Posts Tagged ‘friday reads’

Friday Reads: Better

June 24, 2011  |  reviews  |  2 Comments

Because there isn’t much else to do, I am working.

Reading books, going through to do lists. I’m webmastering for both Butch Voices national conference and Cialis online orderingcgi?CA=929655-0003&PA=1694067&html=http://femme-cash.com/affiliates/feminist-porn-network/1514″>Perversions of Lesbian Lust, and I’m working on some freelance projects. I’m keeping my inbox as emptied out as possible (sometimes I use it as a place to hold information. I know, the GTD and time management people would not like that. But sometimes it really helps me find that info quick).

I have a lot of reviews to do. There are a lot of products on my desk waiting patiently for me to get ‘em out and play with them. A lot of DVDs, quite a few books, some toys, especially from the new “Gender Expression” category at Babeland. I’m excited about these products, but it doesn’t make much sense to toss in a random review post now. I don’t even like that that piercing & body mod post is in the last page of updates. It doesn’t make sense here, not part of the narrative of the last week.

Has it really only been a week? Only barely.

I picked up and finished Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev this week. It’s not quite the same as coping with grief and loss, but it was interesting to think about how creativity can be a tool. In a conversation with my tantra teacher recently, she said some of her most creative growth periods have come out of profound grief.

I picked up Live Through This—or rather, the fine folks at Seven Stories Press sent me Live Through This when they sent me Rose—but I was drawn to it because of the amazing writers included. Seriously, look at that lineup: bell hooks, Patricia Smith, Cristy C. Road, Carol Queen, Annie Sprinkle, Elizabeth Stephens, Carolyn Gage, Eileen Myles, Diane DiMassa, Bonfire Madigan Shive, Inga Muscio, Kate Bornstein, Nicole Blackman, Silas Howard, Daphne Gottleib—and more. I loved Inga Muscio’s piece, but I’ve loved her style and voice and words for ages now and that’s no surprise. I had no idea that Kate Bornstein draws, and I loved the insight into her life that she opened up in her very personal essay. Eileen Myles’s essay freaked me out because it was about teeth, shudder, but it sure was effective. I love Nicole Blackman’s poetry and her piece was incredibly moving.

I’ve also been reading It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living edited by Dan Savage & Terry Miller. I’m supposed to review it for Lambda Literary, but I don’t even know what to say about it; so many people have said so many things. It is such a stunningly successful campaign, and I love what it has done and what it has inspired. I’ve been watching It Gets Better videos this week, reminding myself that it does get better, even when sometimes it doesn’t seem like it will.

I didn’t realize what a stellar line-up the It Gets Better book had in it, either. Ivan Coyote! Kate Bornstein. President Obama. It’s amazing, the list goes on and on. And sometimes the ones that are the most moving aren’t from anybody in particular, just someone who happens to be articulate about their gay experience and what it was like for them to make it better, or how it got better.

I’ve also been mulling over Kate Bornstein’s Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suidcide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws, and over Kate’s addition to It Gets Better, which is the essay that closes the book. It’s still one of my favorites.

So I’m trying to remember to take care of myself, to do whatever I need to stay alive, to keep going. This weekend, I think that’s going to involve cherry picking and watching a movie or two and hanging out with good friends, going outside to feel connected to the earth, reading some more books, eating strawberry shortcake made with our very fresh, very ripe CSA strawberries. And continuing to breathe, one more breath at a time.

Ask Me Anything: My Favorite Smut

May 6, 2011  |  reviews  |  5 Comments

Meredith asked:

I’m excited for the anthology and your turn at editing. I’ve read some of your other published pieces and of course this blog so it begs the question: What is YOUR favorite smut to read? Got a favorite anthology? Author?

Oh sure, I have a few thoughts about that.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday changed my life and was significantly formative to my sexuality. I hunted down a copy in the last year or so and was pleasantly surprised that her opening introduction is still amazing and relevant, though that’s also kind of sad—it was published in 1973, it is almost forty years old, yet the limitations, stereotypes, and restrictions placed on women are still relevant. I wish I still had my teenage copy with the spine broken at all the best places.

