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Books for the beach

Kindle, iPad or ink and paper, there’s no shortage of summer reading material slated for release

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summer reading, gay news, Washington Blade
summer reading, gay news, Washington Blade

There are plenty of books coming out for your summer reading.

You made your reservations months ago.

This was a vacation you’ve been planning for, well, it seems like forever. One of those once-in-a-lifetime trips is what you’ve always dreamed about and you’ve bought all new clothes and even a new suitcase for it.

So why would you take just any old book on your vacation this summer? Instead, why not look for something new by an author you love?

MAY

Conservative writer Ben Carson has a new book out about America’s future. There’s a new book out, co-written by Bill Geist, too. In fact, you’ll find quite a few memoirs out toward the end of May, as well as novels by Terry Hayes, Tom Robbins, Robert Ludlum and Joseph Finder. And Bob the Street Cat has a new book out, too, and fans will want it.

JUNE

Summertime reading bolts out the door like a teenager off curfew with new novels by Mary Alice Monroe, Dorothea Benton Frank and Jeff Shaara; a business book by William Poundstone and one on commodities; a book about Sally Ride by Lynn Sherr; and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s much-anticipated memoir. And that’s just the first week.

Later in June, look for new novels by Diana Gabaldon, Jennifer Weiner, Janet Evanovich, Linda Fairstein, Ridley Pearson, James Patterson, Jude Deveraux and Dean Koontz. You’ll find a book about a dog that flew during World War II (and why). Read about Justice Antonin Scalia. Pick up some new Will Shortz puzzle books in June. And learn how to use your manners when you have to swear.

For the kids, look for a new “Dork Diaries” installation; an encyclopedia of animated characters; a few new mysteries for middle-grade readers; a new book about Charlie the Ranch Dog; and a book about farting fish.

JULY

Just because summer’s half over doesn’t mean your reading list is. Before the fireworks even begin, look for new novels by Jojo Moyes, Susan Wiggs, J.A. Jance, Jacqueline Winspear and Amy Sohn. There’s a new book coming out about Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, a new book that debunks myths about sex, a new book by Ja Rule, a skinny book about crossword puzzles and why we love them, a self-help book on “wallowing” the right way and a cool true-crime book about how amateurs have been solving cold cases and bringing killers to justice.

Later in July, you’ll find more favorites: novels by Brad Thor, Iris & Roy Johansen, Anne Rivers Siddons, Terry Brooks, Catherine Coulter, Brad Taylor, Conn Igguldon, Stuart Woods, James Lee Burke, Ace Atkins and Julie Garwood; a new memoir by singer Rick James; a biography on Michelangelo; a new book about families and race; a tell-all about the Clinton’s political life; and a memoir of faith and football.

The kids will love finding new Guardians of the Galaxy books, new joke books to while away the summer, the latest Fancy Nancy installment and a new graphic novel by Neil Gaiman.

AUGUST

You’re not done yet. There’s still plenty of summer and plenty of time to read left.

The first part of August will see a new book by Andrew Cuomo, a new novel by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, a new W.E.B. Griffin tome, a new book about crime-scene profilers and a book about the woman behind theMona Lisa.

Also in August, look for new books by Carl Weber, William Kent Krueger, Debbie Macomber, Kelly Armstrong, Elaine Hussey, Randy Wayne White, Tami Hoag, Paul Coelho and Kathy Reichs.

Get the kids in back-to-school mode with a new children’s book by Malala Yousafzai; a new Cupcake Diaries installment; ghost stories; and a kid’s book about paying it forward.

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Books

‘Seek’ shows how one tiny action can open big doors

New book could ‘transform your life and change the world’

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(Book cover image courtesy of Balance)

‘Seek: How Curiosity Can Transform Your Life and Change the World’
By Scott Shigeoka
c.2023, Balance 
$30/243 pages

Curiosity killed the cat.

