Tag Archives: st. martin’s press

When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History by Hugh Ryan

When Brooklyn Was Queer Title: When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History
Author: Hugh Ryan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 978-1250169914
Genre: LGBT Nonfiction, Social and Cultural History
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

I had never read something like this before – yes cities and the queer culture did merge in books and I have read parts of it, but nothing like this book. I honestly also believe that every city’s culture needs to be talked about through the people who live on its margins, and maybe that’s why this book hit a nerve the way it did. When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History by Hugh Ryan is the kind of book we all need to read, irrespective of orientation and labels.

The story begins in 1855 with the publication of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and ends in the 1960s when Brooklyn’s queer identity declined, due to several factors. You have to read this book only because the way Ryan unearths how there was a systematic erasure of the queer history of Brooklyn. What must one remember then? Who decides that? What is at the core of people’s histories and more than anything else of places?

Not only this, this book is fantastic if you want to get to know people’s voices and lives – queer lives – right from the famous drag kings and queens of the 1800s, of a black lesbian named Mabel Hampton and how she worked as a dancer, of a WWII gay spy scandal and so much more between its pages.

Ryan’s writing is never just a dry documentation of facts. There is so much more to it. There is tenderness and empathy and above all it is a voice that strives to let people know more. Also, the nuances of gender identity, orientation, and sometimes even race are handled with such a sense of larger understanding of issues, that it makes you want to read more.

More than anything else it is about resistance and no matter what governments do or stand for, people will always continue to live the way they want to, which should be at the core of every identity battle. Ryan’s research is spot-on, so much so that you instantly feel that you are in that world, the minute you start reading the book. He shares letters, diary entries, and publication excerpts to support and validate his arguments of what was erased and how it was found.

What I loved the most was the beautiful prologue – a short one at that but so effective – a glimpse into the lives of Gypsy Rose Lee and Carson McCullers, and from thereon begins what it means to be “queer”.

When Brooklyn Was Queer is one of those rare books that makes you want to sit up and take notice of what’s going on in the world. The past, present, and future merge seamlessly in this account of what history allows us and what it doesn’t. The small joys, sorrows, the sacrifices made, the lives that carry on regardless, and most of all what it means to be queer is what this remarkable book is about. Do not miss out on this read.

 

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When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

When They Call You A Terrorist Title: When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Authors: Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 978-1250171085
Genre: Non-Fiction, Social Rights
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

This book will not be an easy read. Not because it is written in a difficult to understand manner, but because the lives spoken of haven’t been easy. So, if you get squeamish easy, then this book isn’t for you. This book is about the world and how it is, how it always was – how racism is so deep-rooted that it might take ages before it is wiped out completely. And yet, this book does not only deal with the issue of racism or schizoaffective disorder, it deals with identity and the basic right to live, which should not be taken away from anyone at all.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors life has not been an easy one at all. Being sheltered and fed wasn’t easy while she was growing up. As I have mentioned, her brother who suffers from schizoaffective disorder and a mother who works from dawn to dusk, just to ensure the kids are fed and clothed.

What upsets me the most is the involvement of the police when it comes to mental health organizations when it comes to checks or emergencies. I mean how would they know what it means to be mentally unstable and what one goes through? But that is just one part of the story.

The crux of the book is what it means to be black in today’s world and how unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality causes havoc in people’s lives. Patrisse outraged the most in 2013, when Travyon Martin’s killer went free, which led to the formation of Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele give you insights into how it is to survive in the face of violent racism. We think nothing is going on, that we live in evolved times, but that is all well and good in the comfort of our homes. What happens in the world is simply horrific.

“When They Call You A Terrorist” hits hard (like it should) and will make you think twice about how sometimes we behave when it comes to people who are different from us. This is a book that is most needed for our times. The situations and people will always remain the same, till an entire culture changes, the one that says Black Lives Matter.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 978-1250049377
Genre: Fiction, Domestic Life, Women’s Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Rainbow Rowell is the new favourite amongst both, teens and adults. I had heard a lot about Fangirl and Eleanor and Park from a lot of friends and other people. I even bought Eleanor and Park and never got around to reading it. Till “Landline” reached me and I thought of giving it a shot and I was so right in reading it.

