The Best LGBT Books

Dan Savage, Jackie Collins, and William Klaber

“American Savage” by Dan Savage

You can’t talk about it to anyone. 

You’ve got this sticky issue, a little problem, a thing you need help with but you aren’t sure you can trust anybody. Your sister is a big-mouth, your mom won’t understand, and your BFF, well… no.

You need help in the form of advice. You need it straight-up, no bull, all honest. And when you read “American Savage,” the new memoir-advice book by Dan Savage, that’s what you get.

As a young boy growing up in Chicago, Dan Savage was steeped in Catholicism.

His father, a cop by profession, was an ordained permanent diaconate. His mother was a lay minister. Savage himself was an altar boy but when he realized he was gay and that the Church had a few things to say about it (none positive), he left the fold.

Still, he says, “… I was never abused by a priest. I was saved by one” who came out to Savage’s mother to calm her fears for her son. And though the Church “got sex wrong,” and though he’s an “agnosthatheist,” Savage says he “aches” for the loss of religious comfort.

But that’s not all he has on his mind in this book.

As the creator of Savage Love, a sex-and-relationship column, Savage is fierce about making sure his readers get sensible advice. He says that cheating, for instance, isn’t okay except when it is. He advocates being monogamish, being GGG, and being willing to at least try something before condemning it as “too kinky.”

Speaking of condemning, Savage takes on politicians, especially those who are right-wing, conservative, and Christian; in particular, he quotes evidence to dispute the anti-gay bigotry that often comes from that side of politics. As a married “different kind of fag” and the father of a teen who “came out… a few years ago – as straight,” Savage has a stake in quashing that kind of hate.

In this book, Savage also writes about adoption, Halloween (the straight people’s version of pride parades), “basic civil rights protection,” God, and respecting older gay men. As founder of the It Gets Better Project, he goes to bat for LGBT teens. He writes about sex, [Rick Santorum’s] “Google problem,” and he offers a challenge to those who believe being gay is a “choice.”

Want a book that’s going to make you say, “Heck, yes!” just about every third page? Yep, that pretty well describes “American Savage.”

It’ll be hard to remain seated while you’re reading, in fact, because author Dan Savage makes you want to stand and applaud at his common-sense words. Savage rants — but he’s hilarious while he’s doing so, which will make you want to phone friends so you can share. He’s profound and profane, thoughtful and thought provoking, and his personal stories will bring tears to your eyes.

I truly enjoyed this book. I liked it for its truth, for its snark, and for its not-so-good-natured poking at politicos — and I think you’ll like it too, because “American Savage” is a book worth talking about.

“Confessions of a Wild Child” by Jackie Collins

Oh, the things you got away with when you were a teen!

Cutting classes and hanging out in the school parking lot. Sneaking out of the house when your parents thought you were asleep, parties when they weren’t home, “borrowing” their car, busting curfew, stupid stuff you hope your kids never do.

You got away with a lot. It’s a good thing your mother never knew.

Then again, as you’ll see in “Confessions of a Wild Child” by Jackie Collins, she probably did the same things when she was a kid.

Almost-fifteen-year-old Lucky Santangelo was tired of being in prison.

Ever since her mother was murdered ten years prior, Lucky’s father, Gino, kept Lucky and her brother, Dario (who’s a closeted gay teen), locked in their posh Bel Air mansion. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere unchaperoned, though Lucky was good at sneaking out. Outwitting Gino was fun — until the day he informed her that she was being shipped to a “very expensive” boarding school in Switzerland.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened. Eager to find out about boys and sex, Lucky and her boarding school roommate escaped every night, biked into town, drank, and played a game Lucky called “Almost.” It was a fun, empowering game in which she “almost” lost her virginity to several local boys.

Kicked out of the Swiss school for “Almost,” Lucky was sent to a different school in Connecticut but she didn’t stay long: her former roomie, a Greek heiress named Olivia, invited Lucky to the south of France. It was easy to get there. It was even easier to forget to tell Gino where she was.

Caught once again, Lucky was dragged to Las Vegas, where Gino told her that he’d figured out how to tame her. As much as she wanted to walk in her father’s footsteps and go into business, Lucky wasn’t destined to run the Santangelo Empire. No, that would be Dario’s future. For Lucky, marriage and babies were inevitable.

And Gino Santangelo believed that was that.

But if he thought he had a wild child before, he hadn’t seen anything yet…

Every once in awhile, I get in the mood for a good trashy novel and, really, you can’t beat a book by author Jackie Collins. You can’t. Still, there are bumps and bruises inside “Confessions of a Wild Child.”

It’s often hard, first of all, for an adult to write in the voice of a young teenager, and the first few pages of this book reflect it: Lucky sounds like a middle-aged woman. That bump passes quickly, but occasionally returns; there are also light continuity errors in here, and some preening repetition. Turn up the heat, though, and you’ve got a story that has its flaws but is, overall, a delightfully guilty pleasure.

Though Lucky is a teenager in this book, this is an escapist-novel for adults. If you’re looking, in fact, for something to take on that mid-winter vacation, “Confessions of a Wild Child” is a great book to get away with.

“The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” by William Klaber

In your lifetime, you’ve wished upon many stars.

You’ve spotted a twinkle in the night sky and hoped for love or fulfillment of a dream. You’ve wished for good grades, better money, the return of a loved one. And sometimes, you’ve wished for the impossible.

But was the wish fulfilled, or was the star just another ball of gas? For a woman in the 1850s, it was the latter: in “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” by William Klaber, Lucy futilely wished she was a man.

On the morning when she cut her hair, donned her brother’s clothes, and slipped from her parents’ house before daybreak, Lucy Slater left more than a wretched life behind.

She also left her daughter, Helen, which tore her heart. Still, the decision to flee wasn’t difficult.

Three years prior, Lucy’s husband abandoned his family, leaving them with nothing and forcing them to live with Lucy’s parents. Since she’d married against parental approval, there was only hostility in their home — a situation made worse because they knew that Lucy was most comfortable in the woods, wearing her little brother’s clothes. That was unseemly for a lady in upstate New York, 1855.

Men had it so much better. They could live without care, wearing breeches and shirts. They could hold jobs that paid a decent days’ wage. She envied them. So Lucy Slater boarded a train headed east, and became Joseph Lobdell.

Fearing that he’d be unmasked, Joseph kept to himself until he could grab a barge to Honesdale, Pennsylvania. There, he played the violin for patrons in a downtown inn, and he started a dancing school for the young ladies of the growing city.

Honesdale was also where Joseph fell in love with a seventeen-year-old named Lydia.

But Honesdale wasn’t far enough from New York, and someone recognized Joseph for who he really was. He’d heard about opportunities in Minnesota so, running for his life, he left Pennsylvania for the Midwest, and a life he’d been denied…

Sounds like a good adventure yarn, doesn’t it? It is – and it’s even more enjoyable, once you know that “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” is based on real life.

In his after-notes, author William Klaber says that he learned about Lucy Lobdell Slater from a writer-friend who wanted the story told. Knowing that the dearth of facts could hinder a biography, Klaber decided to fill in the blanks with fiction.

This book is none the lesser for it.

In giving Lucy the voice of narrator, Klaber lends a sure vulnerability that surprisingly lingers, and wistfulness that adds a note of sadness. He also gives her a feisty single-mindedness and keen awareness that what she was doing wasn’t just scandalous but was downright criminal. Readers who remember that important point will love this book as much as I did.

Perfect for historians, feminists, and anybody who enjoys historical fiction, this novel is a definite winner. If that’s you, then look for it because “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” gets five stars.


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