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Monday, March 10, 2003

More gay books…


Book review: Desert Sons by Mark Kendrick

In reading Mark Kendrick's first novel, I often forgot about the plot, not because it didn't interest me, but because Kendrick succeeds so incredibly at bringing readers deep into the minds and hearts of his two main characters: Ryan and Scott. Of course, the various conflicts creep back into the narrative, causing new problems for these believable and complicated teenagers. Both boys are still coming to terms with their sexual orientation, while trying to understand their intense love for each other. Kendrick never shies away from the sexual preoccupation of these teen lovers, but he also never shies away from their fear of prejudice and rejection. Kendrick also writes science fiction, and it will be interesting to see if he can deliver the same character-driven novels in that genre as in this admirable example of gay fiction.

Book review: Into This World We’re Thrown by Mark Kendrick

I loved Mark Kendrick's debut novel, Desert Sons. While I’m mostly looking forward to his upcoming time travel trilogy, I was surprised and happy to learn of his plans to first write a sequel to Desert Sons. Though I found the ending of the original completely satisfying, it also left some open possibilities that this book explores.
While Desert Sons deftly handles the difficult and sometimes dangerous coming out process of young lovers Ryan and Scott, the sequel finds that lingering tensions remain, while new challenges continue to surface. Infidelity, jealousy, town gossip, and buried feelings threaten to destroy their relationship. Worse yet, the threat of violence looms constantly in their lives.
Fans of Desert Sons will surely cherish this conclusion to its story-lines. However, I also suggest it to fans of gay teen "coming out" movies like Beautiful Thing, Get Real, Boy's Life, and Edge of Seventeen. In fact, Kendrick's first two novels would both make great movies themselves!


Book review: Murder in Pastel by Colin Dunne
Colin Dunne cleverly blends a painting's subject with the story of some gay friends and the story of a missing artist (and his missing painting). The resulting tale always intrigues, with a focus on strong dialogue and character development. You don't have to be gay to enjoy this book. Nor do you have to like mystery novels. Just the characters and conflicts that start the novel would have kept my attention, but the added dimension of the murder and the painting made me read quickly to the surprising twists of the novel's closing chapters.

Book review: The Drowning of Stephan Jones by Bette Greene
I read this novel several years ago and often think about it. The story is haunting in how it accurately portrays the nature of prejudice. Hate crimes against gays are common and are currently becoming even more common. Novels like this one might help some young people think about the results of hatred and prejudice. Bette Greene deserves all the praise and awards she has received for her books!

Book review: Openly Gay, Openly Christian: How the Bible Really Is Gay Friendly by Rev. Samuel Kader
Rev. Kader has both a deeply analytical mind and a deeply loving spirit. In this well-researched and carefully phrased study, he challenges homophobic readings of the Bible and uses his knowledge of scripture to show the Bible as "gay-friendly." He also uses his experiences to show the results of homophobia within the church and the questionable value of "ex-gay" ministries. This is one of the best books of its kind!
Kader might overstate (and re-state) some of his points at times, but only because so many hearts are so hardened by arrogance, bigotry, or self-hatred. This book is perfect for anyone who's gay and/or Christian, as well as for the loved ones of gay people.

Book review: Trysts by Steve Berman
I had heard of Steve Berman's fiction collection, Trysts, at Amazon.com, and it sounded interesting. Matt Bauer's striking artwork on the cover caught my interest even more. As the words he chose for his title and subtitle suggest, Berman can find something obscure or archaic, then turn it into something wondrous and unpredictable.
While Berman will certainly appeal to fans of modern horror writers like Clive Barker, his writing seems more like a reshaped, updated, and gay-themed version of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Like those 19th century authors, both of whom helped shape fantastic fiction, Berman can use a few suggestive words, emotions, or images to spawn entire worlds of fear, dread, and awe. But also like those writers, he makes us want to keep exploring the dark forests of the human mind, to see how the experience will affect us.
Of course, in Berman's case, we mostly find modern landscapes, such as run-down apartment buildings that house demons, spiders, ghosts, and seductive hustlers. Or we find familiar situations that many gays can relate to, such as a young gay man who worries that he might not be as attractive as his gay buddy or the men in one of their favorite magazines.
These stories aren't always dark. They can be hopeful or erotic, and they're sometimes even funny, though Berman often adds to the intensity by mixing the fearful with those more positive elements. I loved these thirteen stories by Steve Berman, and I hope he won't stop with the 'Triskaidecollection' that introduced me to his work.
We can now find many writers that bring the 'gay fiction' genre into the sub-genres of science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror. I've barely started exploring the works of such writers, but I consider Trysts a great place to start!


Book review: Common Sons by Ronald L. Donaghe
This book will upset people whose childhood included rejection by their parents or their classmates. It will upset people who think everyone should look, think, and act alike. It will even upset people who know the satisfaction of treating everyone with dignity and respect. In other words, this book will disturb countless readers. Why? Because Ronald Donaghe offers such an honest and detailed look at two boys who fall in love with each other in a staunchly anti-gay New Mexico town.
Despite the novel's many portrayals of negative and even violent responses to the love between Tom and Joel, Donaghe delivers an ultimately inspiring tale of how two people can overcome the obstacles that could deter their happiness and honesty. This book can give hope to the many gays who still fear being themselves, and it can give hope to the many older gays who worry that their young counterparts will always face nothing but hatred and violence. But its appeal isn't limited to gays; nongays might read it to understand people who are different from themselves, or just because they like reading a well-written and exciting novel.

