Category Archives: What’cha Reading

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 novel 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. This book 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 hte 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.

Book review: The Girl in the Boston Box by Chuck Latovich

I just finished reading local author, Chuck Latovich, debut novel, The Girl in the Boston Box. The 400+ page book published in Cambridge by Way We Live Publishers tells the story of two people living in Boston and Cambridge. One is a down-and-out gay man (Mark) who is estranged from his family and wallowing in self-pity after a break up and the other is a young woman (Caitlyn) studying architecture history at Harvard, who is intrigued by a rumor that some nineteenth century Boston architects may have built hidden rooms in homes of wealthy Bostonians called a “Boston Box”. Initially thinking these were part of the Underground Railroad, her research points to a far more salacious and disturbing reason for these hidden spaces. Mark and Caitlyn’s path ultimately cross as the result of a murder and an unexpected connection between the two and the victim.

This is an enjoayble read filled with short, punchy chapters that kept me reading late into the night. Murder mystery and detective literature fans will enjoy the twists and turns of this well written story. I loved how Latovich used Boston and Cambridge as the backdrop with much of the story taking place in the South End, Fenway and Harvard Square neighborhoods.

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.

Summer reading

books, summer readingWhile this summer may be unlike any other we’ve experienced before, it remains a great time to grab a book and lose yourself in a good story. Make plans to get away even if it is only in your imagination. Below are three very different novels for you to consider adding to your summer reading list. Below I’ve also included links to five local bookstores where you can purchase these books.

The Parting Gift, by Evan Fallenberg – published Sept 2018
Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston – published May 2019
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt – published Sept. 1992

Evan Fallenberg

The Parting Gift by Evan Fallenberg is available in paperback starting June 2nd. The novel opens with the main character writing a letter to his friend, Adam, explaining why he showed up unexpectedly four months ago looking for a place to stay. Recounting what happened after he quit grad school and moved to Israel. What follows is a lurid description about his surprise, intense sexual attraction and all-consuming, obsessive relationship with Uzi, a hyper masculine and emotionally detached spice farmer on the coast of the Mediterranean. As the passion fizzles, unrequited love leads to jealousy and resentment.

Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is a lighthearted beach novel that will appeal to RomCom lovers. The story revolves around a romance that ignites between Alex Claremont-Diaz (the son of the first female President) and Prince Henry – second in line in the British Monarchy. The scripted story line is as unrealistic as it is humorous with ridiculous scenarios playing out page after page. If you’re looking for a lighthearted romantic comedy to read while on vacation this summer – look no further – this book is for you.

Donna TarttThe Secret History by Donna Tartt opens with the murder of one of the character, Bunny, who is part of a group of  six classics students, attending a small, elite liberal arts college in Vermont (based upon Bennington College, where Tartt was a student in the 1980s). At times I found myself reviling all of these students but the writing is excellent and kept me reading to find out what becomes of this group of misfits. In some ways this story is the exact opposite of the light, RomCom-esque nature of Red, White & Royal Blue previously shared.

All of these books can be purchased online at major resellers but you may also buy this in person or online at local bookstores so buy local. Below are a handful of bookstores who would love to he

Brookline Booksmith 279 Harvard Street by Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore  1256 Mass Ave in Harvard Square
Papercuts JP 5 Green Street, Jamaica Plain
Porter Square Bookstore 25 White Street in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe 338 Newbury Street in Back Bay

Quarantine reading suggestions from Reach Around Books

Many Americans have spent the past month observing shelter-in-place home orders to help curb the coronavirus. While the news of  late has been pretty bleak, I thought a little light reading might be a welcome suggestion.

Brenda’s Beaver Needs a Barber
Put Tony’s Nuts In Your Mouth
Suzy Likes to Look at Balls
Spank the Monkey Lends a Hand
Come Swing with Us (not shown above)

Reach Around Books are for those of you who love a good double entendre and promises to have you in tears reading these “children’s stories”, that are most definitely for adults. These books are certain to offend those with a Puritanical streak but for my readership, I think this is perfectly on brand – so to speak.

Below is a YouTube narration from one of the five books in this series, Spank The Monkey Lends A Hand.

Boston Gay Men’s book club

shirtless guy, man with glasses, reading, bookBoston’s Gay Men’s Book Club will meet Monday, April 27th at The Boston Public Library in the Back Bay to dish on this novel. All are welcome. For more information click on the link below.

Boston Gay Men’s Book Club
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell
Monday, April 27th at 7PM

“Cleanness revisits and expands the world of Garth Greenwell’s beloved debut, What Belongs to You, declared “an instant classic” by The New York Times Book Review. In exacting, elegant prose, he transcribes the strange dialects of desire, cementing his stature as one of our most vital living writers.”

If you’re 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!

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

 

Boston Book Festival this weekend

shirtless guy, man with glasses, reading, bookI believe this weekend will be the 11th Annual Boston Book Festival. This free event centered in Copley Square and the Boston Public Library this Saturday and Sunday is a wonderful program worth checking out. The 2019 BBF will include 350+ presenters, 140+ events at 37 venues and is expected to draw 30k people.

The Boston Book Festival celebrates the power of words to stimulate, agitate, unite, delight, and inspire by holding year-round events culminating in an annual, Festival that promotes a culture of reading, ideas and enhances the vibrancy of our city.

The variety of events, topics and discussions are meant to ensure there is something for everyone. If you’re an aspiring (or possibly frustrated) writer, there are many sessions set up all weekend long as well (check’em out here). One program I’m contemplating attending is Saturday’s Poetry & Pints.

