Re-read A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This is young adult coming of age, classic American novel set in a New England prep school during World WarRe-read A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This is young adult coming of age, classic American novel set in a New England prep school during World War II. I read this book years ago and have re-read it a few times, it's a favorite. The story of Gene, the intellectual and Pheneas the athelete -- two young men who are roommates and great friends. This is a short book and an amazingly well written story. Knowles begins with a small, seemingly innocent incident that culminates in a tragedy. Through Gene's point of view, the author develops a story that delves into the dark side of human nature and subtly draws a parallel to those dark days in WWII, while simultaneously providing the reader with few light moments. There are some subtle homoerotic undertones to the story and unexpected depth to Gene, Finny and secondary characters. ...more
The people celebrate and go all the way for the Feast of the Goat the Thirtieth of May.
—“They Killed the Goat” A Dominican merengue
The Feast of the Goat oThe people celebrate and go all the way for the Feast of the Goat the Thirtieth of May.
—“They Killed the Goat” A Dominican merengue
The Feast of the Goat or La Fiesta del Chivo is a fictionalized account of the Trujillo Era written by the Peruvian writer and winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa. This powerful and haunting historical fiction novel depicts the last day in the life of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina who held power over his people in the Dominican Republic between 1930 and May 30, 1961. The original book is written in Spanish, however in my opinion the translation of the book by Edith Grossman is excellent and I do not have complaints when it comes to either the language nor how the translation effected the writer's prose.
Vargas Llosa approaches the story from three different points of view:
- The present and past memories of the fictional character Urania Cabral. - Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina's view of events as they unfold on the day that he was assassinated, May 30, 1961, and his memories of past events. - The point of view of the Trujillo's assassins as events unfold on May 30, 1961, and their memories of the past events that motivated their actions.
The three perspectives allow the writer to present the full scope of the history encompassing the Trujillo Era in a fast paced style that keeps the reader glued to the pages. The three points of view, which seem disparate at first, alternate and get closer to each other until they merge at the end in a cohesive manner.
Vargas Llosa uses the fictional characters of Urania, Agustin Cabral and their family to bring cohesion to the story, as Urania returns to the city of Santo Domingo after years of absence, and in turn to her memories of the past while confronting her senile and silent father with his past sins. Her memories, accusations and revelations take the reader to a time when the Dominican Republic and its people lived under the mesmerizing power of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina. Vargas Llosa uses Urania as the voice representing Dominican women of her time, as she narrates experiences that are full of wonder, innocence, horror, and ultimately terrible betrayal. The betrayal experienced by Urania is a double edged sword as it comes from her father and from a society that is patriarchal in nature, killing her faith in men.
Trujillo had quite a few nicknames: el Jefe (the Chief), el Generalissimo, the Benefactor, and of course the Goat. Vargas Llosa portrays Trujillo on his last day as an old man in his 70's who is slowly losing control of his body, his allies, the country and its people. It is an intimate and personal portrayal of a man who truly believes his own press: God and Trujillo, Trujillo and God. He believes that he is savior to the Dominican people and that they owe him everything, including their properties, women, children and even their very lives. As the base of his rule there is authoritarianism and paternalism, however this is combined with violence and corruption that ends in immense abuse of power over his people, family, collaborators and enemies alike.
More than anything else, what he could not forgive was that just as he had corrupted and brutalized this country, the Goat had also corrupted and brutalized Antonio de la Maza. - Antonio de la Maza - Chapter 6
The assassins point of view is the most compelling for me in this story. Vargas Llosa portrays the last moments, the history and motives that placed Antonio de la Maza, Antonio (Tony) Imbert Barrera, Lieutenant Amadito García Guerrero, and Salvador (El Turco) Estrella Sadhalá on the San Cristóbal Highway on May 30, 1961 and made assassins out of family men and former trujillistas. Theirs are stories of men who were subjugated first through love and then through fear, and whose spirits were almost broken after years of giving of themselves to a man and a country that took it all and gave nothing in return except terror and betrayal. Their stories are moving, horrifying, and violent, and the individual motivations and the after effects of their collective actions, as portrayed by Vargas Llosa, are fascinating.
