Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Best Books of 2019

To say that I am a bookworm is an understatement. As you might expect, I’ve read quite a few books this year.

Without further adieu, my list of the best books of 2019 is below.

  1. The Women of the 116th Congress: Portraits of Power: This book is #1 because it represents how far American women have come and how far we need to go before we are truly equal. In celebrating the success of these female politicians, the authors are paving the way for the next generation of women to represent their country.
  2. The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between: This compelling and true story of one small town and it’s Jewish residents during World War II is as compelling as any fiction novel of the Holocaust.
  3. Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II: Telling the story of Audrey Hepburn‘s childhood during World War II, this book is a must-read for both movie junkies and history nerds alike.
  4. Summer of ’69: History is not just facts in a book. It the lives and experiences of those who lived through that period. In telling the story of one specific family, the summer of 1969 comes alive.
  5. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators: The revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s actions two years ago was appalling and world-changing. In bringing his actions to the light, the authors are giving his victims what should have been theirs in the first place.
  6. Unmarriageable: A Novel: This adaptation of Pride & Prejudice set in Pakistan proves why Austen’s novels are universally loved and rebooted time and again.
  7. The Mother of the Brontes: When Maria met Patrick: The previously untold story of Maria Bronte (nee Branwell) is a fascinating story of the women who would bring Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte into the world.
  8. Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman: It takes guts to be yourself. It takes even more guts when being yourself means that you are no longer part of the community you grew up in.
  9. She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement: The reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal knew what they were up against. They also knew how important it was for the public to know the truth.
  10. The Winemaker’s Wife: Love and betrayal are enough to handle. Add in war and you have this marvelous novel set in France during World War II.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Movies, Pride and Prejudice

Marriage of a Thousand Lies Book Review

Living a double life is not easy. But there comes a point in which the person must choose: do they continue to live that double life or be themselves?

In SJ Sindu’s 2018 debut novel, Marriage of a Thousand Lies, Lucky and her husband Krishna are living a double life. On the surface, they fit right in with their conservative Sri Lankan American community. They appear to be a traditional heterosexual married couple. But appearances are deceiving.

Both Lucky and Krishna are gay. Keeping up appearances as a straight married couple allows them to date on the side without making waves. When Lucky’s grandmother’s health takes a turn for the worst, she is forced to return to her family. She also reconnects with Nisha, her childhood best friend, and former lover.

Nisha has agreed to marry a man that she has never met. Both women are at a crossroads. They can start a new life together or continue to live with the lies that have been their comfortable companion since they were young.

I loved this book. The characters felt real and universal. Lucky is an outsider, as both a gay woman and a woman of color. It is that outsider-ness that gives the novel the narrative thrust and sucks the reader in immediately. Great novels are great because the characters have a universal quality to them. As a reader, I felt like I understood Lucky, Nisha and the conundrum they both faced.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books

The Straight Pride Parade? Wow

It’s no secret that for most of American history (and human history), a minority has ruled the majority. This minority is the straight, White, Christian and (mostly) wealthy male minority. The rest of us have had to fight for our basic rights.

This weekend, a group of citizens decided to hold a parade in Boston. The name of the parade was the Straight Pride parade.

I suppose that the organizers see it as their version of the LGBTQ Pride parade. But this parade is nothing more than a statement of hate and reminding us who is still in charge.

We are thankfully living in an era in which those of us who have been disenfranchised have rights and opportunities that previous generations had only dreamed of. But those rights and opportunities only came about because of those previous generations who fought, marched and protested for their their rights.

I respect their right to march, but I highly disagree with the reason for the march. If we want to better this country, it’s time that we came together instead of dividing us based on superficial reasons.

Leave a comment

Filed under National News

Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. Review

Among the numerous death camps that the Nazis maintained during World War II, Auschwitz was the most notorious. At least 1.1 million people died within the borders of the death camp.

The new exhibit, Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away., opened back in June at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City’s Battery Park. The exhibit tells the story of the death camp from it’s time as an average small town to it’s days as the notorious death camp until it’s current state as a museum just after the war.

Containing personal artifacts, interviews, media coverage from the day and historical timelines, this exhibit is as hard hitting, emotional and relevant as any Holocaust exhibit.

I’ve often spoken on this blog about the Holocaust. My family came from Eastern Europe and like many Eastern European Jews, there are stories of family members who survived and those who didn’t.

