If February was a month of triumphs, then March was that “slap in the face” reminder that life is not always sunshine and rainbows (yes, even though I am Gay). While several factors contributed to making March a taxing month, perhaps the most important one to mention is the nature of the work I do as a gay scholar. Though it is certainly rewarding to work in an academic field to which I relate so closely, it also exacts an emotional toll on me as well. Every experience in which I partake through literature and media never fails to impact me on a personal level, and my passion for my work can leave me feeling exhausted. Often, I feel like I am fighting a losing battle as I find myself the only one with the academic chops to contextualize and address the systemic issues which plague LGBT/Queer people, and I am certainly by no means any where near the point where I could be considered an expert (or even moderately proficient) in the field.
In particular, the literature I read this month covered some heavy topics, starting with a double hit of persecution of gay men during the Holocaust and ending with two books which explore modern LGBT/Queer persecution. And yet, it is because of these books as well as the daily reminders with which I surround myself–my Pride necklace, Alexander the Bisexual Otter, my Pride flag–that I am able to continue working towards a more accepting world for all people. While my contributions as a literary scholar may be small, they are still bringing us one step closer to justice.
Thus, without further ceremony, here is this month’s review.
Book 20: The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals by Richard Plant
In this book, Richard Plant brings light to the horrors committed against LGBT individuals, gay men especially, during the Holocaust. In clear and cohesive prose, Plant examines the persecution of gay men by Nazi Germany, revealing how they were a part of the brutal machine that targeted so many individuals considered contragenic such as the Jews. His history serves an important role in bringing some justice to these men, bravely telling their stories and his own to an audience who might not be the most receptive. Though we must not forget to examine the narratives of other groups persecuted by the Nazis, Plant’s book is incredibly important in a time when gay men are being oppressed in places like Chechnya.
Book 21: An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin by Gad Beck
A survivor of the Holocaust, Gad Beck, as both gay man and Jew, tells the story of his survival in a way which is highly accessible and entertaining. Beck spares no detail, taking the reader through his sex life and his various acts of resistance. His story brings spirit into the narrative of gay men persecuted in Nazi Germany, revealing that life can always have moments of pleasure even in times of incredible pain. Beck’s pride and strength, along with his sheer luck, allow him to survive a period where many individuals like himself were lost.
Book 22: The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance by Paul Strathern
As one could guess by even a quick glance at my web presence, I enjoy reading a lot of books about gay people. Thus, it is always a pleasant surprise when a book I did not expect to include gay people actually features them quite a bit. Paul Strathern’s informative book about the Medici does not shy away from discussing the gay characters present in its history. Yet, this book is an excellent read for so many other reasons as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Italian family who played such a huge role in shaping a rebirth of the humanities and science in Europe.
Book 23: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This book is certifiably insane and just a bit stressful but an absolutely fantastic read. Mark Danielewski’s novel is an incredible example of experimental fiction at its best. As each page draws the reader one step further into the terrifying plot occurring within the two covers, the line between reality and fiction begins to blur. House of Leaves is an important reminder that the novel format still has so much to offer and that it will continue to play a vital roll in the years to come.
Book 24: The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis
In his first novel, Édouard Louis loudly bursts onto the literary scene. Violent, breath-taking, and incredibly familiar are a few of the phrases that crossed my mind as I read this autobiographical account, and I could not help but find myself thinking of my own experience of growing up gay when I was reading Louis’ novel. With The End of Eddy, Louis brings light to the stories of gay men born in a world where being gay is starting to become acceptable–that is, if one finds one’s self in the right situation–and thus reveals the struggle so many of us still go through in discovering who we are and finding our place in the world. This novel is a must read, and I recommend acquiring it right away.
Book 25: This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
Though the title certainly says it all, Juno Dawson’s book is also incredibly clever and an important tool for anyone interested in diving into the LGBT/Queer World. It would have been amazing to have had and known about this book when I first was coming to terms with my sexuality, and thus I am happy that future generations will have this resource. However, this book is useful for anyone looking to take their first steps into LGBT/Queer culture, and it will be my go to book for introducing people in the future. If you have ever wondered about LGBT/Queer topics ranging from sex to bullying, then this book is for you.
Book 26: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
In this novel, Madeline Miller breathes new life into the story of some of our most ancient queer heroes: Patroclus and Achilles. Telling the story through Patroclus’ eyes, Miller reconstructs this ancient Greek legend, earning her place as one of our generation’s greatest storytellers. Even though I knew how the story would tragically end, every step through this book felt like a journey into a strange and wonderful new land, and I felt myself desperately devouring the pages as I raced to reach the conclusion. The Song of Achilles has cemented itself into the canon of gay literature, and it will remain an important read for anyone wishing to explore classical Greek and Roman mythology in a new light.
If you have read any of the books I mentioned in this post, please let us know what you thought of them in the comments below.