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Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat

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Leah on the Offbeat Becky Albertalli Love Simon LGBTQ BOOK

Leah on the Offbeat – 4/5 Stars

“I swear, people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it that hard to believe I might actually like my body?”

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli is the bisexual story I have always wanted to read. Not that I knew it existed until a few weeks ago, or even know that I needed it in my life before then. But now that I’ve read it, it’s like it was something I’ve been missing. If you liked the first book in this series, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, or it’s movie counterpart, Love, Simon, you will love this book. It focuses on Simon’s best friend, Leah Burke, who is confident in her sexuality. She’s bisexual; and from the very beginning we know this to be true. She has only told one person, her mother. Leah spends her senior year struggling with college applications, prom dates, and crushes. Leah has never been kissed, so when a friend of hers asks her to prom, she finds herself feeling obligated to go with him. It’s clear that this isn’t really what she wants. She has her heart set on someone else, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

“It has to be easier for people with penises. Does this person get you hard? Yes? Done. I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass.”

This book keeps you laughing on every page. Leah’s hilarious narration makes real life situations more interesting. I always found myself relating to her inner-monologue. She says what we’re all thinking. She calls people out when they deserve it and is the modern-day hero we’ve been looking for. She’s also human, she has flaws. She easily lets her feelings get the best of her. The story begins with Leah’s disinterest in a girl that used to be her friend. A girl upon who she develops a crush. A straight girl. When things don’t turn out the way she wants them to, she gets angry and defensive. The teenage angst is so relatable (we’ve all been there). It’s easy to get angry when someone doesn’t (or is incapable of) liking you back. But, this book isn’t just about Leah and her crush. It’s about all relationships. Leah struggles to come to terms with her mother’s relationship and we get to see more of Simon and Bram together, who are just as cute as they were in the first book.

“…That’s why bi girls exist, Garrett. For your masturbatory fantasies.”

Leah and the Offbeat, while focusing mainly on Leah’s sexuality, isn’t only about that. It’s about so much more. Leah is so much more than just a bisexual. She’s funny, smart and has a huge attitude. I loved watching her grow as a person throughout the book.

I’m a sucker for a good romance so I was dying to know how everything would unfold. I couldn’t put it down. There were some slow parts of the novel; but there weren’t any scenes where I was bored. Everything that was in the book was important. Nothing was there just to fill up the pages. It’s well written and the story flows nicely together.

You’re not fat. You look amazing. Because fat is the opposite of amazing. Got it.”

This is the most honest high school story I have ever read. I always felt like I was witnessing real conversations, like I was hearing them in passing in the high school hallway. Everything about this book is very authentic. It was easy to get lost in the story. Leah, especially, is very real. She reacts like any moody teenage girl would and I could easily picture her being a real person. She is three-dimensional and much more than just her sexuality. Leah is a character I have definitely fallen in love with.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Leah on the Offbeat. From the first page, I knew it would be a good read. It started off with a bang and held my interest the entire time. I would definitely recommend this book.

Megan Prevost is a Creative Writing student in Florida. She likes to read books and cry over stray cats.

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Book Review: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

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Gallery of Unfinished Girls Lauren Karcz Book Review Bisexual

REVIEW: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz: the magical realism story of a bisexual artist struggling to deal with her life – 3/5 Stars

In The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, Lauren Karcz has laid out a beautiful narrative revolving around the character Mercedes “Mercy” Moreno, who can barely finish an art piece for a county contest and also happens to be in love with her best friend, Victoria. On top of this, Mercy and her sister, Angela, are both coming to terms with the fact that their mother has left for Puerto Rico in order to take care of their comatose Abuela. We see into the heart and soul of Latina character Mercy and watch as she struggles to handle all the problems life throws at her.

Gallery of Unfinished Girls Lauren Karcz Book Review Bisexual

Author Lauren Karcz.

