It’s the second annual QBMC Christmas party! The club celebrated by having everyone who attended to recommend their favourite LGBTQIA+ literature or entertainment:
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel.
Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire.
Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished…
You can read our discussion on Sputnik Sweetheart here.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.
As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.
You can read our discussion on Middlesex here.
Maya – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and lives intertwine.
It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.
Pierre – Bear Awareness: Questions and Answers on Taming Your Wild Mind by Ajahn Brahm (non-fiction)
The bestselling author of Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? and one of the world’s most beloved Buddhist monks answers meditators’ questions.
In Bear Awareness English monk Ajahn Brahm answers actual questions from his meditation students––questions you may have had as well. While most mindfulness meditation teachers praise the benefits of bare awareness, he teaches bear awareness. He helps us make friends with the scary things that come up on the cushion, and he knows how to lift the mood with a well-placed stuffed teddy––or a well-timed pun.
The intimacy of the question-and-answer format provides a fresh experience of learning from a master meditator. Whether he is urging readers to fly Buddha Air (sit back and relax on your way to nirvana), giving tips for dealing with panic attacks or depression, or extolling the bliss of meditation that is better than sex, he gives us permission to enjoy our lives and our practice.
Vicky – Grace and Frankie (Netflix series)
Grace and Frankie is an American comedy-drama web television series created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris for Netflix. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the title roles of Grace and Frankie, two unlikely friends who are brought together after their husbands announce that they are in love and plan to get married. Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker, Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael, and Baron Vaughn co-star in supporting roles.
Nicole – The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
What happens when your two best friends fall in love…with each other?
“Their friendship went so far back, it bordered on the Biblical — in the beginning, there was Nina and Avery and Mel.” So says high school senior Nina Bermudez about herself and her two best friends, nicknamed “The Bermudez Triangle” by a jealous wannabe back on Nina’s eleventh birthday. But the threesome faces their first separation when Nina goes away the summer before their senior year. And in ten short weeks, everything changes.
Nina returns home bursting with stories about Steve, the quirky yet adorable eco-warrior she fell for hard while away. But when she asks her best friends about their summer romances, an awkward silence follows.
Nina soon learns the shocking truth when she sees Mel and Avery…kissing. Their friendship is rocked by what feels like the ultimate challenge. But it’s only the beginning of a sometimes painful, sometimes funny, always gripping journey as three girls discover who they are and what they really want.
Carmilla (web series)
Carmilla is a Canadian single frame web series co-created by Jordan Hall, Steph Ouaknine and Jay Bennett. The series stars Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis, and is loosely based on the novella of the same name by Sheridan Le Fanu. The series premiered on the Vervegirl (rebranded as KindaTV as of January 2016) YouTube channel on August 19, 2014. U by Kotex is the executive producer of the web series. The series takes place at the fictional Silas University in Styria, Austria and is told through vlogs recorded by Laura, a first-year student. When Laura begins investigating the disappearance of her roommate, she is assigned a new roommate named Carmilla.
Mr. Robot (television series)
Mr. Robot is an American drama–thriller television series created by Sam Esmail. It stars Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Alderson is recruited by an insurrectionary anarchist known as “Mr. Robot”, played by Christian Slater, to join a group of hacktivists called “fsociety”. The group aims to destroy all debt records by encrypting the financial data of the largest conglomerate in the world, E Corp.
Reynard – The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Shawn – GASPP: A Gay Anthology of Singaporean Prose and Poetry by Ng Yi-Sheng
GASPP is Singapore’s first anthology of writers who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and otherwise queer. It’s the combined work of 35 authors, translators and editors, who’ve contributed poetry, short fiction, memoirs, essays and experimental writing in English, Mandarin and Malay.
Between these covers, you’ll meet a loving couple struck by HIV, a lesbian lawyer confronted by her past, a voyeur in New York library, an alarmed government censor, and a bomoh with a magic formula that keeps gay men faithful.
Romantic, sensual, funny and bizarre, these works are a testament to the range of voices that constitute queer literature in Singapore today. Featured writers include Johann S. Lee, Ovidia Yu, Alfian Sa’at. Cyril Wong, Ng Yi-Sheng and Adrianna Tan.
