A Pride Parade of Books!

Letter QThe Letter Q, by Sarah Moon (ed.)
In The Letter Q, award-winning queer authors share hope to their younger selves. They write a love letter of sorts about life…relationships, sex, exes, addiction, marriage, pain, crushes, self-harm, secrets, not fitting in, and being queer. A remarkable anthology that is honest and forthright about being queer and what to expect. The letters are funny, inspiring, tender, heartbreaking, and frank. – Seth

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On Being DifferentOn Being Different, by Merle Miller
In 1971, Merle Miller (biographer of Ike Eisenhower and hardly a radical) was fed up with keeping silent in the face of constant slights, slurs, discrimination, and violence…so he came out in The New York Times. If you wonder why we needed a gay rights movement or if you think nothing changes, read this. With a foreword by Dan Savage. Thank you! – Karen

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Queer and Pleasant DangerA Queer & Pleasant Danger, by Kate Bornstein
Despite more than a decade in dubious Scientology, Kate Bornstein musters a level of grace and compassion all but unimaginable to me. Her memoir bowled me over! It’s funny, surprising, sexy, and shocking. If there is any greater pioneer more deeply devoted to queer rights and solidarity, I don’t know who they are! – Dave

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Gender and Sexuality for Beginners

Gender & Sexuality for Beginners, by Jaimee Garbacik

A documentary resource guide meets comic book in this fantastic, engaging primer on gender and sexuality. Whether you are new to the topics or already well-versed, you’ll find yourself engrossed in this book as it takes you through history, current culture, theory, biology, neuroscience, and other elements of the sex-gender system. Challenging and thought-provoking, this is a book we’ve needed for a while! – Justus

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CrushBad IndiansBad Indians, by Deborah Miranda
Beloved poet, essayist, and writing teacher now has a most unconventional poetic, illustrated memoir! – Karen

Crush, by Richard Siken
Surreal yet tactile, dark yet playful. Long sustained lines in a belief that the right margin was “greatness,” and revolving images that charge shape and meaning within the poems and overall collection. A book alive on every line! – Amanda

End of San FranciscoThe End of San Francisco, by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
This memoir oozes devastation and glamour, twirling around the Nineties like it’s San Francisco, and San Francisco like it’s the Nineties! Back when queers and anarchists and vegans fueled the political momentum in the Mission District. But, honey, things are different now. The Nineties are over, and so is San Francisco. Maybe disillusionment and rejuvenation aren’t so different when you’re ready to go deeper still. – Dave

No Straight LinesTrevorTrevor: A Novella, by James Lescene
A most familiar story for many kids who struggle with being “different” from the supposed norm. Trevor struggles with his sexual identity and is bullied because of it. With a positive outcome, Trevor is a must-read!! – Seth

No Straight Lines, by Justin Hall (ed.)
Thank our glittering stars for the incomparable efforts that brought together forty ravishing years of camp, critique, drama, and wit! This anthology of queer comics has so much to offer: queens, dykes, transmen, transwomen, bisexuals — Oh my! It’s a thing of beauty. – Dave

AdaptationAdaptation, by Malinda Lo
Twenty-seven days after the world took a turn for the worse, Reese wakes up in a military hospital without any memories of the time she spent there. When she’s released a few days later, she’s told she can’t tell anyone what happened to her and that she’s fine. Except she’s not fine. She’s different and doesn’t know how or why. Adaptation kept me riveted from beginning to end! This is one sci-fi novel that will keep you in suspense to the very end. – Justus

Does Jesus Really Love Me

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Does Jesus Really Love Me?, by Jeff Chu
How do Christians feel about homosexuality–it’s not as cut and dried as you might think and even Evangelicals are shifting in their thinking. Many powerful stories here in a book well worth reading, regardless of your point of view or religious orientation. – Karen

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be NormalWhy Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson
Winterson’s semi-autobiographical novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, told the story of a young girl’s abusive childhood dominated by a fanatical, Pentecostal adoptive mother with a special fondness for the apocalypse. This memoir, written 27 years later, fleshes out the details of those harrowing early years and walks us through the breakdowns and breakthroughs of the second chapter of her life. In her boldest stroke, Winterson, determined to vanquish the ever-present shadow of her early abandonment, embarks on a quest to find her birth mother. This is a gripping, fierce, and deeply moving memoir of a woman in search of her own truth. – Laurie

