Entertainment :: Books

Rainbow Reads

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Nov 1, 2011
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Memoirs abound this fall for you, gay reader, including some spicy trans porn and the saucy memoirs of Casanova’s gay brother. Hear a sad story of homophobia in the Navy in Lee Watton’s memoirs, and of dealing with being the gay son of Jewish Holocaust survivor’s in Lev Raphael’s memoirs. Gay activist and psychologist Charles Silverstein takes us back to the heyday of the gay liberation movement, and dancer Jock Soto gives us a glimpse into the world of New York dance. The best stories are true stories, so scoop these fascinating stories up!

"Take Me There", edited by Tristan Taormino

Cleis Press presents "Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica", a transgender porn anthology edited by author and sex editor Tristan Taormino. The theme that runs loosely through the stories is the power of seeing and being seen, being acknowledged and desired sexually. Just as the label "trans" encompasses many gender identities and expressions, so does this anthology present myriad pairings. Among the best are Gina de Vries "Cocksure", a fantasy in which a teenage "boi" hooks up with his best friend’s older "sister", his transwoman lover. In Rahne Alexander’s "Now, Voyager", a transwoman tries to have "the conversation" with her co-worker Jonas, only to discover that no discussion is needed. Other pairings include a young butch and an older femme, a transwoman prostitute and a butch boi, and gay submissive and his transman dom. Regardless of whether you identify as genderqueer or not, this collection of 30 stories will get your Betty ready, for as Taormino notes, "like any good erotic tale, they’re ultimately about sex."

Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica
Tristan Taormino (Editor)
Cleis Press
Out Now

"Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs", by Marten Weber

Rarely will one come across a volume of 19th-century memoirs that reads like a stroke mag. But with his historical novel, Martin Weber delivers a salacious "translation" of the memoirs of Benedetto Casanova, the younger gay brother of the famous womanizer. These memoirs, originally written in Italian, were discovered in 1881 by an English traveler who found them glued into a volume of Voltaire. In the 400-plus-page tome, Benedetto and his trusted servant Pietro, who is endowed with a "horse-cock", travel through Rome. Benedetto takes on all comers, including soldiers, of whom he notes, "I always tried to have two at the same time, one with looks and one with stamina, so they could take turns..." His eschews effeminate men, seeking those who would betray their own sexuality by being with him, saying, "Deflowering a young man who is not interested in the male sex...that is seduction at its finest." His trusted pickup line? Asking men if they are in the circus, as their muscles are so defined. Eventually, Benedetto is pressed into service by the church and asked to spy on his brother, whom he has never met and whom he considers a witless corrupter of young girls. Benedetto follows his brother through Europe and soon falls in love with a German soldier with whom he remains over time and distance. This book is a must-read for the gay man who likes his historical fiction to come with some libidinous friction.

Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs
Marten Weber
Out Now

"Out Of Step", by J. Lee Watton

While other 18-year-old girls were interested in finding a husband, Lee Watton anticipated a life serving in the Navy, as other members of her family had done. But when she sees Kate, "a handsome young woman with chiseled features, dark hair, and piercing blue eyes" during basic training, she must come to terms with the fact that she is a lesbian. Despite the stern lectures her superiors deliver about reporting homosexual conduct, Watton teams up with some like-minded friends who call themselves "The Family." When a troublemaker reports them, an investigation ensues. Watton "looked at Kate and the others and saw the pride we all share in knowing we’d all remained loyal to one another during the attacks...I figured I’d either survive the investigation on my own merit, or I wouldn’t. I couldn’t betray these friends I loved just to remain in the Navy." Watton was eventually discharged. In the forward, retired openly lesbian Army officer Cl. Margarethe Cammermeyer notes the many gays in the military that were targeted, persecuted, and labeled as mentally ill; more than 50,000 were discharged from the military since WWII. Lesbians figured disproportionately among those discharges; a 2009 study shows that while 14% of soldiers are women, they account for 48% of DADT discharges. While the writing of the book is a little shaky (and could frankly use a good copy edit), and nearly every chapter ends with a rhetorical question, the story is sincere, and sincerely heartwarming.

