Summer reading list
by Gregg Shapiro
Comedian/actress Julia Sweeney wrote the essays in her delightful and insightful memoir If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother (Simon & Schuster) while her daughter and husband were away and she was alone in her Wilmette, IL home. A humorous and heartwarming book, it's about motherhood, family, friendships (some of Sweeney's queer friends get shout-outs), pets, and "passing through life together in a big, giving, frightening, unpredictable, beautiful, luxurious, breathy world."
Gay "metal god" Rob Halford of heavy metal act Judas Priest wrote the afterword for Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal (!t Books) by Jon Wiederhorn & Kathleen Turman. The lengthy "cast of characters" in this massive (700 pages) tome includes Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Trent Reznor, Cynthia Plastercaster, gay author Chuck Palahniuk, Henry Rollins and David Draiman (of Disturbed), although lesbian metal artist Otep (Shamaya) is conspicuously absent.
In Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (Little, Brown), beloved gay humorist and monologist David Sedaris once again employs his specific brand of storytelling to regale the reader with deliriously funny tales from his childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
From the For Beginners series comes Gender & Sexuality for Beginners (For Beginners) by Jaimee Garbacik, with illustrations by Jeffrey Lewis. The eight detailed chapters set out to answer questions about the meaning of "queer," moving beyond "the boundaries of binary descriptions of gender and orientation," and how to approach orientation as gender categories come into question.
An examination of "exposure, withdrawal, escape" and failure to belong, How To Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits (Terrace Books), by London-based 2012 PEN/Ackerley Prize-winning writer Duncan Fallowell, takes an unusual approach to travel writing.
Man Up!: Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence (Grand Central Publishing) by Ross Mathews, featuring a foreword by Gwyneth Paltrow and an afterword by Chelsea Handler, follows small-town gay boy Mathews as he became known as Ross the Intern on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to where he is today, rubbing shoulders with celebs.
Subtitled A Gay Melodrama in 13 Acts, A Short Jew in the Body of a Tall W.A.S.P. (Dog Ear), by Mark Okun and Hillary Brower, follows celeb hair-stylist Okun's journey of self-discovery and love as a gay man, beginning in 1960s Syracuse to the present-day Fire Island Pines, and many stops in-between.
Blended genres: Prolific, award-winning gay writer David Leddick returns with The Beauty of Men Never Dies (Terrace Books), a short "autobiographical novel" about being gay and in love in the 1970s, following the narrator's travels to Montevideo, New York and Paris.
Emotional Memoirs & Short Stories (lanihallalpert.com) by Lani Hall Alpert reveals another facet of the Grammy Award-winning singer's creative gifts. Along with photos by the author, the pieces in the book are personal, surreal and erotic.
Hungers: The final book under their "common name," To Eat: A Country Life (FSG) by Joe Eck and the late Wayne Winterrowd takes readers from the gay couple's garden to the kitchen in a celebration of fruits and vegetables, cows, pigs and old hens.
Addressing "the need for sustenance" in Autobiography of My Hungers (University of Wisconsin Press), Rigoberto Gonzalez, author of the acclaimed Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, continues flexing his memoir muscles in this slim volume.
Gay comedian/author Frank DeCaro (A Boy Named Phyllis ) compiled more than 100 appetizers, main courses and desserts in The Dead Celebrity Cookbook (Health Communications). Featuring recipes by deceased celebs that never officially came out of the pantry, including Merv Griffin, Cesar Romero, Katharine Hepburn and Agnes Moorehead, as well as kitchen queens Paul Lynde, Rock Hudson, Roddy McDowall, Wayland Flowers, Peter Allen and Klaus Nomi, this cookbook is as entertaining as it is appetizing.
Writers on writers: Gay poet and novelist Glenway Wescott's A Heaven of Words: Last Journals 1956-1984 (University of Wisconsin), edited and with an introduction by Wescott biographer Jerry Rosco, brings readers to the end of the Wisconsin-born writer's remarkable life. The pages come to life as Wescott and his partner Monroe Wheeler socialize with Christopher Isherwood, Paul Cadmus, George Platt Lynes, Truman Capote, W.H. Auden, Colette, and Jean Cocteau.
Subtitled Family, Sexuality and the Cuban Revolution, Becoming Reinaldo Arenas (Duke) by Jorge Oliveras examines the life and career of the late gay Cuban writer Arenas (portrayed by Javier Bardem in the film Before Night Falls ), who endured hardships including the Mariel boatlift and an AIDS diagnosis before dying in 1990.
A new bilingual edition of gay poet Federico Garcia Lorca's Poet in New York (FSG), which includes "Ode to Walt Whitman," is edited with an introduction by Lorca scholar Christopher Maurer, and translated by Greg Simon and Steven F. White.
Fashion statements: Spanish fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga was described by fellow designer Christian Dior as "the master of us all," so it's fitting (so to speak) that Mary Blume's biography of the acclaimed couturier is titled The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World (FSG).
Based on her 2010 Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins," the book The Bling Ring (!t Books) is also the basis of the Sofia Coppola movie of the same name. The film, starring Emma Watson as one of the teen thieves who stole from Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and others, opened in theaters this month.
Political action: Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics (Magnus Books), the third book by queer activist and community organizer Urvashi Vaid (longtime partner of comedian Kate Clinton), is a "strategic and informed argument" regarding limited political vision and the purpose of an agenda moving beyond equality.
Entrepreneur and public speaker Juan Ahonen-Jover, Ph.D., is the author of the guidebook The Gay Agenda 2013: All In (CreateSpace), described as "an indispensable guide for those who want to achieve full legal equality as promised in the United States Constitution."
Flights of fiction: The Escape Artist (Bywater), the 1997 historical novel by Lammy Award-winning novelist Judith Katz, includes Emma Parker's 2011 essay "Magic, Diaspora and Klezbian Desire in Judith Katz's The Escape Artist ."
Bestselling erotica anthology editor Shane Allison's latest compilation is the "frat boys gone wild"-themed Pledges: Gay Erotic Stories (Cleis), featuring contributions by Allison, Rob Rosen, Ryan Field and Logan Zachary, among others.
Artifice (AMW), a graphic novel by Alex Woolfson and illustrator Winona Nelson, offers a queer twist on the tale of "prototype android soldier" Deacon, who falls in love with "human outcast" (read: gay) Jeff.
Based on his own experiences at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University, former "gay marine porn star" and writer Rich Merritt's new novel Spiritual Probation (richmerritt.wordpress.com) sets the record straight on fundamentalist education.
Thoreau in Love (CreateSpace) by gay writer John Schuyler Bishop is a fictional imagining of what may have happened to unmarried New England writer/philosopher Henry David Thoreau when he ventured to New York City for six months in 1843. It's an attempt to explain the missing pages from his journals.