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Posts Tagged ‘Janet Mason’

I was delighted to find this review of THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders in Curve (formerly Curve Magazine based in San Francisco, bought by Avalon Media LLC in 2010, with offices in Sydney and in New York City.)

This is a tale of gender fluidity, intersex twins, complex family relationships, and delightful banter between the sisters who live, with Aziz (the dromedary), in a tent at about the same period as Joseph was wearing his technicolour coat. Whether you have read the bible, went to Sunday school or seen the films, the stories in the old testament come alive in a slightly mad mix of allegory and symbolism. Mason merges together tales from the ancient Hebrew Bible with modern concepts which speak to the world today, exploring gender and sexuality in a fun story that brings out the humanity of the characters we may never have identified …

to read the entire review in Curve, click here.

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Note:  The following is the introduction that I gave to my short play “Forty Days and Forty Nights” that I gave at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration in Philadelphia where I presented the skit with actors Janice Roland Radway and Allen Radway and Barrington Walker as the narrator.  The play is a chapter of my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books — New York/Lisbon; 2018).

 

To see the piece on YouTube — after the introduction — click here.

Or you can view the YouTube video at the bottom of the post.

 

THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders ( published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon) is available as a print or e-Book on Amazon (and other on-line booksellers) as well as from bookstores.

THEY a biblical tale of secret genders

Introduction:

Several years ago I took the UU class offered here at Restoration and was inspired to read the Bible for the first time. At the same time I was reviewing several books on transgender issues and was deeply influenced by a neighbor’s child who had transitioned at the age of five.  I was also reading a book I had borrowed from Reverend Ellis about the Gnostic Gospels, something I had been long interested in — mainly through the music of my friend Julia Haines, a harpist and composer who has performed at this church.

In one of the books that I read on transgender issues, the author wondered what it would be like for a transgendered person to have the experience of learning about a transgender person as a character in the Bible.

I wondered too. What would happen if a person who is usually condemned by religion, is celebrated instead?  As Unitarian Universalists, we have that opportunity as expressed in the first UU principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

As a result of this confluence of ideas — perhaps spurred by my becoming a new Unitarian Universalist — I wrote a novel with a working title of She And He. The ideas in the novel may be ahead of their time — but I’ve always believed that there’s no time like the present.  Three excerpts were published and one was nominated for  a Pushcart Prize.  I also presented a different excerpt (titled “The Descent of Ishtar”) at Restoration last year with our own Janice Rowland Radway starring in the role of Tamar — a character from the Hebrew Bible.

In this version, Tamar is reborn as the twin sister of Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus, played by Allen Radway. When I heard that this month’s theme was “Christology” — I thought it was a perfect fit — even — or especially — because it is an alternative view.  I wanted to bring it to you because I imagined it might encourage you to take your own journey.

You can also read an excerpt, written as standalone short fiction, in the online literary journal BlazeVOX15

Other excerpt is in the current issue of Sinister Wisdom — the fortieth anniversary issue

In aaduna literary magazine.

Another excerpt (also starring Janice Roland Radway as Tamar) “The Descent of Ishtar” can be seen on YouTube.

 

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Note: I am re-blogging this post in honor of World AIDS Awareness Day on December 1st, 2018.

This piece of commentary was previously aired on This Way Out, the LGBTQ news and culture syndicate headquartered in Los Angeles and published in The Huffington Post.

Every now and then comes that rare book that brings your life rushing back to you. How To Survive A Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France (Knopf 2016) is one such book.

The book chronicles the AIDS epidemic from the early 1980s – when the mysterious “gay cancer” started appearing — to 1995 when hard-won advancements in research and pharmaceuticals made AIDS a virus that people lived with rather than a disease that people died from.

It was an epidemic of massive proportions. As France writes:

“When the calendar turned to 1991, 100,000 Americans were dead from AIDS, twice as many as had perished in Vietnam.”

The book chronicles the scientific developments, the entwined politics, and medical breakthroughs in the AIDS epidemic. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a chronic infectious condition that is caused by the underlying human immunodeficiency virus known as HIV. The book also chronicles the human toll which is staggering.aids memorial quilt

I came out in 1981 and while the devastation France writes about was not my world, it was very close to my experience.

