Category Archives: What’cha Reading

Book review: School Days

School Days by Jonathan Galassi is a rivetting gay fiction novel told from the perspective of Sam Brandt, a former student of Leverett, an elite boarding school in New England, and current English teacher at the prep school.

The story opens in the fall of 2007 when Sam is asked by the school’s head about a disgruntled former student who attended Leverett when he was a student there. The conversation transports Sam back to his days as a student in the mid-1960s and life at the (then) all boys boarding school. Galassi paints a picture of love and longing (both platonic and erotic) as Sam reminisces about his high school years, his group of friends, and Theo Gibson, a teacher who went on to have a profound impact on him, his friends and many associated with the school. As a teenager, Sam is unable to come to terms with his sexuality and a love that could not be returned, by his schoolmate Eddie. Reminiscing about those years, he recalls an “irresistible tropism toward Eddie’s knotted masculine integrity, his warmth… which he could only experience in those tight embraces”.

As the book switches back to the early 2000s, Sam is forced to look at those formative years through a more adult and critical lens when accusations of impropriety and possible abuse are raised by a former student. These two storylines are profound and strike a nerve with me. Sam’s teenage years — filled with a sense of confusion, longing and feeling of “otherness” — are too easy for me to relate to. As an adult, Sam’s, unrequited emotions, repressed for so long come to a head as he reconnects with former friends and classmates. Through these conversations and rehashed memories, he is forced to accept responsibility for the choices he made, make peace with them, and move forward.

The setting and Sam’s memory provide a romanticized backdrop of his formative teenage years. Yhe range of emotions and struggles he faces are relatable even for those who never attended boarding school. While the story initially appears to be about Sam trying to learn the truth about what happened on campus all those years ago, the real take away is the need we all have for acceptance and love. The book is entertaining and satisfying on several levels thanks to Galassi’s easy writing style and the beautiful way he uses language to depict touching and important moments in Sam’s life. The two storylines from life in 1967 and 2007 entwine, separate, and come back together again seamlessly and provide Sam with some fairly profound insights about himself and the school he loves so much.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. You’ll be able to order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for School Days.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: The Sentence is Death

When I purchased this book, I didn’t realize it was the second in a series, but reading this out of order didn’t impact my ability to follow the story or diminish my appreciation. Detective lit fans are going to enjoy The Sentence is Death, which was first published in 2018. The 350+ page novel makes for a great book to have by your bedside (I’m a night reader) or to bring with you on vacation.

The story revolves around the death of a successful, gay solicitor murdered in his home shortly after concluding a celebrity-divorce, and is narrated by the author (Anthony Horowitz). The main characters, ex-detective inspector Daniel Hawthorne and Anthony Horowitz, make for an unlikely pair. This is their second time working on a murder investigation, and they’re still getting to know each other. Hawthorne’s brusque, offensive nature still frustrates and embarasses Horowitz and my only criticism of the novel is I find it hard to believe such a loner (Hawthorne) would care to have someone like Horowitz tagging along. Perhaps in the next novel, we will learn more about the antisocial former inspector from Scotland Yard that will better explain this vanity (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Despite Hawthorne’s contempt for people (especially Scotland Yard), he wants Horowitz to shadow him to observe firsthand how he solves murder mysteries that have stumped the police. Horowitz is meant to use the murder investigation as material for a future novel that will showcase Hawthorne’s brilliance. Sound like a familiar theme from another famous detective series set in England? While Horowitz continues to borrow themes and traits from Doyle’s novels, Hawthorne reminds me more of Sam Spade than Sherlock Holmes.

The novel mostly takes place in London. It offers a peak into the life of Richard Pryce, a successful, gay lawyer who is found bludgeoned to death at his home. We also learn more about his relationships with his husband, clients, and friends. There are plenty of “red herrings” and figuring out what is relevant and what is a distraction frustrates Horowitz to no end as he tries to discern who is lying, who is telling the truth, and most importantly, who is the killer? I didn’t figure out the ending, but I did come close. Let me know if you’re more successful if you read the book.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. They will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for The Sentence is Death.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: Justify My Sins

Justify My Sins by Felice Picano would be a great beach read or book to bring with you on vacation. I’m unfamiliar with the accomplished author who has published two dozen novels, short stories, and memoires but his easy writing style and humorous storytelling made this an enjoyable and easy read.