"They kill our fathers, our brothers, our friends. And now they’re killing our women. And here we sit, resigned, waiting our turn,” he heard himself say. Antonio (Tony) Imbert Barrera - Chapter 9
Vargas Llosa is known for successfully depicting the effects of authoritarianism, violence and the abuse of power on the individual. The Feast of the Goat is an excellent example of this theme. He explores it through all three points of view, even that of Trujillo himself, as it is through him that the reader experiences how and why that power is abused and used to control collaborators and enemies alike. Previously I mentioned authoritarianism and paternalism, however Vargas Llosa goes further by portraying the Trujillo Era as a machista-run society and makes a connection between sex and power, where sex is used by Trujillo as a controlling tool to obtain and maintain his power.
In my opinion, where Vargas Llosa truly succeeds with The Feast of the Goat and his portrayal of the Latin American dictator is in his usage of a conversational, fast paced style that makes this historical fiction novel accessible to the reader. His inclusion of violence and torture is key and contributes to the sense of reality the reader experiences when confronted with true horror and terror. Torture and violence are not just words that are mentioned within the narration. Vargas Llosa brilliantly weaves in history and fiction to make this an excellent read.
There's so much more that I could say about The Feast of the Goat. This is a partial re-read for me, I first read it in Spanish, however this is my first attempt at reading the English translation. I would like to thank Mariana for encouraging me to re-read it in English for our book club. A note: I enjoyed this book this time around much more than the first time. Why? Well, the first time I didn't know anything about the history of the Dominican Republic and researched both history and characters as I read the book, this time I just enjoyed it. What I can tell you all is that both times the story haunted me for days after I finished it.
The Feast of the Goat (La Fiesta del Chivo) by Mario Vargas Llosa. Highly recommended....more
I loved the first book I read by Steve Kluger, Almost Like Being in Love, and yet Last Days of Summer still managed to surprise me. I don't think I exI loved the first book I read by Steve Kluger, Almost Like Being in Love, and yet Last Days of Summer still managed to surprise me. I don't think I expected to be caught up in the story or the characters in the same way. I was wrong.
Kluger takes us to Brooklyn, New York in 1940 to tell us Joey Margolis' story. He is a 12 year old Jewish boy who having recently moved from Manhattan with his mother and aunt becomes the neighborhood bullies' punching bag. Lacking a father figure in his life, Joey is desperately looking for someone to take that place. He chooses a reluctant Charlie Banks, the new 3rd Baseman for the New York Giants baseball team.
Joey is a smart-mouthed, needy, brilliant little boy who goes to great lengths to get what he wants. His imagination, determination and persistence become legendary throughout the story. Charlie is a baseball player through and through. An uneducated young man who doesn't necessarily make the best first impression, Charlie doesn't seem to be the best choice for hero worship. However, once Joey chooses Charlie he doesn't stand a chance, no matter his reluctance to accept that role. Kluger again uses his favored epistolary style to reveal Joey and Charlie's improbable story of friendship. Through letters, telegrams, report cards, tickets and other means of communication, this beautiful story of friendship and love unfolds as the characters are revealed.
Last Days of Summer accurately details some incredible New York baseball history (Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Giants) and other teams as well, but baseball doesn't overwhelm the book. Also, through Charlie and Joey we glimpse the history of the times between 1940 and 1942 and slowly experience how things change and develop throughout the country. Kluger covers the slow escalation of World War II in Europe, Roosevelt's New Deal, Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-American's Relocation Centers in California, and finally our troops in the South Pacific. Although again, as with baseball, history does not overshadow the main story.
Atmosphere is important when setting a book during these times. Kluger achieves this by the usage of language and attitude, as well as by incorporating wonderful details such as: music, Broadway shows, famous personages, and using the names of businesses that were around in 1940's New York.