That’s what Grandma said when you were a nosy little kid but hey, you needed to learn about your world. Asking questions, that’s what kids do – and so do savvy grown-ups. Curiosity may have plagued Grandma’s cat but as you’ll see in “Seek” by Scott Shigeoka, a lack of it could do you harm.

His friends worried about him.

When Scott Shigeoka quit his job to travel around America for a year, they figured he’d be the target of all kinds of bad things. As a queer Asian-American man, Shigeoka wasn’t searching for himself, and he surely wasn’t looking for trouble. No, he was looking for strangers, to see what we have in common with one another.

“I wanted to feel less scared and angry all the time,” he says.

Shigeoka’s interpretation of studies is that our general lack of curiosity about one another “is literally killing us.” With that in mind, he left his home and his job and headed out to small towns in the South, a reservation in Minnesota, a Trump rally, and a retreat center with nuns and millennials. He squashed his inner negativity, bravely swallowed his reluctance, approached people, and cultivated his curiosity by speaking with religious leaders, zealots, and everyday folks. In doing so, he learned to D.I.V.E. into his outward curiosity.

Detach, he says, and let go of “the ABCs”: assumptions, biases, and certainty. Even if you think you’re against racism, homophobia, or any other intolerance, you “still have unconscious biases that need to be… interrupted and challenged.” Learn to act with Intent. Know what questions to ask so that you can best learn about others and their thoughts. Show someone their Value by remembering that their political leaning, for instance, “is only one piece of a person’s life and personality.” And finally, learn to Embrace what’s in front of you. This will “open the doors” to “more fulfillment and happiness to your life.”

Does it sometimes seem as though today’s world is filled with awkward moments? Like you want to communicate with people you meet, but the rules have changed? Or maybe you have and if that’s the case, then author Scott Shigeoka has a fix. In “Seek,” he shows how one tiny action can open great big doors.

It seems kind of fun, actually: you meet someone new, show a gentle bit of interest and pay attention, ask a few open-ended questions, and voila! New friend or client. New, healthy lines of communication. New or enhanced working relationship. Big yay.

And yet – while this book is very useful, easy to grasp, and enthusiastic, Shigeoka has very few cautionary words to offer readers who may be too eager. Some of the ideas here, in the wrong hands, may be perceived as obnoxious or threatening. Understanding when to back off might have been good advice here, too.

Keep that in mind, know your target, open your heart, and have fun. If your curiosity needs fluffing up, “Seek” may be the purrfect book for you.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Books

‘Gender Pioneers’ reminds readers that trans people are not new

‘A Celebration of Transgender, Non-Binary and Intersex Icons’

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(Book cover courtesy of Jessica Kingsley Publishers)

‘Gender Pioneers: A Celebration of Transgender, Non-Binary and Intersex Icons’
By Philippa Punchard
c.2022, Jessica Kingsley Publishers 
$22.95/118 pages

Take a left at the first road, then right and right again.

It’s always a good idea to know where you’re going – but then again, getting lost can have its benefits, too. Veering off an easy path gives you a chance to see things, maybe even something better. You can get all kinds of directions for life but sometimes, as in “Gender Pioneers” by Philippa Punchard, you just gotta step off the road.

In 1912, French audiences were thrilled by the talent of a trapeze artist known as Barbette. The lovely Barbette flew over the heads of Parisians solo, gracefully, and the best citizens followed those performances avidly. By 1919, Babette added to the end of the performance the revelation that “she” was really Vander Clyde Broadway, a male performer.

We might think that being transgender is “new” and just “a Western thing,” but Punchard has reason to disagree: history is dotted with men passing as women, and women living as men. As Christine Burns says in the foreword, “Trans people are not a new thing.”

Some seemed to do it as a means to an end: Ellen and William Craft wore clothing of the opposite sex in order to escape slavery in 1848. Betty Cooper may have worn men’s clothing for the same reason in 1771. Neither case, says Punchard, indicates “classical” trans behavior, but we’ll never know for sure.

