So, apparently I didn’t pick up a single book in May?
For anyone wondering: yes, I did have a Book of the Month – Darling Girl by Liz Michalski.
Anyway, I’m back*. I’m here. I’m queer.
*lightly – I’m in a reading slump hangover.
Category is (obviously): Gay Reads.
Happy Pride to those who celebrate [and/or tolerate]!
(acknowledgment is enough)
this blog post was written while “We Exist” by Arcade Fire plays in the background
MONTHLY FAST FACTS
Book of the Month: Stop the presses! I actually…skipped this month – for the first time ever.
Genre of the month: Romance
Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets
Call Me Cassandra by Marcial Gala
Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent by Dan Healey
Drag Noir by K.A. Laity
The Broken H by J. L. Langley
Vulgar Genres: Gay Pornographic Writing and Contemporary Fiction by Steven Rusczycky
June is Pride Month, and I wanted to focus my reads this month around that. I wanted to put an emphasis on queer history and learn more about how we got to where we are today.
I went in the month with these grandiose plans of consuming an ungodly amount of non-fiction and had a June TBR that was long enough to require scrolling. With everything going on in Ukraine & Russia right now, I also wanted to pay particular attention to that area of the Europe through my reads.
While I can ~technically~ check off those boxes this month, I ultimately wrapped Pride Month with a less-than-stellar completed list. After not reading a single book last month, the post-reading slump fog hasn’t fully cleared. I didn’t even choose a Book of the Month for June.
‘THE LIBRARY IS OPEN’
To kick off this roundup of reads, let’s get the aggressors in the Ukrainian war out of the way.
Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent by Dan Healey is the first full-length study of same-sex love in any period of Russian or Soviet history.
I’m not gonna lie: I most definitely did not read this in one sitting. It took me almost the entire month, off-and-on, to get through it – not because it’s not a good book, but because it’s simply not a breezy joyride. It’s a lot of information to to take in and consume. But, thank you to Dan Healey for putting in the work so that we have the option to take in and consume said information.
Sticking with the non-fiction & queer history, I also picked up a copy of Vulgar Genres: Gay Pornographic Writing and Contemporary Fiction by Steven Ruszczycky while I was at the library.
Ruszczycky’s research examines gay pornographic writing, showing how literary fiction was both informed by pornography and amounts to a commentary on the genre’s relation to queer male erotic life.
My first (cognizant) foray into gay pornographic writing was back during my freshman year of high school.
Question of all the queers – straights, keep scrolling. I’ll give you a signal when it’s okay to come back.
Ok, now that it’s just us: Do you remember being in middle school and going to like a Target or wherever and just being drawn to the underwear aisle? Like even if you weren’t at the store to buy underwear you’d somehow venture on over to the men’s section and sneak a couple peeks at the models in the underwear on the packages, playing it off as coyly as possible so your mom wouldn’t notice, and thinking you were looking at elite pornography before you even knew what pornography actually was?
Accidentally coming across this book’s cover online was just like that. It was the first time I had seen a cover like it. Sure, I’d seen the hetero paperback romance books at the pharmacy when I’d go with my mom to pick up a prescription. But, two dudes? With unbuttoned shirts? There was an underwear aisle in book form?
I remember downloading a copy of this book onto my iPad off a site that was probably riddled with viruses. I distinctly remember coming across the first explicit sex scene in the book – it was the first time I had ever come across anything like it in a book. From that point forward, I stopped reading the book and just started skimming it – using the highlighter tool to mark every explicit scene I could find.
I thought I had Christopher Columbus-ed a genre (read: “discovered,” but it had been there the whole time and was very clearly previously established). It was my secret; and, I was ashamed I had it – but, the secret shame just heightened my curiosity about it; and, I kept sneaking peeks.
Cut to 12-13 years later, when I saw that my Genre Challenge for June was Romance, I knew it needed to be a gay one given the overlap with Pride Month. I couldn’t think of a singular gay romance book. After the briefest of Google searches, there it was: an image of my underwear aisle cowboys – almost as some sort of clandestine repressed-queer-kid fate, the book had found its way back to me.
OK, straights, you can come back now!
The book is about a ranch hand and a sheriff that are brought back together by an accident and are forced to sort through their past with each other. That’s basically the plot, and the rest is just filled in with gay porn – except you can get it at the library instead of downloading it off the internet (you bet your ass I went to the self-checkout and not to an actual librarian).
If you thought it was wild that I hadn’t seen a gay romance book until my freshman year of high school (straights: don’t worry about it), wait until you get a load of this [no pun intended (straights: don’t worry about it, either – unless you’re curious; call me, we’ll talk)].
I had not seen a drag queen until my senior year of college.
Additionally, I had neither seen nor heard of “Dick Tracy” (1990) until after college.
So, when I accidentally came across Drag Noir edited by K.A. Laity on the shelf at the library, I was gooped and gagged.
It’s a collection of short stories that combine the two things in the title. It’s that simple. And, seeing as how late in life I was to both of those things, I thought it was an appropriate title to slip in so late in the month to round out* my June gay reads.
*While “Drag Noir” was the last gay read of June, it wasn’t the last of my gay reads roundup – Call Me Cassandra by Marcial Gala was the first book that I had read this month (I just wanted to get the Russians out of the way – no shade to their country’s queer history, there’s just a lot going on over there right now).
It’s translated from Spanish by Anna Kushner and follows an effeminate Cuban boy named Raul who was born in the wrong body and time, who believes himself to be a doomed prophetess from ancient Greek mythology.
DONATE TO UKRAINE
not a clever section title but an actual call to action
I chose to read Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets for two reasons:
1) my Quarter 2 Genre Challenge this year was Translated Text
2) I wanted to put an emphasis on Russia/Ukraine with my reading this month
“Lucky Breaks” is translated from Ukrainian and is a collection of short stories about women living in the shadow of war in Ukraine. The publisher’s description encompasses it best:
Through a series of unexpected encounters, we are pulled into the ordinary lives of these anonymous women: a florist, a cosmetologist, card players, readers of horoscopes, the unemployed, and a witch who catches newborns with a mitt. One refugee tries unsuccessfully to leave her broken umbrella behind as if it were a sick relative; a private caregiver in a disputed zone saves her elderly charge from the angel of death; a woman sits down on International Women’s Day and can no longer stand up; a soldier decides to marry war. Belorusets threads these tales of ebullient survival with a mix of humor, verisimilitude, the undramatic, and a profound Gogolian irony. She also weaves in twenty-three photographs that, in lyrical and historical counterpoint, form their own remarkable visual narrative.