What to Read

  • What to Read: 'The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster'

    Wash your hands thoroughly.

  • What to Read: 'This Is How It Always Is'

     

    You must not tell.

  • What to Read: 'Tin Man: A Novel' by Sarah Winman

    The picture reminds you of a thousand things.You recall the day it was taken: the smell of the air, the background sounds, food and drink, laughter and the sense that this was forever.

  • What To Read: 'Tinderbox' by Robert W. Fieseler

    You’ll never forget that one night. The drinks were cold; the weather, warm; and you were out to have fun with friends you loved and those you hadn’t yet met. You’ll never forget the table, the music, the lights, or the name of the bar – and if you did, as in the new book “Tinderbox” by Robert W. Fieseler, there was probably a reason.

  • What To Read: 'Whiskey When We’re Dry' by John Larison

    It was right here a minute ago. You saw it, but now it’s gone and you have to find it. Beneath a newspaper, atop a shelf, under a blanket, wherever it is, it was just right here – and as in the new book “Whiskey When We’re Dry” by John Larison, you’d search years to have it back.

  • What to Read: 'Wild Mares: My Lesbian Back-to-The-Land Life'

    You were going to change the world.

  • What to Read: 'Would You Rather? A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out'

    You’re late!

    Oops, you overslept, got caught in traffic, the elevator was slow. Phone lines were down, email was down. You forgot, and you’re late, sorry. Or, as in the new book “Would You Rather?” by Katie Heaney, your understanding was just a bit delayed.

  • What to Read: 'Would You Rather? A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out'

    You’re late! 

    Oops, you overslept, got caught in traffic, the elevator was slow. Phone lines were down, email was down. You forgot, and you’re late, sorry. Or, as in the new book “Would You Rather?” by Katie Heaney, your understanding was just a bit delayed.

  • What to Read: ‘Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity’

    You look sharp today.

    This morning, you dressed with determination, putting confidence on your body in order to put it in your mind. You chose your outfit deliberately but in the new book “Black on Both Sides” by C. Riley Snorton, there may be reason for a different direction.

    When the Cornell University Library recently assembled a display of “queer and trans performance” items, there was a singular piece of paper that caught Snorton’s eye: it was a French postcard depicting two black “transvestite” performers, possibly in a minstrel show or at a cakewalk, which was likewise a popular form of entertainment, circa 1900. The Library called it a “rare” piece, but Snorton shows that African American history is rife with examples of transgenderism.

    During the Civil War, for example, archives indicate that many slaves, particularly women, dressed in men’s clothing in order to be seen as male and to avoid bondage. Even Harriet Tubman disguised herself as a man to deter arrest. Ellen and William Craft took it a bit further when Ellen dressed as a man, and her husband as her manservant, in order for both to escape slavery.

    Black sex trade workers sometimes dressed as women, often to great mocking and even greater scandal. One was nicknamed “The Man-Monster,” a frightening 1836 moniker for Peter Sewally, also known as Mary Jones. Nearly a century later, Lucy Hicks Anderson, a madam, became “the first transgendered black to be legally tried and convicted… for impersonating a woman,’” and was sent to prison for it.

    And while some wish to keep their cross-dressing in private, others don’t mind becoming famous: Snorton cites national media sources for bringing forward the stories of Ava Betty Brown and Annie Lee Grant, both featured in Ebony and Jet magazines, the latter photographed in clothing for men and for women.

    “Black on Both Sides” falters right from its very subchapter: large parts of the book are about people who temporarily dressed in clothing associated with those of another gender in order to escape situations, not because they were transgender. Here, it’s also about a white man who performed gynecological operations on enslaved women without benefit of anesthesia; they, and a Black cisgender friend of trans murder victim Brandon Teena’s, are included with the thinnest of connections.

    Even comprehending this book is a challenge: single sentences, which are written in language that may test the most scholarly of readers, can often be measured in inches on a page; readers might also quibble with issues of definition, particularly “transgender” versus “cross-dressing.” Author C. Riley Snorton refers to both in this book, but doesn’t seem to make very strong distinctions between the two.

    To the good, the research done here is stellar. There’s a wide variety of case studies and interesting stories in this book – much more than the average person might think there’d be - but whether they’re accessible is quite another matter. Overall, unless you like your head to spin, put “Black on Both Sides” down and go in a different direction.

    “Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity” by C. Riley Snorton
    c.2017, University of Minnesota Press
    $24.95 / higher in Canada
    259 pages

  • What to Read: ‘Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy’

    Double-A.

  • What to Read: ‘Mask of Shadows’

    Your someday-dream job is not for wimps.

  • What to Read: ‘Queering the Redneck Riviera’

    What do Wilton Manors, South Beach and Key West all have in common? They’re universally known as gay meccas in Florida all with a rich and vibrant history. But beyond the borders of South Florida other parts of this state have a gay history as well, including what’s known as the state’s bastion of conservatism – Florida’s panhandle, also known as the Redneck Riviera.  

  • What to Read: ‘Self-Made Woman: A Memoir’

    Your own two hands.

  • What to Read: ‘Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies’

    Just like in the movies, you’d planned to grow old together.

  • What to Read: ‘The Gang’s All Queer: The Lives of Gay Gang Members’

    You felt surprisingly safe.

  • What to Read: ‘The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some 1976-1988’

    Parts of your life are missing.

  • What to Read: ‘Tomorrow Will Be Different’

    Things are never as bad as they seem.

  • What to Read: ‘Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality’

    You’re not in any hurry.

  • What to Read: ‘When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir’

    You can’t look any longer.

  • What To Read: Naturally Tan

    Casual button-down, or elegant suit? Jeans or khakis? Shoes or sandals? Whatever the event, your closet’s got you covered, packed with every outfit you’ll ever need. But what’s your style, what makes you confident? How do you know what to wear for the occasion?  Read “Naturally Tan” by Tan France and see what fits.