I laughed quite a bit while reading Joey and Charlie's sharp and witty exchanges and their improbable adventures, although I admit that the content itself pulled some emotional strings at the most unexpected of times -- Joey's Bar Mitzvah was one of the funniest and most emotional events and one of my favorite. There were wonderful secondary characters in this book that made this story work, even though Joey and Charlie were always the main focus. I personally fell in love with Joey's Aunt Carrie and the Rabbi (Rabby).
The end of this book was very emotional for me and quite beautiful in its own way. If you want to know why I was surprised, well... it's because this book is not really about baseball and being a baseball fan that's what I expected. Instead, Last Days of Summer is a beautiful story about a boy who needs, and a man who by answering that need fulfills his own.
Last Days of Summer is a book I couldn't put down once I read the first few pages. That makes two keepers by Mr. Kluger for me....more
I read Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson when it was first released in 2005 (re-read in April, 2010). It was Ms. Jackson's debut novel and one thatI read Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson when it was first released in 2005 (re-read in April, 2010). It was Ms. Jackson's debut novel and one that made my keeper shelf for different reasons. This is a women's fiction book, but it's also considered "Southern Fiction." Ms. Jackson is from the South and those roots can definitely be appreciated and recognized in her writing, characterization, subject matter and humor.
Gods in Alabama is one of those books with an unforgettable first line, one that "hooked" me into reading it and became engraved in my mind. Every time I looked at my bookshelf and saw the title of the book, I remembered it.
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches..."
Thus begins this complex story written in first person as seen through Arlene Fleet's point of view.
Gods in Alabama is an interesting mixture of heavy subjects and witty, humorous prose. Through Lena's guilt-ridden eyes and conscience, Jackson tells a story full of family conflicts, murder, rape, racism, guilt, redemption and immense love. She throws in a bi-racial romance and sets it all in a small southern town full of unforgettable characters. But, the best part of this book is that while reading about all these heavy subjects, all of which she addresses fully and without reserve, there is not a "heavy" feel to this book.
Jackson uses her gift for humor and wit to tell Lena's story and the writer's southern roots definitely show in the telling. There no such thing as southern "flavor" in this book, there is much more than that. The way she describes the setting, the usage of language and humour make you feel as if you're right there in Possett and these elements make the story come alive. The characterization was excellent in most instances, however in some cases she seemed to gloss over the characters and they came off a bit stereotypical. Lena and Aunt Flo's characters were flawlessly developed, but I do wish that cousin Clarice had been better drawn. She was an important character in this story whose motivations stayed 'sketchy' in my mind, both through my first read and this time around.
I thought Gods in Alabama was an excellent debut novel for Joshilyn Jackson. Then and now, I loved her gift for telling this type of story with wit and humour. ...more
Each chapter of Slow Dancing on Price's Pier begins with Thea's newspaper column From "The Coffee Diaries" by Thea Celik. In this one page column TheaEach chapter of Slow Dancing on Price's Pier begins with Thea's newspaper column From "The Coffee Diaries" by Thea Celik. In this one page column Thea explores the history of coffee, but of course there's more there as each gorgeous little story applies to her life and to that of those around her. I love the way Dale uses them in conjunction with the story.
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier is a complex story of friendship and love that involves one woman, two brothers, and a family. It's a triangle that begins when the three are carefree and young and ends years later after their great friendship has been interrupted by competition, jealousy, wrong choices, misunderstandings and yes... love.
Garrett and Jonathan met Thea when they moved to Newport, Rhode Island as teenage boys. Their friendship was deep and meaningful while it was on equal terms and they balanced each other's weaknesses and strengths. Garrett was the star athlete who loved to take risks while Jonathan was studious and methodical, but Thea was a bit of both. She stepped in between the brothers and became the much needed balance. Unfortunately after Jonathan graduated and went away to college and Garrett was a senior in high school, Thea and Garrett fell in love and the dynamics changed between the three friends. The circumstances and choices made by these three young people changed their lives in ways that affected them for the long haul.
