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OutWrite 2017 celebrates LGBT authors

Annual event is next weekend at the D.C. Center

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Rita Mae Brown, gay news, Washington Blade

OutWrite, gay news, Washington BladeOutWrite 2017: A Celebration of LGBT Literature is Aug. 4-6 at the D.C. Center and features authors, poets, panel discussions and more.

Cecilia Tan, an author and editor with Circlet Press, will give the keynote address.

The weekend will continue with readings, panels and book sales on Saturday and a full day of workshops on Sunday at the Center (2000 14th St., N.W.). The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit thedccenter.org/outwrite.

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Books

Season’s best new books offer something for every taste

History, YA, horror and more on tap

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(Book covers courtesy of the publishers)

Shorter days, cooler temps, and longer nights can send you skittering inside, right? Don’t forget to bring one of these great books with you when you settle in for the fall.

Releasing in September, look for “Between the Head and the Hands” by James Chaarani, a novel about a young Muslim man whose family turns him away for being gay, and the teacher who takes him in (ECW Press, Sept. 10). Also reach for “Cleat Cute: A Novel,” by Meryl Wilsner (St. Martin’s Griffin, Sept. 19), a fun YA novel of soccer, competition, and playing hard (to get).

You may want something light and fun for now, so find “The Out Side: Trans and Nonbinary Comics,” compiled by The Kao, Min Christiansen, and Daniel Daneman (Andrews McMeel Publishing). It’s a collection of comics by nonbinary and trans artists, and you can find it Sept. 26.

The serious romantic will want to find “Daddies of a Different Kind: Sex and Romance Between Older and Younger Gay Men” by Tony Silva (NYU Press), a book about new possibilities in love; it’s available Sept. 12. Historians will want “Glitter and Concrete: A Cultural History of Drag in New York City” by Elyssa Maxx Goodman (Hanover Square Press, Sept. 12); and “Queer Blues: The Hidden Figures of Early Blues Music” by Darryl W. Bullock (Omnibus Press, Sept. 14).

In October, you’ll want to find “Blackouts: A Novel” by Justin Torres (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a somewhat-fantasy novel about a dying man who passes a powerful book on to his caretaker. Look for it Oct. 10. Also on Oct. 10, grab “Love at 350º” by Lisa Peers (Dial Press Trade Paperback), a novel about love at a chance meeting at a baking-show contest and “The Christmas Swap: A Novel” by Talia Samuels (Alcove Press), a holiday rom-com.

You’re just warming up for the fall. Look for “Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date” by Ashley Herring Blake (Berkley, Oct. 24) and “Let Me Out,” a queer horror novel by Emmett Nahil and George Williams (Oni Press, Oct. 3).

Nonfiction lovers will want to find “Dis… Miss Gender?” by Anne Bray (MIT Press, Oct. 24), a wide, long look at gender and fluidity; “Friends of Dorothy: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Icons” by Anthony Uzarowski and Alejandro Mogollo Diez (Imagine, Oct. 10); and “300,000 Kisses: Tales of Queer Love from the Ancient World” by Sean Hewitt and Luke Edward Hall (Clarkson Potter, Oct. 10).

For November, look for “Underburn: A Novel” by Bill Gaythwaite (Delphinium), a layered novel about Hollywood, family, and second chances. It comes out Nov. 14. For something you can really sink your teeth into, find “The Bars are Ours: Histories and Cultures of Gay Bars in America, 1960 and After” by Lucas Hilderbrand (Duke University Press, Nov 21). It’s a huge look at the spaces that played strong roles in LGBTQ history.

And if you’re looking for yourself or for a special gift in December, check out “Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects” by David Evans Frantz, Christina Linden, and Chris E. Vargas. It’s an arty coffee table book from Hirmer Publishers of Munich. You can find it Dec. 20. Also look for “Second Chances in New Port Stephen: A Novel” by T.J. Alexander (Atria / Emily Bestler, Dec. 5) and if all else fails, ask for or give a gift certificate.

Season’s readings!

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Books

Intriguing historical novel based on the true story of 1800s lesbian couple

‘Learned by Heart’ by Emma Donoghue a moving read

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(Book cover image courtesy of Little Brown)

‘Learned by Heart’
By Emma Donoghue
C. 2023, Little Brown
$28/324 pages

English landowner, diarist and businesswoman Anne Lister (1791-1840) married her last partner Ann Walker in a marriage ceremony at Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate, York. This is considered by many to be the first lesbian marriage in England, and likely, the world.

Lister, born in a landowning family at Shibden in Calderdale, West Riding of Yorkshire, who’s been called “the first modern lesbian,” is having a moment. In two seasons in 2019 and 2022, “Gentleman Jack,” a riveting series, based on Lister’s diaries, co-produced by the BBC and HBO (streaming on Max), dramatized Lister’s relationship with Walker.

“Learned by Heart,” an intriguing historical novel by Emma Donoghue is based on the true story of the queer relationship of Lister and Eliza Raine. Raine is believed to have been Lister’s first lover.

Much of the novel takes place in 1805-1806, when, at age 14 and 15, Lister and Raine were students at Miss Hargrave’s Manor School, a boarding school for girls in York.

Raine was born in Madras (now Chennai) in India. Her father, who was English, was a surgeon with the East India Company. He and an Indian woman, whom he did not legally marry, had Raine.

