By Jeff Walsh
Two years ago, I saw a notice for a book event by Byron Katie, whom I had never heard of prior to receiving that bookstore e-mail. I'm always game to hear new voices, and the name of her then-new book, "I Need Your Love -- Is That True?: How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead" was certainly intriguing. So, I showed up early for the lunchtime event in San Francisco's financial district. I grabbed a copy of her book, figuring I'd decide during the event if I were going to buy it and get it signed after she spoke.
The chairs slowly filled up, and people from the bookstore started passing out "Judge Your Neighbor" worksheets, in case we wanted to do "The Work" with Katie during the event. People around me whip out their pens and are all excited for the opportunity. "Are you going to do The Work," the man next to me asks. I told him I don't know what he's talking about. He smiles and says I'll know soon enough.
Finally, the place is standing room only and Byron Katie appears, except there seems to be some communal understanding that she is just "Katie" to everyone. Her presence is so at ease and embracing, my first impression was that whatever she uses to get to that place, sign me up.
By Byron Katie
The truth is that there's no such thing as enlightenment. No one is permanently enlightened; that would be the story of a future. There's only enlightenment in the moment. Do you believe a stressful thought? Then you're confused. Do you realize that the thought isn't true? Then you're enlightened to it. It's as simple as that.
All suffering is mental. It has nothing to do with the body or with a person's circumstances. You can be in great pain without any suffering at all. How do you know you're supposed to be in pain? Because that's what's happening. To live without a stressful story, to be a lover of what is, even in pain -- that's heaven. To be in pain and believe that you shouldn't be in pain -- that's hell.
When the mind is clear, life becomes very simple. I have the thought to stand up and do the dishes. I notice a sense of profound excitement as the body rises with this thought. How childlike it is as it moves to the kitchen, to the sink. I turn the handle, experience the water on my hands, pour some liquid soap onto a sponge. Amazing. It's not ever about doing the dishes, until I hold one and see it change from crusted or sticky to wet and soapy, to shiny, to dry, so that it can serve again. Everything changes. I never know what anything is going to be. Without believing any thought of a future, there's no way of knowing what is me and what is the plate, the soap, the water, the world of bubbles and shine.
By Jeff Walsh
In "Seventy Times Seven," Salvatore Sapienza's debut novel, Brother Vito is living a double life. By day, he teaches the boys in his high school religion class. But at night, he might be anywhere from a Pet Shop Boys concert, a dance floor, or a sex club.
It's not the book you're thinking, though. Vito isn't living a double life. The brothers in his house know he's gay, and his gay friends know about his religious life. Throughout the course of the novel, Vito struggles to choose between two sides of his being that seem perfect and whole to him, except they can't coexist.
Obviously, you might hazard a guess at which side wins out, because otherwise they'd be writing this book up on religious websites instead. But the journey is interesting because of that duality. Vito has a true yearning for the gift that he finds in his religious life and its spirituality. It isn't the closeted priest and the big declaration or scandal that people might expect. As Vito weighs the pros and cons, he keeps making good points for each. It isn't that he just has a blind spot that prevents the decision.
By Salvatore Sapienza
I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through raging waters they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned.
-- The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 43:1-3
All the incoming freshmen boys at Mount Saint Vincent's High School were issued gym uniforms with their last names emblazoned in black block letters across the backs of their gray T-shirts. This was primarily so the PE teachers, who had classes of more than sixty students per session, could easily identify each boy. "Hey, Simmons, stop roughhousing!" "Owens, pick up the pace!" That sort of thing.
Poor Paul Ness. Since he and his identical twin brother, Matt, were in the same PE class, the Ness boys were issued shirts embroidered not only with their last names, but also with their first initials. The taunting of Paul started on the first day of gym class, when Brother O'Malley -- during a hellish round of dodgeball -- yelled," You're out, P. Ness!"
"Brother O'Malley called that kid a penis," one boy whispered. Soon laughter spread throughout the gym, with only Brother O'Malley clueless as to what was so funny.