Biawacheeitchish, who grew up to be powerful, wealthy, with four wives, was kidnapped as a young girl and was encouraged by their Native American adoptive father to engage in male activities, perhaps because he’d lost two sons; in another time and place, Biawacheeitchish would’ve been called a “female husband.” Dora Richter, the first woman to receive vaginoplasty, was killed by “a Nazi mob.” Dr. James Barry, a highly renowned surgeon, used “built-up shoes and… padding to appear more masculine…” James Allen and Billy Tipton were both married to women before death revealed that they were female. And Mary Read was a girl, until their mother lost her only son.

In her foreword, Burns says that there are “two awkward challenges” when we talk about trans people in history: were they intersex, rather than trans; and were they people – mostly women – who presented as the opposite gender to gain the benefits of the opposite gender? The questions demand more study and “Gender Pioneers” offers a launching point.

Open this book anywhere and you’ll see that the theme here is serious, but author Philippa Punchard also lends a bit of breeze. There’s no certain order to what you’ll read, and while the entries reach back to ancient times, they focus more on the past 300 years or so; each of the articles is short and to-the-point, and the soft illustrations invite browsing. For readers who want a quick read, this works.

Be sure to keep going through both appendices of this book, where you’ll find a wealth of further information and dates to remember. Historians and readers of trans history will find “Gender Pioneers” just right.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Books

‘The Risk It Takes to Bloom’ offers plainspoken inspiration

An accessible trans coming-out story

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(Book cover image courtesy of St. Martin's Press)

‘The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation’
By Raquel Willis
c.2023, St. Martin’s Press
$29/384 pages

The catalogs should start arriving soon.

If you’re a gardener, that’s a siren song for you. What will you put in your pots and plots this spring? What colors will you have, what crops will you harvest? It never gets old: put a seed no bigger than a breadcrumb into some dirt and it becomes dinner in just weeks. All it needs, as in the new memoir “The Risk It Takes to Bloom” by Raquel Willis, is a little time to grow.

The last time Raquel Willis remembers being completely safe and loved without strings attached was at age five, at a talent show. Shortly afterwards, some elders began telling Willis to speak with “a particular brand of clear,” to move differently, to act differently. Willis was a Black boy then, and that was how her father worked against his son’s “softness.”

Willis didn’t know the truth about herself then, but other boys did. So, eventually, did the girls, as a grade school Willis “gravitated… toward” them. Young Willis prayed for God to “just make me a girl” but the bullying that had already begun only got worse.

She changed schools and things were no better; meanwhile, her father tried “even harder to correct who I was becoming.” Friends and online friends were encouraging and supportive, offering her courage to come out to her mother, who thought it was “a phase.” Her father was angry, then accepting. Other family members took Willis’s news in stride.

It was going to be OK. More than OK, in fact, because Willis was introduced to drag, and she started to feel more comfortable in women’s clothing than in men’s attire. To Willis, the drag troupe had begun feeling like family. She settled into life as a gay drag performer, because that was the “language” she had.

And then one day, while talking on the phone with an on-again off-again boyfriend, something important hit Willis, hard.

“I think I’m a woman,” she told him. “I’m a woman — I am.”

Sometimes, it takes a while to understand the person you really are. Half a book, in this case, because “The Risk It Takes to Bloom” is quite wordy: author Raquel Willis tells her story in excruciating detail, and it can get rather long.

And yet, the length allows for clues that readers can follow, to truly see the woman, the activist and writer, who penned this book. But is that enough to attract readers? What sets this book apart from other, similar books by star-powered Black trans women?

The answer lies in the approachability of its author.

Willis tells her tale with a more anchoring feel, more down-to-earth, like she could have lived up the street from you or sat in the last row of your high school algebra class. You could’ve known her. You could know someone like her. Or Willis could be you.

Indeed, this book might hold plainspoken inspiration for anyone who needs it. If that’s you, get “The Risk It Takes to Bloom,” find a chair, and plant yourself.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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