By Jeff Walsh
It is hard to minimize the impact that the brutal death of Matthew Shepard had on the gay community in 1998. Even this site was flooded with a constant stream of poetry and other submissions in the days after his death, totally unsolicited, so much that we had to add a separate page to that month’s website as a special tribute to Matthew.
A few months later, I interviewed Alex Trout, one of Matthew’s best friends in Laramie, and that following June, got to hang out with Alex for a night of drinking and cruising in the Castro, as he and Matthew’s other friend, Walt Boulden, were honored as grand marshals in the San Francisco gay pride parade.
I’d really never given any further thought to Matthew Shepard since then, except for when his name came up in 2009 when federal hate crimes statute finally added LGBT protections with the Matthew Shepard Act. The most common touch point I’ve had to this 15-year-old case is that I often see my friend Garrin Benfield perform live in NYC, and his sets often include “What You're Hiding,” which has a chorus that ends, “Matthew, you lived your final hours, with the butt of a gun smashing in your brain.”
The case seemed simple and the justice swift. Matthew was the frail, baby-faced guy out in cowboy country of Laramie, Wyoming, who made a sexual advance on two guys, and they killed him for it. The lack of complexity was what made the case so perfect, and how everyone could easily put themselves in Matthew’s shoes, and imagine that simple gesture turning tragic.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez reveals how little of the narrative we’ve all come to know is accurate, as he spent more than a decade slowly peeling away protected layers until the real picture emerged.
This is a work in progress. It is not done yet...
Now the next letter or document jumps to the past to the very beginning. At this point the writer is called Martin O’Neill. Martin currently has no wife, life, family, or money in this letter. I can now say that this is actually the only thing I could get from Mr. O’Neill since this was a very stressful time for him. Mind you this is going to be a long entry, but I made sure it is at least divided into two entries…I call this chapter…
Dreams from the Past
Thursday, October 17th, 1985
Sunday, November 5th, 2014
The sun had been shining for quite some time as the wind was blowing the autumn leaves around. It was almost Halloween, and children could be seen running on the cobble stone paths and streets in pure delight as their new costumes were drenched around their bodies. Parents could be seen smiling at their children thinking how proud they were of themselves, and occasionally dogs would be seen chasing after the oddly changed children.
There are two types of book in the oddly defined genre of “Young Adult Literature” that I've become sick of. The first is, unfortunately, books about queer youth. This is because they almost all have nearly the same plot line- young queer person discovers their sexuality. It gets old. The second type is books by two authors, in which each author narrates from a different character's point of view, simply because I find it grating.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is a young adult novel about queer youth by two authors, each narrating from a different point of view. Somehow, miraculously, the book is fresh, funny, fascinating, and, without question, good.
Strange, I know.
Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns, also an internet celebrity of vlogbrothers fame, heterosexual), narrates as Will Grayson. Levithan (Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Wide Awake, and many more, very gay) narrates as Will Grayson.
Will Grayson and Will Grayson are two teens from two different suburbs of Chicago and two very different worlds. John Green's Will is a straight boy whose best friend is Tiny Cooper, “not the world's gayest person... not the world's largest person... but I believe he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large.”
By Jeff Walsh
Nick Nolan's "Strings Attached" is a fun beach read of a book. I can safely say that, as I read it on a beach all day today. But seriously, this novel starts out like your typical gay young adult novel, but then adds a lot of additional layers and metaphors to make it an even more compelling read.
When the book starts, Jeremy has to call 911 for his drunk mother, who almost died... again. He ends up living with his aunt, with whom his mother had a falling out after the death of Jeremy's father. This aunt is incredibly rich, with butlers and a huge mansion overlooking the ocean. In short order, Jeremy goes from poverty to posh.
As you know is a gay young adult novel, you start lining up all the things that will likely happen, and most of them don't. Or few things happen as you initially suspect. If anything, I'd go as far as to say Jeremy's awakening about being gay, while integral to the story, is less dramatic than the family drama around which it is set.
By Jeff Walsh
Howard Bragman is in a lot of Rolodexes in Hollywood. He's often the person you hope you don't have to call. His clients have included the family of Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton scandal, Isaiah Washington when he was accused of calling T.R. Knight a 'faggot' on the set of Grey's Anatomy and, on the flip side, he helped prep Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger before they did media interviews for Brokeback Mountain, knowing they would be asked a lot about taking on these gay roles.
