wait to read the sequel Searching for Grace when it comes out this September!

 

Book Review written by Victoria, co-webmistress of GayYA.org, and was originally posted at http://www.gayya.org/?p=724

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review 2013-09-22 19:30
Asher's Fault - Elizabeth Wheeler
Asher's Fault - Elizabeth Wheeler

I'm trying to find a way to begin this review as I'm not a fan of repeating the whole summary when it's already out here. This novel was good. I enjoyed the most of it and I could relate with Asher in many ways. He was a likable characters, at least for me. Some would say he was a bit emotionless, a bit arrogant, and selfish. To me, he came as a strong, brave character who tried to deal with things happening around him as best as he could. When he gets a camera from his aunt, he starts to see the world through the lens of it, making him a bit delusional, trapped in his own world. He's pulled back into a reality when his dad leaves and when his mum starts to avoid his father as best as she can. She blames it all on him, saying that he leaved them all, and Asher's struggle with his mum is one of the strongest elements in this book. He doesn't think it's right what she's doing, but he's not saying anything which can lead to greater things in a future. Then there is Travis who is bugging both of them, especially his mum, who then leaves him for all or nothing to Asher.

 

At the same time, Asher meets Garrett where his own sexuality comes in question. However, I found this part a bit wary. It's not that I couldn't feel him struggling because there was jealousy involved and there were questions in his head he didn't know the answer to, but I feel as though his sexuality could've been more explored. Although, I could also see author's point and how maybe she didn't want it to be in the first plan. His struggling to fight his growing feelings was definitely interesting to read though.

 

Things start going more downhill when his brother, Travis, drowns. Now, this part is one of those I can completely understand - Asher being the way he was. The way when it seemed like he cared more about other things than his own brother's death, or the way he kept capturing the moments with his camera even after that. Shock and disbelief is most likely to cause that. However, as any other human being, he broke a few times, even though he tried to keep it together at least for his mum who seemed to be falling apart. I admire that. With all things happening around him and inside of him, he kept that "emotionless" facade. Of course, there were always cracks where you could see through it and sometimes I wished I could make things easier for him.

 

Finally, we come to religion in this book which is probably the part that irked me the most. I am born Christian and I was raised to believe that God exists. Although, my own beliefs and my own thoughts don't have or have very little connection with Christianity. Asher was Methodist, as it was mentioned few times through the book, but there are a lot of things similar to Christianity and as I'm never participating in my faith, I could not relate. Let me explain something, I accept everyone. I have nothing against religion. I just don't read a lot of books who have it as one of the main parts in the novel. I wasn't exactly bothered by it, I just couldn't relate at all so I guess that was a bit of a problem for me. But, it was helping them, helping Asher, and I was glad to see he had something he believed in.

 

All things considered, this was really good novel. Not one of my favourites and I think there were parts that could've been done better, but I enjoyed it regardless and I'm glad I've got a change to read it!

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review 2013-02-03 00:00
Gay Men's Literature in the Twentieth Century
Gay Men's Literature in the Twentieth Century - Mark Lilly Do not let the title fool you, this book doesn't pretend to be comprehensive or even, refreshingly, objective. Lilly stresses in his introduction that he chose the works that he personally enjoyed over landmark titles. That's not to say that the works here - mostly novels, but some poetry and drama - are not recognized landmarks or representative of changing attitudes, but the whole approach is one of love rather than duty.

I started reading with the intention to first read the subjects of Lilly's essays and then seeing whether or not I agreed with his interpretations, but that fell apart. First of all, I couldn't find a copy of Constantine Cavafy]'s poems and as time went by and I found a copy of Maurice...so I mostly gave up on that idea, even if I took age-long gaps between readings.

Lilly's essays, whether touching on the love poetry of the first World War to the harsh writing of [a:Yukio Mishima to his conclusion that despite its occasional brightness the writings of [a:Jean Genet|29952|Jean Genet|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1226526836p2/29952.jpg] are poison, his voice avoids the dryness that usually desiccates literary criticism. This book was published in 1993 and leaves off at The Lost Language of Cranes and makes his chapter on "The Homophobic Academy", an overview of how gay literature has been received, is understandably defensive.

Opinionated, well-written, entertaining. This may not be a definitive take on gay men's literature of the last century, but it is worth reading if you have an interest in the subject and you can find a copy.

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