By Jeff Walsh
In Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers (read excerpt), Cris Beam delivers a compelling glance into the transgender underbelly of Los Angeles, where primarily black and Latina trans girls (biological boys who identify as female) struggle with their identity, their families, their lack of money, and ultimately themselves as they pursue what to them feels natural.
When I started reading the book, my impression was it was going to be a non-fiction book in the tradition sense, where Beam becomes a fly on the wall, like a nature documentarian observing her subjects from a close enough distance to know their essence but not affect their natural patterns. This isn't that book. Beam herself refers to it as a memoir, to dispel any notions otherwise. From the very beginning, Beam plants herself in the book, first as a volunteer teacher at a run-down school for gay youth in Los Angeles, and through the book as a gatherer of their stories, their mentor, friend, and ultimately, one of the girls' foster mother.
Well I sent out a copy of Orphan's Quest to Oprah today along with a letter telling her all about my battle with HIV and how the book came ultimately came about. I feel like a total publicity whore now, trading off my illness to try and get some attention.
By Jeff Walsh
With his first novel, Geography Club, Brent Hartinger captures the angst and loneliness of feeling that you're the only gay person in the world. How it is difficult to imagine that, in the segregated high school social scene, your "different" sexuality is hidden under the surface and can unite you with people you otherwise wouldn't know, talk to, or considering hanging out with.
In the novel, Russel does his best to avoid anything that might tip people off that he's gay. He plays along with the jokes in the locker room, dates girls, whatever it takes. Online one night, Russel finds a chat room for his small town in Idaho on a gay website. He starts chatting with the person known only as GayTeen in the room. They are the same age. They are in the same grade. And.. they go to the same school?! Russel is a perfect blend of fear and excitement, unable to consider anyone else in his school, his grade even, could also be gay, while also fearing revealing his own identity. Neither will reveal their real name first, fearing the other person won't do the same. Instead, they decide to go meet in person and, that night, they come face to face.
Once the two characters meet, Russel's desire to talk about everything (meeting this guy, his being gay, etc.) leads him to come out to friends, who eventually form their own secret society within the high school. A group of them decide to meet twice a week for "Geography Club," picked because it sounds so boring no one else would ever show up to attend. And safer than a GSA, because no one has to come out as gay to talk about geography.
By Jeff Walsh
In The Order of the Poison Oak, his sequel to Geography Club, Brent Hartinger avoids the 'haven't we been here before' feeling sequels sometimes often evoke by changing up everything but the main characters. This time, we still get Russel, Gunnar and Min from the first book, but the premise of the book is that to get away from everything, the trio become summer camp counselors.
Russel sees it as a way to go somewhere where no one will know he's gay, after starting his school's GSA and becoming the school fag in the process. Gunnar wants to use the summer as a way to avoid girls in general. And Min, who helped start the GSA as well, agrees to go with them.
The book is a fun read where we see the main characters have crushes on other counselors, as they have to learn how to make young camp attendees behave and follow instructions. Even when things could be perceived as heavy-handed (a camp full of burn victims with a forest fire approaching?), Hartinger makes it all work somehow.
By Jeff Walsh
"Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies / Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies" is not only the longest book title we're ever likely to review on Oasis, it is also the third book in Brent Hartinger's Geography Club series.
Reading this book, my thoughts kept returning to E. Lynn Harris, who had a very successful string of books that featured the same recurring characters. Every time you would open the books in his Invisible Life series, you immediately fell right back into step with that world and its inhabitants. Some people dismissed them as lightweight, but an ongoing series with a storyline of almost entirely black characters dealing with sexuality isn't lightweight by its very definition.
With "Split Screen," Hartinger continues the paths of Russel, Min, Gunnar, and Kevin that began in Geography Club, and continued in Order of the Poison Oak.
By Jeff Walsh
This week, the second sequel to Brent Hartinger's "Geography Club" will be released. "Split Screen" is actually two books in one. One book, told from Russel's point of view, is entitled "Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies." The other covers the same timeframe, but is told from Min's point of view, and is entitled "Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies." This time, Hartinger's cast of characters are spending time as extras on a horror movie being shot in their hometown.