In his new book, "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?," Bragman boils down his years of experience into a gameplan that anyone can use to be mindful of their public perception and how to manage that perception. And it's not just for people who want to be novelists, musicians, and actors. Bragman says everyone has a public perception anymore, and what you post on Oasis, Facebook, in e-mails, and in person shapes that on a regular basis.
The one example that we discuss toward the end of our interview is how Oasis, being online for more than 13 years, has had many people who were newly out and proud teenagers a decade earlier, who are now in their late 20s and early 30s, and writing me because their teenaged ramblings here would be accessible to future employers and co-workers. This usually leads to me scrubbing their last name from previous entries.
Bragman has also done a lot of work on gay rights, so we get his thoughts from a PR perspective on what the gay community has to do in the wake of Proposition 8. Here's what we said:
By Jeff Walsh
It's rather amazing that I went to every football game in high school, because I was in marching band, but never learned the rules or found it interesting. I just remember that the timer seemed to stop far too often for my taste.
So, when I got a copy of Bill Konigsberg's "Out of the Pocket," a novel about a gay high school quarterback who's outed in his senior year, I wasn't enthusiastic. Even the title, while I could contextually understand it… I don't even know if it's an actual football term and, if so, I won't be able to tell you if a player is out of the pocket in today's Super Bowl, unless I hear an announcer actually say it.
In any event, the book is the first from award-winning sports journalist Konigsberg and a welcome addition to the world of gay young adult fiction. The novel is about star quarterback Bobby Framingham, whose life is exactly on its intended track. Colleges are considering him for scholarships. He has a kinda-sorta girlfriend. A supportive, but somewhat distant family. But he decides he can't take it anymore and he has to start being honest, until he finds out the hard way that a little bit of honesty can take on a life of its own.
Konigsberg follows Bobby through being outed and its aftermath through leading the team to their championship playoff. The novel shows how coming out challenges friendships, families, and even the person who comes out to embrace life fully.
By Jeff Walsh
I've been a fan of David Sedaris for years, to the point where many of his stories have become touchstones in my life.
There are people in my life who are more highly valued because I can say "You can't kill the rooster" at an appropriate moment, and nothing more needs to be said. Living in San Francisco, where food is a way of life, Sedaris's "Today's Special" remains my favorite, where the often-beleaguered Sedaris suffers through gourmet cuisine featuring entrees served with a "medley of suffocated peaches" or "mummified lychee nuts."
His latest book, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames," continues the journey millions of readers have taken into his life and features 22 of his humorous essays. It is currently the number one book on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover nonfiction. The essays jump decades and moods, with Sedaris as the only constant. There are moments that are touching, uncomfortable, and hilarious, with the largest piece in the book being Sedaris's tale of quitting smoking (which he did solely because his favorite hotels all went non smoking).
Already, my favorite moment in the book is Sedaris having an uncomfortable encounter with a taxi driver taking him from LaGuardia to the West Village in "Town and Country." During the ride, the cab driver starts talking incessantly about sex and finally determines that Sedaris is gay, taunting him non-stop with "Do you like the dick, David?"
I read half of the book and had Sedaris read the other half to me (on audio book, not in person), and I have to say there is a lot of benefit to hearing him read his own work. At this point, I hear his voice when I read the book anyway, but his delivery and characters are really getting better and better.
I met Sedaris for an interview two and a half hours before he was scheduled to do a reading at Books, Inc. in San Francisco. We did the interview in the manager's office while he signed stock for the store to sell after he leaves town. Nearly 75 people were already lined up outside waiting to attend his event that night, and the reading would be completely sold out without question.
The interview was pretty breezy and fun, and flowed pretty well. Given the fact that Sedaris is a known diary keeper, who has gotten famous turning those diaries into humorous essays, I thought that was a good place for us to start our interview, seeing that this is a site largely founded on people writing about their lives.
Here's what we said:
"If You Believe In Mermaids... Don't Tell" is a new novel by A.A. Phillips that would be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of anyone from ages 9-12. After that, it'd still be an easy quick read, but probably too easy and quick, even for a good story. That said, I can't recall ever reading a book that is specifically about not really fitting into a gender. I think this book could help people who are dealing with gender identity issues but aren’t necessarily transgender.
Todd is a pre-teen boy and for years his father has been pushing him into sports camps every summer, and putting him on sports teams during the school year. When Todd informs his father that this year he wants to hang out by the community pool and dive all summer his father does not accept this as a reasonable way to spend the summer.
