Showing 51 - 60 of 167 annotations tagged with the keyword "Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues"

Memoirs of Hadrian

Yourcenar, Marguerite

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Memoirs of Hadrian is a historical novel in the form of a long letter written by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his young friend and eventual successor, Marcus Aurelius. Alas, Hadrian is "growing old, and is about to die of a dropsical heart." The Emperor begins by describing his recent visit with his physician Hermogenes, who "was alarmed, in spite of himself, at the rapid progress of the disease" (3). In light of his physical deterioration, Hadrian begins to reflect on his life and work, and to share his wisdom with his young correspondent.

Hadrian tells of his early life as the protégé of the Emperor Trajan, his military and political victories, and his eventual adoption by Trajan, a move that guaranteed the succession when his adoptive father died. While Trajan, whose victories brought the Roman Empire to its greatest size, was a military man to the core, Hadrian considers himself essentially peace loving--his personal life devoted to simplicity and harmony; and his public life to prosperity and justice. Nonetheless, he has always recognized that, in order to govern effectively, ruthless action is sometimes required.

Hadrian's marriage to the Empress Sabina was simply a matter of convenience. The love of his life was a beautiful young man named Antinous. The two men were deeply committed to one another, but at the same time the middle-aged emperor had "a certain dread of bondage" ( 177) that kept him from fully giving himself to Antinous with the abandon of youth. They were visiting Alexandria when the despondent Antinous committed suicide in a way that mimicked a religious ritual, essentially sacrificing himself to the deified Emperor.

Hadrian was crushed with grief and descended into a long period of depression. However, he eventually overcame his depression through his love of literature and ideas, as well as his sense of duty to the Empire (no SSRIs being available at the time), although not before attempting to enlist his physician in assisted suicide. Unable to refuse his emperor's request, the physician himself commits suicide rather than violating his Hippocratic Oath.

Hadrian's final military engagements involve crushing Jewish insurgents in Palestine, completing the destruction of Jerusalem, and founding a new Roman city on its site. The aged Emperor reflects frequently on his tolerance for all religions, except for politically disruptive fanatics like the followers of a Jewish prophet called Christ. As to the Jews in Palestine, he cannot understand why they continue to engage in self-destructive rebellion, most recently with Bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva as their leaders.

In his final years Hadrian adopts Lucius, one of his former lovers (in this account), as his son and heir, but Lucius soon dies, presumably from tuberculosis. Eventually, the Emperor adopts Antinous Pius as his heir and further arranges for Marcus Aurelius to succeed Antinous Pius. At the end of his letter, Hadrian writes, "I could now return to Tibur, going back to that retreat which is called illness, to experiment with my suffering, to taste fully what delights are left to me, and to resume in peace my interrupted dialogue with a shade." [i.e. Antinous, his lost love (271)].

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Summary:

This remarkable collection of short writings, introduced by renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who visited the Sutterwriters (of Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, California) to offer a workshop, provides a broad, compassionate, imaginative window into the life inside and around an urban hospital. Patients, staff, and all interested in healing through writing are invited to come and participate-with an accent on the latter: no one is invited who isn't willing to write.

Chip Spann, the editor, came to Sutter Hospital with a Ph.D. in English, and has the privilege of coordinating this fluid community of writers as part of his work as a staffmember. His conviction, voiced in an engaging introduction, is that literature is a powerful instrument of healing--both the literature we read and the literature we create--and that the experience of literature belongs in community. The individual pieces are accompanied by photographs and short bios of contributors.

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Life As I Knew It

Hacker, Randi

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Angelina Rossini tells the story of the year her father died. A lively, opinionated, attractive sixty-nine-year-old Italian happily married to a forty-two-year-old English woman, he has hardly been an inconspicuous presence in the small town of Blodgett, Vermont with a population of 854. Angelina, the only child of this second marriage, loves her father dearly, though she rolls her eyes at his eccentricities, and knows herself to be fortunate in both parents, though they're older, and her mother somewhat less expressive, than she would choose. Her best friend, Jax, belongs to a very different family, large, blue-collar, partly French Canadian. Though she and Jax have been friends since kindergarten, and though she has known for some time that he is gay, her love for him sometimes spills over into desire. They talk about this, as they do about everything else, though this subject is a little tenderer than most. When a girl who has been aggressive and unfriendly suddenly reveals her own same-sex desires, Angelina is able to handle her awkward revelation with compassion.

