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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.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

 

Beautiful Aliens

A Steve Abbott Reader

Edited by Jamie Townsend

“Will We Survive the Eighties” is the hypothetical question that titles an essay written by Steve Abbott, a gay man and a leading figure in the 1980s avant-garde literary community based in San Francisco.

In 1992, when attending Naropa University’s creative writing program. I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott – but he wasn’t there. He had attended the program and had given a reading and a workshop but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS.

Nearly three decades later, in 2019, Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend was published by Nightboat Books in New York.

Abbott survived the 1980s but just barely. He died in 1992 when he was forty-eight.

Abbott was many things – a poet, critic, novelist, and poetic cartoonist – but as his daughter Alysia Abbott (the author of Fairyland, a memoir about her relationship with her father), writes in the afterward of Beautiful Aliens:

“…his work was about building community. It was about hand-illustrating posters for the readings he organized…..It was about going out and engaging young men and women in classrooms but also in the cafes, bars, and bookstores around San Francisco, sharing his vast knowledge and encouraging them to add their voices to queer culture, in whatever way they could, even if that culture wasn’t getting mainstream attention. He knew how important it was to support voices on the edge, writers that were pushing boundaries and weren’t interested in keeping their readers comfortable.”

I found Beautiful Aliens, a selection of Abbott’s writings, mesmerizing.  For one thing, there were so many overlapping areas that we had in common – queer writing conferences that were important to me, and favorite poets and writers such as the lesbian icon Judy Grahn.

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I also found that Abbott was a writer who, in so many ways, was ahead of his time, and still has much to tell us.  In his prescient essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda.

This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

 

I found Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend, published by Nightboat Books in New York to be that rare thing – a voice from the past that addresses the present.

 

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

 

THEY Scottie

 

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of “The Gospel According To Gandalf.” The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

When I first learned that the service for today was on the Gospel According to Gandalf, I drew a blank. I have long prided myself on the fact that fantasy writing has nothing to do with me. But I remembered that I really enjoyed the talk on this topic last year. I also remembered that I identified with the character Frodo in that he was defiant and had no interest in power but is the hero of his own story.

Then I remembered that I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I read it as a teen.  It allowed me to enter the mystery. I loved it so much that I wrote “Everybody should read The Lord of the Rings” in large letters with a black sharpie on the white bathroom wall in a dive bar in Trenton that I hung out in when I was a teenager. My then best friend, who died young, looked at me in utter delight and exclaimed, “I knew you wrote that. I knew it!”

What can I say? It was the seventies. I was a teen and, like all my friends, then, I had a substance abuse problem. It is something that I tried to leave behind me. I wrote one novel based on this experience and closed the book. I thought I was done. But the fact is that I have had an off again, on again relationship with substances over the years. My own story of abusing substances when I was a teen – in a certain time and place – is something I felt bad about for a long time.

Of course, I regretted how this behavior may have affected others – especially my parents. But the question that I always came back to was, “Why did I do that to myself?” After many years, I concluded that I had to do something to break out of the confines of my life, and that is what I did. So, I forgave myself. After all, the past is the past.

And while I would never want to encourage anyone to use substances, my experiences weren’t all bad. There were a few moments of breaking through to something brilliant and elusive that may have laid the seeds for the talking unicorn in my head whose words I wrote down in a novel titled The Unicorn, The Mystery which will be published later this year by Adelaide Books. The novel is based on the unicorn tapestries in The Cloisters that is part of The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan.

 

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So, fantasy writing probably does have something to do with me – even if the talking unicorn in my head is a realist. And I may have unconsciously modeled myself on Frodo. Who knows? I do know that I have come here for a number of years – to this Unitarian Universalist church — and listened to the opening  statement that included some variation of you are welcome to bring all that you are.  It must have sunk in because here I am talking about something that I thought I was done with.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until last fall in the year that I turned sixty and embarked on a balanced plant-based diet for health reasons, that I experienced an absence of any craving – including alcohol and other products that contain sugar.  In addition to being addictive, sugar compromises the immune system – important to know during these trying times. It wasn’t just me who found that a plant-based diet eliminated cravings. At a party, I met a young woman with blue hair who had been formerly addicted to heroin but who had since gone to a plant-based diet.