In my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters (Bella Books, 2012), I write about how volunteering at an AIDS hospice helped me to care for my mother when she became terminally ill:

“The only caregiving I had done at that point was tending to an old cat and reading poetry to the patients at an AIDS hospice, called Betak, that was in our neighborhood. A friend of ours, who was a harpist, had started a volunteer arts program for the patients. She played the harp, [my partner] Barbara came and brought her drum sometimes, and I read poetry. These were poor people—mostly African American men—who were in the advanced stages of AIDS and close to death. The experience let me see how fast the disease could move.”

In those days, the women’s community (what we then called the lesbian and feminist community) was mostly separate from the gay male community. Understandably, gay men and lesbians had our differences. But there was infighting in every group. Rebellion was in the air, and sometimes we took our hostilities out on each other.

Still, gay men and lesbians were also allies and friends (something that is reflected in France’s writing).

I’ll always remember the time my partner and I took a bus to Washington D.C. with the guys from ACT-UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, an international activist group that is still in existence) from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to protest for reproductive rights. The women then went to protest with ACT-UP at AIDS-related protests. Remember the die-ins in the streets?

One thing that lesbians and gay men had in common was that we lived in a world that was hostile to us. At that time, many gay men and lesbians were in the closet because we were vilified by society and in danger of losing our employment, families, housing and, in more than a few instances, our lives.

AIDS activism necessitated coming out of the closet. Hate crimes against us skyrocketed.

There is much in this book that I did not know, even though I lived through the era. In 1986, in protest of the Bowers v. Hardwick ruling of the US Supreme Court (which upheld a Georgia law criminalizing sodomy – a decision that was overturned in 2003), about 1,000 angry people protested in a small park across from the legendary Stonewall Inn in New York City, where the modern gay rights movement was born after a series of riots that started after a routine police raid of the bar.

At that same time, Ronald Reagan (then president) and the President of France François Mitterrand were celebrating the anniversary of the gift of the Statue of Liberty.

“’Did you hear that Lady Liberty has AIDS?” the comedian [Bob Hope] cracked to the three hundred guests. “Nobody knows if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Ferry.’”

“There was a scattering of groans. Mitterand and his wife looked appalled. But not the Reagans. The first lady, a year after the death of her friend Rock Hudson, the brunt of this joke, smiled affectionately. The president threw his head back and roared.”

How to Survive A Plague is told in stories, including the author’s own story. This is apt because the gay rights movement was full of stories and — because of the epidemic — most of those stories were cut short.

Almost every June, my partner and I would be part of the New York Pride Parade and every year we would pause for an official moment to honor our dead. The silence was cavernous.

This silence extended to entire communities. A gay male friend, amazed when his test came back negative, told me that most of his address book was crossed out. He would walk around the “gayborhood” in Center City Philadelphia surrounded by the haunting places where his friends used to live.

And we were all so young then.

When I turned the last page of How To Survive A Plague, I concluded that this is a very well-done book about a history that is important in its own right. The plague years also represent an important part of the American experience. And an understanding of this history is imperative to the future of the LGBT movement.

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I was thrilled to see my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders featured in Gregg Shapiro’s “November Reading List” in the Bay Area Reporter.

“The publication of award-winning writer Janet Mason’s new novel “They: a biblical tale of secret genders” (Adelaide Books) is occurring at the right time.”

To read the entire piece, click here.

THEY is available from Amazon (in e-Book and print), other online places where books are sold and through your local bookstores.

 

BAR THEYfrom the Bay Area Reporter

 

 

 

 

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Note: This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

The Sunday morning, in June of 2016, that I learned of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I had a sinking sensation in my stomach.

Unfortunately, that sensation was confirmed when I found out that 49 people were murdered – at that time the largest number of people killed in a U.S. mass shooting.

I was intrigued when I heard about Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars a collection published by Flashpoint Publications in 2017 and edited by renowned lesbian writers Renee Bess and Lee Lynch. This book was both dedicated to the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy and born from that tragedy.

Ultimately, Our Happy Hours is a sobering book.Bars renee bess

Bess’s introduction resonated deeply with me:

“This book’s expedition grew during the pre-dawn hours of June 13, 2016, when so many of us watched the media’s coverage of the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub. That mass shooting pierced the soul of every LGBTQ person who knew the experience of finding safety, joy, and personal validation in a space where it was okay to slow drag with your same gender partner, or hold her/him/them lovingly in your gaze. For a moment we’d all been in that Orlando club, or we knew we could have been there.”

