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The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk – A Review

Posted on June 10th, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

harvey milk

 

(Book 1 of 8 of my Summer Reading book reviews.)

Title/Author: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts

Read by: Anna, Teen Central Librarian

Summary: In 1977, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States. This book chronicles his short life, telling in detail how an outsider won over a city and changed lives for the better, all before he was assassinated eleven months after his election.

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre/sub-genre: LGBTQ Non-Fiction

Diversity: LGBTQ and minorities from a variety of other countries.

Relatable characters: Yes.

Would I recommend this to others?: YES. If you’re at all interested in LGBTQ history, or outsiders who defy the odds, you’ll enjoy this book.

Personal thoughts: What I liked best about Harvey Milk was that he was an average, everyday person who decided he could make the world a better place by running for city supervisor, an elected political position, in San Francisco. He put in hours of hard work to meet the people, going out to bus stops and cafes every day, bars at night, wherever he could meet people and find out what they wanted fixed in their city. He had a great sense of humor, and loved telling jokes wherever he was. This book helps to show his personality, the hardships he went through to get where he was at the end of his life, as well as the gay political climate of the era around the country, which wasn’t very good at the time. I found the writing style to be easy to read, though sometimes it was hard to remember who a specific person was because multiple people had the same, or similar, names. (But that’s real life for you, right?) I almost cried at the end, knowing what a great guy he was and knowing he wasn’t going to survive. That did make it a hard read. I’m still amazed that the birthday party held in his honor just a few months after his death brought 20,000 people to his neighborhood to celebrate his life! If a guy can do that, he must have been great.

Like Me – A Review

Posted on July 24th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

like me

Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer by: Chely Wright

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

Like Me is  Chely Wright’s memoir/autoboigraphy. She explains how she grew up, how she got into singing country music, how she rose to the top of the charts with a number one song, and most of all, how she dealt with being a lesbian in an anti-LGBTQ atmosphere before gaining the courage to come out of the closet.

I admit to being a country music fan. I might not always remember who sings which song, but I do love the music. About two years ago I went to Book Expo America and had the opportunity to meet Chely Wright who was there signing her book. I was star-struck, of course. She wasn’t popular at the time, but I remember when she was and I knew she had good songs out there. Standing in line, I was amazed that she seemed very down to earth as I knew virtually nothing about her except her music. She’s naturally pretty (as her cover shows) and she doesn’t do anything to change that. Sure she’s got money, but she doesn’t fling it around and buy expensive things just because she can. She’s smart and hard working too, definitely things to admire in anyone you meet. I don’t think I said anything other than ‘thank you’ to her when she signed my copy, though I wish I could have unglued my mouth for more than that.

Reading her memoir, I truly understood how difficult it was for her to stay in hiding for nearly 30 years before she told a single person she was gay. She had relationships with men, hoping each time that things would change and she would fall in love and be straight. She prayed at least once a day for God to take away the gay that was inside her. And she had several relationships with other women that she kept hidden from the world. The pain was evident every time someone cracked a gay joke, or told her there were rumors she was a lesbian and that if it was true she was going to hell. She’s Christian through and through and she had the strength to hold onto her beliefs, even when her church continually spoke against her. She has to be admired for that strength. Even when she hit rock bottom, when she thought about committing suicide, she was able to use her faith and hold on just a little bit longer until she was strong enough to go back out into the world.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with coming to terms with being LGBTQ, coming out of the closet, or anyone who simply wants to know more about what it’s like struggling with these issues. She writes in a conversational tone that makes her words easy to understand and before you know it, you’ve reached the end, amazed at the long journey you’ve taken with her.