We all have a past. So, I encourage you to bring all that you are here – including histories that you may not be proud of but that we can all learn from.

Remember, you are the hero of your own story.

Namaste

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

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April is National Poetry Month. Lately, I’ve been reconnecting with the reading of poetry and have re-experienced how healing it can be. The Fumo Family Library featured my friend, the poet, Maria Fama. Her latest book is The Good for the Good, Poems by Maria Fama from Bordighera Press (2019).

Maria’s work revives the past and makes us whole.

On the back of the book, Daniela Gioseffi (an American Book Award winner) writes: “Once again, Maria Fama makes us smile as she cajoles us with profound folk wisdom and ironic wit. This is a book everyone of any background can delight in. The witty folk wisdom it offers can be cherished for a lifetime.”

Maria reads to us from a variety of years and books in this video. Enjoy!

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I do a lot on Twitter, and this morning I had a lot to be thankful for.  Open Table MCC in the Philippines sent me this moving YouTube video.  And then a reader sent me the comment about my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books) that I posted below for you to read.

 

It’s hard to believe that people are so ignorant that they think that hermaphrodites, gays, and bisexuals didn’t exist in Biblical times. There is evidence on pottery in Greece as far back as 10,000 yrs B.C. “They” is among one of my most recommended books, great job!

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

THEY Scottie

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One of the ways, I’ve been coping with this pandemic is by turning off the news at night.  Most of it is clearly designed to induce anxiety and it is working.  Anxiety is bad for the immune system and for the overall state of wellness.

However, I came across this segment with Jane Goodall being interviewed by Anderson Cooper.  I liked them both before and, of course, I knew about Jane Goodall’s work.  But after watching this, I became a big fan. It gave me hope. I hope it gives you hope.  Here is the link to the entire segment.  

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/03/19/coronavirus-jane-goodall-acfc-full-episode-vpx.cnn

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

 

THEY Scottie

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Yesterday, I went to see a program on Toni Morrison at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.  We saw the movie about Morrison called The Foreigner’s Home which included footage of the Paris street poets who were brought into The Louvre at Morrison’s insistence.

The movie is really remarkable. I highly recommend it.

Several authors, including the Philadelphia-based poet Sonia Sanchez, held a conversation afterwards and one read an essay from the last book that Toni Morrison wrote that included the line:

Truth is trouble.

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They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders by Janet Mason

 

They a biblical tale of secret genders

 

A taut, gripping, deeply intriguing tale…

Mason reimagines the life of Tamar from the book of Genesis as she takes readers on a stunning journey, vividly evoking the world of Old Testament women and intersex individuals. Content and happily barren, Tamar occupies a far different world from other women in the society, living as a hermit in the desert with her pet camel. When her twin sister Tabitha, a widower and the daughter-in-law of Judah, becomes pregnant after seducing a shepherd, Tamar connives a cunning plan to save her from being burned alive at the stake for the crime of adultery. Tabitha gives birth to intersex twins: Perez and Zerah. Tamar becomes attached to the twins and follows their line of intersex twins.

Familiar passages from the Bible come alive as Tamar questions the validity of many stories and wonders about the unanswered questions in the Bible (Eve’s so-called birth from Adam’s rib, the gender identity of the Garden of Eden’s serpent, the reference to God as a man).

As in the Legends of the Jews, Tamar in the novel is also endowed with a prophetic gift which allows her to know the future of her descendants (later in life) before she takes rebirth as an intersex. Mason vividly brings the period alive with rich details and poignantly evokes the strong bonds the women form as a sect.

Mason’s narrative is fluid and her prose clear and elegant.

