In her much-anticipated memoir, “Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss and the Fight for Trans Equality” (Crown Archetype, March 6), Sarah McBride tells the story of how she went from closeted student body president at American University to the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention at the age of 26. One of the most prominent transgender activists of her time, McBride interweaves thoughtful analysis of contemporary political issues, such as bathroom access and trans health care, into her own triumphant journey. The book begins with a foreword by Joe Biden.
“Speak No Evil: A Novel” by Uzodinma Iweala (Harper, March 6) just might be the coming-out story of the year, and a Washingtonian one at that. Iweala’s heart-wrenching sophomore novel follows Niru, a seemingly charmed track star at an elite D.C. private school bound for Harvard. Only his best friend Meredith knows he is gay until his sexuality is discovered by his conservative Nigerian father. The repercussions are swift and violent, catastrophic for his relationship with his family and taxing in his friendship with Meredith. The novel is a visceral but compassionate portrait of what it means to be different within a family, let alone society at large.
In “The Affliction” (Four Way Books, March 6), award-winning poet C. Dale Young makes his fiction debut with a novel told in fantastical short stories, spanning the United States and Caribbean. Among the novel’s many memorable characters are a man who can disappear, a woman who can see the future and a man raised in a cult who believes he is doomed to die. Young is openly gay and of Latino and Asian descent. He is also very much left- and right-brained in that he is a full-time physician when not writing and teaching creative writing at Warren Wilson College.
“The Sparsholt Affair” by Alan Hollinghurst (Knopf, March 13) begins with a covert gay relationship at Oxford University in 1940 and spans three generations, masterfully unfolding the social and sexual revolutions that have taken place through present day. Instantly a bestseller in the U.K., the novel is anchored by David Sparsholt and Evert Dax, whose evening trysts at Oxford feel especially under the radar with the world at war. Hollinghurst, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2004, is an openly gay English author.
“Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August” by Oliver Hilmes (Brodley Head, March 27) is a fascinating historical account of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Hilmes, a gay German historian, paints an intoxicating picture of the city of Liza Minelli’s “Cabaret” — where queer life flourished under the Weimar Republic — contrasted with the terrifying rise of Adolf Hitler. In addition to analyzing the events of the Olympic Games, namely Jesse Owens’ triumph, Hilmes also introduces us to the lives of ordinary (some queer) Berliners. The book is ultimately an ode to the city, which has since reestablished itself as one of the most dynamic creative queer capitals in the world.
Chelsey Johnson’s debut novel, “Stray City” (Custom House, March 20) is the queer anti-“Gilmore Girls” you didn’t know you needed. This warm, hysterical story follows 23-year-old Andrea Morales, who escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood to create a life for herself in Portland’s vibrant lesbian community. One especially debauched evening, Andrea hooks up with a man and later finds herself pregnant. The novel jumps to a decade later, as Andrea’s precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never met.
“Written on the Body,” edited by Lexie Bean (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, March 21), is a collection of essays written by and for trans and non-binary survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. With contributions from Dean Spade, Nyala Moon, Alex Valdes, Sawyer DeVuyst and Ieshai Bailey, this book offers support, guidance and affirmation for trans survivors, whose stories are too often met with incredulousness and skepticism.
Amber Dawn, a Lambda Literary Award winner, returns with her second novel, “Sodom Road Exit” (Arsenal Pulp Press, April 3). This spellbinding paranormal thriller takes place in the summer of 1990 in Crystal Beach. Queer picaresque heroine, Starla Mia Martin, drops out of college and returns to find her lakeside village a ghost town after its beloved amusement park shuts down. Starla soon discovers an unnerving energy in the air — strange sounds, phantasmagoric sightings — and instead of hopping off the rollercoaster, she confronts every twist and turn head-on.
If you’re a poetry fan, “Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color” (Nightboat Books, May 1), edited by Christopher Soto, is a stunning celebration of the diversity of the queer poetry community, as varied in style and form as it is in the experiences held by each contributor. Soto launched Nepantla with the Lambda Literary Foundation as an online journal to share the work of queer and trans poets of color. This is its first time in print, featuring canonical pieces by legends like Audre Lorde and James Baldwin alongside their contemporaries, such as Natalie Diaz, Tommy Pico and Chen Chen.
Celebrated novelist Alexander Chee makes his nonfiction debut with “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” (Mariner Books, April 17). This revealing collection of essays is Chee’s manifesto on what it means to be a contemporary writer and gay man, Korean American, artist, activist, lover and friend. While tracing the most decisive moments of his own life, Chee also examines some of the nation’s biggest historical turning points, from the AIDS crisis to the election of Donald Trump.
“Little Fish” (Arsenal Pulp Press, May 1) is the debut novel from Lambda Literary Award-winning short story writer Casey Plett. The protagonist, Wendy Reimer, is a 30-year-old trans woman who discovers that her late grandfather, a pious Mennonite farmer, was likely transgender as well. In distracting herself from the problems in her own life and those of her friends — from alcoholism, to sex work to suicide — Wendy finds herself fully consumed by this familial mystery and the need to uncover the truth.
“SELF-ish: a Transgender Awakening” (Red Hen Press, May 4), a memoir by Chloe Schwenke, tells of her life and adventures living in five countries and working on projects in more than 40, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. This former Obama Administration appointee, has committed her life to assisting marginalized groups in some of the world’s most challenging countries.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it live, snag the paperback of legendary playwright Tony Kushner’s “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures” (Theatre Communications Group, May 8). The play opens with Gus Marcantonio, a retired longshoreman, who has gathered his family together to discuss his decision to commit suicide. Kushner, who wrote “Angels in America” and has won a Pulitzer and two Tony Awards, uses his signature wit in telling a story of revolution, family and challenging the systemic constructs we consider inherent to our society. It will be interesting to see how it translates to the page; Theater J’s D.C. production a few years ago felt like three hours of overlapping screaming.