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution – A Review

Posted on June 25th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Victory

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution by Linda Hirshman

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

This is the story of the gay revolution in America starting over one hundred years ago, long before the famed Stonewall Riots in 1969. This non-fiction narrative covers every gay and lesbian organization and seemingly every single person involved in helping them gain equal rights. It chronicles how the movement started out with a small number of underground activists to large numbers of people taking a full political stand for what they believe in. Many organizations that were created over the years died out because their tactics didn’t work any more. New organizations were born of the old. Those people simply picked up and carried on in a new fashion. Each group had its own way of combating the issues they faced, be it police who wouldn’t let them innocently congregate in a bar, people who were afraid of what they didn’t know and made it illegal for an entire population to have consensual sex, to a government that withheld important medication that could have saved thousands of lives during the AIDS epidemic. Slowly the gay community fought back and gained the rights they deserved. There is still more work to be done, but when you look at how far we’ve come, we’ve certainly accomplished a lot in the last one hundred years.

This was a very good, very interesting read. I learned a lot I didn’t know about the history, and a lot about current matters I was unaware of. I would highly recommend this book for someone who’s very interested in the topic, already has at least a basic understanding of the past, and is looking for more. This is the book for you. It is very in depth and covers a lot of ground. However, do keep in mind, that until very recently Transgender equality wasn’t much of a priority, thus it is rarely mentioned in this book.

Despite all the good information in this book, there was one thing I had a problem with. There are a lot of names that come up over the course of history, many repeatedly, others not so much. There were a lot of organizations that came and went, along with their acronyms. And towards the end, when things turned political, there are a lot of court cases that get mentioned on the fly. How is one to keep all these things straight? I felt there needed to be a list of people, organizations, and a list of court cases at the end, all with a brief, one to two line description of who that person was or what the point of the case was. That would have helped a great deal. This is the reason I do not recommend this book to a beginner. If you don’t know much about gay history, read an easier book first before you tackle this one.

My best suggestion is a wonderful book called Gay America: Struggle For Equality by Linas Alsenas. There is a lot of information given without overwhelming the reader with names of people, court cases, or organizations. Everything is nicely laid out in an easy to read manner, and there are a lot of great pictures, helping to put faces with names.

Gay America

If I Lie – A Review

Posted on March 8th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

if i lie

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

Before he leaves for Afghanistan, Carey comes out to his girlfriend of two years, asking her to keep the secret he’s told her from everyone in their small military town. Including his parents and his best friend, Blake. But when an accidental picture of Sophie and Blake kissing gets posted on Facebook, the entire town errupts into accusations that Sophie is cheating on her Marine boyfriend. Just like her mother did to her father six years ago. Sophie’s tough military dad orders her to work at the VA hospital three days a week until she graduates to keep her from getting suspended from school over the picture. While at the VA hospital, she comes to befriend George, the grumpy old guy interviewing and photographing veterans for the Veteran’s History Project. He recognizes a professional photographer in her and begins teaching her all he knows. Then Carey goes MIA and the other students begin tormenting Sophie even more than ever before. Friends ask her to explain what happened the night she kissed Blake, but she vowed she wouldn’t, and their tormenting continues, calling her every horrible name in the book from Slut to Traitor. Her life is a living hell, and she doesn’t even know if Carey, the boy she still loves despite everything, will ever return to set the town “straight”. His secret is not hers to tell, and she knows that well.

This novel is extremely gripping. And Kleenex is required toward the end. It’s also realistic in everything that happens to the un-Disney-like ending. George is such an awesome character. The humor he shares with Sophie and their good times are little rays of sunshine in her thunder cloud world. The characters are 3-D, the setting is 3-D, and the author leaves you wondering how the book will end. Will Carey make it home? Will he tell the truth? This book keeps you reading to find out. If you’re wondering what the effects of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are on the civillians left behind, this is a great, heartfelt example.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the military and what it’s like keeping secrets that could easily destroy or save a life.

The Time Has Come

Posted on March 22nd, 2012 by Anna in News

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon gave a recent speech telling the world that we all need to speak up for Human Rights. There are many places around the world where gay, lesbian, transgender, questioning, and gender neutral people (LGBTQ) are hurt or even killed just for being who they are. Ban Ki-Moon is calling for an end to the hate. Check out his moving speech here: