Of the forty-three books I read this year, I finished and reviewed thirty. They were a mix of older releases and new, LGBTQ themed and general fiction, well-known authors and not-so-well-known. This year I was all over the map with my reading. I also read several classics (Steinbeck, Hemingway, Capote, etc) that I didn’t bother to review. Of the LGBTQ-Themed books I did review the following I found the most enjoyable.
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
Peter and Rebecca Harris seem to have it all. Midforties, denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, and within reach of the pinnacle of their careers in the arts—he’s a dealer at a second-tier gallery, she’s an editor at an art magazine. They own a fashionable loft, have a daughter in college who’s living with an older woman, enjoy influential friends, and Peter has an opportunity to take on a hot artist who will catapult his gallery into that sought-after first tier. Could life be any sweeter?
Then Rebecca’s younger brother comes for an extended visit. Ethan (given the pet name Mizzy, “the mistake”) is a handsome, beguiling, mid-twenties drifter with a history of drug problems. He is looking for direction, and Rebecca and the rest of her family is determined to help him “straighten out his life.” But rather than helping Mizzy find himself, Peter begins questioning his own career, his marriage, even his sexuality. Suddenly, Peter’s carefully constructed world doesn’t seem so appealing.
Wolverine Cirque by Joseph Olshan
Sam and Mike are hikers and skiers. They don’t just ski, the hike to the top of mountains with their skis strapped to their shoulders, so they can experience the thrill of skiing the most dangerous, almost vertical runs, in the world. Wolverine Cirque is such a mountain, set in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
Sam is forty-five years old; Mike is forty. They’ve skied some of the scariest terrain on the planet. Wolverine Cirque will be a stretch, even for their advanced level of experience. It will challenge their skill, courage, and their ability to survive.
Enmeshed within their struggle with the mountain is Sam’s reminiscence of his doomed relationship with Luc, a professional soccer player. Though the flashbacks of their love affair, the reader realizes that Sam’s battle with the mountain is really a futile effort to hold back the course of his declining youth.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Call Me By Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy, Elio, and a summer guest at his parents’ mansion on the Italian Riviera. It is a story of one boy’s coming out, about a slow and simmering desire, and about how love develops.
This is a simple story, beautifully told. Andre Aciman shows significant talent in his characterizations, plot development and attention to detail. This novel is an excellent coming-of-age story with which many gays and lesbians can likely relate. Every phase of adolescent love unfolds in striking detail—each fear, each ache, each lurch of the heart, every giddy rush of sensation.
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin
Set in Ireland during the early 1990s, Declan is dying of AIDS. With the help of two gay companions, he leaves the hospital to spend a few days at the seaside home of his grandmother. There, at the crumbling place of his youth, his sister Helen, his mother Lily, and his grandmother Dora gather after a decade of estrangement. The three women had no idea Declan was gay, let alone terminally ill with AIDS. Once they recover from the shock, their primary goal becomes caring for Declan, who had always been the binding force in this dysfunctional family.
Like six castaways on a desert island, from different generations and with clashing beliefs and lifestyles, they are forced to face their own dark histories in order to deal with each other to achieve the common goal of keeping Declan alive and comfortable.
Time On Two Crosses – The Collected Writings Of Bayard Rustin Edited by Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise
Bayard Rustin was a key civil rights strategist and humanitarian whose staunch advocacy of nonviolent resistance shaped the course of social protests from the 1950’s through the close of the twentieth century.
Many people today see him only as an African American working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other power brokers in organized Labor and the Democratic Party for civil rights for African Americans. Yet, he was both a black man and an openly gay man, fighting for the civil rights of all oppressed people. Few African Americans engaged in as broad a protest agenda as did Rustin; fewer still enjoyed his breadth of influence in virtually every political sector, working with world leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, President Lyndon Johnson, and Golda Meir.
Yet, for all his influence and all his tireless efforts, Rustin remained an outsider in black civil rights circles because they refused to accept his homosexuality. The very people who he was fighting for shunned him. Yet even though the civil rights powers that often dismissed him, perhaps no other figure contributed so much to the civil rights movement.