The story is “A Hollywood novel in three acts”, taking place in New York City and Los Angeles or “El Lay” as he writes on the first page. That witty and slightly saracastic style is prevelent throughout the 300+ page book which was published in 2019.

The shallow storyline and characters who are as deep as the kiddy pool (as I’m prone to say), make this an easy and uncomplicated read. The novel focuses almost exclusively on the sexscapades of the main character and his friends, the author’s ongoing wrangling with Hollywood studio executives and agents, and the excessive lifestyles of those people Victor meets along the way.

The “three acts” take place in 1977 when the main character, Victor Regina, is a young best selling author and the sex is easy and uncomplicated before picking up again in 1986 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and closes with a more sanguine and worldly writer in the final act in 1999. Picano does a good job of making the main character (whom I assume is loosely based on himself) likeable and interesting. And for gay men who have lived in Los Angeles, I’m sure the author’s references to places in and around Los Angelese must be fun to read. If you’re looking for a light, gay-themed novel this is a good option. You’ll definitely find yourself chuckling throughout the novel.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. You’ll be able to order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for Justify My Sins.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: Beneath A Scarlet Sky

Beneath A Scarlet Sky is an historical fiction novel about a young man named Pino Lella from Milan who is the Italian WWII hero nobody has ever heard about, until now. The 400+ page novel opens on June 9, 1943 and concludes two years later in the Spring of 1945 when the Germans are forced out of Italy by the Allied Forces.

At the outbreak of WWII, Pino Lella is a teenager from a well to do family who is far more interested in girls and American jazz than war. However, that would all change as the frontline of the war came to Italy and Nazi Germany made a last ditch effort to stave off the Allies on Italian soil.

Before the war would conclude, Pino would end up sneaking groups of Italian Jews out of the country through the Alps and into neutral Switzerland, fall madly in love with the maid of Third Reich mistress and suffer unspeakable heartbreak, meet powerful Italians including Benito Mussolini and Archbishop Schuster of Milan as well as become the chauffer for General Leyer (Adolf Hitler’s right hand in Italy). Pino would go on to risk his life by spying on General Leyer for the Italian Resistance and Allied Forces (unbenknowst to all but his aunt and uncle), which earned him the scorn of his younger brother and friends and nearly cost him his life in the days that followed the Nazi’s hasty retreat from Milan.

It is amazing to think that until this novel was written, Pino Lella’s extraordinary life as a war hero was unknown. In the final pages of the book the author, Mark Sullivan shares with us Pino’s life after the war and we learn that although he survived the war and became a successful businessman, he never truly recovered from all he had seen and the loss of his true love.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. The links below will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for Beneath A Scarlet Sky.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: Berlin Noir

Berlin Noir is a compilation of three novels (March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem) by Philip Kerr’s. This bestselling historical mystery series of detective Bernie Gunther is 800+ pages that twist and turn through pre-war Berlin and conclude with his final mystery two years after the war has ended when Europe is in shambles and America and The Soviet Union are busy carving up Germany. Kerr’s main character, Gunther, is a complex guy who is rough around the edges and by today’s standards misogynistic but a man with a good heart who is doing his best during an incredibly difficult time.

The first story (approximately 250 pages) – March Violets – is about a diamond heist in Nazi Germany that takes place just before the start of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and a mysterious woman who steals Gunthers heart. With the eyes of the world on Berlin, the Nazis have to carefully work behind the scenes, committing attrocities including the creation of their “work camps”. The tense ending of the novel might have been my favorite of the three and was an excellent introduction to this hardnosed German detective.

The Pale Criminal (approximately 275 pages) picks up one year prior to WWII, in 1938, and Gunther now shares his office with a partner named Bruno Stahlecker until the Gestapo strongarms him into rejoining the Berlin police force to help catch a serial killer who is targeting teenage Aryan girls. The antisemetic bias of the police force is on full display and causes Gunther to repeatedly clash with colleagues intent on pinning these crimes on a Jew.

The final book, A German Requiem, (approximately 250 pages) picks up nearly a year later in 1947. Berlin is in ashes and the black market is thriving as shellshocked Germans try to make sense of what has happened and rebuild their lives. Desperate for money, Gunther takes on a case that will take him from the ruins of Berlin to Austria where he will infiltrate a secret group of ex-Nazis. Working as a double-agent of sorts, Gunther finds himself answering to both a high ranking Russian Colonel and U.S. Counterintelligence Corps Captain.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. The links below will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for Berlin Noir.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Summer reading suggestions from BosGuy

Memorial Day Weekend starts this Friday and is commonly considered the first weekend of summer in New England, so I wanted to share a brief list of gay literature / books to add to your summer reading list. These novels are intentionally lighthearted and ideal for enjoying while out in the sun and on vacation. For more reading suggestions, check out my book reviews on Goodreads.

Hard by Wayne Hoffman, published in 2006 and 2015

The Editor by Steven Rowley, published in 2019

The Girl in the Boston Box by Chuck Latovich, published in 2020

Hard by Wayne Hoffman is a gay fiction novel set in New York City during the mid- to late-1990s. The story centers on two men, Frank DeSoto and Moe Pearlman, their respective circle of friends and their mutual animosity / contempt for each other. I’m recommending this because it is an easy read that lends itself nicely to the summer. The majority of the story takes place in New York City, but there is a quick summer trip out to Fire Island which could make this an ideal option for anyone planning a summer trip to the gay enclave.

While Hoffman writes in detail about cruising and sex in New York City in the 1990s, the novel is really about gay relationships both platonic and romantic and the fractions within the gay community at that time. Read my review, here.

The Editor is a more lighthearted and humorous gay novel that takes place in New York City in the early 1990s. At its core, this is a highly imaginative story about James Smale, an aspiring author who learns his debut novel about his dysfunctional relationship with his mother will be published by Doubleday. Just as he is digesting the good news, he also learns his editor will be none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis. Jacqueline loves his novel but feels the ending is unresolved. Together they forge a professional relationship, as he works furiously to finish the manuscript. There is a scene where Smale joins Jackie at her home on Martha’s Vineyard during the summer to get away from the city and write that I loved.

The story is both humorous and deeply touching. Read my review, here.

The Girl in the Boston Box is a murder mystery with a flawed, gay protagonist. The novel uses Boston as a backdrop with many scenes playing out in Boston’s South End and Fenway neighborhoods. The other main character, a woman, studying architectural history at Harvard initially doesn’t have much in common but the author weaves their stories together with ease, and I found this to be a page-turner that had me up late at night reading to find out what was going to happen next.

Fans of detective literatuare and mystery novels in general will enjoy the storyline as will those who know and love Boston for this whodunit. Read my review, here.

Do you have any recommendations? Share your suggestions in the comment section as well as why you’re recommedning the book.

Book review: Two Million by Alex Fear

Two Million by author, Alex Fear, is a quick read filled with ridiculous drama fueled by a concoction of alcohol, anxiety and depression. The story, told from Theo’s perspective, details a torrid two weeks of binge drinking as he follows Max from England to Thailand to Singapore to Taiwan. The story opens with Theo waking up hungover in Max’s hotel room, trying to piece together what happened the night before. It turns out, Theo was trying to get over a recent break up, and went out to try to forget about his ex and somehow ended up meeting Max. Theo strikes me as hurt, angry and a bit lost, which is probably why he follows Max despite his antics and appalling behavior.

Each cocktail titled chapter is filled with Max hell-bent on some outrageous behavior and Theo reluctantly tagging along. Theo has convinced himself that he stays with Max out of concern for his well-being, but I don’t buy that he would remain with such an offensively rude, self-destructive stranger. I assume he sticks around out of fear of being alone. Max is a temporary albeit terrifying anchor for Theo. Max’s attrocious behavior is mostly (there are a few exceptions) overlooked because he has an unending supply of money and loves throwing it around. At one point, I believe he refers to himself as nouveau riche, and the author, Alex Fear, takes the stereotype to some fairly outrageous limits.

The book makes for a good beach or vacation read because it has short easy to read chapters. The plot doesn’t deviate and the characters exhibit the same behavior throughout, until a surprisingly touching phone call at the end. The heavy drinking and disgraceful behavior is a bit much for me, but might make for a good read while on an Atlantis Cruise or summer vacation in Provincetown or Fire Island.

Normally, I like to give a shout out to the library and independent book stores but the book is only available on Amazon. You can order Two Million for the Kindle or paperback, here.

Book review: Sweet & Low by Nick White

Sweet & Low by Nick White is a collection ten short stories set in the South; with most in the Mississippi Delta. Each story focuses on an important and defining moment or series of moments in the main character’s life. Often poor and with little opportunity, the characters bear little resemblance to who I usually read in books but White does an excellent job bringing them to life.

Most of the short stories include an LGBT character, which is a good reminder that all gay men don’t live in cities or suburbs, nor are they all wealthy, despite what you see portrayed on television. The opening story, The Lovers, provides insight into several of the themes that run through all the stories, touching upon struggle and loneliness. My favorite story was perhaps one of the saddest. The Exaggerations is told by a nephew abandoned by his mother and raised by his aunt and uncle. The final paragraph of this short story is perhaps White’s best in the entire book.

Fans of romantic comedies or happily ever after endings will find this book tough to get through. Many of the characters aren’t all that likeable. A good example is, Pete, in Cottonmouth, Trapjaw, Water Moccasin, but most are misguided, lonely, and self-involved. The best example of that might be Forney’s mom in the short story the book is named after, Sweet and Low. Told through the eyes of Forney, she appears to want nothing more than to pick up her once aspiring country music singing career after the unexepected death of her husband, and she can’t be bothered with her only child who she has little connection or love.

If you enjoy reading before going to bed, the short story format is ideally suited to you. In 20-30 pages, White weaves a story full of depth meaning at defining moments of each main character. While I couldn’t relate to any of the characters, their stories still resonated and is why I would recommend reading this book.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. The links below will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for Sweet & Low.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: The Sun and Her Stars by Donna Rifkind

The Sun and Her Stars by Donna Rifkind is a biography about the extraordinary but little known life of the Jewish, Austrian actress turned Hollywood screenwriter, Salka Viertel, who moved from Europe to southern California in the late 1920s. If you are fascinated by the Golden Age of Hollywood, you’ll find Rifkind’s detailed account of Viertel’s life and those around her fascinating to read.

It was fascinating to compare how several characters in this year’s celebrated film, Mank, were perceived by Salka. The black and white film about screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz writing of the acclaimed movie, “Citizen Kane” takes place at the same time and is nominated for 10 Oscars. Some of the Hollywood heavyweights referenced in both the book and movie include Orson Welles (actor), Ben Hecht (screenwriter / novelist), David Selznick (studio executive), and Charlie Chaplin (actor).

Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s led to a braindrain of the creative class from Europe. These shellshocked ex-pats fleeing from the horrors of Nazi Germany, were not welcomed by most in America. Rampant, in-your-face antisemitism was pervasive and put many on edge; feeling fortunate to escpe but unsure of their future or ability to rebuild in an alien country and culture. Salka’s home in Santa Monica became a refuge for these people. Her close friend, Greta Garbo, was a frequent visitor as were the many refugees who would flock to her Sunday parties.

The biography also details the personal trials and triumphs of Salka who earned a commanding salary and the respect of studio executives, producers and directors at a time when few women were respected in the male-dominated industry. Rifkind also touches upon the blacklisting that impacted Salka and many other Europeans in the decade that followed WWII because of their political sympathies and foreign accents which made them tagets of McCarthy and those on the HUAAC.

