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6 LGBT Labor Day vacation beach reads

Posted by Jim Lopata  August 23, 2012 11:53 AM

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by Loren King

“Summer’s beginning to give up her fight,” say the lyrics of a song by the lesbian folk duo Indigo Girls.

It’s getting darker earlier, but there’s still a few good beach days ahead.

Here’s a handful of new, gay-authored or queer-themed books to settle down with in the sun and sand before autumn gets the upper hand.

1_AreYouMyMother_Bechdel.jpgAre You My Mother?
[Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]
by Alison Bechdel

For those who think the memoir reached its tipping point long ago, Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel’s follow up to her 2006 bestselling memoir Fun Home, is so lively, brilliant and incisive that it breathes unimagined life into the genre. The author of the wildly popular Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip has illustrated and written this dense, ultimately generous account of her prickly but close relationship with her complicated mother, the former actress who was a memorable character in Fun Home. Bechdel covers some of the same autobiographical details in her “Mom book” that she did in her “Dad book,” particularly her gay, closeted father’s suicide and her own coming out. But Bechdel this time delves even deeper into her own psyche. Are You My Mother? takes the reader into Bechdel’s universe. She writes honestly but with keen wit about therapy, the publication of Fun Home and her mother’s cool response to it, her lovers, her ambivalence and ambition, and all while shifting effortlessly from past to present and back again. The writing is funny, heartfelt and smart—Bechdel references everything from Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, with a little Sondheim thrown in for good measure- and the artwork is beautifully detailed. This is a first-rate book that you won’t be able to put down.

2_jeannettewinterson.jpgWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
[Grove Press]
by Jeannette Winterson

Bechdel’s book is subtitled “A Comic Drama” and that would be an apt description for Winterson’s memoir, too. The author of some of the best novels of the past two decades, including Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, The Passion and Sexing the Cherry, Winterson writes with extraordinary candor and without sentiment about growing up the adopted child of Pentecostal evangelists in the North of England in the ‘60s. Her fearful, rigid mother kept a gun in a drawer and food tins in the pantry while she waited (happily) for Armageddon. Winterson’s lesbian romance as a teenager got her kicked out of the house, but always a lover of literature, she persisted until she got herself into Oxford and set out on her own, distinct path. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (her mother’s response to her coming out) is tough, gorgeously written, and full of Winterson’s dark humor, intelligence and spark. The second half deals with her search for her biological parents and her insights on life (her own and in general) and, by the end, this survivor’s choice to forgive is nothing short of miraculous.

3_BostonOrganizedCrime_Sweeneyrime.jpgBoston Organized Crime
[Images of America, Arcadia Publishing]
by Emily Sweeney

The out Boston Globe reporter Emily Sweeney has compiled a Boston history aficionado’s dream: text and photos (archival and some taken by Sweeney herself) that trace the rise and fall of Boston’s underworld from the days of Prohibition to the capture of Whitey Bulger. In between, we get terrific WeeGee-style crime photos and Sweeney’s research on crimes ranging from the brazen Great Brink’s Robbery in the North End 1950 to some long-forgotten gangsters such as nightlife kingpin Charlie “King” Solomon who was gunned down at the Cotton Club in Roxbury in 1933; Morris Hurwitz, boxer turned gangster who was shot outside his Brookline home in 1953; and the still-unsolved “Blackfriars Pub Massacre” in downtown Boston in 1978. A rich sampling of mug shots, police reports, screaming Globe headlines (Gunman kills Beano Breen) and well-documented chronology make this a must-read for history and crime buffs. Sweeney will be speaking at the Duxbury Free Library on September 19 at 7 p.m. (77 Alden Street, Duxbury, MA)
For more author events, go to

4_ThisIsHow_Burroughs_web.jpgThis Is How
[St. Martin’s Press]
by Augusten Burroughs

Rather than skewering the self-help genre, This is How is an unconventional but honest-to-goodness self-help book written in out author Burroughs’ inimitable style. Breezy and blunt, he deals with such topics as addiction, grief, loneliness and body image with chapters titled “How to Fail,” “How to Shatter Shame,” “How to End Your Life.” It sounds flippant, but Burroughs’ advice, though less than coddling and new agey, is born of his own difficult life, hard-won recovery and belief that the little things (trying something new, getting out of the house, letting yourself feel crappy once in a while without remorse) can conquer fears and make life better. Burroughs’ trademark mix of humor, irreverence and brutal honesty is on full display in this quick but memorable read.

5_MyTwoMoms_Wahls.jpgMy Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family
[Gotham Books]
by Zach Wahls

Gay parents—actually all LGBT folk—could not have a more eloquent voice speaking out for the ordinariness of gay family life and love than Wahls, the handsome, 20-year-old Eagle Scout and engineering student at the University of Iowa who in 2011 addressed the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in a public forum regarding full marriage equality. Then 19, the son of two moms became a YouTube sensation for his passionate expression of his love for his mothers and theirs for him. His new book details his Iowa childhood, his mothers’ long relationship (his mom Terry has courageously battled MS) and what it’s like to feel different and how he coped with it. Illustrated with photos, My Two Moms is a well-written, inspirational story that is a must-read for same-sex parents, their kids, and those who love them.

6_CompleteGuideToGayLesbianManners_Petrow.jpgSteven Petrow’s Complete Gay and Lesbian Manners
[Workman Publishing Company]
by Steven Petrow and Sally Chew

With gay marriage and family life now part of the mainstream, an etiquette book was inevitable. Petrow, the same-sex wedding expert at The New York Times and a columnist for The Huffington Post, Yahoo’s Shine,, and the “Q” Syndicate (with distribution to more than 100 LGBT newspapers and websites), has penned with LGBT journalist Sally Chew the “definitive book of LGBT etiquette.” The hefty tome covers everything from attending a same-sex wedding to coming out and dating issues to how to handle anti-gay jokes. Readable and informative, it’s aimed at both gay and straight readers. With manners and propriety in general on the decline, this thorough and thoughtful compilation is a welcome addition to Emily Post-style social skills books.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author: Boston Spirit Magazine’s daily blog brings you all of the information you need on New England’s LGBT community. In addition to highlighting local and national LGBT news, we will also highlight local leaders from the worlds of business, politics, fashion and entertainment and keep you up-to-date on all the latest events and parties, hot spots for travel, shopping, dining, and more!

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