In an author’s note, Donoghue writes of a letter of Raine’s that refers to her as having “sprung from an illicit connection.” Another letter calls Raine a “lady of colour.”

Raine is sent to England at age 6. After her father and mother die, she’s left an orphan with a small inheritance.

Through “Gentleman Jack” and her diaries (which are being digitalized), Lister, with her brilliance and charismatic personality, has become a queer culture icon.

Raine is comparatively unknown. Perhaps, for this reason, “Learned by Hand” focuses on Raine’s point of view.

Raine arrives at the Manor School before Lister. Prior to Lister’s arrival, Raine is mousy, rule abiding.

Because Raine’s from India, she sleeps alone in a small room. Aware of unspoken racial bias (against people who are part Indian and part English), she wants to blend in – to stay out of trouble in this school with its many rules. “She’s trained herself to wake at seven,” Donoghue writes, “just before the bell.”

When Lister arrives at the school, Raine’s world and personality are transformed. Lister, known even at this young age for being too smart for her own good, is assigned to room with Raine — isolated from the other girls — in the tiny room they call “the Slope.” Donoghue skillfully illuminates how the girls’ friendship becomes sexual, passionate first love.

One day, Lister and Raine, who call each other by their last names, alone in a church, conduct a marriage ceremony for themselves.

“Learned by Heart” is heartbreaking because its chapters are intertwined with letters that Raine writes to Lister in 1815.

It’s clear from this correspondence that Lister has (and will have) other lovers than Raine. And, that, sadly, Raine is writing from what is then called an “insane asylum.”

As is evident from “The Pull of The Stars,” and her other historical novels, Donoghue has an unerring talent for creating fascinating tales out of true stories.

Unfortunately, as so often happens, Lister, the bad, outrageous girl, is far more interesting than Raine. Raine frequently comes across as loyal, passionate, but too needy and clingy. As Lister’s Barbara Stanwyck to Raine’s June Cleaver.

“There’s nothing noble about Anne Lister…,” Donoghue wrote of Lister in “The Guardian.”
Lister had the sexual ethics of a bonobo, Donoghue continued, “lying to every lover as a matter of policy.”

Yet, Lister is Donoghue’s hero. “Because she looked into her heart and wrote about what she found there with unflinching precision,” Donoghue wrote in her “Guardian” essay.

“I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs,” Lister wrote in a coded entry in her diary on Oct. 29, 1820. (Lister wrote one-sixth of her diaries in code to hide from homophobic eyes.)

“Learned by Heart” is a moving, entertaining read. Raine’s story along with Lister’s should be told. Even the clingy can be unsung heroes.

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

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Books

More than a coming-of-age, coming out story

‘Through the Groves’ a sharp, hilarious new book

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(Book cover image courtesy Henry Holt)

‘Through the Groves: A Memoir’
By Anne Hull
c.2023, Henry Holt
$26.99/224 pages

You can’t see the forest for the trees.

Fluffy pines, and oaks that started growing before your parents were born. Tall willows, towering cottonwoods that create a canopy far above you. The forest soothes your mind; if you have an out-of-control imagination, it offers a good scare. Nature’s there, and in the new book “Through the Groves” by Anne Hull, you’ll find memories, too.

She still recalls the smell and the heat and the pesticides.

Anne Hull was her daddy’s sidekick the summer she was six years old, riding along with him on his job as a fruit buyer in the middle of Florida where rows of orange trees stretched for miles. Together, they visited the dusty, scarred older Black men who worked the groves on her father’s route, and her father taught her all about “withholding confidential information” and not telling her mother about using a chalky field as a bathroom or about the gun in his car.

Hull’s mother already knew about the roadside stops he made, and the bars along his way home: the ride-alongs Hull so enjoyed were meant to deter her father from “Friday afternoon fever” and bright neon beer signs.

Back then, Hull was only starting to notice that her family moved often, from one ramshackle house to another, and she saw the weekly checks her great-grandmother gave her father. She already knew that adults kept secrets that weren’t so secret to a growing girl who was obsessed with being a spy someday. These were adventures just like the adventures she had with cousins and her little brother, who was an accident-prone “calamity.”

When Hull’s mother left Hull’s father and moved in with Hull’s grandmother, that was an adventure, too – until it wasn’t. Hull had become old enough to understand genteel poverty and that hand-me-downs weren’t cool. She bonded with her grandmother over music; sneered at her mother, as teenagers do; and she thought about her dad, but only in the abstract.

He never forgot about her, though.

He never stopped trying to be her father.

Do you really want some treacly life story now? Nah, you want something solid and sincere, right? Something different. Part coming-of-age, but more, maybe.

You want “Through the Groves.”

Rather than opening this tale where most childhood memoirs start, with eye-rolling, attitudinal teen years, author Anne Hull’s story begins the summer she was six years old and they move forward from there. This gives readers the gift of an observant kid’s-eye view of life – one that’s older than its years and doesn’t miss a thing, but that’s not insufferably precious or precocious. Viewed through the lens of a grown-up, then, those early memories give readers the “more” they crave, becoming a triple-whammy of coming-of-age, coming out, and coming to terms with the frailty of family. That’s sharp as flint but also hilarious.

Hull says her father was a storyteller and this orange apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Start “Through the Groves” and you’ll find that you just can’t leaf it.

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

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