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Giovanni's Room, Nation's Oldest LGBT Bookstore, To Reopen

The U.S.’s oldest gay bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, is officially reopening for business under new management after months of speculation that the store would be closing for good Publisher’s Weekly reports. Last fall current owner Ed Hermance announced that after 40 years of operation, he was looking to sell.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 13.25.21“I’ve been looking for a successor for 25 years,” Hermance told Publisher’s Weekly in 2013. “It just can’t go on like this.”

Hermance, who did not collect a paycheck as proprietor of Giovanni’s Room, ran the business at a loss and ultimately opted for retirement. Hermance alluded to being involved in talks to sell the bookstore late last year, but details and a timeline as to the store’s future were few and far between.

The name of the LGBT organization responsible for the purchase of Giovanni’s Room has yet to be released, pending the signing of agreements transferring ownership of the organization, but the store is scheduled to reopen this fall.

1973 Tom Weinberg, Dan Sherbo, Bern Boylethe founded Giovanni’s Room in the heart of Philadelphia. In the years since its opening the bookstore has become a cultural mainstay both for Philadelphia’s gay community, but also for those visiting the city and looking for a jumping off point. The 3,000 sq. ft. store is staffed entirely by community volunteers, and Hermance has expressed his desire to remain similarly involved after the lease is signed over August 1.


'Ex-Gay' Pittsburgh Pastor Duane Youngblood Accused Of Molesting Teenage Boy

Duane Youngblood, author of Freedom From Homosexuality: No Longer Living The Lie and owner of the Higher Call World Outreach Church in Homestead, Pennsylvania, has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a teenager.

YoungbloodThe boy, now aged 21, told police that the pastor sexually abused him between 2009 and 2001 while Youngblood was supposed to be counseling him, reports CBS Pittsburgh. Youngblood is also accused of showing the teen an adult movie on his computer.

The pastor reportedly asked his victim not to tell his mother “because he didn’t want to get into trouble.”

In his 2006 book, Youngblood "shares insights and truth to help anyone struggling with perversions find a place of forgiveness and deliverance in God."

Neighbors say the pastor, who is a registered sex offender, is married with multiple children.

In 2006, Youngblood was sentenced to one year of intermediate punishment and seven years’ probation after he was found guilty of molesting a 15-year-old boy whom he was also counseling.


Singapore Will Not Reverse Decision To Ban Children's Books With Gay Characters

Jaxe pan facebook

Singapore’s National Library Board (NLB) has responded to the outcry following its decision last week to ban two books with gay characters.

The two banned books are And Tango Makes Three, inspired by two real male penguins who hatched an egg together, and The White Swan Express, about three straight couples and one lesbian couple who travel to China to adopt baby girls.

A Facebook protest by Jaxe Pan and her daughter, which reads "Dear Minister, single families are REAL, so are adopted families, blended families, gay men and lesbian women. It’s okay that you are not like us, but please do not remove our stories, and pretend we do not exist," has been shared more than 7,000 times.

The Straits Times reports that chief executive Elaine Ng said in an interview with The Sunday Times that she was saddened that several local writers have decided to withdraw from library-related events in protest.

Ng continued:

"I understand that this is an issue that people feel strongly about but please, please also look to all the good things NLB has done over the years.  NLB has done a lot over many years to build trust in the community and we want to continue working hard to build that trust and see what we can do to reclaim the trust of those who feel disappointed in us."

However, the NLB will not reverse its decision on the ban.  Nor will the books be resold or donated because of concerns that they might be unsuitable for children.


Singapore Bans Two Children's Books With Gay Characters

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Singapore libraries have withdrawn two children's books with gay characters, reports NPR.

In a Facebook statement, The National Library Board suggests that the subject matter of the banned books is incompatible with a “pro-family” stance:

"Young children are among our libraries’ most frequent visitors. Many of them browse books in our children’s sections on their own. As such, NLB takes a pro-family and cautious approach in identifying titles for our young visitors. In selecting children’s books, we sieve through the contents and exercise our best judgement. Parents can be assured that NLB is sensitive to their concerns and views, and their feedback."

The two banned books are And Tango Makes Three, inspired by two real male penguins who hatched an egg together, and The White Swan Express, about three straight couples and one lesbian couple who travel to China to adopt baby girls.

Homosexuality in Singapore is criminalized with two years in prison

Singapore library books banned1


Lesbian Journalist Julie Bindel Says Sexual Orientation Is a Choice

In her new book Straight Expectations, Julie Bindel argues that sexual orientation is a choice.  The journalist, campaigner, and feminist also says that people believe that they are born gay because of “internalised doctrine.”

BindelIn an interview in today’s Independent, Bindel also argues that there is no biological explanation for homosexuality and that there “has to be some kind of choice, as well as some deep-rooted, embedded responses that developed through different experiences in our childhood.”

Bindel, who with her partner co-founded Justice for Women which campaigns for female victims of domestic violence, says that her arguments regarding the causes of homosexuality have been “drowned out” by obsessed scientists and by those who use the gay gene argument to provoke sympathy.

Asked how and why people would choose to be gay in countries with oppressive anti-homosexuality laws, Bindel says:

“I don’t know.  All I know is I’ve never been convinced by a scientific argument, or seen any evidence that is compelling that there is something innate about our sexuality. What I’m suggesting is, there are people who could go one way or the other and happily choose to be lesbian or gay.”