Amazing single-author smut books are hard to come by, so the anthologies are easier to mention. I love Doing it for Daddy edited by Patrick Califia, Back to Basics: A Butch/Femme Anthology edited by Therese Szymanski (especially “The Trick” by Amie M. Evans), and Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino—but those are very specific to my butch/femme and daddy orientations, so they might not be your favorites. I adore the stories “Poster Boy” by Carol Queen and “Dress Leather” (one of my favorite short stories ever, of any genre) by Robin Sweeney in Switch Hitters: Lesbians Write Gay Male Erotica and Gay Men Write Lesbian Erotica, edited by Carol Queen & Lawrence Schimel. The stories “Clash of the Titans” by Karlyn Lotney and “Ridin’ Bitch” by Toni Amato in Best Lesbian Erotica 1998 edited by Taormino were very formative for me, as I started obsessing over lesbian erotica in the late 90s while I was working up the nerve to leave my boyfriend and come out, and they are cock-centric and butch/femme in a way that made me realize that I still had a lot more to explore.

I’ve also been really into the “sudden sex” stories lately, the super short ones. Often the longer short stories feel like they just drag on to me, especially when I just want to pick something up in order to get off and I’m not leisurely reading. Got a Minute?: 60 Second Erotica edited by Alison Tyler and Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex edited by Alison Tyler are great, and Rachel Kramer Bussel just put one out called Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex (which I have a story in, but the book is good regardless). I’d pick up just about anything Rachel publishes, she has great taste and her anthologies are always well done.

    
    

It’s harder for a single author to sustain an entire book, so there aren’t as many of those that I go to when I want inspiration (for writing or for getting off). I am kind of in love with Mr. Benson by John Preston and The Leather Daddy and the Femme by Carol Queen. I have read them both many times. I can’t believe it took me this long to read Mr. Benson.

Cherry by Charlotte Cooper, Breathless by Kitty Tsui, and Macho Sluts or Boy in the Middle by Patrick Califia (or just about anything by Califia, really) are also amazing and worth reading. It’s been a while since I read Cherry but it comes to mind immediately as fun and readable and great.

I also really love Jack Stratton’s stuff at WritingDirty.com, especially What’s in a Name. He’s got an eBook of Writing Dirty volume 1 which I haven’t purchased yet (I should go do that right now), but I’ve read all the pieces on the site (seriously I’m sure I’ve read every single one), so I highly recommend the collection if you’d rather read it on your reader than in a blog-form.

Other things I read online … well, I read a lot of Daddy/girl stories these days. I’ve been quite enjoying the recent Bedtime Stories blog. I still think The Provocateur has some of the best writing ever, but it’s generally more literary and fancy than I turn to when I want to get off. For that, I like the quick and dirty stuff.

Many of these books can be found on my smut bookshelf … and there are more of my favorites in my Amazon A-store.

And now, what about you all? What are your favorite books of smut? Got any recommendations for things that I perhaps haven’t read? What is your go-to story when you want to get off? What do you love in an erotic story?

Friday Reads: More of This World Or Maybe Another

April 29, 2011  |  reviews  |  1 Comment

I finished More of This World Or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson recently for the monthly queer book group I’ve been in for almost five years, and it was phenomenal. At April’s meeting we all agreed it’s one of the best books we’ve ever read in book club—even the usual folks who hate all the books or don’t generally like fiction really enjoyed it.

It is incredibly well written. I was at times in awe of her sentences. It’s a collection of short stories, but they are all linked with the same characters, switching perspectives and sometimes decades to show the interconnectedness of a small southern community in New Orleans.

It is at times violent and heartbreaking. The abuse is awful. A child is forced to slaughter a pig and I found that part unreadable, because it was so well done. The lovely relationship between Delia and her partner is so real. I kind of miss these characters, now that I’ve finished the book.