What did I like about this book? Well, I don't like triangles because I tend to like one man (or woman), and really dislike the other. I thought it would bother me that the triangle includes brothers, but in the end it didn't make a difference and it didn't bother me at all. In the beginning this story was tough because Jonathan didn't seem to have any backbone as didn't take responsibility for his actions, and Garrett despite his confused thoughts, was quite hostile toward Thea. Thea herself seemed to be more concerned about keeping Jonathan's family at any cost than about her own personal happiness.
However, as Dale unravels the story (and yes she uses flashbacks a few of times), everything falls into place and there's an understanding of the characters and their human actions and reactions. Particularly if you take their youth into consideration. Their present actions and reactions, on the other hand, are a different matter. Although the reactions by the adults are still human and flawed, I thought at times they also came off as immature. Jonathan and his family seem to me to be pretty selfish in many ways, just as Thea seemed to be too darn accommodating.
But did I enjoy the romance? Yes, I did. I loved that the emotions between Garrett and Thea felt real -- especially those coming from Garrett. Whether it was hostility, contempt, passion or love, Garrett's emotions oozed out of him. It's true that Thea compromised her feelings, but what they all did was hide from reality. Frankly by the end of this story I liked both characters and really enjoyed their story.
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier is a family drama by Ms. Dale, full of memorable characters and situations, as well as a memorable romance. I continue to enjoy her prose, and particularly the way she balances out (what I think of as) this fusion between women's fiction and contemporary romance. It just seems to get better with every book she writes. I look forward to reading her next book and hope we don't have too long a wait before that next release. ...more
I won "The Sentry: A Joe Pike Novel" by Robert Crais in the Goodreads "First Reads" program.
This is the second book I've read by Mr. Crais, and althoI won "The Sentry: A Joe Pike Novel" by Robert Crais in the Goodreads "First Reads" program.
This is the second book I've read by Mr. Crais, and although both books are part of the Elvis Cole series, they are Joe Pike Novels. The first book I read was The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel, and the first book featuring this wonderful character. Well, I fell in love with Joe Pike in 2007, and of course wanted to read this book as soon as I saw it up for grabs.
Joe Pike again plays the tarnished, taciturn knight. I love the way Crais maintains this character a bit of a mystery by using spare dialogue and what seems like little emotion, and yet conveys the man's true character through his actions. The balance between Joe and Elvis Cole's characters serve as an excellent contrast.
While playing "Good Samaritan," Joe Pike saves a man from a beating. Simple, right? Well... not quite. Saving this man sets up a chain of events and like falling dominoes next thing he knows, Joe is falling for a woman and tangling with local gangs, the local police, the FBI, Mexican and Bolivian drug lords and a relentless assassin. The twists and turns in this story come fast and furious, nothing is quite what it seems. The quick pacing keeps the reader turning the pages and wondering what's going to happen next. I want more Joe Pike! I'll definitely read the next one.
Campbell Barnes begins the story of Elizabeth of York from 1483, when the French King breaks the betrothal contract between Elizabeth and his son CharCampbell Barnes begins the story of Elizabeth of York from 1483, when the French King breaks the betrothal contract between Elizabeth and his son Charles. Through Elizabeth's eyes, we see history develop as she takes us through her father, Edward IV's death and its dire consequences. The imprisonment of the two princes in the Tower (Elizabeth's brothers) by Richard of Gloucester's and later when he ceases the crown and becomes Richard III, the attempts on his life and eventual death at the hands of Henry of Richmond. Through it all Elizabeth is a pawn between these two men. Henry VII, the first Tudor King needs her to secure the crown as much as Richard did. She marries him and gives birth to the great Tudor dynasty. The book takes us right before her death.
There were a couple of instances where creative license was taken, but for the most part Campbell Barnes uses known history accurately and beautifully. The writer weaves history and fiction almost seamlessly.I love the way she develops and explores the characters in this book. She specifically explores the duality in their personalities and lets the reader be the judge. Richard III's character is particularly fascinating in his duality and tended to take over the pages. Henry VII's characterization was more subtle although no less effective.
he Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay is a contemporary family story about the struggle a family goes through while coming to terms with their seventeen yhe Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay is a contemporary family story about the struggle a family goes through while coming to terms with their seventeen year-old son Jamie's sexuality after he discloses that he is gay.
