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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.)

When I began reading Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney (2019 Sibling Rivalry Press), I thought the poems of Karl Tierney might be tragic, but instead found them tragically funny – in a way that often makes the soul snicker. I thought the poetry might be tragic because they were brought to us by tragic circumstances.  The editor was friend and literary executor of the author Karl Tierney who in 1994 became sick with AIDs and took his own life in 1995 when he was 39-years old.  The editor, Jim Cory, is a noted poet and essayist in his own right.

Tierney never had a book published during his lifetime, but his poems were published in auspicious places such as the American Poetry Review and Exquisite Corpse.

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Karl Tierney as a poet also had his serious side. In the poem “Gertrude Stein to Alice B. Toklas,” he adopts Gertrude’s voice and writes in part of the poem:

 

Our car is …beautiful and blue

and we are beautiful and not blue

and we are fast driving

and do not feel a bit dangerous or dirty.

We have the radio on…

 

In his poems about gay life in San Francisco where he lived, Karl turned his keen poetic observations on life around him.  In “Adonis At The Swimming Pool,” Karl starts with:

“Who dances his thighs across the pool’s water,

spread on a mattress bloated from his breath.

Whose ripe-with-sun skin cuts through the spray

With the alingual grace of a kiss to my brow.”….

And ends with:

“Whose wet curls stroke the evening’s earliest gasp

into naughty tones and murmurs of lust.

Who would have me discussed in seedy cafés

and ruin me since I’m deaf to this hiss

behind the teeth in that insipid smile.”

From Tierney’s take on “lipstick lesbians,” MacDonna, and gay life in the Castro at a certain point in time, I found Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney (from Sibling Rivalry Press) to be a page-turner of a good read.

 

 

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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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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I do a lot online, and have frequently been told that I am going to hell, I assume, for writing my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders.

In response, I made blog posts which go out on Twitter.  One day I put on my red devil sequin horns and took a new author photo of me reading THEY.

Then one morning I woke up to the following comment

“I find it interesting all these people passing judgement on others when I’m pretty sure there’s something in the bible about not judging others or something. It’s almost like they pick and choose what to follow.”

This person has a good point. There are many passages in the Bible about not judging.  The most well known is from Matthew 7:1 which says:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

There are many other spiritual practices which basically say the same thing.

 

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Or as my mother said to me when I was a child: 

“Twinkle, twinkle little star, what you say is what you are.”

Thinking about this gives me pause.

 

THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is available where books are sold online, from your local bookstore, or library. It is also available directly from the publisher Adelaide Books,

To read an excerpt of THEY (Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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I am reposting this talk that I gave last year to mark the occasion of Hanukkah which  starts on Sunday, December 22 and ends Monday, December 30th. The talk was a Unitarian Universalist (UU) service that was called “Ringing in the Light.”

I talked about my childhood memories of being touched by Hanukkah and my experiences in celebrating the Winter Solstice and with the Gnostic Gospels. You can see my words below on the YouTube video or read the reflection below that.

As far back as I can remember, the light beckoned.

The sun was a ball of fire in the sky.  The light changed into vibrant colors in the morning and the evening.  It filtered through the branches of trees.  The sunlight had, in fact, shined down and helped to form the trees.  So the light was in the trees (along with the rain and the earth).

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Even when it was cloudy, I knew the sun was there. Sometimes I could see the ball of sun outlined behind the gray clouds.

The first time I remember being drawn to the light in a religious context was when I was in elementary school watching a play about Hanukkah.

Despite its nearness to Christmas on the calendar, Hanukkah is one of the lesser holidays in Judaism. Hanukkah, also called The Festival of Lights, began last Tuesday at sunset and ends this Wednesday, December, 20th, at nightfall.

When I asked my partner what Hanukkah meant to her, she responded that it is a celebration of survival, hope and faith.

The holiday celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, detailed in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.

This victory of the Maccabees, in approximately 160 BCE –  BCE standing for Before The Common Era — resulted in the rededication of the Second Temple.  The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea.

