Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup June 3-10, 2019

Bookd of the Day art

Out in Time

The Public Lives of Gay Men from Stonewall to the Queer Generation

Book Cover
Perry N. Halkitis
Oxford University Press
Hardcover $34.95 (192pp)
978-0-19-068660-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The experience of living as an out LGBTQ+ American has changed a lot in a short amount of time, leading to significant generational differences. Perry N. Halkitis explores those differences in Out in Time, interviewing men from three generations about their experiences, from discovering their sexuality to their thoughts on current politics.

The generations cited are the “Stonewall Generation,” who came of age at a time when men often hid their sexuality; the “AIDS Generation,” who came of age during the peak of the disease; and the “Queer Generation” of younger men who are often able to live more open lives and who define their identity in myriad new ways. The book takes the form of a qualitative study, with Halkitis sharing his conclusions among quotes from fifteen men, five per generation.

Later chapters move beyond the interviewees to address issues like intersectionality and the role of drugs and alcohol in modern LGBTQ+ life. These chapters feel more surface level—for example, focusing on men’s preferences in dating apps to address the interplay between sexual orientation and race, instead of a more serious consideration of the topic—and use academic buzzwords rather than the in-depth personal anecdotes that the subjects otherwise contribute.

The book is strongest where it lets its fifteen participants tell pieces of their own unique stories. Their realizations about their sexuality and their early experiences exploring it most dramatically show the generational divides, and the personal nature of the stories makes them compelling. Some of quotes introduce stories that could use more space and exploration, such as one man describing the anger his father—who also owned a gay bar—showed when he came out, or another saying he rejects the “gay” label while sleeping exclusively with men. Still, these interviewees have important things to say, and Out of Time documents how gay men’s experiences have evolved over time.

JEFF FLEISCHER (April 27, 2019)

Sweetie

Volume 1

Book Cover
Steven Petrivelli
Sean Dillon, author, illustrator
Action Lab Entertainment
Softcover $14.99 (128pp)
978-1-63229-474-6
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Steven Petrivelli and Sean Dillon’s charming Sweetie is a delightful tale about a self-made superhero told through dynamic and unique art. In a world filled to the brim with superheroes, headstrong Maggie wants nothing more than to be one of them. But when she finally reaches her goal, it’s not completely what she hoped for.

Through her hard work, study of kung-fu movies, and martial arts practice, Maggie eventually reaches the level of superhero. Nicknamed Sweetie by her parents, she tries to balance her personal life with her extracurricular crime fighting, though it isn’t all as easy as she thought it would be. Her parents are stressed about Maggie putting herself in danger, she doesn’t have many friends, and sometimes the bad guys just don’t know when to give up. Despite her struggles, Sweetie is an upbeat story that values friendships, connections, and becoming what you want to be despite the obstacles.

The book’s art is exceptional, a combination of manga and graffiti artistic styles. Every page contains compelling scenes washed in striking colors, often illustrated using a beautiful palette of vibrant reds, purples, and pinks. In addition, the art makes clever use of panels and the page, never becoming boring in its layout of action scenes and moments of humor.

Though the book’s action is fun—especially watching Maggie’s giant head of hair fly across the page as she takes down bad guys—its emotional center is what’s most engaging here. When Maggie interacts with her parents or her best friend/sidekick/number-one-fan Griffin, the graphic novel sparkles.

This heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel is fun for all ages, featuring smooth action and humor for younger readers and more mature themes of parenthood and individuality for older ones. Steven Petrivelli and Sean Dillon’s Sweetie is a lighthearted adventure starring astonishing art.

MYA ALEXICE (April 27, 2019)

You Cannot Mess This Up

A True Story That Never Happened

Book Cover
Amy Weinland Daughters
She Writes Press
Softcover $16.95 (272pp)
978-1-63152-583-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Amy Weinland Daughters’s novel You Cannot Mess This Up explores an irresistible time travel premise: What if you could go back in time and meet your family as an outsider and hear what the adults in your life had to say about you as a child, both good and bad? Daughters imagines herself as an adult guest spending Thanksgiving in her childhood home in suburban Houston, and the text is filled with more 1970s details—and synthetic fabrics—than you can shake an eight-track cassette at.

What is at first a disconcerting trip down memory lane turns into a chance for the narrator, Big Amy, to get to know her family (especially her mother) outside of the boundaries of their real relationships. She observes the adults’ fascinating exchanges with each other and develops a lovely relationship with the childhood version of herself, Little Amy, an unselfconscious ten-year-old who memorizes football stats, fetches pull-tab beers for the grown-ups, and hams it up playing talent show with her siblings.

The family’s frequent joking asides are funny but too plentiful; sometimes they distract from the book’s serious scenes and bighearted observations. Beyond reliving the memories, there are moments of gravity: An after-hours Thanksgiving night party for the neighborhood adults leads to a harrowing moment for Big Amy, for example, and Amy refers to a serious personal struggle from her young adulthood that is set to occur sometime between when she’s ten and her time-traveling age.

Vivacious and unique—just like Little Amy—You Cannot Mess This Up is prone to oversharing in a way that is far too fearless and full of life to be awkward.

MEREDITH GRAHL COUNTS (April 27, 2019)

Adopting a Dinosaur

Book Cover
José Carlos Andrés
Ana Sanfelippo, illustrator
NubeOcho
Hardcover $16.95 (40pp)
978-841712363-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A persistent little girl petitions her parents daily for a dog, cat, turtle, or giraffe in a never-ending, increasingly farfetched list of pets until they finally agree to a dinosaur—but only in the unlikely event that she is able to procure one. The book is available in both English and Spanish, and its entertaining artwork and feel-good family vibes will surprise and delight audiences as baby saltasaurus makes himself at home in the suburbs.

PALLAS GATES MCCORQUODALE (April 27, 2019)

Flannelwood

Book Cover
Raymond Luczak
Red Hen Press
Softcover $15.95 (200pp)
978-1-59709-897-7
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Raymond Luczak’s novel Flannelwood is a subtle, sexy exploration of love gained and lost—and a moving literary tribute to Djuna Barnes and her groundbreaking novel Nightwood.

Bill, a forty-year-old MFA who’s getting by with a coffee shop job, had fallen hard for James, whom he met at an OctoBear dance. The two had enjoyed six steamy months of weekends at James’s house outside the city before James made a phone call that ended it all. Now Bill is left wondering what he did wrong. He deals with his heartbreak by looking back at his previous relationships and contemplating the nature of love and desire.

Flannelwood has very little in the way of plot and focuses instead on Bill’s memories and emotions, rendered in the first person. The opening scene shows the first time Bill sees James’s leg, amputated below the knee, thus introducing themes of the body, sexuality, and disability. From there, the narrative moves back and forth between Bill’s current wrecked emotional state and anecdotes from his time with James and from earlier years in his life.

The writing is lyrical and poetic, sometimes beautifully so, at other times veering into the vague and abstract. The novel’s strongest sections are more grounded in Bill’s storytelling and in his reflections on being gay, discovering the bear community, and finding love and heartbreak. His narration is charming, conversational, and blunt.

The novel is also testimony to the power of literature to shape readers’ lives. Flannelwood is full of literary references, but Djuna Barnes and Nightwood haunt the novel particularly, playing an increasingly important role in its later sections. The lyricism of Barnes’s depiction of love and longing among queer characters in Paris inspires Bill and provides a template for him to understand his own heartbreak.

Flannelwood beautifully captures the transformative power of love and the devastation of losing it, all while meditating on literature’s power to console.

REBECCA HUSSEY (April 27, 2019)

Barbara Hodge

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