Brent and I had a long chat that went into all different areas, but covered a lot about his view on writing sequels, a lot about writing in general (a LOT), our shared belief that there is no writer's block, and why he thinks the younger generation that is supportive of the GLBTQ youth movement are going to be the people who change the world for the better.
I hate my computer sometimes, It's angry at me. I kind of sort of want to kick it, except that might make it more angry, and since my other computer is half-way taken apart, I'd have to fix two. Anyways, my dad's unit changed, and since this unit is new and hasn't been to Iraq, theres a higher chance he could go on his third tour. That pisses me off.
By Jeff Walsh
With "Totally Joe," James Howe plays with structure and the absence of conflict in a gay teen story. The book is written as a year-long class assignment called an alphabiography, where students have to write 26 entries about their life, starting with the letter A, each with a life lesson that related to what they wrote about. So, by the time we finish the book, we know 13-year-old Joe Bunch from A to Z.
Reading this book, I kept thinking of the Justin character from Ugly Betty. You do watch Ugly Betty, don't you? It is so much fun. Anyway, on Ugly Betty, Justin is Betty's nephew who is just accepted by the family, even though, it seems pretty clear he is completely gay. He is played perfectly by Mark Indelicato.
Hey, I've listed links to each of the covers I designed.
Note: the second one is more of a joke than anything. I was bored when I designed it. It's still kinda cute though.
For those of you who want to see the good details: Hi-res
Yikes, can't take a mini-holiday from the site anymore... entire projects spring up in my absence (as well they should).
Pat Nelson Childs has taken a post by our very own haNa and turned it into a full-on book proposal where anyone can contribute artwork, writing, editing, etc., to create a book about what it is like to be a gay teen today.
You can win a copy of Reichen's book "Here's What We'll Say!" by sending an e-mail to:
The photo is of the author page inside the book. it is the official hardcover release, not an advance reader copy or anything. Just be sure and include the word Reichen in the subject line, and tell me your oasis username in the body of the e-mail.
All contest entries must be received by noon Pacific Time, Wednesday, January 17. This has been extended until noon, January 24, due to the site downtime.
By Jeff Walsh
In his book "Here's What We'll Say: Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force Academy," Reichen Lehmkuhl provides an eyewitness account of the Air Force Academy under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The book chronicles his growing acceptance of his sexuality and the eventual formation of an underground group at the Academy, started by Reichen, which enabled gay cadets to provide alibis for one another to protect their sexuality from being known. The book's title is taken from the phrase the group used to preface their alibis. Reichen recently spoke with Jeff prior to his book tour appearance in San Francisco. Here's What We Said...
So, what prompted you to write the book?
I wanted to write the book since I was a cadet at the Academy. I always tell people 'Someone should write a book about this place,' or 'Someone should make a movie about this place.' So, I wrote the book. About two years ago, I started, and it was right around the time that I was separating completely from the Air Force and the Air Force Reserves.
My book of poetry has officially been published!
If you buy a copy, you're bound to find some of the poetry I've posted here within its pages.
Ok, I promised I'd post a sample chapter of my novel Orphan's Quest on here, so here it is. It was hard to decide which one to post, but I finally decided to post chapter 4, the one in which Rokey and Flaskamper, the book's two main heroes, first meet. Sorry about the wonky formatting. It's the best I could do in here.
The Road to Forrester
I just got done reading Smack. It’s a really good book but its made me think way too much. I know its not the point the author was trying to make but I want to... chase the dragon. Just once to see what its like and go. Just go somewhere for a while, meet new people, live. I know I shouldn't, I mean I've got a roof over my head. My mum, my animals, a job, an abusive person who claims to love my mum. But other than him I've got it good. Except I don't know who I am, I'm so bored with myself and my life I feel burnt out all ready and I haven’t even done anything. I'm eighteen years old for Anubis's sake I have many years before me but I feel like I've let too many years slide away without meaning.