When Angelina's father has a stroke, all the rhythms of family life are disrupted. Her half sister, whom she's never liked much, comes for an extended visit. Her mother is preoccupied, first at the hospital, then with home care. And she herself has to learn aspects of caregiving for a partly paralyzed father who has lost his speech. The process is, of course, emotionally complex, sometimes comical, often heartbreaking. But when she speaks at his funeral, after a heart attack takes his life, it is with a widened appreciation of the kind of man he was, and of what value his life had even in the months he was severely incapacitated. After his death, she explores, in a few final chapters, the ambiguities of grief, and the process of forging a new relationship with her mother, who has lost her own best friend and companion.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

West coast dancer John Henry made his life the subject of his final performance. Choreographer Bromberg and film maker Rosenberg collaborate with Henry in the creation of a work for the theatre based on his desire to leave an autobiographic legacy. Filmed during the last few years of Henry's life with HIV/AIDS, the documentary examines the image of self as one individual prepares to separate from body and personhood, and continues after his death.

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The Fundamental Pictures

Gilbert and George

Last Updated: May-18-2007
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Sculpture

Genre: Sculpture

Summary:

Gilbert and George's work over the past three decades has largely consisted of grid-like photomontages - note, they consider their work to be "sculpture". These often massive works are at once easily identifiable as part of Gilbert and George's oeuvre (in part because they often have Gilbert and George in them) and unflinchingly referential: to the manufactured sheen and unnaturally bright neons of Warhol, to the confrontational exposure of Mapplethorpe's photography, and, of course, to cathedral stained glass. They draw upon these same influences in their creative self-creation, their transgressive aesthetics, and their repetition and reworking of religious and secular motifs intertwined with abstractions. Gilbert and George are insistently doubles: original and derivative, repetitive and evolving, reactionary and visionary.

The Fundamental Pictures consists of a series of some 39 scultptures, most involving juxtapositions of bodily execretia - sputum, tears, urine, semen, feces - in monumental close-up; the tears, urine and semen are captured through a microscope, dessicated and crystalized. The sensational titles of the individual works, such as 'Piss Faith' and 'Spit on Shit', are fairly accurate in describing the central themes of each work. In some of the montages, Gilbert and George appear, pink and naked, against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of bright, magnified bodily fluids; in others, they are dressed in their familiar suits. They were exhibited at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, in 1997.

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A.D. (1987)

Gilbert and George

Last Updated: May-18-2007
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Sculpture

Genre: Sculpture

Summary:

One of Gilbert and George's very few specific portraits, this is a collage of images culled from their photographs of their friend David Robilliard. Its title, "A.D.", can be taken to mean "Anno Domini" or "After David" or, as the artists suggest, "AIDS David". It is at first an extraordinarily ugly piece, even by Gilbert and George's standards: the uniform flesh tone with pearly globules of moisture (sweat, semen), broken up by the black of shadows, the black bristles of stubble, and the black grid. The image looks like it emerged from one of William S. Burrough's novels, a nightmarish combination of mouth, orifices, bodily cavities.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In October, 1939, Josef Kavalier arrives at the New York City apartment of his cousin Sammy Klayman after an arduous escape from Prague and the Nazi invasion. Kavalier’s escape involved hiding in the casket of the oversized Golem of Prague, and was possible due to his training with Bernard Kornblum, one of the premier illusionists in Europe. Kavalier, the son of two physicians, and older brother to young Thomas, struggles to secure the freedom of his family, and to adapt to his adopted country.

His cousin, Sammy, however, is a first generation New York City Jew, the son of a psychiatric nurse at Bellevue and a fly-by-night vaudeville actor called the Mighty Molecule. Sammy was afflicted with polio as a child, with resultant spindly but usable legs--this later prevents his entry into the armed services after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sammy, who changes his name to Sam Clay, forms a partnership with his cousin to create a new kind of comic book, The Escapist, with innovations such as the Luna Moth, a female superhero. Much of the book follows their energies in the comic book industry in mid-twentieth century New York.

Rosa Luxemburg Saks, Sammy and Joe form an unusual love triangle. Rosa is an artist who introduces the cousins to the art culture of NYC, including a visit from Salvador Dalí, whom Joe rescues from asphyxiation in a diving suit during a Greenwich Village party. Joe and Rosa’s relationship, however, is interrupted by World War II, when Joe, devastated by news of his family in Europe, enlists, only to survive again--this time from carbon monoxide poisoning in an Antarctic Kelvinator Naval station.

