Three new books tell the stories of amazing historical figures
Not since the feminist days of the 1970s has such a wonderful collection of books about women hit the shelves all at once. Reading these books, I spent a wonderful weekend re-experiencing the intellectual excitement of 21.
Wild Girls, by Diana Souhami (Phoenix), is the story of a famous lesbian couple, the poet Natalie Barney and the artist Romaine Brooks, a story that has been told so many times I wondered what this book could possibly offer. I was delighted to find wonderful illustrations, great writing, and footnotes that finally make it clear to me who everyone was, how they were related to one another, and how each person related to the story. The footnotes are charming in and of themselves and more than justify the book’s purchase price.
The next offering, Women of Our Time: 75 Portraits of Remarkable Women, by Frederick S. Voss with a preface by Cokie Roberts (Merrell), reminds me of the ’70s-era feminist books in which the reclamation of our “lost” history helped so many of us begin to claim our power. You already know Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather, and Margaret Mead, but here you’ll meet other women (both gay and straight), who paved the way for all of us. The brief biographies are superbly written, giving you a feel for the woman and her work. The portraits chosen are new faces for old friends, and offer the chance for additional insight into each woman.
Finally, Women Who Write, by Stefan Bollmann with a forward by Francine Prose (Merrell). This work really is in the mold of feminist history. Here the reader finds portraits of women presented in the media of the time. Starting with our earliest foremothers (Hildegard of Bingen), we move through such old friends as George Sand, Colette, and Virginia Woolf, finally ending with contemporary writers including Toni Morrison. This book reminds us, with a rap on the head, how women’s writings have not only challenged the individual, but also changed the world.
This collection of books reminds us that we are really not “post-feminist” and that the personal is still political. I’m elated to see old formats reinvented to reflect our experience, our history, and our hope.
Angel Curtis writes regularly about books for OutSmart magazine.
Men Who Love Men
by William J. Mann
Kensington Books (www.kensingtonbooks.com)
At age 33, narrator Henry Weiner is at a gay crossroads — no boyfriend, worried about his libido, jealous of his two best friends (who have been longtime lovers, of the non-monogamous stripe). Henry desperately hopes to meet a man who will make everything right in his world, also known as Provincetown, just as the summer is about to turn into the desolate off-season. What makes the reader care about Henry is Mann’s effortless prose and generosity of spirit, making this something like a Dancer from the Dance for today’s thirtysomethings. — Review: Donalevan Maines
7 Days at the Hot Corner
by Terry Trueman
HarperCollins Publishers (www.harperteen.com)
A week before the city baseball championship, narrator Scott Latimer has other things to worry about, too, like awaiting the results of his first HIV test. Could he have contracted it from the blood of his best friend, who’s gay? Not likely, but the author means well. The book reads like an after-school TV special, tiptoeing into adult matters in a format meant to be accessible to youngsters. Could be that a child you know might learn from it. — Review: Donalevan MainesThe Child
by Sarah Schulman
Carroll & Graf (www.carrollandgraf.com)
Sarah Schulman’s searing and heartfelt new novel explores homophobia in family settings and the consequences of treating homosexuality as a “phase” or “sickness.” Structured like a classic novel of legal suspense, it considers the impact of an event that includes pedophilia from the perspective of all those involved, including the family, the lover, and the attorneys working on the case. Carefully untangling the actions of an isolated teenager denied a natural outlet for his feelings during a critical time in his life, The Child is a haunting meditation on isolation and the prejudices of culture and family. — Preview: Suzie Lynde
Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style
by Tim Gunn, with Kate Moloney
Abrams Image (www.abramsimage.com)
Bravo’s popular hit show, Project Runway, introduced the world to a new fashion expert: Tim Gunn. With honest, insightful advice for everyone, the openly gay Gunn shows readers how to “make it work” (his signature catchphrase on Runway) in his new book. Delivered in his trademark candid voice, it provides insightful yet practical advice for every occasion. As designer Diane von Furstenberg says, “Tim Gunn’s book is as fun and informative as his knowledge of fashion!” — Preview: Troy Carrington
Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks
by Jeffrey Epstein & Eddie Shapiro
Avalon Travel Publishing (www.travelmatters.com)
US Weekly editor Jeffrey Epstein and former AIDS Walk Event director Eddie Shapiro offer gay and lesbian travelers an inside look at the wonderful world of Disney in this updated and expanded edition. Highlights include: When should you go?; theme-by-theme guidance; “Fairy Facts” that provide juicy bits of little-known park trivia; attractions evaluated on a one-to-five scale; The Top Ten Places to Share a Gay Moment (i.e. where holding hands and kissing will not invite stares). — Preview: Troy Carrington