“Landline” is about adult relationships, a marriage gone wrong and yet it will also appeal to teenagers, given that most part of the book is about Georgie McCool and Neal’s teenage years. Georgie McCool and Neal have been married for fifteen years and have two daughters, Alice and Naomi. Neal is a stay-at-home Dad and Georgie is a sitcom writer, working crazy hours. She tries to make time for her family, however she is much focused when it comes to her work and perhaps has been losing perspective of the larger things in life.

She skips the Christmas trip to her in-laws in Omaha and her family leaves without her. Neal does not say anything. She is left behind alone in Los Angeles. She feels that her marriage is on the rocks. Till she goes to her mother’s house and life takes a surprising turn when her old landline becomes a way of connecting with her past and with the Neal in the past. Georgie feels that she has been given a chance to fix her life, to fix Neal’s life, to maybe fix their marriage.

“Landline” is a fast read and at the same time, it makes you question your relationships as well. The book is funny as well, more so when it comes to Georgie’s friends and partners, Seth and Scott. I liked the pace of the book and also the way the book is written. The chapters are short (which I personally love) and the pages turn at a very fast pace. Rowell brings to life regular slice-of-life situations with her spin to things. I mean, who could have imagined a story about a relationship and a Landline as the communication means to fix all follies.

“Landline” is a book meant for all – for those who are just starting out in a relationship, for those who are a couple of years in a relationship and for ones who are on rocky road. “Landline” will just make you want to grab the phone and tell your loved one how much you love him or her.

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Book Review: The Four Stages of Cruelty by Keith Hollihan

Title: The Four Stages of Cruelty
Author: Keith Hollihan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press / Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Crime Fiction, Literary Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-312-59247-9
PP: 304 Pages
Source: Author
Price: $25.99
Rating: 5/5

“Four Stages of Cruelty” is a precise description of life behind bars as seen through both the prisoner’s and the guard’s viewpoints. It’s chilling. Kali is one of the few female guard’s at her facility and she feels like an outsider. Nineteen year old Josh is one of the youngest and newest prisoners and is completely lost as he tries to settle into life behind bars. Hollihan tells his story through both Kali and Josh’s eyes though Josh’s voice rings truer.

Josh’s next door cellmate Crawley has drawn a cartoon booklet and when feels his life is endangered he gives it to Josh for safekeeping. Josh doesn’t know what the drawings mean but senses they’re important so he tries to pass the booklet to Kali when she escorts him to his father’s funeral. Kali refuses to take it but continues to worry about its significance. She begins to investigate as riots break out in the prison knowing the booklet and the escalating violence are related.

How can you tell who’s right and wrong when everyone around you seems to have ulterior motives? What is the nature of evil and goodness, and who gets to define that and why? Are people capable of lasting change or will they take advantage of you for being compassionate?

The lines between good and bad are constantly blurred in this novel, and the tension comes from guard Kali Williams’ struggle with the byzantine interests at play within the prison and what those interests say about the more nefarious aspects of human nature. The dialogue is spot-on and Hollihan’s writing is so convincing, I thought he had to have been a corrections officer or convict in a previous life (he’s just talented as hell and did incredible research, it turns out).

I like both literary and crime fiction, but I really love novels that blur the lines between those uber-genres. This is one of those books. In some ways it reminded me of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (Kali Williams as Marlowe), but it also had the kinetic energy of a James Ellroy novel.

There are lots of twists and turns and a great ending in this book. Hollihan is very successful in keeping the reader’s interest though Kali comes across as a bit mechanical. His play with who is more imprisoned, the jailer or the jailed, is fascinating and clearly delineated; the best part of the book in my opinion. I can’t wait to read more from Hollihan.

You can also purchase the book here on Flipkart