While the prose of this book is stunningly simple to read, the story itself fell flat for me. I found myself wanting more from the characters; I wanted more feelings, more actions — just more. I wanted everything to be turned up a notch or two without flaring out histrionics. The characters weren’t as distinct as I would have liked, and it was often hard to determine between who was speaking. That isn’t to say I didn’t love the characters — I did. I loved the way Mercy blindly cares about her sister yet finds herself also wanting to sabotage her success. Each and every one of them are so heart-wrenchingly relatable, as is the story. But it’s nothing new, and it’s nothing I haven’t read before.

Mercy is a bisexual (the most common of the LGBTQ+ characters in novels these days — can I get some lesbians, please?) and she’s utterly in love with her best friend. Like … longing-stares-and-pathetic-gag-me-thoughts in love. At one point she even mentions wanting to run down the halls screaming her love for Victoria. But, of course, Mercy doesn’t want her best friend to know about this love, because … well … why would she? In these books, that’s always the worst case scenario — another real-world parallel that’s also not anything new to read. The lovestruck character never wants the love interest to actually find out that they’re the love interest. While this definitely mirrors the real life fear of telling someone your feelings, it doesn’t lead well to an exciting narrative. I wanted to grab Mercy by the shoulder and shake her. I wanted to yell at her that she was being obvious anyway and that Victoria already knew.

Victoria is also supposed to be this supporting best friend type, but I kind of hated her. She wasn’t there for Mercy in a way that I thought a supporting friend would be. She was always talking about her own dreams and goals and wasn’t a good listener. We all have a character that we love to hate, but I just hated to hate her. Mercy, however, I was in love with. I loved the way she struggled with her art, the way she tore apart things that were once special to her, because that is true to life and that is honest to a person’s inexplicable feelings and that is exciting. It’s something all artists have to go through and I loved reading that on the page.

Another character, Lilia, was one I was intrigued by. At first she enters under a veil of mystery, only around for certain moments and there to help the characters at random. I fell in love with her instantly. Maybe it was that veil of mystery that drew me to her; while in other instances the characters were marked immediately — this is my personality exactly — it took a little while to figure out Lilia as a character; and I enjoyed that.

While some of the characters felt similar and two dimensional, I did love the ones that stood out. If all of the characters had been like this, the book would have received a higher rating from me. That, coupled with the slow-dragging narrative, didn’t get me invested right away and I actually had a hard time making it to the end of the book. I also enjoyed the lack of romance that this book employed. It was more based on Mercedes coming to terms with her life and her art. It was magical realism and dealing with all the inspiration-less moments in our lives. The parts where Mercedes was painting were the most beautifully written parts of this story and if I could read only those chapters strewn together without all the bits and pieces in between, I would.

“The Gallery of Unfinished Girls”, being mostly plotless and instead driven by characters, left me feeling a little empty when I finally reached the end. I think that this book is (and will be) loved by the kind of people that enjoy more character-forward stories. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

Brotherly Love Film LGBTQ Austin Anthony Caruso

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REVIEW: When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

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Camille Perri When Katie Met Cassidy LGBTQ Book Review

A review of the LGBTQ novel “When Katie Met Cassidy” — a book about a career-driven lesbian and a career-driven questioning woman — 2.5/5 Stars

Camille Perri When Katie Met Cassidy LGBTQ Book Review

Author Camille Perri

I wanted to love When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri. Perri has a unique writing style that I adored from the first paragraph and writes in a way that is both captivating and convincing. While the book is written in third person, the chapters alternate in focusing on either Katie or Cassidy. I fully enjoyed the Cassidy chapters, as Cassidy is a serious business woman and lesbian. She knows what she wants and she isn’t afraid to step forward and take it. She also indulges in sex — like … lots of sex — which happens by frequenting a gay bar called Metropolis. On the bathroom stall, she is listed as one of the “top fucks”. While I do enjoy Cassidy as a character, specifically in the way she speaks and the way she carries herself, she is written as too much of a stereotype, even when we first meet her, as she is described as butch and manly. I was surprised Perri didn’t put her in hiking boots and a flannel button up just to ice the cake that is that stereotype.