Raj – Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken by Monica Bhide
Raised by Buddhist monks in Delhi after his mother’s untimely and tragic death, Eshaan sets out on the challenging quest to feed and nourish the hungry so they do not suffer her same fate. His attempts to achieve this monumental goal are constantly thwarted. And when his former girlfriend returns from Europe with a handsome fiancé in tow, his life becomes even more complicated.
A sliver of hope appears in the form of a local TV cooking competition. Winning would offer the solution to all his problems: money for his mission and the chance to impress the girl he loves. But to win this competition, Eshaan first must face a secret that has the potential to destroy his life and his dreams.
Can a young life that has been defined by a crisis ever really thrive? Will Eshaan’s pain-filled spirit ever hear the songs of salvation that the Universe sings for him, or will his demons ultimately win?
Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence by Michael Rocke (non-fiction)
The men of Renaissance Florence were so renowned for sodomy that “Florenzer” in German meant “sodomite.” Indeed, in the late fifteenth century, as many as one in two Florentine men had come to the attention of the authorities for sodomy by the time they were thirty. In the seventy years from 1432 to 1502, some 17,000 men–in a city of only 40,000–were investigated for sodomy; 3,000 were convicted and thousands more confessed to gain amnesty. Michael Rocke vividly depicts this vibrant sexual culture in a world where these same-sex acts were not the deviant transgressions of a small minority, but an integral part of a normal masculine identity.
In 1432 The Office of the Night was created specifically to police sodomy in Florence. Seventy years of denunciations, interrogations, and sentencings left an extraordinarily detailed record, which Rocke uses to its fullest in this richly documented portrait. He describes a wide range of sexual experiences between males, ranging from boys such as fourteen-year-old Morello di Taddeo, who prostituted himself to fifty-seven men, to the notorious Jacopo di Andrea, a young bachelor implicated with forty adolescents over a seventeen-year period and convicted thirteen times; same-sex “marriages” like that of Michele di Bruno and Carlo di Berardo, who were involved for several years and swore a binding oath to each other over an altar; and Bernardo Lorini, a former Night Officer himself with a wife and seven children, accused of sodomy at the age of sixty-five. (Mortified, he sent his son Taddeo to confess for him and plead for a discreet resolution of his case.) Indeed, nearly all Florentine males probably had some kind of same-sex experience as a part of their “normal” sexual life.
Rocke uncovers a culture in which sexual roles were strictly defined by age, with boys under eighteen the “passive” participants in sodomy, youths in their twenties and older men the “active” participants, and most men at the age of thirty marrying women, their days of sexual frivolity with boys largely over. Such same sex activities were a normal phase in the transition to adulthood, and only a few pursued them much further. Rather than precluding heterosexual experiences, they were considered an extension of youthful and masculine lust and desire. As Niccolo Machiavelli quipped about a handsome man, “When young he lured husbands away from their wives, and now he lures wives away from their husbands.” Florentines generally accepted sodomy as a common misdemeanor, to be punished with a fine, rather than as a deadly sin and a transgression against nature. There was no word, in the otherwise rich Florentine sexual lexicon, for “homosexual,” nor was there a distinctive and well-developed homosexual “subculture.” Rather, sexual acts between men and boys were an integral feature of the dominant culture.
Rocke roots this sexual activity in the broader context of Renaissance Florence, with its social networks of families, juvenile gangs, neighbors, patronage, workshops, and confraternities, and its busy political life from the early years of the Republic through the period of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Savonarola, and the beginning of Medici princely rule. His richly detailed book paints a fascinating picture of a vibrant time and place and calls into question our modern conceptions of gender and sexual identity.
Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality by William Naphy (non-fiction)
There has long been an assumption in the West that views on sex and sexuality are basically similar worldwide. This has never been the case. Many ancient cultures actively promoted same-sex relationships as an integral part of adolescence or even worship. The rise of Judeo-Christian views forced homosexuality “underground,” leading to Henry VIII’s 1533 ban on homosexuals and Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for sodomy. Born to be Gay takes a radical look at the history of homosexuality, from Bacchanalian orgies to Gay Pride.
Ernest – Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
One miscarriage too many spelled the end of Max and Zoe Baxter’s marriage. Though the former couple went quite separate ways, their fates remained entangled: After veering into alcoholism, Max is saved in multiple senses by his fundamentalist conversion; Zoe, for her part, finds healing relief in music therapy and the friendship, then romantic love with Vanessa, her counselor. After Zoe and Vanessa, now married, decide to have a baby, they realize that they must join battle with Max, who objects on both religious and financial grounds. Like her House Rules and several other previous Jodi Picoult novels, Sing You Home grapples with hot button issues.
