Gay coming out novels are a dime a dozen. But The World of Normal Boys is something else. It’s a detailed, play-by-play exploration into the consciousness of a 13-year-old boy as he struggles to figure out who he is meant to be.
K.M. Soehnlein's book encapsulates all the pain and pleasure of growing up a little different, in a society still unsure of the benefits of diversity. Richard Labonte appreciated Soehnlein’s Lambda Award-winning literary effort for opening up the gate for a new type of coming out book – one that even though it’s set in a 1970s New Jersey suburb, it strikes a chord beyond its time and place.
Groucho Marx once said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” For you contemporary types, a similar sentiment was expressed by Blair Waldorf in the first season of Gossip Girl. “Watch and learn, ladies. The most important parties to attend are the ones you’re not invited to.”
I was originally invited to venue Rebel for the launch of much-hyped "branded" monthly NYC-LA-SF gay party Mr. Black on March 1. After interviewing promoters Joshua J and Luke Nero for this SFBG story, I got placed on the guest list. Without resorting to being totally tacky and asking, of course.
So imagine my utter horror and humiliation after glancing over said list last Thursday night and not seeing my name.
Once upon a time in New York City, on the intersection of Broadway and Bleecker, there used to be a club where the lights never shone. In the cavernous dark, Marc Jacobs’ Black Book of desperate, disposable, beautiful boys could blindly bump into one of club goddess Amanda Lepore’s naked body parts. But when you’re in one of the steamiest, most-crowded gay hotspots in the world with candlelit backrooms, a scandalous vibe, and servers in top hats and backless aprons, such concepts as personal space become fantasy.
“Everyone you meet here in San Francisco has some anecdote about 'the wild night I ended up in SoMa,’” author Kemble Scott said back in 2007. Sure, the neighborhood has experienced a gentrified taming since then. The outdoor orgies of yesteryear have been replaced by outdoor patio furniture stores, but luckily the gritty South of Market spirit – a cornucopia of illicit drugs and sexcapades – has been cleverly captured by Scott, pen name of journalist provocateur Scott James, who now writes a local column for The New York Times.
SoMa follows the intertwined path of three young people struggling in San Francisco immediately after the first dot com bust. Unemployed and desensitized, they push their limits and their luck to try to regain a sense of fulfillment. SoMa is now an artifact of the oftentimes-surreal turn-of-the-century subcultures that were embedded in the neighborhood.
It’s difficult to find anything negatively written about Justin Torres’ debut fiction novel, We the Animals -- and that’s probably because nothing negative has yet been written. Dorothy Allison called it, “a miracle in concentrated pages,” and Michael Cunningham said it was, “a dark jewel of a book.” So Torres is a literary wunderkind of sorts, but despite the buzzy accolades, the current Stegner fellow and queer scribe is still humbly bewildered by the success of a book by a gay brown author – especially his very own.
The giant commemorative AIDS ribbon that was up on Twin Peaks during the first half of June has been taken down, but the 30th anniversary of the epidemic, and how it changed San Francisco, is still reverberating throughout the city.
"It was like paradise," Mark Ottman said as he guided me through the high-ceiling lobby, quiet as a library, of Union Bank on 400 California St. "For a few years. Then things got really scary."Read more »
In a mission to take the It Gets Better Project -- his groundbreaking video collaboration series that seeks to help victims of gay bullying by spreading stories of survival -- directly from YouTube to the shelves of school libraries, sex columnist and author Dan Savage has compiled a collection of "It Gets Better" testimonials into a new book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. Contributors range from Barack Obama and Ellen Degeneres to Chaz Bono and SF's very own Lynne Breedlove, and represent a wide and diverse range of older voices hoping their stories of getting through rough youthful periods will inspire youth to take heart and hold on. All the profits from the book, which came out this week, will benefit LGBT charities.
Savage will stop at the SFSU bookstore Friday, March 25, at noon in his cross-country college tour to promote it. He took some time to talk to us about how a book can add a special magic to the project, why LGBT adults have been frightened to reach out to queer teens, and where he sees his project in 10 years.
SFBG:The It Gets Better campaign that you and your partner Terry started has gotten over 35 million views on YouTube. Why a book? What can a book do for the campaign that a video hasn’t done so far?
Dan Savage: Having written a couple of them, books are kind of magic. They wind up places that no one can predict and no one expects. People have a way of happening upon a book at just the moment in their lives when they need to read that particular book. So it was a way to make more magic happen for the It Gets Better project. Also, it is a way for schools to demonstrate their support for LGBT students by shelving this book in their libraries, in addition to having anti-bullying programs and GSA’s. Not all students have internet access or allowed internet access. It’s a way for schools to get involved without having their students be on YouTube all day long.