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Books for the beach

summer reading, gay news, Washington Blade

There are plenty of books coming out for your summer reading.

You made your reservations months ago.

This was a vacation you’ve been planning for, well, it seems like forever. One of those once-in-a-lifetime trips is what you’ve always dreamed about and you’ve bought all new clothes and even a new suitcase for it.

So why would you take just any old book on your vacation this summer? Instead, why not look for something new by an author you love?


Conservative writer Ben Carson has a new book out about America’s future. There’s a new book out, co-written by Bill Geist, too. In fact, you’ll find quite a few memoirs out toward the end of May, as well as novels by Terry Hayes, Tom Robbins, Robert Ludlum and Joseph Finder. And Bob the Street Cat has a new book out, too, and fans will want it.


Summertime reading bolts out the door like a teenager off curfew with new novels by Mary Alice Monroe, Dorothea Benton Frank and Jeff Shaara; a business book by William Poundstone and one on commodities; a book about Sally Ride by Lynn Sherr; and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s much-anticipated memoir. And that’s just the first week.

Later in June, look for new novels by Diana Gabaldon, Jennifer Weiner, Janet Evanovich, Linda Fairstein, Ridley Pearson, James Patterson, Jude Deveraux and Dean Koontz. You’ll find a book about a dog that flew during World War II (and why). Read about Justice Antonin Scalia. Pick up some new Will Shortz puzzle books in June. And learn how to use your manners when you have to swear.

For the kids, look for a new “Dork Diaries” installation; an encyclopedia of animated characters; a few new mysteries for middle-grade readers; a new book about Charlie the Ranch Dog; and a book about farting fish.


Just because summer’s half over doesn’t mean your reading list is. Before the fireworks even begin, look for new novels by Jojo Moyes, Susan Wiggs, J.A. Jance, Jacqueline Winspear and Amy Sohn. There’s a new book coming out about Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, a new book that debunks myths about sex, a new book by Ja Rule, a skinny book about crossword puzzles and why we love them, a self-help book on “wallowing” the right way and a cool true-crime book about how amateurs have been solving cold cases and bringing killers to justice.

Later in July, you’ll find more favorites: novels by Brad Thor, Iris & Roy Johansen, Anne Rivers Siddons, Terry Brooks, Catherine Coulter, Brad Taylor, Conn Igguldon, Stuart Woods, James Lee Burke, Ace Atkins and Julie Garwood; a new memoir by singer Rick James; a biography on Michelangelo; a new book about families and race; a tell-all about the Clinton’s political life; and a memoir of faith and football.

The kids will love finding new Guardians of the Galaxy books, new joke books to while away the summer, the latest Fancy Nancy installment and a new graphic novel by Neil Gaiman.


You’re not done yet. There’s still plenty of summer and plenty of time to read left.

The first part of August will see a new book by Andrew Cuomo, a new novel by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, a new W.E.B. Griffin tome, a new book about crime-scene profilers and a book about the woman behind theMona Lisa.

Also in August, look for new books by Carl Weber, William Kent Krueger, Debbie Macomber, Kelly Armstrong, Elaine Hussey, Randy Wayne White, Tami Hoag, Paul Coelho and Kathy Reichs.

Get the kids in back-to-school mode with a new children’s book by Malala Yousafzai; a new Cupcake Diaries installment; ghost stories; and a kid’s book about paying it forward.


Lifting the veil on Sally Ride’s private life

Sally Ride, gay news, Washington Blade

Astronaut Sally Ride (Photo public domain)

Labels are for bottles, not people, according to the popular aphorism. I’ve been thinking of this while reading “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space,” by writer and former ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr, just out from Simon & Schuster. As this engrossing, moving biography reveals, neither Ride nor her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, liked labels.  Especially, about their sexual orientation or same-sex relationship.

“She didn’t want to be defined by the lesbian/gay label …we both didn’t like categories,” Sherr writes that O’Shaughnessy told her.

Like many of us, LGBT and straight, I was sad to learn on July 23, 2012 that Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, had died of pancreatic cancer. Growing up, starry-eyed, watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, cheering when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs and embracing the women’s movement, I didn’t think girls could be astronauts. Ride’s historic 1983 space flight was thrilling to women of all generations.

“Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see that they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers and scientists,” Gloria Steinem said at the time.

As Sherr’s biography engagingly shows, Ride was so multi-faceted in her talents and interests that she was almost, to use Duke Ellington’s dictum, “beyond category.” Ride was an astrophysicist who studied Shakespeare, an athlete (who joked that her horrible “forehand” kept her from becoming a professional tennis player), educator, and, with O’Shaughnessy, a children’s book writer. She was a serious scientist who was most comfortable in academia. After the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, Ride was part of the commission established to investigate the accident.

“As a retired astronaut, she did research on arms control,” Sherr writes, “… she championed programs to advance the status of women and fought against stereotypes that dampened children’s dreams, barriers to success that had never stopped her.”

When I was in school, science was creepy – a bunch of (mainly male) teachers saying boring, incomprehensible things. Ride and O’Shaughnessy, through their company Sally Ride Science, worked to change this dreary image of science. Ride wanted children to know that “science is cool,” Sherr writes.