Then we have Katie, a recently dumped, straight woman and lawyer. At last we have these two professional business women who both take their jobs seriously: one a lesbian, and one straight. Or, at least, Katie believes herself to be straight. Enter Cassidy, who flirts with Katie, brings her to Metropolis, and tries to seduce her at every turn. And then, about halfway through the book, Cassidy gives up on this adventure and decides that she no longer wants to be with Katie.

Now, I didn’t like Katie that much. Well, I liked her, but I didn’t like the way she was written. I think if she had been better executed, I would have enjoyed her much more as a character. Instead, she was a two dimensional, questioning, straight girl caricature who shuts down any possible idea of being attracted to a woman. This is all fine, as everyone starts in a questioning phase and sometimes it can take one person to make you realize that everything you’ve been thinking about is actually true. In Katie’s place, she is bisexual. But … is she really?

All the time she spends with Cassidy she is comparing her to a man. And I’m not exactly sure why, but this really bothered me. There were a lot of comments Katie made to herself about Cassidy being mannish or “basically a man” in the way that she dressed. These comments didn’t sit well with me and led to me not liking Katie even more as a character. It makes it seem like the only reason Katie was with Cassidy is because she looked “mannish” and I don’t think that’s something we should be putting into the heads of readers. It’s fine for Katie to be attracted to this, but it sends a message that bisexuals are a one-category type of person — that bisexuals only like women who are “butch”. This isn’t true at all. Bisexuals are labeled as bisexuals because they like men and women. Not just men and women who happen to look like men.

While the prose was delightful and fun to read, the characters were dry and stereotypical. It was like Perri took every lesbian stereotype and stuck them all into Cassidy’s personality. And then also took every bisexual stereotype and put all of those into Katie. I’m not saying that some lesbians and some bisexuals aren’t like this, but it doesn’t make for a good story. Furthermore, it only gives those who oppose the LGBTQ community more ammunition to fire at us with when they make claims about how lesbians just want to be men, or gay men just want to be women, or any sort of derogatory mark about our trans/nonbinary siblings. I only read in order to read interesting characters with backstories we haven’t seen and personalities that make me intrigued. This felt like a run-of-the-mill, average, seen-it-before kind of story. But, to be fair, in my last review I did ask for more lesbians, and here we are. So, at least that wish came true. Now, I ask for more diverse characters, in personality and identity. I’ve found that books tend to stick to the sexualities that are the easiest to write, gay, lesbian and bisexual. There isn’t much out there for our nonbinary friends or our transgender friends. No pansexuals or demisexuals. The LGBTQ+ writing community has come a long way with inclusivity, but I still want more.

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Witch, Please: The Hocus Pocus Sequel for Your Gay Halloween Is Here

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Hocus Pocus Sequel Disney Halloween Witch

If you grew up watching the Sanderson sisters dominate Disney Channel every October, it’s time to celebrate. There is a Hocus Pocus sequel, and it is incredibly queer.

We’ve all seen the charmingly spooky Halloween classic Hocus Pocus. It played on the Disney Channel at least half a dozen times every October during my youth, and I was glued to the screen every time it came on. I wanted to be Max’s precocious little sister, Dani. I wanted an immortal talking cat to follow me around and guard me from evil. I really wanted magical, cinematic witchcraft to be real, which kind of goes against the message of the movie but … whatever. The point is that I loved Hocus Pocus, so when I heard there was not only a sequel, but a GAY sequel, I was thrilled.

“Hocus Pocus & The All New Sequel” published by Disney in July of 2018 and written by A. W. Jantha, is told in two parts. The first half of the book retells the original story of the movie in a way that feels both delightful and comforting. It was easy for me to slip into the words on the page and imagine the exact scenes in my mind — Max mouthing off in class to impress Allison, the moment when he lights the black flame candle, the Sanderson sisters seeing a paved road for the first time. Though you could nearly skip the first half of the book and watch the movie, Jantha sprinkles in just enough intriguing details to foreshadow the sequel ahead. It was the literary equivalent of a chilly, fall stroll down memory lane; and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Hocus Pocus Sequel Disney Halloween Witch

Also, I think a big part of my queer awakening was seeing Sarah Jessica Parker dressed as the sultry yet ditzy Sarah Sanderson. That intense 90’s eyeliner/low-cut bodice combo is a look and a half. Every time she flirts with a man in this movie, I want to volunteer as tribute.