The artifacts are so incredibly ordinary. A pair of glasses. A variety of adult shoes. A suitcase. Those who walked through the gates of Auschwitz were not so different than you and I. But there were labelled as different, subhuman and therefore ripe for extinction.

The one artifact that stayed with me was the child’s shoe with the sock still in it. I imagine a mother undressing her child before undressing herself. She meticulously kept their clothes together thinking that they were about to enter a run of the mill “shower”. No one could have expected that the “shower” would kill them.

What the curators and the museum have done brilliantly is to make the connection between Europe before World War II and our current world. Germany was a democracy before the Nazis took power. If the democratic rule of law and acceptance of all citizens is not upheld, the slippery slope to dictatorship and murder is sharp and quick.

I’ve been to quite a few Holocaust exhibits over the years. What made this one different is the that spotlight is also on the other victims. LGBTQ and Romani (Gypsy) were just two of the groups that were tortured, starved and murdered.

If you must go to one museum and one exhibit this year, Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. is it. Not only do I recommend it, I would say that it should be mandatory given the world we currently live in.

I would also recommend that if you visit, you carve out 2-3 hours, as it takes that long to go through and absorb this story.

Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. will be open until January 3rd, 2020 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Check the website for tickets prices and exhibit details.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, New York City, Politics

Throwback Thursday-A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (2007)

Dating shows seems to be one of the most popular within the reality show genre. The question that I think a viewer has to ask is if the show is “real” or staged for the sake of good television?

A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila aired on MTV in 2007. The premise of the show was the same as an reality dating show, with one exception. The star of the show, Tila Tequila, was bisexual. 16 straight men and 16 gay women competed for her affection. At the end of the series, like all reality dating shows, the final competitor was chosen as the star’s significant other.

As much as I dislike reality dating shows, I really disliked this one. The creative team had an opportunity to give a voice to the LGBTQ community. While it appeared that this was another opportunity to open the doors of communication and acceptance, it was in reality just another dating show that took advantage of the “exoticism” of the LGBTQ community to increase ratings.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely not.

Leave a comment

Filed under Television, Throwback Thursday, TV Review

Rocketman Movie Review

A good biopic more than tells the story of the film’s subject. It reveals their humanity.

The new film Rocketman tells story of legendary musician Elton John (Taron Egerton).

Born Reggie Dwight in 1947, his early years were not exactly sunshine and roses. His parents, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) don’t have an easy relationship. The ruptures in their marriage extend to the relationship with their son. Stanley is cold and demanding. Sheila is slightly more maternal, but I wouldn’t describe her as the ideal mother. The only person who genuinely loves and supports the future rock star is his grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones).

As a young man, Reggie starts to build a career as a musician. That career becomes a reality when he meets Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). But as often happens, success gets to Elton’s head. While his career thrives, so does his relationship with John Reid (Richard Madden). Adding to all of this is his growing addiction to alcohol and drugs.

This movie is interesting, especially in the sub-genre of music biopics. The narrative can be described as musical-like, with the songs driving the narrative. Instead of lip syncing to pre-recorded songs sung by the real life Elton John, Egerton does his own singing and is surprisingly good.

What strikes me is that the narrative underneath the music is the story of a man who is fighting lifelong demons of mental health and self esteem. His story, regardless of one’s sexuality, is a reminder that one can overcome one’s demons and live a full life.

I recommend it.

Rocketman is presently in theaters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, Music

Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience Book Review

It’s 2019. In an ideal world, we would judge each other as an individual, not by factors such as skin color, religion, sex, etc. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where we judge each other based on external factors without knowing who the other person really is.

Anuradha Bhagwati knows all too well about the reality of the world we live in. The only child of strict Indian immigrants, Ms. Bhagwati was on the traditional academic track until she dropped out of grad school to join the Marines. She tells her story in her new memoir, Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience Book. Among the branches of the US Military, the Marines is by far the toughest. Especially for a bisexual woman of color who has the balls not only to succeed, but to stand up the misogynistic and racist men who make it clear that her presence in the Marines is not wanted.

After leaving the Marines, Ms. Bhagwati used her experience to break barriers. Her efforts opened the doors for women to be treated as equals by their commanders while speaking out about the pervasive sexual assault and sexual harassment that women in the military face every day.