You can read our discussion on Sing You Home here.
Timmy – Candy Everybody Wants by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
From the critically acclaimed author of I Am Not Myself These Days comes the very odd adventures of a starry-eyed young man from the Midwest seeking fame and fortune in the flamboyant surreality of New York, Los Angeles . . . and everywhere in between.
Jayson Blocher is tired of worshiping pop culture; he wants to be part of it. So he’s off, accompanied by an ever-changing cast of quirky extended family members, on an extremely bumpy journey from rural Wisconsin to a New York escort agency for Broadway chorus boys, to a Hollywood sitcom set. Somewhere out there his destiny awaits—along with the discovery of first love, some unusual coincidences, a kidnapping mystery . . . and the sobering truth that being America’s sweetheart can leave a very sour aftertaste.
Hero by Perry Moore
The last thing in the world Thom Creed wants is to add to his father’s pain, so he keeps secrets. Like that he has special powers. And that he’s been asked to join the League – the very organization of superheroes that spurned his dad. But the most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself: he’s gay.
But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world to Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, who can control fire but not her anger; Typhoid Larry, who can make anyone sick with his touch; and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide; but they will have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League.
To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he’ll have to come to terms with his father’s past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be.
You can read our discussion on Hero here.
The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō (non-fiction)
From the #1 New York Times best-selling author and lifestyle/cleaning guru Marie Kondo, this graphic novelization brings Kondo’s life-changing tidying method to life with the fun, quirky story of a woman who transforms her home, work, and love life using Kondo’s advice and inspiration.
Marie Kondo presents the fictional story of Chiaki, a young woman in Tokyo who struggles with a cluttered apartment, messy love life, and lack of direction. After receiving a complaint from her attractive next-door neighbor about the sad state of her balcony, Chiaki gets Kondo to take her on as a client. Through a series of entertaining and insightful lessons, Kondo helps Chiaki get her home–and life–in order. This insightful, illustrated case study is perfect for people looking for a fun introduction to the KonMari Method of tidying up, as well as tried-and-true fans of Marie Kondo eager for a new way to think about what sparks joy. Featuring illustrations by award-winning manga artist Yuko Uramoto, this book also makes a great read for manga and graphic novel lovers of all ages.
Aaron – Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s stories reveal how all borders—real, imagined, sexual, human, the line between dark and light, addict and straight—entangle those who live on either side. Take, for instance, the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juárez two blocks south of the Rio Grande. It’s a touchstone for each of Sáenz’s stories. His characters walk by, they might go in for a drink or to score, or they might just stay there for a while and let their story be told. Sáenz knows that the Kentucky Club, like special watering holes in all cities, is the contrary to borders. It welcomes Spanish and English, Mexicans and gringos, poor and rich, gay and straight, drug addicts and drunks, laughter and sadness, and even despair. It’s a place of rich history and good drinks and cold beer and a long polished mahogany bar. Some days it smells like piss. “I’m going home to the other side.” That’s a strange statement, but you hear it all the time at the Kentucky Club.
Alexius – Ranma ½: Akumu Shunmin Kou (manga/anime)
Ranma ½ is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday from September 1987 to March 1996, with the chapters collected into 38 tankōbon volumes by Shogakukan. The story revolves around a teenage boy named Ranma Saotome who has trained in martial arts since early childhood. As a result of an accident during a training journey, he is cursed to become a girl when splashed with cold water, while hot water changes him back into a boy. Throughout the series Ranma seeks out a way to rid himself of his curse, while his friends, enemies and many fiancées constantly hinder and interfere.
Ranma ½ has a comedic formula and a sex-changing main character, who often willfully transforms into a girl to advance his goals. The series also contains many other characters, whose intricate relationships with each other, unusual characteristics, and eccentric personalities drive most of the stories. Although the characters and their relationships are complicated, they rarely change once they are firmly introduced and settled into the series.
Thank you everyone for your participation and recommendations! And a big thank you to Raj. Bill of Eight Café & Bar, and Ernest for the spread.
We hope to see everyone again for another year of QBMC. Cheers to 2017 and here’s to another queer 2018!