I have much to do today, so I must cut this short and get to it. Just want to encourage you to pick up a good book over the weekend, be it this one or another.

Oh, one more quick bit of news: The Publishing Triangle’s annual award ceremony was last night, you can check out all the winners over on their website if you need more recommendations for good stuff to read. Wish I’d attended but my week was too busy (it’s free and open to the public!). Lambda Literary’s award ceremony is coming up on May 26th and I wouldn’t miss it, I was a judge this year and I just interviewed Val McDermid for the program (!!). I’m especially excited to meet Amber Dawn who wrote Sub Rosa.

Pick up More of This World or Maybe Another at your local independent bookstore, or over on Amazon if you must.

Friday Reads: Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio

April 8, 2011  |  reviews  |  3 Comments

I won’t lie: Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Inga Muscio’s first book, changed my life. In fact, when I got Rose: Love in Violent Times in the mail last week, it made me want to pick up Cunt, and I started talking about it even as I was reading Rose. Kristen picked up Cunt this week (can you believe she’s never read it? I would have gifted her a copy two years and four months ago had I known that, I just assume everyone has) and has enjoyed reading it on her morning subway commute (and then I get to hear the stories later—love that).

While Kristen has been reading it this week, she remarked on how dated it seems, and I realized that it was published 13 years ago. Not only that, but it’s a very western American perspective, which struck me from reading Rose, how western Muscio’s voice and perspective is. It makes me a bit nostalgic, to be honest, and homesick, missing the culture on the west coast.

Rose is a bit different. Just released by Seven Stories Press, they describe the book with this question: “Rose breaks new ground in answering a fundamental question in most feminist and antiracist writing: how do we identify, witness, and then recover from trauma—as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a country?” I love this, it is fascinating and deep and hits on many of the things that I’m interested in exploring, especially around queer and gender stuff, but Muscio tackles larger (primarily US-focused) questions of war, rape, and abuse. I found it hard to read, because it was so direct and descriptive in the wrong-doings that surround us in this (western, US) culture. Of course, that’s also precisely the point, so though it was difficult to read, it was also quite successful.

I wish I could say that those questions of witnessing and recovering from trauma were addressed, though I think the “love” section of this book was a bit lacking. Maybe I just read it too quickly, maybe I wasn’t taking it to heart the same way I took in the “violence” section. I do think it’s important to participate in the healing process, not just for myself but for the culture, and Rose did a great job of inspiring more hard work towards those lofty goals, which I appreciate.

I’d be less inclined to pick it up again, however. Not like I am inspired to pick up Cunt or even Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil, Muscio’s second book. Still, all of her books are worth reading, and I adore her style and tone. But Cunt is the one I go back to again and again. As soon as Kristen’s done with it, I may just re-read it myself, it’s been a few years.

Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio was sent to me by Seven Stories Press to review. Pick it up at your local independent queer feminist activist bookstore, or directly from the publisher, or order it online from Amazon, if you must.

Friday Reads: Lambda Lit & Publishing Triangle Awards

March 18, 2011  |  reviews  |  1 Comment

This week, the Lambda Literary Awards and Publishing Triangle Awards announced their finalists for their 2011 prizes.

I was a judge this year (can I reveal that yet?—I won’t tell you what for until I know for sure) so I’ve been reading reading reading many books in the past few months. I read a lot anyway, but this has been a crunch. It was exciting to have a part in choosing the best ones.

The Lammys award ceremony will be held Thursday, May 26, 2011 at the School of Visual Arts Theater in New York City (333 W. 23rd St), followed by a private after-party nearby. I’ve attended the last two years (and wrote about them both for CarnalNation.com), and I’ll be attending again this year. It’s such a pleasure to show up and be familiar with so many of the books and authors, so many of the presenters and judges, and to feel like I’m really part of the queer literary community.

(And next year, I’ll have my own book out!)