The book really shined in the latter half, when we get to the actual sequel. Set 25 years after the movie, Max and Allison Dennison have a teenage daughter named Poppy, and she is over Halloween. She resents her parents’ obsession with the Sanderson sisters and disbelieves their story about bringing the witches back from the dead. Like any proper teenager, she’s embarrassed by her parents’ and Aunt Dani’s stories, and she wants to keep her family’s superstitious tendencies under wraps. In fact, all Poppy wants to do this Halloween is hang out with her pun-loving best friend Travis and flirt with her crush, Isabella. When Isabella brings a spirit board to the Dennison’s Halloween party, Poppy takes her friends to the abandoned Sanderson sisters’ house on the edge of town to summon up a spirit. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Of course, everything goes wrong, and Jantha tells the sequel in a way that blends new story with a hefty dose of throwbacks to the original. The Sanderson sisters reemerge; curses are cast; the sisters must be defeated before sunrise. These repeated elements almost feel repetitive, but this time the Sandersons are battling with cell phone technology, the ghost of a fourth long-dead witch, and a teenage lesbian who will do anything to rescue her lady crush except for actually making a romantic move. Although the book dips often into unoriginal and derivative territory, it always pulls back up with a new twist of fate for our diverse cast of protagonists.

Most wonderfully for me, this story is enthusiastically queer. Poppy’s flirting and pining for Isabella are in no way subtextual, but rather they drive the story. Poppy wants to both impress and protect her girl, just as Max did in the original movie. Travis acts as her wingman extraordinaire, completely supporting his best friend’s love interest. Moreover, the book deals with no drama about coming out, homophobia, or feeling repressed. Poppy’s queerness just is. Jantha worked queer representation into the story in a way that was affirming and totally age appropriate for this young adult novel.

Above all, the book reads like really good fanfiction. It harkens back to a well-loved tale, but it’s fresh. It takes old characters and makes them new. It allows readers to delve back into the town of Salem, Massachusetts, revisiting all the scenes that captured the hearts of so many children during those October movie marathons of days passed. It’s a book that’s just plain fun to read, and it’s gay to boot.

Happy Halloween, indeed.

Hocus Pocus Sequel Disney Halloween Witch

 

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About That Movie: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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Lesbian LGBTQ Miseducation of Cameron Post Film Chloe Grace Moretz

A film review of the new LGBTQ film The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a young lesbian at a conversion camp.

Though it’s had a limited release, even by indie film standards, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is mandatory watching material for any queer person raised in a conservative state.

Lesbian LGBTQ Miseducation of Cameron Post Film Chloe Grace Moretz

The film, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and directed by Desiree Akhavan, is a movie adaptation of a book of the same name by Emily M. Danforth. The award-winning YA novel follows the life of teenager Cameron Post, from her parents’ death through high school and to her stay at God’s Promise, an LGBTQ+ conversion therapy camp in Montana. While the book explores Cameron’s life at a leisurely pace, the film focuses primarily on her time at conversion camp, where she meets fellow rebels Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck). The scope of the movie is limited in comparison to the book, but that scope allows the reader fully to absorb the lives of the dozen-or-so teens at God’s Promise.

 

The movie and book are both set in the early 90s, and director Akhavan captures the period with earthy colors, grunge-y costuming, and a killer soundtrack. Stars Moretz, Lane, and Goodluck all put in compelling performances as a misfit band of queer teens trapped at the camp and struggling to hold their true identities dear. On the opposite end of the film, conversion center leaders Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) delivered performances that landed somewhere between chilling and heartwrenching; their words will ring as uncomfortably familiar for LGBTQ+ people raised in the conservative South. Though the film shares themes with cult classic But I’m a Cheerleader, this new movie explores the trauma of a conversion center in a way that is more earnest and less tongue-in-cheek. There are plenty of lighthearted moments of rebellion, angst, and teen longing; but the overall effect is far more serious.