Out Of Step
J. Lee Watton
A&M Books
Out Now

"My Germany", by Lev Raphael

To say Lev Raphael has a strained relationship with his parents’ homeland would be a gross understatement. For the Jewish son of parents who grew up under Nazi rule, the feelings of hatred he espoused toward Germans shaped his identity, life, and career. Raphael is riding a train to Magdeburg in the middle of a "hectic two-week book tour" for his novel "The Germany Money", a story about Nazi reparations his parents accepted, and he despised, when he realizes that 61 years ago, his mother was on this track, crammed into a cattle car and forced into slave labor. "Like many children of Holocaust survivors, I lived in a haunted house," writes Raphael. "There were ghosts all around us, all the time...all the relatives I would never know except by name or perhaps in rare cases a photograph." This son of the Second Generation, as these children are known, longs to be a superhero, one who "would have revenge for the camps and killing squads that not only murdered dozens of my parents’ relatives but also poisoned their memories. Poisoned mine." While researching the war years after his mother’s death, he discovers a distant relative living in the same town she had worked in a slave labor camp, found freedom, and met his father. Raphael’s struggle to emotionally and culturally reconcile with a Germany he could never forgive makes for somber reading. But his struggle to balance his identity as a Jew and a gay man is one even those outside this world can appreciate.

My Germany
Lev Raphael
University Of Wisconsin Press
Out Now

"For The Ferryman", by Charles Silverstein

Noted gay psychologist Charles Silverstein releases his new memoir, "For the Ferryman", a look at his history of gay activism and his longtime relationship with a younger man, who slips into addiction. The book documents two periods: the 1970s, during which Silverstein came out as gay, joined the Gay Activist Alliance, and worked to get homosexuality declassified as a mental illness from the DSM-III; and the AIDS epidemic. Growing up with an overbearing Jewish mother and a distant, abusive father, Silverstein was "searching for my ’other half’, another man who would make me feel whole, someone whose umbrella of beauty, intelligence and desirability might shield me from my worst fears about myself." After seven years of psychoanalysis, Silverstein eventually makes his way to Julius’ bar (still a gay gathering place), picks up a man, and has his first gay experience. He eventually begins hanging out at the Firehouse, ground zero for the gay liberation movement, and meets William, a flamboyant younger Renaissance man. The two start a relationship that spans 20 years. Along the way Silverstein founds "The Journal of Homosexuality", co-wrote "The Joy of Gay Sex", ferries countless friends through the AIDS plague of the ’80s and ’90s, and ends up burying his own partner. The book is well written and compelling, a nostalgic recap for those involved in the gay liberation movement, and the perfect primer for the younger generation.

For The Ferryman
Charles Silverstein
Chelsea Station Editions
Out Now

"Every Step You Take", by Jock Soto

From a very young age, Jock Soto was a dancer, performing Native American dances with his mother on the Navajo reservation. By the time he was five, he began formal ballet training, and by 13, was attending the School of American Ballet. Three years later, George Balanchine invited him to dance with the New York City Ballet. Soto performed for 25 years, becoming one of the greatest dancers of his generation, and made history with his farewell performance, dancing five different ballets by five legendary choreographers. His work was catalogued in the 2007 documentary "Water Flowing Together", and his life in this memoir. This gay son of a fiercely macho Puerto Rican father was a driven artist by day and hard-core party animal by night. The book recalls Soto’s relationships with icons like Christopher Wheeldon, Wendy Whelan, Darci Kistler, Lourdes Lopez, and others. Soto intersperses his memories with tasty recipes like his Grandma Rachel’s Navajo fry bread, slow-cooked Barbacoa à la Luis, and an Easy Peasy Tiramisu that attempts to make amends for a horribly conceived Gorgonzola version years before. Soto founders after his dance career ends, breaks up with his long-time partner, and ditches a series of ill-suited suitors and a prickly ghost to find his partner, Luis. Soto and his partner Fuentes, a sommelier, now live happily in New York City.

Every Step You Take
Jock Soto
Out Now

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/


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