(And Other Lovers of Queer Amusement)
On these long, blustery days in which driving is hazardous and snuggling with fur-babies under warm covers is obligatory, what’s a queer to do all day? I have a few suggestions to help make your snow days profoundly gay. Don your fuzziest robe and curl up with one of these books, or grab your sweetie and take in a film or binge-watch an entire series.
During the cold, bleak winter, I enjoy a bit of noir to press me deeper into gloom (only joking, sort of). With additional time indoors, I also appreciate a heartier read to sink my lit-hungry teeth into. Here are a few great snowy day selections for your house-bound pleasure.
The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson: Winterson’s newest is an historical novella, based on the first recorded witch trials in the world, which occurred in Lancashire, England. The story centers on a female character that is (mysteriously) independently wealthy, rides her horse astride, and keeps a pet falcon (she was, in fact, a real person). She and any others who stray from the King’s deeply Protestant doctrine are doggedly pursued and destroyed by a morality enforcer, who is simultaneously enthralled and enraged by what he refers to as, ‘witchery popery, popery witchery.’ This is one you can finish in an afternoon.
After Delores by Sarah Schulman: The new edition of Schulman’s clever, saucy 1988 novel came out this year, and features a tough queer waitress and her heartbreak and misadventures in a vividly drawn 1980’s New York City. Though dark, After Delores is less bleak than her 1995 novel Rat Bohemia, which gnawed at me for days after I finished it.
Red Azalea by Anchee Min: I realize that I included this beautiful memoir in my summer reading list, but after re-reading it while I was bed-bound with the flu, I fell deeper in love with it. Red Azalea is the memoir of Chinese American writer Anchee Min, and it tells the incredible story of her personal experience – including a Sapphic love affair – during the Cultural Revolution. With events so dramatic, it reads like a novel. Read this book, seriously.
I’ll Stand By You: The Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland edited by Susana Pinney: If you’re into lyrical expressions of love and longing in the days before cellphones, dig into to this collection of letters between writer Townsend-Warner and Ackland. SWOON.
This Place Called Absence by Lydia Kwa: This layered collection of stories across space and time addresses loss, despair, transformation and hope. Four narrators tell two primary stories: one of a modern-day Chinese-Canadian psychologist mourning the death of her father, another of two Chinese sex workers in early 20th-century Singapore. The writing is vivid and moving, and the stories compelling, but it can also become a bit clunky and overly ambitious thematically at times.
Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation by Beth Richie: Equal parts illuminating and enraging, this work by local academic and advocate Beth Richie explores the stories of Black women affected by racism, poverty and limited access to support resources, and the ways this oppression leads to multiple forms of violence.
Film & TV on DVD
This winter, I embarked upon on a solemn mission to acquire as many great queer films as possible, and having found a few lovely ones, I consider my endeavor a success. Check these out.
Mosquita & Mari: This charming indie film presents the story of the intimate friendship between two young women, Yolanda and Mari, who are classmates and neighbors growing up in a working class, predominantly Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles County. The film is semi-autobiographical and written and directed by Aurora Guerrero, and the performances by the two central characters feel refreshingly authentic.
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister: It’s no secret that I am a sucker for BBC adaptions of historical novels, and this one did not disappoint. The film tells the story of Anne Lister, a 19th century landowner, and her fierce business dealings and equally fierce lady-loving. The real Anne Lister is considered the world’s first ‘modern lesbian.’ Her diaries were discovered after her death, and described in great detail her love and eventual marriage to a woman. Anne is a feisty, bright, independent and loveable character, and the film is a gem.
Valencia: My head nearly exploded when I discovered that the queer punk novel that I adored in my early twenties was being made into a film. The movie is a collaborative project led by Michelle Tea and filmmaker Hilary Goldberg. Twenty one queer filmmakers shot 5-7 minute shorts based on a chapter from the book, which each feature different “Michelle” characters that vary in age, gender, size and ethnicity. It’s a challenge to find a screening near you, but you can check out all of the trailers for a tease.
Margarita: This film introduces viewers to a young Mexican nanny who has been working and living in Canada, undocumented. As often occurs in reality, Margarita’s role expands over the years to include almost every aspect of the family’s functioning. The family stumbles upon financial trouble, and Margarita faces challenges related to her status, which throws her life and relationship into turmoil.
Orphan Black: This series isn’t specifically queer, but two of the central characters are ‘mos. With genetic cloning, murderous stalking fueled by fundamentalist religion, romance and intrigue, you can’t go wrong by binge-watching this BBC series. You’ll thank me, I promise.
You can find many of these on Wolfe video (rentals are $3.99), or on Amazon.com.