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Best of 2011 lists

Every Fall Band of Thebes asks for a short list of fav titles for the year. Here’s the long version of what I said:

Nina Revoyr’s Wingshooters gets my personal Novel-of-the-Year Award for its brilliantly accurate portrayal of the everyday racism of rural America. I put Mikey on that special shelf next to Bone and Scout.

Best lesbian sub-plot least likely to be found by American readers: Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor. Best portrayal of patriarchal idiocy and why lesbians need(ed) the feminist revolution: Carolyn Cooke’s Daughters of the Revolution. Sweetest collection: My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community & Labor History by Allan Bérubé (edited by John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman). Wickedest read: Stella Duffy’s Parallel Lies, even if you think you’re not remotely interested in Hollywood and the lives of the rich and famous. Most unexpected lesbian character: Joseph Caldwell’s fine Irish tale,  The Pig Comes to Dinner. (But you won’t have nearly as much fun if you don’t read The Pig Did It first.)

Book I’m saving for a stretch of total indulgence: Jane Rule’s recollection of her first 21 years, Taking My Life, found as a hand-written manuscript among her papers after her death.

Book not yet written that I most want to read: A queer version of the brilliant The Warmth of Other Suns, which would name and honor the decades of lesbian and gay migrations away from ‘home’ to anyplace one could love, if not in peace, then at least with a lesser danger.

Best portrayal of patriarchal idiocy and its consequent cost to lesbians’ lives: When is a story one’s own (or one’s character’s own), and when is the story more accurately a tale of the forces of resistance against the very idea of her existence? See Carolyn Cooke’s Daughter’s of the Revolution. It focuses not on the (black, lesbian) female (!) student who integrates the previously all male prep school but rather on the forces of resistance to change: Those aging power-figures in the sixties and seventies who did everything in their power to keep women under thumb and to preserve the pleasures of power for men. As Judy Grahn wrote back in the day, it’s not lesbianism (nor even feminism) but rather the idea of ending domination “that makes everybody angry” (apologies for my paraphrase.)

Older books that I discovered this year: Shamin Sarif’s Despite the Falling Snow, a tale of love, betrayal, the cold war and, ultimately, hope. It haunted me for weeks. In Dodici Azpadu’s Living Room the very butch Carmen Khalise returns to Brooklyn and her very patriarchal family for her mother’s funeral. Throw in a few ex-lovers and too much alcohol. Both books from a 60-something perspective, looking back at the currents of one’s life. Hmmm. I could do with a bit more (a lot more?) of that persepctive.

For The Band of Thebes’ complete list of raves from 90+ queer writers and other literati go to: http://bandofthebes.typepad.com/bandofthebes/2011/11/the-best-lgbt-books-of-2011-1.html

For Richard Labonte’s Best of 2011 list go to: http://www.southfloridagaynews.com/arts-and-entertainment/book-reviews/5161-book-marks-my-10-favorite-fiction-reads-of-2011.html

Enjoy!

Would you repeat that (again)?

There’s not much in Queer Lit Land that’s inclusive of hearing loss. So, just to remind myself that one can be both queer and hard-of-hearing, I keep a copy of Alyson Press’ 1993 anthology, Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader on my reading stand. I think it was one of the last books published by Sasha Alyson, before the press was sold, and sold again, and sold again, alas.
But I’m not deaf, nor am I Deaf (culturally deaf). I have what they call “moderate” (What did you say?) hearing loss. It’s an amazingly common problem, but you wouldn’t know it to read our lit.

So I was thrilled to find Mean Little deaf Queer, Terry Galloway’s memoir about growing up in the fifties and sixties with fluctuating hearing loss, about making it through school (and not), about her theatre career, and, well, about growing up a dyke in the midst of it all. It’s fierce and wonderful and powerful on all fronts and is my go-to book for validating the anger that goes with hearing loss. I wish that everyone in the queer community would read it. It was published in 2009 and I’ve been eagerly awaiting a sequel. No luck yet, but I did see Galloway’s animated short film, The Performance of Drowning, at the gay film festival this year, a hilarious (and autobiographical and much too short) tale of the extremes a little queer girl will go to land in the arms of disabled-kid summer camp’s most beautiful swimming instructress.
I’m not the only one who liked it:

“This is a damn fine piece of work which is unbelievably powerful….true and passionate and fearless and funny as hell when it is not heartbreaking. I expect this book to charm the hell out of great numbers of people, piss off a few, and give hope to many more.” –Dorothy Allison. 

“Not your mother’s triumph-of-the-human-spirit memoir….. She’s also caustic, depraved, utterly disinhibited, and somehow sweetly bubbly, a beguiling raconteuse who periodically leaps onto the dinner table and stabs you with her fork.”–Alison Bechdel

More recently I found Brian Selznick’s brilliant Wonder Struck, a tale in text and illustration about two children, two generations apart, who experience their hearing loss differently, in their respective times. Ben’s tale of running away to New York to find his father is told in words; Rose’s story of running away (to New York) find her beautiful actress mother is told in pictures — the way she views the world. There’s no overt queer content (though I’d make a wager on young Ben’s future), but it’s richly informed by the author’s own outsider-queer worldview, and that works just fine for me. Writer and illustrator Selznick won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Only $29.95 for 600+ pages. If you ever indulge in YA or late-grades lit, go for it!

But back on  the adult side, lacking lesbian lit that deals with hearing loss, at the moment I’m making do with the straight male protagonist in David Lodges’ deaf sentence, in which a recently retired linguistics professor, one Desmond Bates, runs smack into all of the frustrations (and isolation) of increasing hearing loss and more than a few critical misunderstandings when he can’t quite make out someone’s words. Spot on accurate on the travails of hearing loss and hilariously funny if you’ve ever found yourself in any of these situations. And even if you haven’t. Published in the USA by Penguin.

Mean Little deaf Queer
Terry Galloway
Beacon Press
$16, paperback

WonderStruck
Brian Selznick
Scholastic
$29.95 cloth
Published Fall 2011, so a paperback edition may be out soon.

deaf sentence
David Lodges
Penguin
$15, paperback