The book was a fascinating read from a pop culture, political and historical perspective, and I’m glad I read about this rather extraordinary woman. Through her efforts she saved the lives of many fleeing from Europe to escape fascism and rubbed elbows with some of the biggest stars and deal-makers in Hollywood’s Golden Age. If you are fascinated by or liked the Oscar-nominated film, Mank, add this to your reading list.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. The links below will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Boston Gay Men’s book club

The Boston Gay Men’s book club will be meeting later tonight to discuss the 2018 collection of short stories, Sweet & Low, by gay author, Nick White. I will be publishing my review of this book later this month, but I wanted to encourage anyone interested in gay literature to RSVP.

I joined this group for the first time earlier this year when they discussed Eric Cervini’s book, The Deviant’s War and enjoyed listening to people sharing their perspectives. I noticed that a few of the people hadn’t read the book so you needn’t feel uncomfortable about joining if you’ve yet to read the book. You can use the opportunity to hear people’s comments to determine if you think you’ll enjoy it. If you haven’t any plans for this evening, RSVP and join the conversation. All are welcome.

Sweet and Low: Short Stories by Nick White
Monday, April 19th 6:30 – 8:00pm ET

Book review: Hard by Wayne Hoffman

Hard by Wayne Hoffman, first published in 2006, is set in the mid- to late-1990s and centers on two men Frank DeSoto and Moe Pearlman and their respective circle of friends.

The novel takes place when Giuliani (although he is never mentioned by name) was mayor of New York City and intent upon “cleaning up” NYC. In many cases this was code for closing may gay establishments. The mayor (unknowingly) had the support of Frank DeSoto, the publisher of NYC’s only gay newspaper. Frank’s past promiscuous behavior had resulted in his losing most of his friends and the love of his life to AIDS. Determined to save the next generation from the same fate, Frank uses his self-funded gay newspaper as a bullypulpit to chastise gay men for what he viewed as reckless sexual behavior and ignoring the lessons of the previous generation.

Moe Pearlman is a Jewish man in his mid- to late 20s who moved from Washington, D.C. to NYC for graduate school the previous year and fell in love with the gay scene. Led by his libido and a political activism born out of Act Up and other sex-positive grassroots organizations in NYC, Moe is determined to live his life as he sees fit and bristles at the paternal postulations from Frank and the conservative mayor seeking to make a name for himself in an otherwise liberal city.

I really enjoyed the 300-page novel, which centers on gay sexual liberation, relationships and gay life in New York City. Hoffman captures the times beautifully as the gay community’s political activism born out of a public health crisis (AIDS) was slowly gaining acceptance and increasingly becoming commercialized. While Moe is the main character and his wrangling with Frank constitute much of the storyline, Hoffman enriches the story by delving into key relationships both men have which makes the characters more human and relatable. This includes the loving dynamic between Frank and his in-laws long after their son has passed. Moe’s relationship with his family, former lover and best friend.

For any gay man who was sexually active in the 1990s, the relationship dynamics and tensions in the gay community on what it meant to be “sexually responsible” will resonate. It is one of the few books I’ve read about that time which grapples with the issue of AIDS and sexaulity that had me turning pages late into the night and not filled with dread or depressed. The book is sexually explicit but not at the expense of the narrative, which makes the story all the more compelling and enjoyable to read.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. The links below will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: 100 Boyfriends

I feel like 100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell (published in February 2021) is very much the topic of conversation when gay literature is being discussed at the moment. This is the fourth book Purnell has published but the first time I’m reading the author.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get into this book. It struck me as both repetitive and disconnected. Page-after-page of random hook ups without any real connection between them execpt for the inner monologue, narrating sexual interludes with a few fleeting gay relationships thrown in every 30 or 40 pages. Perhaps my age and relationship status are barriers to fully appreciating the novel but that isn’t to say I couldn’t relate – I could. It is just that after 30 or 40 pages, I got the point and the next 120 pages became a blur of sexscapades that were neither titillating or enlightening. I’ve heard people describe the book as funny, foul-mouthed and unapologetic. I agree with foul-mouthed and unapologetic, but I don’t think the book was funny. Maybe ironic would be a better way to describe it. Purnell pulls no punches in describing the men, sex or himself — for the record all are found lacking, which makes it more depressing than relatable.