According to the Talmud, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah burned for eight days.

But there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting. It was a miracle.

Hanukkah is observed by lighting the eight candles of the menorah at varying times and various ways.  This is done along with the recitation of prayers.  In addition to the eight candles in the menorah, there is a ninth called a shamash (a Hebrew word that means attendant). This ninth candle, the shamash, is in the center of the menorah.

It is all very complicated of course – the history and the ritual – but what I remember most is sitting in that darkened auditorium and being drawn to the pool of light around the candles on my elementary school stage.

I am not Jewish.  I say that I was raised secular – but that is putting it mildly.  My mother was, in fact, a bible-burning atheist.  Added to that, I was always cast as one of the shepherds in the school’s Christmas pageant since I was the tallest child in elementary school.

Also, I had Jewish neighbors – and as a future lesbian and book worm growing up in the sameness of a working class neighborhood — I may have responded to difference and had a realization that I was part of it.

Then I grew up, came out, thanked the Goddess for my secular upbringing, and celebrated the Winter Solstice with candles and music. This year, the Solstice falls on December 21st. The Winter Solstice (traditionally the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year)  is this coming Thursday in the Northern Hemisphere of planet Earth – which is where we are.

One of our friends who we celebrated the Solstice with is Julia Haines. Julia is a musician who has performed at Restoration.  She has a wonderful composition of Thunder Perfect Mind which she accompanies with her harp playing. You can find her on YouTube. Thunder Perfect Mind, of which I just read an excerpt, is one of the ancient texts of the Gnostic Gospels.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.  Originally written in Coptic, these texts date back to ancient times and give us an alternative glimpse into the Gospels that are written in the New Testament. They are so important that they are banned in some conventional religions.  And in my book, that’s a good reason to read them.

Reading them led me to think of myself as a Gnostic – meaning one who has knowledge and who pursues knowledge – including mystical knowledge.  The Gnostic Gospels have provided me with inspiration for my writing, particularly in my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, soon to be published by Adelaide Books. And they also inspire me in the novel I am currently writing — titled The Unicorn, The Mystery.

I am inspired by the Gnostic Gospels in part because they let in the light.  In particular, they let in the light of the feminine.

As Julia says in her rendition of Thunder:

am godless

I am Goddess

So how does finding the light factor into my experience of Unitarian Universalism? Later in life, after fifty, I found a religion that fit my values.  I found a religion wide enough – and I might add, secure enough – to embrace nonconformity.

In finding a congregation that is diverse in many ways – including religious diversity – I have found a deeper sense of myself.

And in that self, I recognize that the darkness is as least as necessary and as important as the light.

As a creative writer, I spend much of my time in the gray-matter of imagination.

It is in that darkness where I find the light.

 

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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I received an online comment this morning that to my inquisitive mind might have well had said: why encourage people to think for themselves?

“Can we just not encourage people to read gospels written hundreds of years after Jesus’ life? They are all interpretations of him and not actually his words?” [sic]

The comment brought to mind an incident that occurred some years ago. At a meeting of the worship associates (I am one of the lay ministers at a Unitarian Universalist church) the then intern minister mentioned that the professors at the seminary she was attending “hated” Elaine Pagels (a champion of the Gnostic Gospels).  Despite my Buddhist inclination not to engage with negative comments, I had a knee jerk reaction (in religious terms one might say I had an Ejaculation) and responded that the professors probably “hated” Elaine Pagels because they were jealous that she had published so many books. Another lay minister agreed with me. Even though I hadn’t meant to, I had started a religious war. Apparently, it’s easy.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. There are some conflicting theories about when they were first written but some historians say that they were written before the New Testament was written.

The Gnostic Gospels are very different from Genesis in telling the story of how the human race was created. Readers can experience the Garden of Eden from the serpent’s eyes and ears!

3BDB915D-309B-403F-9E02-4628201F2FABThe Gnostic Gospels were known throughout history – particularly in the Middle Ages – but were always banned by the Church.