Lesbian LGBTQ Miseducation of Cameron Post Film Chloe Grace MoretzAlthough the story takes place over two decades ago, the core message still feels timely and important. The continued existence of conversion therapy camps is a worst case scenario for LGBTQ youth; but you don’t have to be at a conversion therapy camp to suffer from the effects of homophobia. I was raised in the church, as were all of my friends growing up. We heard it all — that being gay is a choice, that it’s best to ignore those impulses, that a true Christian would abstain from romance and attraction by any means necessary. It is no wonder that so many of us weren’t able to come out until our 20s, when we had the independence and safety of adulthood. Many teens aren’t lucky enough to come out when the time is right. To see that experience honored on the big screen was validating and necessary.

The greatest disappointment about The Miseducation of Cameron Post had nothing to do with the quality of the film itself but rather with its release. Though the movie played to Sundance and won the Grand Jury Prize, its theater release has been incredibly limited. At the time I am writing this, the movie is not available at any theater in Texas, despite the fact that it is gay young adults trapped in the South that need this movie the most. Additionally, its limited release began rolling through theaters in August and September — hardly primetime for a movie to gain traction when most major releases are scheduled for the beginning of summer and winter. Perhaps because of the poor release timing, the film still hasn’t grossed it’s first $1M in profit. There is no word yet on when this movie will be available to rent or buy.

Lesbian LGBTQ Miseducation of Cameron Post Film Chloe Grace MoretzI wish that movies like this could break through from indie to mainstream. Perhaps I am still waiting for the lesbian equivalent to Love, Simon, although this movie’s decidedly more somber setting doesn’t have the same romantic dramedy appeal. I’m still waiting for a lesbian movie to garner the accolades and fans that Call Me By Your Name found easily. Again, this is no fault of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, nor do I say this to bemoan the success of other LGBTQ films. I just want to see a lesbian-centered film succeed in a big way, dammit.

I’ll keep waiting for the lesbian box-office hit of my queer dreams, but The Miseducation of Cameron Post provides a great step in the right direction. I look forward to more WLW representation in movies and literature in the future.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Firsts’ by People with Disabilities

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Firsts Disabilities LGBTQ+ Book Stories

Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People With Disabilities, edited by Belo Miguel Cipriani

About Rating: 5/5 Stars

Each and every story in this anthology is worth reading, for they each tell individual stories of different people living with different disabilities. I have reviewed two of my favorites from the book. But trust me, they’re all worth reading. A few of the pieces (including the two below) are written by LGBTQ+ authors, and the editor of the book is also an LGBTQ+ person. 

“Landmines” — Caitlin Hernandez

“I needed to know what page he was on so I could turn my own pages accordingly.”

“Landmines” by Caitlin Hernandez is the beautiful story of a blind, bisexual woman traversing through the romantic world around her that she cannot physically see. Her prose is elegant, beautiful, and easy to read all at the same time. I found myself wanting more from her even after the story had ended. The way she describes the world around her is wonderful. I wanted more stories like this, books like this, characters like this. Readers have so much to learn about the struggles of the blind — especially those who re queer — and can foray such a journey from reading non-fiction stories such as this one. As writers, we need to better learn how to incorporate characters that with disabilities into our writing. And I say this, not only as someone who reviews books for a LGBTQ magazine, but for an avid reader and writer, but “Landmines” is probably one of my new favorite short stories. That being said, I’m also not someone who normally spends a great deal of time reading non-fiction or memoirs all that much. But Hernandez has a way of taking her real-life experiences and spinning them into prose that is absolutely amazing to read.

“I needed him to appreciate how much it had cost me to let him in at all: to open up to and trust him, even though others — boys who were not so unlike him — had given me every reason to deadbolt my doors indefinitely.”