His father strongly believes that boys are meant to play sports and diving is not a sport. Todd is handed a stack of sport camp brochures and is made to choose one. However, slipped in between the brochures for sports camps is a brochure to nature camp. Todd chooses the nature camp because even though bugs gross him out he believes that anything is better then a sports camp. Besides, the nature one looks promising with the hopes of a decent lake where Todd can practicing diving.
Ok so im basically a writing freak, im writing the cliche gay story but i need help ita taken me a year and im still stuck so far i have..........
"Gay Power," a historical book by David Eisenbach, does what it says it will do. Starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969, it covers the gay rights revolution -- its victories, its losses, what sparked new energies and what sent us back to our closets, until 1980. Going into close details, it covers the beginning of an era. To most of us on this site, it is what led up to the world we know. In the 300-and-some pages of this volume, just about everything is covered.
Still, it left something to be desired. As a nonfiction reader, I've seen textbooky books before, and this is one of them. It left me wondering about the people behind the decade explored. I saw the what, the when, but there was very little 'who.' I wanted to feel what it was like. It's my history. Who wants to be detached from their past?
The view of "Gay Power" also seemed narrow... halfway through I started to wonder, did they have transsexuals in the '70s? While lesbians were mentioned (though not as much as they could've been), I missed the transsexuals altogether. Before the reader is the face of the beginning of a still-moving revolution... but where is the body, where are the complexities?
By Jeff Walsh
Reading "Michael Tolliver Lives," the latest installment of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series (though the author decries such classification), something is amiss.
Now, truth be told, I'm a bit of a drama queen. So, when I moved to San Francisco more than 11 years ago, on my first day in town I bought a trade paperback version of Tales of the City at A Different Light, the gay bookstore on Castro Street, and started to read about the city as I was first discovering it myself.
Then, I was reading about a city that no longer existed, with the sexual revolution pretty much dead and the ravages of AIDS having hit urban areas pretty hard. But, there was still magic in those books and you can still see some of that magic when you look hard enough. (If you want to cheat, go to a gay bar here during gay pride, tourists drop their guard about how amazing this place is much easier than the embittered locals.)
The series painted a picture of an amazing city, a group of friends, and over the course of many books, we saw their lives intertwine, separate, and change direction. The series was never more than Maupin's simultaneous diary and love letter to the city. So, reading this latest entry, there are too many things that I know are about Maupin, and it was too hard to rejoin the world of Michael "Mouse" Tolliver on this journey.
By Jeff Walsh
"Dear Lord, please take away these feelings. You know which ones. In Jesus' name I ask you. Thank You. Amen."
Paul writes these words on a slip of paper, folds it, and puts it into his God Box. The maple box has the Serenity Prayer carved into its top, and a place into which you slide your prayers, giving them up to the Lord.
In Alex Sanchez's new novel, "The God Box," Paul is a Christian high school senior trying to avoid confronting his sexuality. He has a long-time girlfriend, belongs to Bible Club at school, and wears a red "What Would Jesus Do?" rubber wristband at all times. When he wakes up from a sex dream, presumably about a boy, he pulls back the band and snaps it against his flesh.
When he sees Manuel for the first time in homeroom, it's no surprise that Paul is going to have a sore wrist in no time. The new kid in school, Manuel has both his ears and his left eyebrow pierced and, over lunch with Paul and his friends, casually asks if this school has a GSA. When they ask if he's gay, he just says "Yep."
With most series, I find the second book usually isn't quite as good as the first. But with Paul Ruditis's DRAMA! series, that is not the case. Everyone's A Critic is definitely better than the first book.
The characters are exactly the same as before: Bryan the gay guy; Hope the goth; Sam the poor over-achiever; Alexis and Belinda the evil step-sisters; and Holly the evildoer.
The school year has ended but, at Orion, school doesn't end when summer begins, a mandatory two-week theatre camp for all drama majors makes the school year last a little longer. Normally they put on a play, do a few acting drills and help the soccer players. This year Hartley Blackstone, a famous Broadway director, is using these two weeks as an audition for his summer apprenticeship, which would mean some of the best actor training available and having many doors opened for the future. The catch is there are only two spots available: one male and one female.
By Jeff Walsh
As a Rosie O'Donnell fan, I tore into my review copy of "Celebrity Detox" as soon as it arrived. Prior to her joining The View, I would only watch when I liked one of the guests or I'd occasionally read along with the subtitles on the TVs at the gym. Upon her arrival, I set the show to tape every day on my TIVO, watching the opening "Hot Topics" segments over breakfast and usually deleting the rest.