Book review: The Blind Season by Ronald L. Donaghe

Ronald L. Donaghe continues his 'Common Threads in the Life' series with a novel that excels both as a family drama and as an action drama. Five years after the events of the novel Common Sons, Donaghe's young lovers Tom and Joel decide to start a family. The struggles they face come from unexpected sources, keeping readers guessing at the next obstacles or solutions. Donaghe delivers what should become a classic of gay literature.

Book review: Lance by Ronald L. Donaghe
I was pleased when Ronald L. Donaghe agreed to my suggestion that I write the preface to this novel. Lance is a great follow-up to Uncle Sean, the first book in 'The Continuing Journals of Will Barnett.' It's also a fitting chapter in the career of one of gay fiction's best writers.
If you liked any of Donaghe's previous novels, you should like this one as well. It brings back the New Mexico landscape, the fears over difference, and the need to remain a part of one's family while remaining true to one's self. As Will enters adulthood, he finds that his love for Lance will continue to complicate his life and his relationship with others. Friends become enemies, and enemies become potential allies. Everything changes as people begin to confront their prejudices and insecurities.
Like The Salvation Mongers (still my favorite of Donaghe's books) and Uncle Sean, this novel also confronts the abuse that sometimes hides within seemingly ideal homes. All in all, though, Donaghe offers hope to those who will be true to themselves and tolerant of others. You'll find a lot of sex, as well as a lot of evocative descriptions of farm life and nature's beauty. But you'll more likely remember the tender love story and how life's problems and opportunities affect that love.
Click hereicon to browse that book, including my preface.

If you like any of the above books, you might like my book Holding Me Together. The table of contents follows.

Part 1: Reactions to Homophobia, A Long Essay Introduction "Unlike gay people, I don't tell people what my wife and I do in bed." "They can be gay, as long as they hide it." "Gay sex is unnatural." "Hate crimes are just something the homosexuals make up to get special rights." "If a normal guy or a white guy gets beat up, hate crimes laws can't help him. That isn't fair." "We shouldn't have to see gays when we watch TV." "God didn't create Adam and Steve." "The Bible says it's wrong." "But homosexuality isn't just a sin: it's an immoral lifestyle." "The Bible says God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of gays." "The Bible never shows same-gender relationships as equal to that of a man and a woman." "The Bible never contradicts itself; therefore, we must follow what it says about gays." "Accepting gays would require not reading the Bible literally." "I love the sinner, hate the sin." "All Christians condemn homosexuality." "People who agree with homosexuality can't possibly have any morals." "Homosexuals can't be Christians." "Gays can't join fratemities and sororities, because Greck traditions follow the Bible." "I would accept gays, but I believe in family values." "Family members spending time with their gay relatives would suggest that they endorse that lifestyle." "They live that gay lifestyle." "Gays are all liberals." "It's an insult to African Americans to compare being gay to being black." "If there's nothing wrong with it, why's it illegal?" "The parts don't fit." "If we weren't so tolerant of gays, there wouldn't be any." "I wouldn't mind gays if it weren't for them checking me out." "Having gay parents makes children gay." "Gay people should try to be cured." "Homosexuality is a mental illness." "If everyone were gay, we'd stop having children, and die out." "They deserve what happens to them, because they choose to be gay." "Anyone who tolerates gays needs to see The Gay Agenda." "Gays helped cause the Holocaust." "Accepting homosexuality destroyed the Greek and Roman empires." "The following quote shows gays admit that they recruit children." "They recruit." "They just haven't met the right person of the opposite sex yet." "Gays can't adopt, because their children will get teased, and that isn't fair." "Gays can't teach, because they're a threat to children." "Public schools need to quit promoting homosexuality." "Gays can't serve in the military, because that would disrupt efficiency." "I don't have anything against gays; I think they can serve anywhere but the military." "I want to keep gays from athletics because my children see athletes as role modcls." "God sent AIDS to the homosexuals because He loves His children and wants to turn them back to Him." "Gays sleeping around are what cause health-care costs to go up." "We can't allow gay marriages, because tradition and scripture protected heterosexual marriage and reproduction for thousands of years." "Gay relationships mock heterosexual ones, with two people of the same gender pretending to be a man and a woman." "Surveys prove gays are a threat." "Surveys prove there are just a few gays, so why should heterosexuals care about gay rights?" "The average gay man won't live to be 44." "The average gay male has 5000-15,000 different partners per year." "Homosexuals are just a bunch of men dressing up like women." "All the gay men getting AIDS justifies any laws that could discourage homosexuality." Resources for "Reactions to Homophobia" ***

Part 2: Poems *Chasing Seagulls * Rainbow Editing Children in the Streets * Friday Afternoon Spectrum * Reception * Album *Also *Separated (A Sestina) *Who Does God Hate? *second year *Cross *Songs In Sign Language *Anne Bradstreet *Denial *Elephant On An Opera Stage *Two Rapes *Hero *The Same Lips *Detour *Question * Faces *Forgotten *Sock Poem *Higher Education *Haiku *TV Haiku *Cities Don't Build People *The Gardener *Family *Bareback *Cocoon *Process * The Ex-Me Movement *Storm *Spelunker *The Escape Artist *Pharisee *The Loss *Daughter *Cycle *The John Doe Family *Angels and Razors *Home ***

Part 3 Short Essays *How "Children in the Streets" Wrote Itself *Adding to the Hurt *Out of the Closet and Into the Community *Not Worth Dying Over *If *Family Reunion *Dear Editor *Siblings: A Note to Young Gay Men *The Bible and Gays (Condensed from parts of "Reactions to Homophobia") *America Today *Violence ***

Appendix: Should We Follow These Verses?