The epilogue, fifteen pages about hook-ups from a self-proclaimed “Rouge King of California Garage Rock” who toured Europe with a quick stop in Dubai, was interesting. I would’ve loved to have read more about that experience, but that might have more to do with my overwhelming desire to travel, after living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

While this wasn’t my favorite book, it has piqued my interest. Purnell can write and maybe that was why I ultimately was let down by the book. I’m intrigued enough that I’ll probably purchase another book of his, hoping there is more of a story to sink my teeth into. If you’ve read any of his other books, I’d love a recommendation.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. The links below will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for 100 Boyfriends.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: The Deviant’s War

The Boston Gay Men’s Book Club chose Eric Cervini’s 2020 book, The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. The United States of America for this month’s read. It was my first time joining a book club, and I really enjoyed listening to people share their thoughts. The organizers surprised everyone by having the author (shown below) join the MeetUp to answer questions about the book which was really kind of amazing.

The Boston Gay Men’s Book Club meets virtually due to COVID-19 and as a result is really open to anyone interested in joining a book club that focuses on gay literature. You can learn more or sign up to join here.

This is a book about the beginnings of the gay movement here in the United States, but focuses on Franklin Edward Kameny, a World War II veteran and gifted astronomer turned reluctant, gay activist and litigator after he was entrapped by the S.F.P.D. in 1957 and charged with “lewd conduct”. The charge would result in Kameny losing his certification to work for the Department of Defense just as his promising career was starting. He would be barred from employment with the Federal Government and agencies that served our government just as the Cold War’s space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. started.

After World War II, Homosexual arrests…occurred at the rate of one every ten minutes, each hour, each day for fifteen years. In sum one million citizens found themselves persecuted by the American state for sexual deviation.

Simply put, Cervini’s book is a page turner. We learn early on that Kameny is a gifted intellectual. He learned to read by age four. By age six he decided he would be an astronomer and at the age of 16 enrolled in college. He would serve in the military during WWII and went to Harvard after the war in 1948 to begin his PhD in astronomy. However, the career he cherished and had so much to offer would be denied to him, because our government would label him a deviant.

The personal struggles and obstacles Kameny faced were not unique. What was unique, was Kameny’s conclusion that homosexuality is “moral in a real and positive sense, and are good, right, and desireable, socially and personally”. This view was at odd with the U.S. government, the medical community and the public at-large which perceived homosexuality as a dangerous deviance. When Kameny approached the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1958 to ask for help he received the following response, “It was not within the province of the Union [ACLU] to evaluate the social validity of laws aimed at suppression or elimination of homosexuals.”, meaning if you were a homosexual the ACLU would not work with you or help you because you were considered a deviant.

In telling the story of Kameny’s extraordinary life, Cervini shares how self-respect and pride in one’s self emerged to become the cornerstone of the modern LGBTQ movement.

Facing this reality, Kameny used his intellect and tenacity to fight back in the courts. For years his efforts would be in vain, but homosexuals facing similar treatment sought him out. He would go on to found the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C., organize and participate in the first public demonstrations for gay rights, be among the first to ask politicians to support gay rights, run for Washington D.C.’s first congressional seat, and form an ongoing legal defense for victims through the 1960s and 1970s.

Aside from being a fascinating read, the book helped provide me with some much needed perspective on how much society has changed and helped me understand where and how the modern LGBTQ movement started. It begins more than a decade before the Stonewall Riots, introducing the controversial (and unethical) work done by sociologist Laud Humprhies as well as what Kameny and several others did in the 1950s and 1960s to help pave the way for the LGBTQ community to organize, self-actualize and speak up. This book introduced me to compatriots and contemporaries of Kameny who I had not heard of before. I hope because of the attention given to these activists, more will be revealed about their lives and contributions in future publications. I would love to see this included in U.S. History curriculum and as part of school reading lists.