Mike and Maggie Davidson have, what many would consider, the "perfect family." They love each other and their sons, athletic eighteen year-old Brian and artistic seventeen year-old Jamie. Both are excellent young men, well-liked, doing well in school, and getting ready for college. As Mike says at the beginning of the book, they "have so much to be thankful for." However soon after Mike makes this statement young Jamie finally reveals to his family that he is gay and the struggles begin.
Mike, Jamie's father, is a religious man and has always felt the comfort and reassurance that participating in his community church give him on a personal level. Reconciling what his religion dictates, faith (two different things as presented by Ms. Shay), and the fact that his son is gay summarize Mike's personal struggle. Then we have Brian, a young man who is torn between loving his brother and best friend, peer pressure, and religious beliefs reinforced by his father.
Finally, we have Maggie whose family was torn apart while growing up because of the church. Maggie not only fights for Jamie, but her already negative feelings about the church place her in a precarious position with her husband Mike. On top of that, Maggie must take her son Brian's feelings on the subject into consideration. There's a danger that their family might split apart. Can she find an alternative and keep her family intact? That's her struggle right there.
But of course the family is not only affected by their internal struggles, they also have to deal with external pressures: school, neighbors, family members, church officials and friends affect the Davidsons, making this a well-rounded story as the family experiences disappointments and finds support from the most unlikely of places. Shay balances out the Davidson's issues by showing how different families react to the same situation. She highlights a different side of the story by featuring how Jamie's boyfriend Luke and his family deal with his coming out to family and friends.
The Perfect Family is narrated in the third person perspective, so although the story begins with Jamie's coming out to his family, Shay gives each family member a voice and explores their thoughts and feelings about this subject. As a result the characters are well-drawn, realistic and believable as are the circumstances surrounding them. I personally couldn't stop thinking about them for days after finishing the book.
Kathryn Shay approaches this story from personal experience, although she stresses in the Author's Note that the story is not autobiographical. However, she also points out in the same section that some events that occurred during her own son's coming out experience are used as a base to tell Jamie's story. It is perhaps the author's personal experience, combined with her writing talents, that make the characters and circumstances in this book feel so real and unforgettable.
The Perfect Family is a well-paced and well-written, engaging read. I became so invested in this characters that I didn't want to stop reading until I finished the book. I was impressed with the direct way in which Shay approaches and discusses important subjects; from differing psychological and religious views on homosexuality, to suicide in gay teens, to religious and community based venues that provide support and can be accessed by teens and families. Yet all these subjects are made very "personal" in a way that makes this an entertaining and educational read at the same time.
I see this book as a must read for families weather their teens are coming out or not. Specifically recommended to those who just want to be aware or who are interested and want to know how to be of help to that friend or neighbor. Highly recommended to all....more
Slant is Timothy Wang's debut novel. I could say that this is a coming out story because in a way it is, but that would be deceiving and simp4.5 stars
Slant is Timothy Wang's debut novel. I could say that this is a coming out story because in a way it is, but that would be deceiving and simplistic to say the least. Instead, Wang places the main focus of this novel on racism experienced by Asian men within the gay community. He maintains that focus through excellent writing and by using the strong narrative voice of the main character James, a young man whose initial confusion about sexual identity is compounded by ethnicity.
As the only son of overprotective Chinese immigrant parents who migrated to the Midwest, James finds himself out of his depth, isolated and lost, while attempting to navigate Boston's gay community during his sophomore year at MIT. After meeting and losing his first 'boyfriend' Stan, a gorgeous bad boy who becomes an obsession, James changes.
James hates everything about himself, from his Asian features to his upbringing. The fact that he is often rejected for being Asian in the mostly preppy-oriented Boston gay community reinforces his self-loathing. After losing Stan, he embarks in an obsessive and self-destructive path filled with humiliations, sexual exploits, drugs, and eventually ends up cynically and emotionally manipulating a lover for money.