This year’s full schedule can be viewed here: BBF Schedule.

Summer reading

With the July 4th holiday around the corner and beach weather in the forecast, you may be looking for some quality summer reading materials. As in past years, I wanted to share a few books for you to consider. While all these books are available via sites like Amazon.com, consider purchasing one or more of these books from your local LGBT bookstore (if you still have one).

LGBTQ history, gay literature, gay non fictionThis book is most likely going to appeal to those who reside or hail from New England. Published earlier this year by Shawmut Peninsula Press, The Hub of the Gay Universe: An LGBTQ History of Boston, Provincetown and Beyond, was written by my friend and neighbor, Russ Lopez. The 300+ page soft cover starts in the early 1600 when Pilgrims landed first in Provincetown and soon after in Plymouth and concludes with the progress the LGBTQ community has made in present day. Lopez beautifully captures moments in history and shares story after story about pioneers – many of whom you’ve never heard because American queer history is virtually unknown and barely taught.

fiction, gay fiction, greek mythologyFor those looking for an escape from reality, I definitely suggest Madeline Miller’s NYT Bestselling novel, The Song of Achilles, which chronicles the story of Achilles – the son of Thetis the cruel sea goddess and Kink Peleus who is doomed to die on the battlefield and destined to be Ancient Greece’s greatest hero. Miller doesn’t shy from the companionship and love between the hero and Patroclus, an unassuming exile who is made famous in Greek mythology because Achilles names him Therapon, ‘brother-in-arms’. Miller’s talent cannot be denied. I promise you will find yourself turning page after page, staying up late to finish the novel.

gay fictionHaving recommended a new nonfiction book on LGBTQ history followed by an historical fiction novel of sorts it seems only fitting to conclude with the gay classic, Tales of the City.  I can vividly remember watching in secret the TV series in the early 1990s up in my parent’s bedroom. And later buying the books in an out-of-the-way bookstore so I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew. If you’ve never read the series or if it has been a few years, add this to your summer reading list. The novel captures a time that no longer exists and as the NY Times review says, reads like “an extended love letter to a magical San Francisco”.

If you have a book that you’d like to suggest, please leave the title and author in the comments section of this post. And as I mentioned previously, while all these books are available via sites like Amazon.com, consider purchasing one or more of these books from your local LGBT bookstore (if you still have one).

Boston Gay Men’s book club is reading Kens

Boston Book Festival, BBFHeterosexuality is so last season in Raziel Reid’s book, Kens, which was published this past September.

The book has been described as a gay Heathers meets Mean Girls. Kens is a about the three Kens of Willows High who rule the school and Tommy Rawlins who so desperately wants to be accepted by the Kens. This is a funny and provocative story about identity and acceptance.

Boston’s Gay Men’s Book Club will meet Monday, November 26th at The Trident Cafe & Booksellers on Newbury Street in the Back Bay to dish on this novel. All are welcome. For more information click on the link below.

Boston Gay Men’s Book Club
Kens by Raziel Reid
Monday, November 26th at 7PM

If you’re open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared below, which takes you right to the book’s page so you can order it online in just a couple of clicks!

razel reidBrookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Papercuts JP in Jamaica Plain
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay

 

Gay Men’s Book Club is reading The Disintegrations

shirtless guy, man with glasses, reading, bookNext month Boston’s Gay Men’s Book Club meets on Monday, October 29th in the Back Bay at Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe on Newbury Street. If you’re looking for something to read and interested in meeting gay men in a more social setting that doesn’t involve a gym, bar or an app this may be worth checking out.

This month the group is reading The Disintegrations by Alistair McCartney. The book was the winner of the Publishing Triangle’s 2018 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ fiction and named one of the best works of fiction for 2017 by The Seattle Times and Entropy Magazine.  This enigmatic novel confronts both the impossibility of understanding death and the timeless longing for immortality.

Gay Men’s Book Club
Monday, October 29th at 7PM
At Trident Booksellers & Cafe

The Disintegrations can be purchased online at major resellers but you may also buy this from one of our wonderful independent bookstores. If you’re open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared below, which takes you right to the book’s page so you can order it in just a couple of clicks!

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

Patrick Horrigan reads from his novel Pennsylvania Station

gay authors, gay literature, The History Project, gay boston

Later this month this month  The History Project will be hosting a reading of  Patrick Horrigan’s novel, Pennsylvania Station, that is free and open to the public but does require registering to ensure space will be available. You can reserve your space through Eventbrite.

Thursday, September 27th
Doors open at 6:00PM
Book reading begins at 6:30PM

Horrigan will also share how he weaves together the history of New York’s old Penn Station, the historic preservation movement, and the pre-Stonewall gay rights movement. Horrigan’s book is available for sale everywhere but help support Boston’s local and independent bookstores by placing an online order for his novel at these locations:

Brookline Booksmith 279 Harvard Street by Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore  1256 Mass Ave in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore 25 White Street in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe 338 Newbury Street in Back Bay

Summer readin’

gay pulp  fictionPublished in 1970 I can only imagine this gay pulp fiction novel must’ve been a real page turner (I’m joking BTW).

Summer readin’

gay pulp fictionOMG, can you imagine reading this book while commuting on your way to work?

Summer readin’

gay pulp fictionPublished in 1970 this gay pulp fiction novel shows just how far we’ve come. Can you imagine any gay man introducing his husband to someone as his wife?