Though Kameny did not have a term for it yet, by exposing the arbitrary logic of the purges with his own, contrary logic, he formulated gay pride as a political tool of resistance, a weapon to be wielded for now [1961], only in the courts.”

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. They will take you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL for The Deviant’s War.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

Book review: Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick

Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2013 book, Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, was difficult to put down. Philbrick paints a picture of pre-revolutionary Boston, the historic battle the book is named after and the siege of Boston until the British fled a year after the historic battle that will appeal to fans of American history.

Most Americans learn about colonial life and the American Revolution in school, but Philbrick provides much more detail than I ever recall learning. Chalk full of historical events, personalities and dates, the book reads as easily as any story but is all the more compelling because this is not the imagination of a talented author but are events that altered the trajectory of history. To quote Mark Twain, “truth is stranger than fiction”. Had Las Vegas existed, I can’t imagine what the odds would’ve been for this rag-tag group of disgruntled and disagreeable troublemakers a.k.a. “Patriots” to win on the battlefield against the British.

The Americans had lost 115 killed and had 305 wounded, with most of the casualties occurring during the retreat. Of the approximately 2,200 British soldiers in the battle, close to half — 1,054 — had been killed or wounded. The British had been victorious, but as Howe wrote, ‘The success is too dearly bought.’ “

Sometimes I refrain from reading a book if I already know the story so I’m glad I picked this up and would absolutely recommend it. It was fascinating to learn about the many people living in Boston at the time. A few that come to mind that I never heard of before reading this book include the poet Phillis Wheatley, born in 1753 in West Africa. She became a freed slave in Boston and bears the distinction of the first African-American author of a published book of poetry. The duplicitous traitor, Dr. Benjamin Church, was a contemporary of Benjamin Arnold. He did his best to undermine the efforts of colonialists after earning their trust and nearly succeeded. However, I was most surprised to learn about Dr. Joseph Warren who was the defacto leader of the resistance in Boston. If he had survived the Battle of Bunker Hill, he may very well have become the leader of the Continental Army in Boston and not George Washington.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared below, which takes you right to the book so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this New York Times Bestseller.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay (currently less than $10.00)

Book review: The Editor by Steven Rowley

Steven Rowley’s imaginative novel is about James Smale, an unpublished author who learns that his novel about his dysfunctional relationship with his mother is going to be published by Doubleday. Just as he is digesting this news he also learns his editor will be none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, which according to James she pronounces “somewhere between the French and American pronounciations… JACK-well-in? Zhak-LEEN.”

Jacqueline loves James’ novel but feels the ending is unresolved. Together they forge a professional relationship as he works furiously to finish the manuscript and address her comments which she writes neatly in all capital letters on his manuscripts. Still unfinished and struggling to provide the authentic ending Jacqueline feels the book is missing, she encourages him to go back home to find out what happened to his once strong relationship with his mother. James finally relents and their meeting results in an explosive discovery. Fireworks ensue, which only adds more color to the story.

I enjoyed reading this novel. Rowley brings the relationship between James Smale and his mother, father, partner and of course Jacqueline to life. His sense of humor and wit are sprinkled throughout and had me laughing late at night reading in bed. Below is one such scene about halfway through the book when the author, Smale, is racing to get his latest manuscript to Jacqueline’s office before the Thanksgiving holiday.

When I reached the building, my trailing scarf gets caught in the revolving door, and for a flickering second I imagine suffering the fate of that dancer from the 1920s (what was her name?) whose scarf caught in the open spokes of her car’s rear wheel. I can picture myself crumpled on the floor between revolving glass door partitions, maunscript pages raining down on me like prize money inside the cash booth on Beat the Clock. (Isadora Duncan! That was her name.)

This book can be purchased online at Amazon but you can also check with your local bookstore to see if they will order you a copy.