During this downward spiral into self-degradation, cultural and ethnic shame, Wang strongly conveys the anger and resentment James feels toward himself, his parents, the gay community, and mainstream society. Thankfully during James' raw tirade of 'hates,' Wang doesn't spare his main character from this malady or makes him out to be a victim. On the contrary, sadly through his self-loathing and frustrations James becomes a part of the whole as he exposes his own prejudices with more than a few judgmental statements of his own.
I hated older white men. They somehow thought that, even though they were in their sixties, they could still date an eighteen year old Asian boy. Much to my disgust, some Asian boys would date them.
The characters are strong and compelling in the almost real way in which they're rendered by the author. James as the Asian young man who goes from being awkwardly naive to cynically self-destructive while grasping for an identity; Stan as the charismatic, self-absorbed, reckless 'bad boy' who discards men like yesterday's news; and Michael, the preppy, wealthy young doctor who is portrayed as a good, if somewhat weak man, and is seen as an almost superficial, social snob, easily and ultimately willingly manipulated by James.
In Slant, Wang uses short chapters with a narrative voice that eases the reader into the story and gains strength and momentum as the full scope of the novel is revealed. The story flows as it maintains a quick, excellent pace with a strong plot and compelling characters that draw the reader from beginning to end, ending on a rather ambiguous note.
On a personal note I'll say that I devoured Mr. Wang's debut novel. After closing the last page, those last few ambiguous chapters left me thinking about his characters and their journey. I'm still thinking about James... and that's what it's all about, right? Timothy Wang is working on his second novel, I can't wait to see where he goes from here.
Prior to The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam, my personal experience with Alex Jeffers' works was limited to reading Do You Remember Tulum? NovelPrior to The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam, my personal experience with Alex Jeffers' works was limited to reading Do You Remember Tulum? Novella in Form of a Love Letter. I admit that reading that one magnificent piece by this author left me with high expectations.
The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam is a compilation of ten self-contained short stories, some which have been previously published. Pulled together in this book, each story becomes a chapter where Ziya, as the narrator, gives his lover Adam a detailed, uncensored account of his personal journey as he attempts to make sense of events and people that influenced or changed his life.
Jeffers focuses much of his in-depth exploration of Ziya's character by slowly unraveling family relationships, and through them and their history, Turkish culture. Ziya's family is financially well off, educated, seemingly stable and strays from Muslim tradition only to a certain extent. The truths, secrets and betrayals that Ziya finds and experiences within his family reflect life as it evolves around him.
Jeffers' is not a straightforward tale. Instead, he has a roundabout style of getting to the point, gathering all the pieces of the puzzle and allowing them to fall into place at the right moment. He reveals the details of his main character's life by peeling one layer at a time while maintaining the reader engaged. Jeffers' prose is intricate and his writing lush and richly descriptive. He plays brilliantly with language, as a single word (or in some cases, words) take on a deeper significance by the time a chapter ends. At other times, as in the chapter titles "Kindness" and "A Person," it is immediately apparent. However, his focus on language is found throughout the book.
One of the aspects I love about this book is that Jeffers transports the reader to place and time without effort and creates an atmosphere that changes with the setting throughout the story, even as the narrator's voice remains distinctly unchanged. The reader is caught unaware at the most unexpected of moments, giving key revelations a certain shocking value because of the almost nonchalant way in which those moments are narrated. As an example: there's a lack of violence, even when the act described is violent, that tends to leave the reader breathless for that one moment and makes a stronger impact.
In The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam, the stories, all ten of them, come together and fit beautifully without the repetitiveness that I've encountered in similar works where collections of short stories are pulled together to form one book. And what of my high expectations? I am happy to say that those were met, and then some. This is a fabulous work of fiction by Alex Jeffers and one I highly recommend.
The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed is her debut novel. This is a book that left me with mixed feelings and deep thoughts about life, death,The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed is her debut novel. This is a book that left me with mixed feelings and deep thoughts about life, death, friendships, family, love and more. Although I'm sure many consider this novel women's fiction, for me it had a more literary flavor, perhaps because of the style in which it is written, the prose, and the depth with which the different subjects are approached.