Her charm has always been her lack of a filter. Of course, when she had her own show, she still had one big filter: the closet. She only came out right at the tail end of her successful run. But, it seemed once she came out, she couldn't be bothered with any filters anymore. Whatever she thought, she said.
"It has always been of absolute importance to me to speak my mind, for better or for worse," she writes in the book. "Because I don't actually have a choice. It's my mind. It's not a car I can trade in for something slicker, or smoother, or sweeter. It's all I have to offer."
Which is what she serves up, as anyone will learn upon reading "Celebrity Detox." It is almost charming to see such an unedited manuscript be published, as you get to see her thought process flit from one random thought to another throughout the book. The book certainly has the feel that it wasn't overly-polished or edited, that we are getting Rosie's take on things and not in the abbreviated cryptic prose she favors on her blog.
By Jeff Walsh
My first exposure to Noel Alumit was seeing him onstage, performing his one man show "The Rice Room: Scenes From A Bar" that explored the lives of gay Asian men. His second show "Master of the (miss) Universe" explored his gay identity as well as the world of beauty pageants. In between those two shows, Alumit became an accomplished novelist.
His first novel, "Letters to Montgomery Clift," has young Filipino protagonist Bong Bong Luwad searching for his mother. As he goes through hardship, Luwad begins to interact with dead movie star Montgomery Clift as a coping mechanism, writing him letters, seeing him appear during periods of crisis, and even making love to him. The character expresses his innermost thoughts to Clift, but not to the people in his real life. Until Luwad finds out what happens to his parents, who disappeared during the Marcos regime after sending him to America, he seems unable to move forward with his life.
His second novel, "Talking to the Moon," shows the effect of a hate crime on a Filipino family in Los Angeles. The book is based on an actual incident where a Filipino postman was killed, although Alumit's book uses the notion of a hate crime as a jumping-off point to explore how tragedy affects a family. The rotating narrative shows the courtship of Jory and Belen Lalaban, as well as the relationship of their son Emerson to his Taiwanese boyfriend, Michael. The story explores how the family moved from the Philippines because they were "cursed," and examines the fragile tendrils that keep people connected to one another.
Alumit also maintains a blog, The Last Noel, which tracks his eye through the literary world, his writing process, and his life.
I recently spoke with Alumit about his career to date, his exploration of the gay Filipino experience through his performance and writing, and what inspires him as an artist. Here's what we said:
by Jeff Walsh
In "The Conservative Soul," blogger Andrew Sullivan (profiled in Oasis back in 1999) makes a heartfelt case for being a conservative. Now, before you start getting defensive, Sullivan says the term conservative has been hijacked and attributed to a set of political beliefs and ideologies that don't even resemble its origin, which he says is rooted in loss and doubt.
"The regret you feel in life at the kindness not done, the person unthanked, the opportunity missed, the custom unobserved, is a form of conservatism," he writes. "The same goes for the lost love or the missed opportunity: these experiences teach us the fragility of the moment, and that fragility is what, in part, defines us."
Sullivan spends a lot of time in The Conservative Soul exploring fundamentalism, and outlining one of the most simple reasons to which I have always attributed its popularity, which is the inherent comfort there is not having to question the truth. By living within strict rules, there is a surrender that is liberating. I think one of the biggest fallacies of fundamentalism has always been that it is simplistic when to its adherents it is the answer to eternal questions.
Phenomenal! Once again Julie Anne Peters had managed to create an amazing book that doesn't just speak to lesbians but to females of all ages. Peters's latest book, grl2grl is comprised of 10 short stories:
Passengers is a story about two girls who go to the same school for the past five years and never speak to one another. The only contact they make is a 20-second stare-down everyday on the train. Tamlyn is popular and into the latest trends; Andrea is the exact opposite. There are so many places Peters could have taken this story, but I don't think any of them would have ended up being quite as good as this one.
To go or not to go is the main theme of Can't Stop the Feeling. Mariah desperately wants to go to her GSA but taking that first step and actually going in is the hardest part. She makes up a plan with an excuse just so she can walk in and walk back out if she wants.
So this book 'Twisted' by the writer of 'Speak' was dandy. However, it is about a straight boy. There isn't a lot of description. But the story and themes are what counts for it!