I encourage you to look through these great lists and pick a couple to read, even if you don’t usually read queer stuff, even if you don’t care about the awards, just to show your support. I still have quite a lot more I would love to read, I haven’t read any of the poetry this year, and there are many that I haven’t Here’s a couple of my favorites—out of the ones that I’ve read, anyway—that I highly recommend.

  
  

Two of the nominees even include my stories: Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 and Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica.

Friday Reads: Dear John, I Love Jane

January 28, 2011  |  reviews  |  12 Comments

Seal Press recently released a much needed addition to queer identity narratives in the anthology Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre.

What do you think of when you think about a coming out story? Typically in this culture, the main character of a coming out narrative tends to be a teenager, either pre-teen or late teens, someone who either has always been a bit different or is suddenly hit with the sexual revelation that they might be gay. Despite that coming out as a teenager seems, to me, to be actually a somewhat recent phenomenon, and that people coming out even ten or fifteen years ago were more likely to be college-age rather than high school age, which I would largely attribute to the rise of the Internet and the vast amount of information easily accessible by just typing “gay” into a search engine or, at this point, speaking one word into a search program on a smart phone, there is still a significant lack of literature available about people who come out later in life. Though the coming out process continues to happen younger and younger, the dominant stories are still about people in their tumultuous twenties, which is frequently when we formulate and articulate our adult sexual identities, often for the first time.

But what about someone coming out in their late thirties, forties, fifties? What about someone who has spent most of their life heterosexual, married and raising kids? Often, these stories are not reflected in queer literature and culture. We tend to value and legitimize the folks who express that we “always knew” that something was off about us, queer identities that started giving hints in childhood and were full-on signs by our adolescences.

Which is why this anthology is a much needed addition to the body of work on queer identity; we have so few stories about what it’s like to form these identities later in life. In this book, “later in life” is defined quite broadly, as some of the participants are still quite young and have, in my mind, had fairly typical coming out experiences.

While I was reading through these essays, I felt that it was important to keep in mind that they are personal reflections about the authors’ own experiences, and while there is great value in telling those stories, and this book is beginning to fill a neglected gap, they are not necessarily radical or particularly theoretical, and in fact perpetuate many stereotypes about lesbianism and gender in particular. In fact, the consistent commentary on gendered lesbian stereotypes in so many of the essays made me wonder if those stereotypes were a reflection upon the editors’ beliefs. Perhaps the reader was meant to assume that these were former stereotypes that the narrators held, and that their understandings have deepened and become more complex, but none of the essays directly addressed the vast inaccurate outsider observations toward the lesbian communities and none of the essays directly took on any sort of understanding of how complex gender identity and expression is in the queer and lesbian worlds.

I know that a complex understanding of gender is a lot to expect, and that I am particularly critical of representations of gender that are heteronormative and perpetuating stereotypes, but I was disappointed in the consistent portrayal throughout this book. I do think it is an important to add to the dominant paradigm of coming out and coming to queer identities, and certainly it gives a solid base on which others can now build. But I am cautious in recommending it, since I think it perpetuates more stereotypes than it challenges.

Friday Reads: Best Lesbian Erotica 2011

December 17, 2010  |  reviews  |  1 Comment

I had the pleasure of reading at Kathleen Warnock‘s New York City literary series Drunken! Careening! Writers! on Thursday night in celebration of the new release from Cleis Press, Best Lesbian Erotica 2011, in which I have a story.

Kiki DeLovely, Xan West, Charlotte Dare, D.L. King, Theda Hudson, and I all read excerpts from our pieces included in this year’s book, and Kathleen read from her introduction (and was her all-around amazing hostess self).

It was a blast of an event. It’s become a little bit of a holiday tradition, since BLE always comes out around this time of year and Kathleen has hosted the official New York City kickoff for quite a while, for as long as I’ve been in New York anyway. Kathleen always jokes, “Pick one up for grandma. Perfect gift.”