Co-editor Lynch stressed the importance of bars in LGBTQ culture by mentioning the Stonewall Inn which has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.  In 1969, the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement was born at this gay bar when patrons fought back against a routine police raid.

As she writes, “it’s fitting that our monument should be a bar. Human communities form where they can, spontaneously, and eventually develop traditions. Hellish as they can be, at times they were glorious, glorious! The music may have been loud past bearing, but we danced all night. Under the glitter balls we saw ourselves reflected in our peers like nowhere else. I was not the only shy one and eventually a few strangers would become friends, friends grew to circles. With a gay bar nearby, we never needed to be totally alone.”

Despite the fact, that it pays tribute to the importance of bars in our community, the collection does not glorify its origins. More than a few writers talk about the seedy results of alcoholism.  But all agree.  The bars were a starting point for meeting, often for being loved, and for learning about each other.

In “A Message for Steve” esteemed lesbian writer and editor Katherine V. Forrest writes,

“In the many years since that May night, friendship and camaraderie with gay men have taken their rich place in my life. Our two communities needed that time apart in the seventies to explore our own identities and culture, and then the devastation of AIDS brought us all together. You were the first gay man I ever knew. You were the first to show me the promise of what we have since brought into each other’s LGBT lives.”

Noted lesbian writer Karin Kallmaker writes that she found herself in bookstores but was grateful for the role that bars played in LGBTQ history.  In her piece titled,

“My Nose Pressed Against the Glass of History,” she writes:

“The Pulse Massacre at one of our safe spaces, a queer nightclub, was a gut-punching reminder. Yes, we are stronger together. Sometimes it’s not strong enough. When it’s not strong enough, we need each other more than ever. My daughter comforted friends online. I despaired that safe spaces are still an illusion.

And I reminded myself: Safety for our kind was an illusion in the 1950s, and yet we thrived. It was an illusion in the 1960s, the ‘70s, the ‘80s… And yet we thrived.

We thrive.”

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (just published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

THEY a biblical tale of secret genders

Click on the following for an invitation to a reading from THEY on January 30th at the Penn Book Center in Philadelphia:

Invitation Janet Mason_Penn Book Center_2019-01-30

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“They” is a groundbreaker and I am sure that the author will agree with me that attempting to add new meaning to given bible stories is tantamount to heresy. I have no doubt that she will suffer repercussions from those who do not agree with her approach. Personally I found her story to not only be wonderfully written but charming and liberating to us who have lived in a binary world for too long.     — Amos Lassen, on THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books)

Beyond the Boundaries of Gender

Amos Lassen

I have always found it interesting how coincidences come together. For the last month I have been in a study group about the Hebrew Bible or what is commonly known as the Old Testament. We have been studying the women of the Bible and trying to raise their position in the written text so I suppose we could call this redefining gender in the holy books. It also happens that in a very week weeks the state of Massachusetts will have a referendum on gender rights and it seems that all of sudden gender has become important in our lives whereas ten years ago we would not have heard a peep about it. The third coincidence is that I received a copy of Janet Mason’s new book. “They” in which the Hebrew bible is the background for the story of Tamar that goes beyond the boundaries of gender. I believe it takes a strong person to tackle gender in literature these days and the impression that I got from reading Mason’s last book is that she is a person who can do so… and she did so, quite beautifully.

“They” is a groundbreaker and I am sure that the author will agree with me that attempting to add new meaning to given bible stories is tantamount to heresy. I have no doubt that she will suffer repercussions from those who do not agree with her approach. Personally I found her story to not only be wonderfully written but charming and liberating to us who have lived in a binary world for too long.

To read the review in its entirety, click here.

 

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I wanted to let you know that my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books – New York/Lisbon) is featured by BlazeVOX‘s Zoom Blog.  BlazeVox (which also publishes books) is the press that published one of the first excerpts of THEY.

Thanks to BlazeVox editor Geoffrey Gatza for offering his heartfelt encouragement for so many experimental writers!

You can view THEY on the BlazeVox blog by clicking here.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

Amazon THEY

 

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