 

This book, from my perspective, should be a must read for every woman. I find the author to be nothing short of inspiring. She could have taken the easy way out and followed the expected path in life. But she took the road less traveled, leading her to pave the way for other women to take the road less traveled.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, Politics

The Feminism Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained Book Review

Like any social or cultural movement, Feminism is has multiple layers and multiple points of view. But where all of these layers and points of view come together is the absolute need for equality.

The Feminism Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained was published earlier this year. Written by DK Publishing and containing a forward by Lucy Mangan, the book covers every aspect of feminism, past and present. The book starts with the origins of Feminism, moves through the various phases of the movement and ends at the present day. Containing pictures, info-graphics, flow charts and profiles of famous women, this book explains Feminism in such a way that anyone can understand it.

I loved this book. It teaches without hitting the reader over the head or sounding like a dry academic textbook. I also appreciated the publisher included chapters about women of color and female members of the LGBTQ movement. When it comes to Feminism, these women are often set aside for cisgender White women who define themselves as upper class or middle class. If we are to succeed and achieve true equality, we cannot only focus on one group of women.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Character Review: Tara Maclay

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Read at your own risk if you have not watched one or both television series. In this series of character reviews, I will strictly be writing about the characters from the television series, not the 1992 film.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

The death of a beloved character often feels like a death in our own families. We watch these shows for years, become entangled in lives of these characters and when they die, it feels like a deeply personal loss.

Tara Maclay (Amber Benson) was introduced as a new character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 4th season. Like Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Tara is also a witch who is just beginning to develop her powers. But unlike Willow, Tara’s skills are more developed.  Their relationship soon grows from friendship to a romantic relationship.

Like all relationships, the roles within the relationships change as things change. As Willow becomes more confident and powerful as a witch, Tara become the “damsel in distress”, needing to be rescued by her girlfriend. Tara also becomes a surrogate parent to Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) after she and Willow move in with the Summers following the death of Dawn’s mother.

When Willow becomes addicted to magic, Tara supports her girlfriend as she tries to come clean, but Willow’s addiction nearly breaks up their relationship. When Tara is killed by The Trio, her death triggers Willow’s grief and anger, pulling her to the dark side.

To sum it up: Though Tara was not on on BVTS for the entire run of the show, her character was still a significant one. Willow and Tara were one of the first major female LGBTQ relationships on television. It felt real and normal. Tara was as beloved as both Willow’s girlfriend and as an individual character. Her death was a blow to the audience and to the characters who grew to love her as much as Willow did.

To this day, BVTS fans still mourn Tara. We mourn her not just because of her unexpected passing, but because of the impact that she left on us. From this writer’s perspective, that is the mark of a great character.

Leave a comment

Filed under Character Review, Feminism, Television

The Actor Who May Have Cried Wolf: Thoughts On the Jussie Smollett Case

When we were children, many of us were told the tale of the boy who cried wolf.

For those who were not taught the story, it goes as follows: a boy is charged with watching the sheep that belong to the people in his village. He sees a wolf and alerts the villagers, they are up in arms as a result of the claim. But the wolf does not appear. The boy continues to state that he has seen a wolf. As the days pass and the villagers keep hearing this, they ignore the boy as the wolf has yet to appear. When the wolf actually appears, no one believes the boy.

Last month, Empire actor Jussie Smollett accused two men of verbally and physically attacking him for being African-American and gay. The most recent development in the case is that Mr. Smollett is charged with filing a false police report.

While he continues to state that he was attacked, the evidence that the police have found state the contrary. There are rumors abounding that the reason for claiming the attack was that his role on Empire will be reduced or his character will be written out completely.

If it is true that the attack was a hoax and he paid his attackers, it is akin to a woman claiming she was raped when it was nothing more than a date or a hookup that went wrong. Hate and prejudice are very real in this country, Americans are verbally and physically assaulted everyday just for being who they are. Not only is this a waste of time and resources for the Chicago PD, it may bring up the question if charges of assault based on factors such as race or sexual orientation are real or just a need for attention.

I hope that Mr. Smollett has not cried wolf. But if he has, it sets a dangerous precedent will not end well for Americans of color and members of minority groups.

Leave a comment

Filed under National News, Television, Thoughts On....