Though Ride was an intensely private person, she loved talking with kids about going to the bathroom in outer space. When a child asked Ride if the food that she ate in space was gross, she replied, “No! We had peanut butter.”

Like many in the LGBT community and in the wider culture, I was surprised and saddened to learn only after her death that Ride had been in a same-sex relationship for more than two decades. I didn’t judge her for not being open about her sexuality or her relationship with O’Shaughnessy. I thought then, as I do now, that deciding to come out, even as marriage equality increasingly becomes a reality, is still a personal, and often, difficult, decision. Homosexuality was considered to be a mental illness until 1973, and it’s doubtful that NASA would have accepted an openly LGBT astronaut.

“She was just a private person who wanted to do things her way. She hated labels (including hero),” Ride’s sister Bear told the Associated Press at the time of her death.

Few beyond a small, extremely close-knit circle knew of Ride and O’Shaughnessy’s relationship. Even, Sherr, a friend of Ride’s, didn’t know that Ride and O’Shaughnessy were a same-sex couple. Though not a hagiography in any sense of the word, Sherr wrote this book because O’Shaughnessy wanted it to be written. O’Shaughnessy decided “that it was time for a proper biography,” Sherr writes. “That the obituaries didn’t capture the richness or the nuance of her life … that in the interest of honesty it was time to lift the veil of privacy Sally had guarded so tenaciously.”

Many thanks, Tam, for lifting the veil. And thanks to Sherr for illuminating a legendary life in all its rich complexity.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.


Outer space, inner struggle

‘Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space’
By Lynn Sherr
Simon & Schuster
376 pages

Sally Ride, gay news, Washington Blade

Astronaut Sally Ride (Photo public domain)

And the cow jumped over the moon.

You spent many years wondering if that were possible, although countless nursery rhyme books said it was so. Yes, a human could surely go there, but a bovine?

Eventually, you learned the truth: men and women can overcome gravity, but cows stay grounded. And in the new book “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space” by Lynn Sherr, you’ll learn some truths that weren’t so widely known.

Born at the end of May, 1951, at a time when girls were usually directed toward domestic interests, Sally Ride was raised in a California household that was supportive of off-the-beaten-path lives. The Ride girls (Sally had a younger sister) never heard “I love you,” but they were encouraged to happily find their own interests.

In this atmosphere, strong-willed Ride grew to desire what was then considered to be a boys’ interest: she would “devote” herself to science. It was tennis, however, that took her to college in Philadelphia; her game was near-pro-quality, though she knew she lacked the discipline needed to play professionally. With that in mind, Ride headed back west and enrolled at Stanford, where she majored in physics.

It was there that she fell in love, then fell in love again when the first relationship fizzled due to distance. It was also at Stanford where Ride, who had always assumed that NASA would forever be off-limits to her, first learned that America’s space program was recruiting women.

She applied. A few months later, she interviewed and tested and, after training and not just a few faux pas from NASA, was ultimately, famously chosen to be the first American woman in space. Ride’s life as she knew it had changed forever.

But what about the people who were close to Ride? Author Lynn Sherr believed that she was; she and Ride had been friends for years. Just days after Ride’s death, though, Sherr and the world learned that Ride had hidden a major part of herself by keeping secret a committed 27-year same sex relationship.

In her introduction to “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space,” Sherr explains how this book came about: her years of knowing (but not-quite-knowing) Sally Ride and the shock of learning a “private” truth. She also writes about the cultural atmosphere in which Ride accomplished her greatest dream, the space program and NASA, and the additional issues to which Ride devoted her life.

Sherr also gives readers a good sense of Ride as a person, rather than the heroine that history tends to offer. For that, I was glad; it’s always nice to perceive those we hold in esteem as human, so reading of Ride’s overwhelmingly by-the-book, reticent nature was welcome, almost comforting.

This is a personable book that doesn’t seem quite as shocking as I’m sure it might have been once, but it’s still enjoyable and, for followers of the space program, LGBT issues, and dreamers alike, it’s a must-read.



Sally Ride to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Sally Ride, gay news, Washington Blade

Lesbian astronaut Sally Ride will posthumously receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Photo public domain)


Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to travel in space, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced on Monday. The award is the country’s highest civilian honor. After her death last July, it was disclosed in her obituaries that she had a partner of 27 years, Tammy O’Shaughnessy.

“We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women,” President Obama said in a statement. “Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there. Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy.”

According to the White House, Ride’s partner, mother, and sister were notified last week of the president’s decision to give the late astronaut the award. Additionally, the White House said more honorees will be named in the coming weeks and the awards will be presented at a White House ceremony later this year.

In related news, the White House is set to honor 10 openly LGBT Americans on Wednesday for their public service as part of its “Harvey Milk Champions of Change” event.

The event falls on Harvey Milk’s birthday and almost four years after when the gay rights pioneer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“When President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom in 2009, he praised his leadership and courage in running for office,” said Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president. “Today, we honor Harvey Milk’s legacy in these ten outstanding public servants, who will surely inspire the next generation of public servants.”

A list of honorees follows. One of the awardees, Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin, was profiled in the Washington Blade during his unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2011.