It’s my favorite erotica series. The quality is always amazing, and the 2011 edition is no exception. I think Kathleen said there are contributors from six different countries this year! I had to mention it in my recent Cliterotica: Lesbian Erotica Roundup for Lambda Literary Foundation, regardless that I have a story in there it’s an incredible anthology.

Here’s the description:

Edited by Kathleen Warnock, Selected and introduced by Lea DeLaria. In Best Lesbian Erotica 2011, women find love and lust in all the right places – kitchens, cars, dance clubs, dungeons, and even a flowerbed. This year’s guest judge is the anything-but-shy Lea DeLaria, the multi-talented writer, stand-up comic, singer, and actor. She has selected work from some of the best-known writers of lesbian erotic fiction as well as debuts of startling new talents. A 1958 Mercury Park Lane rides like a sexual time machine in D.L. King’s “Walk Like a Man.” In Betty Blue’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” a lost boi encounters a firespirit on a romantic celestial plane. In Kiki DeLovely’s “The Third Kiss,” a woman discovers it’s not a good idea to tell your crush your dreams about her – unless you want them to come true.

And remember, there’s a 20% discount on orders by December 31st. Or you can always pick it up from Amazon if you must.

Friday Reads: How To Build A Fire by Erin Bried

December 10, 2010  |  reviews  |  No Comments

Remember Erin Bried’s first book, How To Sew A Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew? This week she releases her second book, How To Build A Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew. One of those things might be just right for that person on your holiday gift list you haven’t bought anything for yet, hmm?

Here’s the description:

As members of the Greatest Generation, our grandfathers were not only defined by the Depression but also by their heroic service to the country in World War II. Courageous, responsible, and involved, they understand sacrifice, hard work, and how to do whatever is necessary to take care of their loved ones. They also know how to have a rollicking good time.

Sensible, fun, and inspiring, How to Build a Fire offers a rare glimpse into the hearts and minds of grandfathers near and far by sharing their practical skills and sweet stories on how to be stronger, smarter, richer, and happier. Inside are more than one hundred essential step-by-step tips for fixing, leading, prospering, playing, and hosting, including how to

• buck up and be brave in the face of adversity
• play hard and break in a baseball mitt
• bait a hook and catch a big fish
• look dapper and tie a perfect tie
• get a raise and earn more
• write a love letter and kindle romance
• change a flat tire and save the day
• stand up and give a sparkling toast
• play the harmonica and make your own music

Loaded with charming illustrations, good humor, and warm nostalgia, How to Build a Fire is the perfect handbook for guys or gals of any age. The first of its kind, this collection of our grandfathers’ hard-earned wisdom will help you build confidence and get back to what’s really important in life.

I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, really, but it’s so much fun to flip through.

Check out howtobuildafirebook.com or follow Erin on Twitter @niftybutton.

Friday Reads: Sex, Gender, & Erotica By Cleis Press

November 19, 2010  |  reviews  |  No Comments

October and November have kind of gotten away from me, with three conferences and four college gigs and an erotic retreat and travel to three states and a new workshop, and oh yeah that whole new butch project thing. So I haven’t really been keeping up with the “Friday Reads” series I was trying to start, but I’ll just pick up where I left off, how about that.

Good timing, too, because Cleis Press, one of my favorite publishers, is having a winter holiday special: 20% off everything in stock!

We would like to extend a special invitation to Cleis Press & Viva Editions friends, family and colleagues to take advantage of our 2010 Gratitude and Giving holiday special. This is our way of saying we’re incredibly grateful for your enthusiasm, talent and support! From now until December 31st, we offer you and your network (your friends, family, coworkers, colleagues and neighbors) a 20% discount on all titles. Enter special offer code GG on your web order to receive your discount.

Here’s the fine print: Order as many or as few books as you like. Order as many times as you like. Offer good on any book in stock at time of ordering. Order through our web sites to receive discount. Must enter special offer code GG to receive discount. Cannot be combined with any other offer.

So hey, I have some recommendations for books you can pick up, if you don’t already have ‘em. And who knows, maybe somebody on your holiday gift list would like some books too, hmm?

