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Books: Hot gay page turners

Decadence, Eric Jerome Dickey, Gypsy Boy on the Run, Mikey Walsh, Prarie Silence, Melanie Hoffert, books, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Decadence’ by Eric Jerome Dickey, ‘Gypsy Boy on the Run’ by Mikey Walsh and ‘Prairie Silence’ by Melanie Hoffert, just three of many gay-themed books slated for release in the coming months. (Photos courtesy the publishers)

The spring publishing season is full of gay reads, especially if you like memoirs.

Mikey Walsh gifts us with a sequel to last year’s “Gypsy Boy” (one of my favorite books of 2012) with his new book “Gypsy Boy on the Run.” This book picks up where the first book left off — Walsh has just escaped his father’s abuse and the Romany culture in which he grew up — and off we go. Which is great, since the first book practically begged for an update. His being gay is a major reason he was shunned by his culture of origin.

What would you do if you hailed from a place where you being gay was the farthest thing from your neighbors’ minds? In “Prairie Silence,” author Melanie Hoffert tackles that, coming from her home state of North Dakota. This is a beautiful book, almost bucolic, and filled with a quiet sense of calm and crops.

“Letters from the Closet: Ten Years of Correspondence That Changed My Life” by Amy Hollingsworth is a bit of a unusual memoir: it’s about a teacher who was not “out,” his favorite student and letters that he wrote to her that she kept until his death, years later. It’s a powerful story of secrets that aren’t so secret, from a Christian writer.

Speaking of church, “Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church” by Lauren Drain is the true story of the organization and a little girl whose father got so caught up in his examination of the church that he moved his family to Kansas and into the fold. It’s also the story of a girl who examines her conscience and realizes that her former beliefs were wrong. Controversial? You betcha, but oh-so-interesting, too.

“Plane Queer” by Phil Tiemeyer is a book about male flight attendants from the 1920s to about a decade ago, their work in a female-dominated career, the discrimination they faced and how AIDS has tied into their area of the industry. There’s a lot to learn here (because — did you know this? — they were in the forefront of an important civil rights law), so this book isn’t just a scandal-filled, juicy read.

Local gay author Garrett Peck continues his historical explorations with “The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry.” This is somewhat of a sequel to Peck’s last book and explains how some of D.C.’s best-loved sites are tied together in an unlikely way.

California-based gay author and pop culture historian Mike Pingel is out with another tidbit-crammed page turner. “Betty White Rules the World” traces the legend’s career from “Life With Elizabeth,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “The Golden Girls,” “Hot in Cleveland” and more. As with previous books on everything from “Wonder Woman” to “Charlie’s Angels,” Pingel keeps the pace moving — pullout boxes and mini-chapters are well-chocked with interesting factoids that keep the pace moving.

So you’re clamoring for a novel. Just a good story, that’s all you want.

And then you want “The Beauty of Men Never Dies” by David Leddick.

Blending fiction with memoir, this book is about aging and falling in love later in life. It’s a whirlwind trip from America to Europe, from one fabulous job to another, and from love lost to love gained. How much is true and how much is not?  I’m not saying. Read the book.

Gay author Brent Hartinger will release “The Elephant of Surprise” from Buddha Kitty Books on March 31. It’s the fourth book in the “Geography Club” series, the first entry of which has been adapted into a film starring Scott Bakula and Nikki Blonsky. In “Elephant,” Russel and his friends Min and Gunnar laugh about a phenomenon referenced in the title — the tendency of life to never turn out as expected. Russel becomes involved with Wade, a hot-but-homeless activist, just as his old flame Kevin returns to his front burner. And Min is learning surprising things about her girlfriend Leah. Hartinger, a former Blade contributor, has earned kudos for his well-crafted depictions of gay teen life.

Finally, if you just want something fun, hedonistic and so hot you’ll need oven mitts, then look for “Decadence” by Eric Jerome Dickey this spring. Nia Simone Bijou (she of 2008’s “Pleasure”) is back and looking to hone her “gifts” of love by stepping into a pleasure palace for awhile.

28
Feb
2013

‘Gypsy’ part two

‘Gypsy Boy on the Run’
By Mikey Walsh
Thomas Dunne
$24.99
306 pages

Gypsy Boy on the Run, Mikey Walsh, gay news, books, Washington Blade

Gypsy Boy on the Run (Image courtesy of Thomas Dunne)

Work stinks.

Home isn’t much better. Deadlines, dirty dishes, screaming boss, loud neighbors, nasty clients, empty bank account — any wonder you’re so crabby?

No help, no raise, no sympathy, what you really need is to get away. And so did author Mikey Walsh but, as you’ll see in his new memoir “Gypsy Boy on the Run,” he escaped certain death.

Growing up in Europe’s Romany culture in the 1980s was wonderfully idyllic for Mikey Walsh — for awhile.

As a young boy, Walsh played with his sister, danced to his mother’s favorite music, made mischief with cousins and loved to dress up. But since Walsh was the youngest in a line of Gypsy fighters, his father started “training” him early to use his fists. That meant daily beatings, sometimes more, until Walsh was a teen.

By then, he realized he was gay and he knew his father would kill him if he found out. So, with the help of Caleb, a man he’d fallen in love with, 15-year-old Walsh escaped in the middle of the night.