From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction is an anthology written and edited by gay Latino writers from varied backgrounds and walks of life. ThaFrom Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction is an anthology written and edited by gay Latino writers from varied backgrounds and walks of life. That in and of itself was a huge draw for me. As seen from the gay Latino's perspective, I also hoped to find that great mixture of different backgrounds and countries that make up what we call the Latino culture and what makes our community unique.
The anthology is composed of 29 short stories. Individually you'll find different writing styles and types of stories, from the magical cuento, to love letters, and stories of neglect, loneliness, rejection, sex, drugs, and yes... yearning and love. Through the unique and beautiful rhythm found in the blending of two languages and two cultures that is often found in works by Latino writers, the reader experiences pain, joys, highs and lows.
Taken individually some stories are better written than others and I do have favorites among them. As a whole, however, From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction is a different kettle of fish altogether. The editors of this anthology Charles Rice-González and Charlie Vázquez successfully capture the differences and commonalities within the gay Latino community and the gay experience from a distinct cultural perspective.
Pulled together, the stories do convey that distinct flavor. Whether it's achieved by highlighting societal views of the gay son, friend, nephew or neighbor within the Latino community as a whole or the importance of la familia -- mami, papi, brothers, sisters, tíos or primos -- the neighborhoods, the different foods or the music, that flavor can almost be felt and tasted by the reader. Most of all I think these gay Latino writers achieve this as only they can, by expressing their experiences, with passion, heart and emotion.
I'm a fan of bear erotica and bearish romances when I find them, so Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen, an amusing, light tale about a man who becomes parI'm a fan of bear erotica and bearish romances when I find them, so Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen, an amusing, light tale about a man who becomes part of the bear community, through let's say the back door, is right up my alley.
Cohen weaves this bearish story around Peter Mallory, a journalist and self-proclaimed twink who becomes obsessed with getting revenge after he's fired from his job at Phag magazine. In the meantime he needs to make a living and at his friend Mac's suggestion Peter decides to write a novel about the bear community. Unfortunately, he is clueless. Problem? He's part of the mainstream gay community and lives in what he refers to as the "gay ghetto," but Peter doesn't even know what a bear is!
Mac suggests Peter go undercover to research his novel. To blend in he grows a beard, stops waxing his body hair, and gains heft by eating like food is going out of style. And in some of the most amusing moments in the story, his wardrobe undergoes a dramatic change as Peter sheds his trendy suits and ties for flannel. Of course there's more to the experience than growing fur, changing wardrobe or gaining weight.
"Becoming a bear, just like coming out of the closet, requires a certain shift in perception. What you find attractive, what you find acceptable, what you deem important, all changes. In a way you become an outsider, but in a way you become part of a small, select private group. Usually this is a long process that accompanies repeated exposure to the bear community. I didn't, however, have the luxury of time."
Peter's partner Danny is not necessarily over the moon about the lack of income, but all the physical and psychological changes that slowly turn Peter into his other self, Dan the bear, take a real toll on the relationship.
Peter/Dan is driven by his obsession to get that revenge against Phag, meanwhile that "shift in perception" slowly takes place within Peter. This takes time, however even as he clings to the belief that inside he is still a twink and that his foray into to bear community is temporary Peter falls for Ben, a big teddy bear of man who sees the bear and other qualities in him that Peter doesn't see in himself. Unfortunately Peter doesn't know when to stop lying and scheming, so that by the time he comes to his senses it might be too late to keep the friends who welcomed him with opened arms, or his man.
There are over-the-top moments (Peter loves and attracts drama like a magnet), and since this book was first published in 2003, a rather dated back story. But I like that through all the mayhem Cohen sneaks in slight critical views of both the mainstream gay and bear communities from an insider and an outsider's point of view. Additionally, the pace of the novel is quick as lightning and it makes this story not only entertaining, but a super fast read.
In Bear Like Me, Cohen presents an overview of the bear community with all its rules and bearish family atmosphere. Peter's second coming out story as a bear is entertaining with an intentionally campy style, outrageous moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance. ...more