Meanwhile Sam and Rosa marry to raise her son. Sam, a homosexual at a time when such a designation was largely viewed as a disease and as Un-American, spends much of his life in denial of his yearnings. Nonetheless he is eventually forced to testify to a Senate Judiciary Committee in 1954 on the role of the comic book industry in the trumpeting of male-male relationships.

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Ghost Letters

McCann, Richard

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Garden, Rebecca

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection of poems combines mournful reveries of the individual and collective losses of the U.S. AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and '90s with haunting recollections of the losses of childhood. Ghost Letters begins and concludes with poems in which the memories of love and rich relationships interweave with incantations of loss and keen descriptions of caring for the dying. In between is a section of poems that recreate the sweetness and pain of the speaker's childhood and the transformation that his father's death effects on the entire family.

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What Becomes You

Raz, Hilda; Link, Aaron

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Aaron Raz Link was born a girl, named Sarah, and loved as a daughter. Twenty-nine years later, after inner turmoil, deep thought and relentless examination of how society views gender, Sarah became Aaron, a gay man. This starkly open and moving book describes, in Aaron's words and then in his mother's words, both the costs and the rewards of this journey.

The book is divided into two sections: the longer, beginning section is Aaron's, an intense rendering of what might be called an inner dialogue: Aaron talking to himself about his place in a gendered world; Aaron talking to society about the role of men and women; and Aaron talking to us, the readers, as if we were his close friends, gathered around him as he revealed his life.

The second section belongs to his mother, Hilda Raz. In musing, episodic scenes, she writes about herself as Sarah and then Aaron's mother, about her own work as a poet and editor, and most poignantly about losing her breast to cancer.

On page 86 Aaron says, "A stereotype is a kind of camouflage; the eye finds what it expects to find, and passes over details." Throughout this book we are asked to look at, directly but never sensationally, our bodies' organs, our gender "details," not only as functional anatomy but as symbols of identification.

In both sections, I felt pulled along on this journey, both as someone invited and as someone looking on, an emotional voyeur, and in both sections I observed the unflinching honesty of the authors' revelations. But it in was this final section, the mother's story, that I felt most keenly the love between the two authors. It is this love that becomes the strength of the narrative, the ground on which this incredible story unfolds.

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Mother of Sorrows

McCann, Richard

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This partly autobiographical collection of linked stories could, as the author notes at his web site, be considered a novel as much as a collection. There is a single first-person (unnamed) narrator throughout, a circumscribed cast of characters, a timeline of almost 30 years, and "individual stories [that speak] to each other and [gather] force as they go forward" (see interview at the author's web site). At the center of these reflections and of the narrator's life is his enigmatic, beautiful mother, "Our Mother of the Sighs and Heartaches . . . Our Mother of the Mixed Messages," "Our Mother whom I adored and whom, in adoring, I ran from, knowing it 'wrong' for a son to wish to be like his mother" (17). The book also delves significantly into the relationship between the narrator and his older brother, and to a lesser extent concerns the narrator's relationship with his father, who dies when the narrator is 11 years old. Interwoven throughout is the narrator's growing awareness and suppression of his own homosexuality.

All the stories are refracted through memory, back to when the narrator was nine years old, living with his brother, mother, and father in post-World War II Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. The stories progress through a roaming young adulthood of lies and random sexual encounters; and move into adulthood, committed relationships, and accumulating personal losses. In addition to the mother, of almost equal importance is the narrator's ambivalent relationship to his brother, Davis, who is sometimes an ally and sometimes a competitor or antagonist. Initially contemptuous of the narrator's identification with his mother, Davis later leads a defiant, drug dependent, and openly homosexual life while the narrator himself remains closeted to his parents and to many others. The narrator depicts himself and his brother as Cain and Abel, only "I was Cain and Abel both, as was my brother" (158).

Particularly striking are "My Mother's Clothes: The School of Beauty and Shame," "The Diarist," and "My Brother in the Basement." In "My Mother's Clothes" McCann develops themes of the narrator's infatuation with his mother, his guilt about that, his uncomfortable relationship with his father, and renunciation -- of his friendship with another boy. "The Diarist" focuses on the narrator's difficult interaction with his father, who expects masculine behavior from him, and with brother Davis, who seems to have no trouble fitting into the role expected of him. "My Brother in the Basement" moves forward into young adulthood and the shocking outcome of Davis's life, and the narrator's retrospective and revisionist analysis of that time.

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