Other releases of note include:
• “The Routledge History of Queer America” (Routledge Histories), edited by Don Romesburg, offers one of the most comprehensive overviews of LGBT U.S. history, featuring nearly 30 chapters spanning the colonial era to present day. The book is $210 and releases March 14.
• “Post-Borderlandia: Chicana Literature and Gender Variant Critique”(Rutgers University Press) by Jackie T. Cuevas synthesizes Chicana/o studies with queer theory and transgender studies, exploring gender identity and expression using the Chicana feminist canon and contemporary thinkers and artists. The book is $26.96 and releases March 28.
• “Transforming: the Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians” (Westminster John Knox Press) by Austen Hartke challenges the way readers conceptualize faith and the transgender experience, analyzing Biblical figures and providing representation to modern-day trans Christians. The book is $16 and out April 7.
• “Picture Us in the Light” by Kelly Loy Gilbert (Disney-Hyperion) is a poignant gay YA novel about Danny Cheng, a young artist bound for college who finds himself inexplicably panicked that he’ll be moving far from his best friend, Harry Wong. He’s also shaken by a disturbing discovery in his father’s closet. The book is $17.99 and releases April 10.
• “Not Here” (Coffee House Press) is the latest from critically acclaimed queer Vietnamese-American poet Hieu Minh Nguyen. Nguyen uses a wide variety of styles to provocatively confront whiteness, evoke both pleasure and pain, and find a sense of home in deep loneliness. The book is $16.95 and out April 10.
• “The Bride Was a Boy” by Chii (Seven Seas, May 1) is a delightful autobiographical manga novel about a transgender love story, drawn in the style of diary comics. Chii, who was assigned male at birth, begins with her childhood and continues through her latest adventure: marrying the man of her dreams. The book is $12.59 and available May 1.
• “Now the Night Begins” (Semiotext(e)/Native Agents) is gay French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie’s first foray into literature, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman. Adopting his signature film themes, the novel is driven by disconcerting, overpowering sexual desire, centered on 40-year old protagonist Gilles Heurtebise’s all-encompassing obsession with a 90-year old man in his neighborhood. It costs $24.95 and is out May 11.
• “50 Queer Music Icons Who Changed the World” (Hardie Grant, May 15), written by Will Larnach-Jones and illustrated by Michele Rosenthal, is a beautiful tribute to the LGBT musicians who have been pushing boundaries since the 1920s, featuring everyone from Little Richard to Frank Ocean. It’s $14.99 and available May 15.
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New book explores why we categorize sports according to gender
You can lead a homophobic horse to water but you can’t make it think
‘Fair Play: How Sports Shape the Gender Debates’
By Katie Barnes
c.2023, St. Martin’s Press
The jump shot happened so quickly, so perfectly.
Your favorite player was in the air in a heartbeat, basketball in hand, wrist cocked. One flick and it was all swish, three points, just like that, and your team was ahead. So are you watching men’s basketball or women’s basketball? Or, as in the new book, “Fair Play” by Katie Barnes, should it really matter?
For sports fans, this may come as a surprise: we categorize sports according to gender.
Football, baseball, wresting: male sports. Gymnastics, volleyball: women’s sports. And yet, one weekend spent cruising around television shows you that those sports are enjoyed by both men and women – but we question the sexuality of athletes who dare (gasp!) to cross invisible lines for a sport they love.
How did sports “become a flash point for a broader conversation?”
Barnes takes readers back first to 1967, when Kathrine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb both ran in the Boston Marathon. It was the first time women had audaciously done so and while both finished the race, their efforts didn’t sit well with the men who made the rules.
“Thirty-seven words” changed the country in 1972 when Title IX was signed, which guaranteed there’d be no discrimination in extracurricular events, as long as “federal financial assistance” was taken. It guaranteed availability for sports participation for millions of girls in schools and colleges. It also “enshrine[d] protections for queer and transgender youth to access school sports.”
So why the debate about competition across gender lines?
First, says Barnes, we can’t change biology, or human bodies that contain both testosterone and estrogen, or that some athletes naturally have more of one or the other – all of which factor into the debate. We shouldn’t forget that women can and do compete with men in some sports, and they sometimes win. We shouldn’t ignore the presence of transgender men in sports.
What we should do, Barnes says, is to “write a new story. One that works better.”
Here are two facts: Nobody likes change. And everybody has an opinion.
Keep those two statements in mind when you read “Fair Play.” They’ll keep you calm in this debate, as will author Katie Barnes’ lack of flame fanning.
As a sports fan, an athlete, and someone who’s binary, Barnes makes things relatively even-keel in this book, which is a breath of fresh air in what’s generally ferociously contentious. There’s a good balance of science and social commentary here, and the many, many stories that Barnes shares are entertaining and informative, as well as illustrative. Readers will come away with a good understanding of where the debate lies.
But will this book make a difference?
Maybe. Much will depend on who reads and absorbs it. Barnes offers plenty to ponder but alas, you can lead a homophobic horse to water but you can’t make it think. Still, if you’ve got skin in this particular bunch of games, find “Fair Play” and jump on it.
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New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’
‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more
‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.
“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.
In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.
The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.
The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.
Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.
“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.
While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.”
In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.
“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.
Girls and women still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.
Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.
Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort. There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.
The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”
“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches.
Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.
“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”
“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.
Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.
“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”
Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.
You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.
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Season’s best new books offer something for every taste
History, YA, horror and more on tap
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.