Books Which Include My Work:

Many of these aren’t explicitly queer, but the sex is delicious and sensuous and sweet and brilliant, the power dynamics are amazing, the writing is impeccable. So file these under Classics You Should Read:

And last but not least, here’s some notable Queer Titles that I’m not in, but that I’ve read and are excellent:

I know you could probably just order all of these on Amazon, but the publisher and authors benefit greatly when you get ‘em from the source. All of these I highly recommend belong in your personal library.

Head over to Cleis Press’s website and browse through their dozens of other titles. If you like reading about sex and gender, chances are you’ll find a book or two you’ve been coveting over there.

Friday Reads: Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica

October 1, 2010  |  reviews  |  1 Comment

In keeping with the tradition I started this summer, featuring a butch or femme book on Fridays to countdown to the Femme Conference and then the Butch Voices regional conferences, I’m going to keep that up and continue featuring books on Fridays.

I was going to write about The Well Of Loneliness, Gold mentioned it when I wrote up Crybaby Butch last week and I thought, “Of course! Why didn’t I have that on my list?” It’s such a classic butch book. I expected it to be droll and depressing, but when I finally read it (in a british women writers of the ’20s class in college) it was incredible—so engaging, so well written, so articulate in the feelings of this “mannish” woman’s love for another woman. I definitely recommend picking it up, if you haven’t read it.

But … in light of the ridiculous amount of depressing news this week, let’s not even go there, let’s not mention a book called The Well of Loneliness, let’s not fall down a well of loneliness ourselves. Instead, let’s move on to something much more fun: smut.

I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s worth revisiting. Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino, is a collection of the best butch/femme stories from the 16 years Taormino was the series editor for Best Lesbian Erotica. There are very few smut books specifically and exclusively with butch/femme content; this is the most recent, and, arguably, the best.

It is steaming hot.

“Butch/femme is erotic iconography. Butch/femme is bulging jeans, smeared lipstick, stiletto heals, and sharp haircuts. It’s about being read and being seen. Sometimes it’s about passing or not passing. It’s about individual identity and a collective sense of community. It’s personal, political. It’s a sexual electricity and power exchange. It’s the visceral space between the flesh and the imagination.” — from the introduction by Tristan Taormino

Here’s the description from Cleis Press:

Does the swagger of a sure-footed butch make you swoon? Do your knees go weak when you see a femme straighten her stockings? A duet between two sorts of women, butch/femme is a potent sexual dynamic. Tristan Taormino chose her favorite butch/femme stories from the Best Lesbian Erotica series, which has sold over 200,000 copies in the 16 years she was editor. And if you think you know what goes in in the bedroom between femmes and butches, these 22 shorts will delight you with erotic surprises. In Joy Parks’s delicious “Sweet Thing,” the new femme librarian in town shows a butch baker a new trick in bed. The stud in “Tag!,” by D. Alexandria, finds her baby girl after a chase in the woods by scent alone. And the girl in a pleated skirt gets exactly what she wants from her Daddy in Peggy Munson’s “The Rock Wall.” Sometimes She Lets Me shows that it’s all about attitude — predicting who will wind up on top isn’t easy in stories by S. Bear Bergman, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Samiya A. Bashir, and many more.

Includes contributions by Alison L. Smith, Joy Parks, S. Bear Bergman, Amie M. Evans, Samiya A. Bashir, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Kristen Porter, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, D. Alexandria, Anna Watson, Shannon Cummings, A. Lizbeth Babcock, Sparky, Elaine Miller, Isa Coffey, Skian McGuire, Jera Star, Toni Amato, Peggy Munson, Sandra Lee Golvin, and Sinclair Sexsmith.

Pick it up at your favorite local independent feminist queer-friendly bookstore (if you want them to stay in business, that is), from Cleis Press directly, from Powell’s books in Portland (hi, #bvpdx!) or, if you must, from Amazon.