Browsing: Photographic Memories

November – December, 2009

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THIS INSIGHTFUL BOOK is an illuminating study of London in the early to mid-19th century. Charles Upchurch, assistant professor of history at Florida State University, examines the court documents and newspaper accounts of criminal cases of men accused of homosexual acts.

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… White’s diligent research reveals that, in addition to publishing a magazine, ONE, Inc. also held an annual institute for 25 years in which volunteer faculty taught courses, sometimes to only three or four students, that were the precursors of queer studies. …

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Included [here] are numerous portraits of Diaghilev; photographs of friends, family, artists, nobility, and philanthropists; contemporary caricatures; drawings of Leon Bakst’s costumes (including his design for Nijinsky in the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, the ballet that scandalized audiences); photos of Igor Stravinsky (who composed the music for The Firebird and Le Sacre du Printemps) and other famous dancers, both male and female.

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JUDY SHEPARD was used to middle-of-the-night calls because her son Matt either couldn’t figure out the time zone difference or didn’t care. He lived in Wyoming, she lived in Saudi Arabia, and his early evening was her 2 AM. In the new book The Meaning of Matthew, she tells of the one call she’ll never forget.

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In The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture, Warren Hoffman explores the idea of queer Jewish identity as expressed in drama, literature, and film. Hoffman interrogates and deconstructs many well-known Jewish cultural works, including Sholem Asch’s controversial play 1907 God of Vengeance, the 1936 film Yidl Mitn Fidl, which starred a cross-dressing Molly Picon, and the literary works of Abraham Cahan, among many others.

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“LINCOLN’S SOUL MATE and the love of his life was a man named Joshua Speed,” John Stauffer writes in his dual biography of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Stauffer refers to carnal love, not to one of those asexual “romantic friendships” in vogue with certain scholars. He chairs the History of American Civilization Department at Harvard; Stauffer’s perspective can’t be easily dismissed as fringe. But that did not deter Sean Wilentz.

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NOT UNLIKE his other novels, William Mann’s latest centers on gay midlife. The protagonist, Danny Fortunato, grapples with the usual concerns of the male midlife crisis with the requisite questioning of life, love, and work. However, in Object of Desire, Mann mirrors this conflict with a haunting concern from the protagonist’s past, and the result is a mystery that leaves Fortunato seeking the answers to three questions: how did I get here, how do I move on, and what happened to my sister?

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CONSERVATIVE FORCES in the U.S. have succeeded in shifting the debate about same-sex unions from a question of equal protection under the law to one about protecting the meaning of the word “marriage.” The phrase “defense of marriage” emerged as a touchstone in the conflict after passage of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which limited marriage to heterosexual couples in matters under federal jurisdiction. Since then-spurred by the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2003-many states have moved to ban same-sex marriage by enacting laws or amending their constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

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IN SEVERAL DECADES of books published with bisexual themes, there has only been one to my knowledge for and about teenagers or young adults. This year, there were three in the first six months alone. All three present bisexuality in a positive light, even though it may cause confusion for the protagonist until she gets a handle on it. In all three books the protagonist is a girl, two of whom have transgender issues. All three books are written in the first person, a voice designed to draw the reader into the story in a personal way.

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