However, writing in The Independent, Patrick Strudwick says that Bindel claims that she herself did not make that choice:

“Because I needed to leave home – there was nothing there for me in Darlington – and pursue my feminist possibilities, that meant starting a new life and all that was open to me. I fell in with a crowd [in Leeds] who spoke about lesbianism as part of women’s liberation. I never chose to be attracted to women.”

Strudwick also claims that what Bindel means by sexual preference being a choice is actually making a decision “to have a gay relationship, identify as gay, come out and lead a gay life (whatever that is).”

(image via twitter)


Michael Carroll’s ‘Little Reef And Other Stories’: Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

The characters in the moving, innovative stories of Michael Carroll’s debut collection always find themselves just to the side of the world’s attention. In the beautiful “Referred Pain,” the lonely wife of a famous writer entertains graduate students desperate for his approval. In “Barracuda,” a young woman working at a PR firm meets the pop star who is their biggest client. In all of these stories, Carroll explores, with confidence and humanity, lives torn between awareness of all they have and bitter grasping for what they still want.

Little ReefIn the first of the book’s two sections (largely set in Florida), New York City represents the success that the characters long for. In “From the Desk of…Hunter B. Gwathmey,” the book’s first story, a young writer wins a high school writing contest and meets the local literati. For all that at first they strike him as glamorous, he soon realizes they aren’t living the kind of life he hopes for. “I hated Jacksonville, but then it occurred to me, in a sickening, sneak-preview-of-real-life type of revelation, that not everybody could live in New York, and that even some smart, talented people ended up having to make do in the provinces.”

It’s a realization that haunts this collection and its various talented, almost successful characters. “Not everyone was going to be successful,” Carroll writes at one point, “and it was cruel to ask them to try to be.”

Much of the pleasure of the book’s first half lies in Carroll’s depiction of the south. “Florida was a nutty business,” Carroll writes, and he excels at capturing the bizarre mix of awkward politeness and hysteria that characterizes so much of the southern manner. These stories offer one of the most convincing representations I’ve seen of southern speech—not by mimicking accent or dialect, but by tracing the shape of southern talk, with its suspensions and redirections, its sudden fits and starts.

The unpredictable drift of southern conversation may lie behind the unconventional shape of many of these stories. In an interview with the writer Andrew Holleran, Carroll speaks about his desire to break free of the traditional structure of the short story, in which rising action leads to climax, resolution, and epiphany or realization. Instead, he allows his stories to find their way in a looser, less predetermined way, allowing for sudden juxtapositions and unexpected turns and constant, vivifying surprise.

MichaelCarrollIt also allows for the emergence of what may be Carroll’s greatest strength, his ability to inhabit the deep consciousness of his characters. “What was writing except a direct line into someone’s head,” the wife in “Referred Pain” muses, and what makes Carroll’s characters so vivid is the access we’re given to their experience of their own lives.

And so, in “Referred Pain,” when the protagonist has an affair with one of her husband’s students, we experience it with an intimacy beyond mere explicitness: “He dropped his head next to hers and drove the side of his face into the pillow looking the other way. Her hand motions got wider and she felt his thighs relaxing and when he rose up she kissed his chest, too desperately, she thought. You didn’t do anything too desperate, so then she cooled off, tried to make a joke, yet keeping her hands near him.”

This experience of consciousness is nowhere more intense, and nowhere more moving, than in the five linked stories that make up the book’s second half. Each of these stories, which are told in both first and third person, centers on an aspiring writer who is in a long-term partnership, then marriage, with an older, much more successful novelist whose health is in decline.

In everything we learn about their lives, and also in the description Carroll offers of the older writer’s work, we’re invited to imagine that these characters are thinly disguised versions of Carroll and the legendary writer Edmund White, whom Carroll recently married after a relationship of nearly two decades. Like White, the fictional Perry has suffered a series of strokes, and his younger partner, who has spent years preparing manuscripts and keeping house, finds himself increasingly taking on the role of nurse.

“My job was to shop and cook and clean,” says Scott, the younger member of the couple in these stories, “and his was to create.” It’s easy to hear bitterness in the line, and these stories are extraordinarily candid in their depiction of a loving but not easy relationship. “There was no plan for who we were. Night was long for us. We’d go to bed separately. I read, which had become my coping strategy. I could live with him as long as we slept separately.” 

And yet what’s clearest in the stories of Scott and Perry, especially in the extraordinary “Admissions,” is their care for one another, and Scott’s terror at the prospect of an unbearable loss. It’s this terror—the awareness of death—that gives these stories their moral force, and that translates the grasping for fame or achievement into a profounder struggle. And it’s love that finally allows Carroll’s characters to escape—only for a time, but no less authentically for that—from their self-made prisons of jadedness and need.

Invoking the southern religious language that haunts these pages (“One day the Bible would have no effect on Scott at all. But not yet”), the protagonist of “Barracuda” casts a bit of hope in the way of her gorgeous, promising, limited friends: “From emotional midgets—too beautiful to live inside their awfully conflicted selves—sometimes came great, kind gestures, and perhaps they, too, would be saved. Despite their sweet bastard selves.”

Previous reviews...
Francine Prose’s ‘Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932’
Mark Gevisser’s ‘Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir’
Emma Donoghue’s ‘Frog Music’
Tatamkhulu Afrika’s ‘Bitter Eden’

Garth Greenwell is the author of Mitko, which won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for both the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award and a Lambda Award. His new novel, What Belongs to You, is forthcoming from Faber/FSG in May 2015. He lives in Iowa City, where he is an Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.


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