Those who were known followers of the Gnostic Gospels were deemed as heretics and burned.  Granted, in those days you could be burned at the stake for many things. But the last time I searched Twitter for the Gnostic Gospels – people were still saying to be careful of the Gnostic Gospels – because you could still be branded as a heretic.

Given the scant evidence that Jesus actually existed, you’d think the Gnostic Gospels would be welcomed as further evidence that Jesus did exist since many of them refer to him. (There also is no evidence that Jesus wrote any of the New Testament or left any writings behind.)

The Gnostic Gospels are living documents.

I and many others have been inspired by the Gnostic Gospels.

In particular, my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books – New York; Lisbon) was influenced by the Gnostic Gospels.

Also my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (forthcoming from Adelaide Books in 2020) was inspired by the Gnostic Gospels (in particle by Thunder Perfect Mind).

Perhaps the reason the Gnostic Gospels are scorned is in the name: Gnostic (“knowing”). Apparently, it is heretical to know your own truth.

 

To read more about the Gnostic Gospels, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/inspiration-by-gnostic-gospels-thunderperfectmind/

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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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on the secular, humanist and holiday theme of “myth.”

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.

In first grade, the teacher firmly put me in the hallway of the private Episcopal school I was enrolled in because I had told the entire first grade class that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.

Outraged that the adults were lying to us, I had leapt to my feet to make this announcement.

I remember being angry as I stood in the hallway. Afterall, I had been put there because I was telling the truth.  (I had it on good authority – from the older sibling of a friend – that my information was correct. Once I heard this, everything fell into place.)

I imagine some adult, telling me that I shouldn’t burst other people’s bubbles, finally got through to me.

It’s little wonder that I went on not only to pay attention to myth – but to turn it inside out, to inhabit it, and to write new myths and rewrite old myths. My own belief in myth is that it all started with the winter-solstice, which is not a myth, in itself,  but scientific. The Winter Solstice is the briefest day of the year. This year the Winter Solstice falls on December 21. This is the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice lets in the dark. I believe that myth was created in the dark.

 

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In my view, myth was created to explain ourselves and our origins. So, I don’t always believe myths, but I believe in myth.

There are lots of untold stories in myths. One could say there are minor characters whose stories are untold. From there, one might begin to question the veracity of the major characters whose stories are told.

If you follow this line of thinking, you can see my point that myth is ripe with possibility.

I heard it said that we are hard wired for belief.

Several months ago, I would have said of my own hard wiring that religion has given me more belief in myself. But now I see that it is also true that I believe in the myth of myself.

As I tell my students, a myth is a story that tells us about ourselves — that can come from any culture. Consider, for example, the Hopi myth of Grandmother Spider Woman. This Native American myth, prevalent in the Southwest among the Hopi and other tribes, is about a woman (a goddess figure) who wove the web of existence and thought the world into existence. This myth tells us where we came from – and perhaps from there we can figure out how to do things differently.

Also, as I tell my students, a myth can be from your childhood (such as the story of the Tooth Fairy); a myth can be classical; a myth can be biblical; a myth can be whatever – you can write your own myth.

It’s entirely possible that thinking about myth – and putting yourself into it – can make you stronger.

Recently, I had my students write themselves into a myth and read their story to the class. One of my younger students wrote about herself as Sisyphus, taken from the Greek myth, that you may be familiar with, that depicts a man pushing a huge boulder up a steep hill. At the end of the story, this student revealed that she is making a new path up this old mountain.

The Myth of Sisyphus is a popular one – and an apt one for a writer – although it can also be a metaphor for life. When I was a young adult, I had a postcard on my bulletin board in the cubicle where I spent my days — depicting a tiny Sisyphus pushing a huge boulder up a steep mountain.

When my student finished her story, I smiled and nodded.

She had just taught me something about myself. I didn’t do it alone. But with the help of many, including this Unitarian Universalist congregation, I forged my own path.

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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