Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between March 10th and 16th, I read:
LGBTQ Rights and the Law by Duchess Harris and Martha Lundin (2012)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Across the spectrum
Thoughts: This is part of the Being LGBTQ in America series, which is a nonfiction common-core tie-in series. Topics in this volume include workplace discrimination, health, privacy, marriage, adoption, safe schools and students’ rights, the military, and a look ahead at the future of LGBTQ rights. This is written in a straightforward but not overly simplistic way, and includes numerous pictures, sidebars, and textboxes. Each chapter also ends with a few discussion questions. This was pretty interesting and not nearly as dry as textbooks often are. Definitely a good resource for teens.
Memorial by Bryan Washington (2020)
Queer rep: The two MCs and multiple secondary characters are gay
Thoughts: Benson – a Black day care teacher – and Mike – a Japanese-American chef – have been together for several years, and they were good years, but their relationship is at the point where it seems like it’s inertia that’s holding them together more than anything else. Then Mike finds out his estranged father is dying back in Japan and flies out to be with him just as his acerbic mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Houston for a scheduled visit. Mitsuko and Ben are stuck together in Mike’s apartment, a bizarre domestic situation that ends up as something more than either expected, while Mike learns some startling truths about his family and himself in Japan. As Ben and Mike grow separately, it remains to be seen if they’ll also grow apart. I like Washington’s writing a lot – I really enjoyed his story collection, Lot – and I enjoyed this a lot even though it doesn’t use quotation marks and I hate that.
All the Young Men: A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South by Ruth Coker Burks with Kevin Carr O’Leary (2020)
Queer rep: Numerous gay men, a few lesbians
Thoughts: Ruth Coker Burks fell into AIDS activism accidentally. In 1986, at age 26, she was visiting a friend in the hospital when she noticed a trio of nurses drawing straws to see who would have to care for a patient in a room with a red-painted door. Ruth impulsively enters herself, to see a very ill young man who asks for his mother. His mother refuses to speak to or visit her son, the hospital doesn’t want to care for him, and no one even wants to bury him after he passes. Ruth steps in at each stage, and soon word spreads in the community that she is willing to help AIDS patients however she can: she fights to get them testing, care, medication, food, and housing allowances; she nurses them, and she buries them. At first she’s sure that “when she raises the alarm, the cavalry will come”, but instead she finds more and more stigma at every turn. She also finds enduring friendships and a community she never expected to be a part of. This is a very moving memoir, and I really like the voice of it: it’s almost conversational, like Ruth is telling her story to a good friend, and it’s a story well worth hearing.