History of a Pleasure SeekerHistory of a Pleasure Seeker, by Richard Mason
This book isn’t just sexy; it’s decadent! Pleasure comes in all forms for one wealthy Dutch family and their rakish new tutor, Piet Barol, whose trysts are not always constrained by gender or privilege. The line between house staff and patricians is soon left beneath a surreptitious pile of pettycoats. Like Downton Abbey with a delightfully sultry twist! A perfect book for summer. – Dave

Fear and Hope in the Search for Meaning

Religious practice continues to act as a pressure point in so many cultural contexts. Belief versus unbelief, accusations amongst traditions, the sort of bickering that results in societal fractures, deep and irreconcilable. For what, at its source, is meant to foster holistic living and goodwill toward mankind—hope, really—the level of animosity related to theology seems more heated each day, even manifesting in racial, sexual, and ethical prejudice, backbiting, and flat-out violence. Can we all at least agree interfaith animosity is so old-hat?

Pulling the discussion out of whose beliefs are correct and whose aren’t are impressive voices less akin to a fed up parent saying, “What are we going to do with you?”—more readily compelled to ask, “What are we going to do with us?” A critical eye focused acutely inward.

Greg Epstein’s Good Without God was a New York Times bestseller in January 2010, when it shifted atheist and agnostic attention away from what’s wrong with religion and toward what benefits the nonreligious population has to offer the world. Epstein outlines in his book the hope Humanism offers, with its emphasis on community and ethics. Good Without God offers a constructive perspective on how practicing morality and compassion doesn’t have to be the baby thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak, and how faith in humanity offers goodness and purpose alike. Epstein seats his arguments well within atheistic enlightenment in a way that doesn’t bother with debating the existence of God at all.

Likewise, Swiss Muslim and scholar Tariq Ramadan engages a similar question of practice firmly planted in the texts and teachings of Islam. Instead of asserting Islam’s merits above other religions, much of Ramadan’s work is concerned with radical reform in the Muslim tradition. Still, reform isn’t enacted easily. In 2009’s What I Believe, he argues in favor of Muslims being capable of full Westernization, and for a more generally pluralistic understanding of moral, human identity for Muslim and non-Muslim alike. A consistently contentious figure, Ramadan recently spoke as one of two keynotes at Seattle University’s Search for Meaning Book Festival, along with notorious Christian and accidental spiritual guru Anne Lamott (Grace (Eventually)), whose own decidedly nontraditional approach to established monotheistic faith have earned her a similar cult following, although much less in the way of vehement detractors.

No, lately, the Christian spokesperson getting all the attention is Rob Bell, the evangelical pastor accused by his peers of heresy for his re-evaluative eye on the long-established conceptions of Christendom’s afterlife. Fervor surrounding the release of this year’s Love Wins spawned a New York Times Book Review headline “Pastor Stirs Wrath With His Views On Old Questions” and a slough of articles for and against Bell’s proposed unorthodoxy, what some have labeled as “universalism.” The uproar sounded a series of simple questions regarding the ins and outs of Heaven, as in who’s in and who’s out. The questions, implicative of sweeping consequences, seem worth asking in a public forum. Questions themselves, despite instances of opposition from within one’s own tradition, can present a refreshing perspective of peace when staunch certainty has resulted in a considerable mess. Just because beliefs are established does not mean they shouldn’t be revisited now and again.

Which seems to be the point of Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein’s recent book Gonzo Judaism, a book hailed by American Jewish Life Magazine as a “defiant manifesto against old-guard Judaism”; the book readdresses 6,000 years of tradition not, as one might assume, to do away with the old, but to infuse each day with Judaism, namely its “very uplifting and inspiring and joyous approach to living the life.” Unafraid to be creative, even experimental in his religious convictions, Goldstein has yet received altogether positive responses for the type of Judaism he asserts—one that “calls truth to power,” to use his words, and models itself (loosely) on the journalistic practices of one Hunter S. Thompson—unlike Bell or Ramadan, whose receptions have been thoroughly divided amongst their respective traditions.

Religious thought evolves and revolves around that search for truth and meaning. Whether that meaning is found in monotheism or not seems it should be a more individual endeavor than a democratic affair. Furthermore, when the individual, who gazes critically at one’s own practice, rallies for the sake of hope instead of hatred, is there really any contest? -Dave