But his father wasn’t going to let him go easily.

Within days, a “five grand” bounty had been put on Walsh’s head and Caleb was being stalked. Terrified, they moved Walsh from place to place until he finally found safety in a town where he hoped his father wouldn’t look. Walsh found a job, but he lost Caleb to the pressure of constant threats.


With the familial situation eased a bit, Walsh seized opportunity to change things he didn’t like about himself. Though proud of his Gypsy heritage, his way of speaking became more “Gorgia.”  He made friends and learned to embrace his sexuality. He was confident enough to move even further away from his family’s influence, to find a good job and a safe apartment. He’d stopped living with paralyzing fear, he learned to read and enrolled in acting classes.

He cautiously began to forgive his father.

At the end of last year’s “Gypsy Boy” — which I absolutely loved — author Mikey Walsh teased his readers by letting it slip that there was much more to his story. He didn’t elaborate, and I wondered if he could deliver on that delicious tantalization.

I shouldn’t have doubted.

Beginning with a brief recap that also serves as a summary for those who missed the first book, Walsh wastes little time before pulling readers into a terror-filled account of the months in which he was always just a half-step ahead of his father’s fists — and yet (this amazed me), he manages to keep a sense of humor about what happened. He presents his story with no poor-me, no sympathy begging and a voice that’s calm and matter-of-fact. The lack of whining is oh-so-refreshing in a book like this.

Yes, this memoir contains some repetition, but that minor annoyance is overpowered by a “part two” tale that’s every bit as stellar as its predecessor. If you’re searching for something for vacation, weekending or just because, “Gypsy Boy on the Run” is the best escape.

18
Apr
2013

Year in review: Books by the bounty

From the Closet to the Altar, books, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Oxford University Press)

Drivel, dreck and what the heck?

That kind of sums up the books that were released this year. There were some good things, some downright awful things, and some things that, well, they weren’t bad but they weren’t the best books you’ve ever read, either.

And then there were the gems.

I read about 270 books this year, and (fortunate me!) it was hard to pick favorites, but nonetheless, here they are.

Adult fiction

For me, the world totally ceased to exist while I was reading “The Absolutist” by John Boyne. Set in the years after World War I, it’s the story of a former soldier who decides to return some letters to the sister of the friend who wrote them. Years ago, he knew the woman’s brother — had a crush on him, in fact — but the man is now dead, and when the sister asks what happened, the narrator tells her. What happens left me absolutely breathless.

If you plan on reading just one book this winter, this should be it. Really.

I have to admit: I’m not a major Eric Jerome Dickey reader. Some of his books leave me cold but “An Accidental Affair” chilled me with the action and double-crossing that happens to the book’s narrator, who catches his beloved wife sleeping with another man. What he has to do to get her out of trouble — and get himself out of danger — will make you turn the pages so fast, you’ll practically rip them.

What’s that word again for fiction based on fact? In the case of “October Mourning” by Lesleà Newman, the word is “powerful.”

Based on the Matthew Shepard murder, this book consists of a series of free-form poems from the POV of the things and creatures that witnessed his death: the fence, a doe that wandered by, the road, the truck. There are real quotes entwined amid the verses, which only serves to heighten the punch in the gut you’ll feel with this book.

I listened to it in audio. I bawled til I could barely breathe.

And if you’re thinking about starting a family, “The Paternity Test” by Michael Lowenthal may be one of the better books you’ll read about it.

Yes, this is fiction. It’s about a couple who have had a shaky relationship for years and then finally decide to settle down and have a baby through surrogacy. But it’s not that easy and I can’t tell you anything else.  Just read it — seriously.

Adult non-fiction

Hands-down, the LGBT memoir I loved most this year was “Gypsy Boy” by Mikey Walsh. Walsh was born a Romany Gypsy and lived as a child in Europe in a series of camps and compounds. His father was determined to make Walsh the latest of a lineage of fierce fighters and, to that end, he beat his son every day, sometimes multiple times. But what the elder Walsh didn’t know was that his son was gay.

Walsh gives this book a laissez faire tone, but don’t let that fool you — this book packs a wallop and can’t be missed.

I’m a sucker for a good scandal and “Dropped Names” by Frank Langella had its share. Langella  seemed to always be in the proverbial right place at the right time. That kind of luck put him in proximity of a lot of Hollywood stars and it started his career. This is a light-reading book with dozens of tiny chapters and big names. For any fan of movies, Broadway, or television, particularly from decades past, this is a great book.

As I started reading “From the Closet to the Altar” by Michael J. Klarman, I was afraid I was in for something dry. Not so much, as it turns out: this book isn’t just about gay marriage, it’s also about the history of gay rights and coming proudly out. Turns out that this book is a little like a good martini: a little dry, a little bitter and an interesting taste that leaves you wanting more.

And finally, I don’t think I’ll ever forget “A Queer and Pleasant Danger” by Kate Bornstein. It’s the story of a man who becomes a woman, a religion that almost derails that process and the aftermath of getting out of something very scary.

Bornstein is funny and self-depreciating, snarky and kind. You’ll find a lot of bravado in this book but read it — and read between the lines.

And there you have it: eight books on which you can use your gift certificate. Eight books to help you get through the winter. Books you just can’t miss.

27
Dec
2012