LGBT+ Fiction, Urban Fiction… I Have Questions

Last week I had some time and stopped by one of my favorite places, McKay’s. It’s really a treat when I have time during the week to go peruse the seemingly endless shelves of books. The store is quieter than it is on the weekend and it’s much easier to browse without having to squeeze by people. During the week, looking through the many books becomes a zen-like experience and this day was no different. Since I had time this particular day, I went down almost every aisle. I looked through the biographies, true crime, mystery, etc. As I was browsing, I turned onto an aisle that I’ve perused before. This aisle usually has nonfiction “cultural studies” titles categorized by cultural group. For example, there’s an African American Studies section and a Native American Studies section. This time, it was LGBT Studies that caught my eye. Right next to the bays of nonfiction titles about the LGBT experience are two

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Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism

A wonderfully talented friend of mine told me about Moses Sumney over tea a few days ago. I’m not sure what rock I’ve been under, but I’ve clearly been hibernating because I had no clue this creative human existed. So, I decided to go down a Moses Sumney hole starting with his debut album Aromanticism. To begin, I learned a new word—aromantic. An aromantic is someone who experiences little to no romantic attraction. In a New York Times article, Moses Sumney explains that he has never experienced romantic love and wanted to challenge a culture that values romantic love so highly: I was just bored with the love song, the idea of the love song as the archetype, and also the culture that suggests romantic love is the end-all and be-all of human existence. I wanted to question and challenge that on a personal level and on the social level — the personal is the social. I think I just felt

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I’m taking my time with a book and, for the first time, I’m enjoying it. I usually abandon books that take me too long to get through, but Michael Chabon peppers his story with sentences I have to stop and think about. It’s exhilarating.

She is getting old, and he is getting old, right on schedule, and yet as time ruins them, they are not, strangely enough, married to each other.

The Russian’s shoulders hunch, and he ducks his head, and his rib cage swells and narrows. It looks like laughter, but no sound comes out.

For an instant he handles the bones, horn, and leather of the old man’s hand.

Paying attention often requires some sort of empathy for the subject, or at the very least, for the speaker. But empathy, these days, is hard to come by. Maybe this is because everyone is having such a hard time being understood themselves. Or because empathy requires us to dig way down into the murk, deeper than our own feelings go, to a place where the boundaries between our experience and everyone else’s no longer exist.

~ Wendy S. Walters “Lonely in America” from The Fire This Time

Once a person truly dons this empathy, it demands that they keep their mouths closed and disregard everything they think they know. It requires them to listen with an awareness that opens their ears to something they’ve never heard before, something that sounds so unbelievable that, in any other context, they might think it fiction. When they choose to pay attention they may find that boundaries dissipate, but they may also find that, in some ways, the life they live is a fantasy and some wake up every day in hell.

He sighed, he moaned. He tugged in fits at the patchy remnant of his brown hair, or chased it with his fingers back and forth across his pate like a pastry chef scattering flour on a marble slab. The blunders of his opponents were each a separate cramp in the abdomen. His own moves, however daring, however startling and original and strong, struck him like successive pieces of terrible news, so that he covered his mouth and rolled his eyes at the sight of them.

~From The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon

Nobody had ever talked to me like this before: not Granddaddy, not any of my regular teachers, and definitely not Mama. In my family, we all moved in the same direction, hustling and scheming and getting nowhere. That was the path laid out in front of me. But now here was Miss Troup–in all her leather-boot and red-fingernail finery–telling me I could go another way. I took a deep breath and gazed at my reflection. You can do anything and be anything, I thought, trying it on for size. But I wasn’t totally convinced I had a place in Miss Troup’s world of “possibilities” and “potential.”

~ From Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat, Patricia Williams

When love beckons you, follow him
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

~From The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

Grief and remembrance are not sacrificed to the false gods of propriety and decorum but released into the air like primal music, channeled through the congregation in a collective discharge of pain.

~ From The Quiet Game, Greg Iles

 

I really only have one thought about Greg Iles’ The Quiet Game. It’s a thought I vaguely remember having while reading the Natchez Burning Trilogy. These stories always start with the death of black people, but end with these deaths being little more than a footnote. Sure details of their demise are woven into the twists and turns of the plot, but whiteness remains central. Then again, maybe that’s the point. Maybe Natchez, Mississippi is like most places in this country where the sudden and tragic deaths of black people are background noise to the interests of the majority.

All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose provenance dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.

~ From The Quiet Game, Greg Iles