* Simone Bell, Georgia State Representative, Atlanta, Ga.

* Angie Buhl O’Donnell, South Dakota State Senator, Sioux Falls, S.D

* Karen Clark, Minnesota State Representative, South Minneapolis, Minn

* Michael Gin, Mayor of Redondo Beach, Redondo Beach, Calif.

* Kim Coco Iwamoto, Hawaii State Civil Rights Commissioner, Honolulu, Hawaii,

* John Laird, Calif. Secretary of Natural Resources, Santa Cruz, Calif.

* Ricardo Lara, California State Senator, Long Beach, Calif.

* Kim Painter, Johnson Country Recorder, Iowa City, Iowa

* Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati City Council Member, Cincinnati, Ohio;

* Pat Steadman, Colorado State Senator, Denver, Colo.

The event will be livestreamed here starting Wednesday at 3 p.m.


Obama honors Rustin, Ride

Walter Naegle, Bayard Rustin, Barack Obama, Medal of Freedom, gay news, Washington Blade

Bayard Rustin’s partner Walter Naegle accepting the medal from President Obama. (Photo by Patsy Lynch)

President Obama on Wednesday awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, to a diverse roster of honorees.

Among them were two openly gay American icons: Bayard Rustin and Sally Ride. Both Rustin and Ride are deceased. Ride’s longtime partner, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, accepted on her behalf; Rustin’s partner Walter Naegle accepted on his behalf.

Rustin was an openly gay black man who organized the March on Washington in 1963; Ride was the first American woman in space.

Tam O'Shaughnessy, Barack Obama, Sally Ride, gay news, Washington Blade

Sally Ride’s longtime partner, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, with President Obama on Wednesday. (Photo by Patsy Lynch)


Learning from Rustin, Ride and Steinem

Gloria Steinem, Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

Celebrating and learning about the historic contributions of Bayard Rustin, Sally Ride and Gloria Steinem will help us understand and meet our present challenges. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite progress that’s been made in the struggle for LGBT rights, feminism and against racism, it still often feels as if the history of gays, people of color, women and other marginalized groups remains hidden or disrespected. Too frequently, we look at textbooks, the media or commemorative ceremonies, and wonder: where are the people like me? Why are our contributions ignored and how long will our sexuality be expurgated?

Thankfully, stellar examples of this hidden history were brought to light on Nov. 20 when President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, to feminist leader and Ms. magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem and posthumously to Bayard Rustin, an openly gay key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and Sally Ride, a lesbian and the first woman astronaut. In an historic first, at the White House ceremony, same-sex partners (Rustin’s partner Walter Naegle and Ride’s partner Tam O’Shaughnessy) accepted the distinguished medals.

Tam O'Shaughnessy, Barack Obama, Sally Ride, gay news, Washington Blade

Sally Ride’s longtime partner, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, with President Obam. (Photo by Patsy Lynch)

As I caught the news on this year’s Medal of Freedom winners (which included former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey), I felt as if two of our queer heroes and one of our allies were being vividly painted on the mural of history.

Rustin, who lived from 1910 to 1987, was a close adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr.  “Openly gay at a time when many had to hide who they loved,” Obama said of Rustin, “his unwavering belief that we are all equal members of a single human family took him from his first freedom ride to the LGBT rights movement.”

Thanks to Ride’s groundbreaking space voyage, LGBT kids know, that they, too, can reach for the stars. By blasting through the stratospheric glass ceiling, Obama said of Ride, she inspired girls to “pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Obama lauded Steinem’s advocacy for “lasting political and social change in America and abroad” and for “inspiring us all to take up the cause of reaching for a more just tomorrow.”

Why should the LGBT community be pleased that Steinem was among the Medal recipients? Because Steinem is an LGBT ally and the feminist and LGBT movements have much in common from employment discrimination to sexual oppression. True, in its early years, the 2nd wave feminist movement was often homophobic, and even now, feminism is too often geared toward white, middle and upper-middle class, straight women. Yet Steinem is a staunch LGBT rights supporter who sees sexism, racism and homophobia as intertwined.

Listening to Steinem, 79, speak on Nov. 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., her commitment to fighting injustice and creating a just world was a shot of Red Bull to those of us steeped in cynicism. Her Medal of Freedom belongs to everyone in the women’s movement, and “women’s issues are not separate from economic issues,” Steinem said.

Fewer Americans support marriage equality than people in other nations, Steinem noted.

The right to have an abortion is a human right, she said.  “For men and women the power of the state must stop at our skins,” she added.

“The same groups oppose all forms of sexual expression that do not end in contraception,” Steinem said in a telling comment on oppressive views of reproductive freedom and LGBT people.

Violence against women has reached its global peak, she said, adding that the level of this violence is a “foremost indicator of a repressive society.”

Knowing history is important, Steinem said, but “getting mad” at injustice in the present is more important than learning feminist history. Gratitude for history never got her to “vote for anything,” she added.

Of course, we mustn’t become so obsessed with history that we disengage from work that needs to be done now. But celebrating and learning about the historic contributions of Rustin, Ride and Steinem will help us understand and meet our present challenges.