Excluded from the public sphere and silenced by men, the women in the book are forced to stay dependent on men. But the female protagonists (Tamar, Judith, the Mother) in the book are fiery, cunning characters who know their ways around the stronger sex, becoming a resonant symbol of womanly strength, love, and wisdom.

Mason’s depiction of the lives of the women (living with the fear of casting as witches and getting burned alive on stakes for minor transgressions and prohibited from learning to read and write among other) explores deep roots of misogyny and issues of gender inequality (which are still prevalent in many communities), striking an occasional melancholy tone.

Without reverting to religious jargon, Mason’s book narrates the passions and traditions of the early Israelites while her characters’ gender fluidity leaves readers to contemplate their perceptions of present-day members of LGBT community. A book that is sure to garner Mason plenty of fans.

 

Highly recommended to lovers of literary fiction!

 

They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders

by Janet Mason

Buy now

Pub date August 24, 2018

Adelaide Books Publishers

ISBN 9781949180244

Price $18.22 (USD) Paperback, $7.66 Kindle edition

 

THEY Scottie

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As a writer, I am usually under a rock — however my partner and I did get out to several events in this past week when a friend told us about “Golda’s Balcony” — a movie of the off-Broadway one-woman play about the life of Golda Meir.

My partner and I saw the play when it was in Philadelphia (Golda was played by the late Valerie Harper.)

The movie was based on the original New York play in which Tovah Feldshuh starred.

I remember, of course, that this play conveyed an integral piece of world history.  When I saw the movie this week, I pondered that the actress said at the end of the play (Golda was the fourth prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1973) that she had resigned in part because she could no take the destruction, the loss of life, anymore.

The film was shown at the National Museum of American Jewish History and afterwards we headed upstairs to see the special exhibition on the Notorious RBG. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first Jewish woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.1D32011E-0840-41C7-8789-D1BA5A7306DF

The exhibition runs to January 12, 2020 and is really interesting — even to people like me who’ve seen the movies about RGB and who have read about her extensively. One of the many things I didn’t know about RGB is that in her years at Cornell University, RGB had the then unknown Vladimir Nabokov as an English professor.  As the caption read he taught her to put exactly the right word in the precise space. I just learned, that the 86 year old Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized with what the Court describes as a stomach bug.  I am among those sending her good energy for a swift and healthy return.

 

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

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I do a lot on Twitter and yesterday found a YouTube link that a church account sent me.  Despite that I am good at ignoring things (possibly related to my practice of Buddhism), I got “hooked” and started watching the video.

It was a preacher saying that he was a Christian and followed the teachings of Jesus and that people tell him that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality — so far so good.

But then he backtracked and said that Jesus wrote the book of Leviticus in The Hebrew Bible. This is the chapter of the rules for starting a society that stipulate that man shouldn’t lie with man. Women, of course, are barely mentioned. Big surprise.

Jesus wrote parts of The Hebrew Bible? What!!! I stopped watching the video and did a quick search on who wrote The Hebrew Bible. I found a few different theories — but nothing about Jesus being the author of any parts of The Hebrew Bible.

I’m the first to admit that my math skills are scary-bad, but I can do a timeline and actually have many times in my writing life. Jesus, the person, was born in the year one A.D.  That means that Jesus wasn’t born yet when The Hebrew Bible was written.

Recently, I had a conversation with a liberal-minded Unitarian Universalist woman who told me that one of the churches she attends was having a schism over LGBTQ rights.  She emphasized that this was a Christian church.

I remarked that the people who suffer most are the children of parents who attend the church.  Children who are brought up to hate themselves often (worst case scenario) kill themselves or leave the church. I’m old enough to remember the stories of young people who jumped off bridges and their poor parents many of whom too late changed their minds about LGBTQ rights.

This is why people stay away from churches and why churches close.  Younger people tend to be more secure about their sexuality and less likely to sacrifice their children to hatred.

The world is changing and churches need to change with it.

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

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