Everything Hernandez says is so real and bleeds with truth. While she is blind, she does a remarkable job of making the story relatable in a way that is able to temporarily erase our vision and replace it with a landscape we’re forced to feel. We all go through situations like these and we’ve all had people that we love with all-consuming pain that can’t love us back in the exact same way. Hernandez does an excellent job of writing in a way that evokes feeling and emotion while telling her own story at the same time.


“StarWords” — David-Elijah Nahmod

“If he could overcome his disability, then I could overcome mine.”

“StarWords” by David-Elijah Nahmod is a story of a gay man with PTSD rooted back into his childhood that sprung from the way he was treated then. The way that Nahmod describes his childhood trauma is truly amazing. The details he includes made me feel like I was right there beside him the entire time. I felt the pain and trauma that he surely went through, as his words were inescapably gripping and raw. Most of all, I felt for Nahmod a sense of empathy. Reading this story made me want to reach out to small Nahmod and offer him help; but the realization that is equal part heartbreaking and inspiring is that you can’t do that. Heartbreaking to know that this isn’t an option, inspiring to know that Nahmod overcame these struggles and is capable of sharing his story today. This, like the tale before, is an incredibly important story in the realm of what people will learn from it. Before this story, I didn’t know what LGBTQ+ children were going through back during the period in which Nahmod was growing up, and likely still go through today in some places.

“I wonder what they would have thought if I told them the truth — that I was in the midst of a severe anxiety attack and was too frightened to talk to them.”

Nahmod also goes on to discuss his disability. Post-traumatic stress disorder, like Nahmod, is never something that I viewed as a disability. Before reading this piece, I wasn’t informed as to what exactly PTSD meant and what people who had it could be feeling. Nahmod does a great job of informing the reader while also telling his story. I enjoyed watching Nahmod grow throughout the story. When he came to terms with his disability, it came with a sense of pride. I think that people reading this will also realize that not all disabilities are on the surface, and that’s great.  

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TV Review: ‘Cover to Cover’ with Ernie Manouse

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Ernie Manouse Cover to Cover PBS Houston Public Media TV

Ten-time Emmy Award winner Ernie Manouse returns to television in Cover to Cover, a follow-up to PBS’s The Great American Read.

About Magazine Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

As one may imagine of a writer and the editor-in-chief of a magazine, nothing gives me greater joy than reading. It’s what makes the task of being an editor bearable and fun — getting to spend a great deal of time reading other people’s words. Mind you, the opportunities to read actual books are few and far between when you’re constantly staring at a computer screen for the better part of twelve hours a day. Between editing other people’s work, writing my own weekly column, drafting sitcom scripts, and piecing together my latest book a few lines at a time just to punctuate the former tasks of my days, I rarely get in any leisurely reading. By the time I get a chance to sit down and do something just for pleasure, my brain has met its maximum capacity for words — a bit of a disappointment for someone who started his career putting out a new novel every year from age nineteen. This is partly because when you’re a reader — especially so a writer-reader — books have an addictive effect on the brain; they become gateway drugs to more books. You find one you think you might be interested in, pick up another in the same genre, and then find something you like about your last book — maybe it’s an omniscient narrator or where the story is set — that catapults you into a very different type of narrative in a equally different genre. Suddenly, you’re reading three books a week, staying up much later than you can just to get in one more chapter (followed by perennial more), putting off that load of laundry that’s needed to be done for a week, and forgetting that you haven’t eaten a real meal in several days. And in the last year of running this magazine, I’ve staved off that addiction because I’ve simply become too busy.

 

But then came Ernie Manouse making me relapse into my thirst for books all over again in his newest PBS TV show from Houston Public Media, Cover to Cover, a six-episode program premiering tonight at 8 following PBS’s The Great American Read. The latter, a limited series which is hosted weekly by news anchor and television personality Meredith Vieira, launched back in May with a two-hour special, with this continuation taking viewers on a journey for the 100 best American novels. Cover to Cover — also a limited series — is a companion series to Vieira’s in which Manouse gathers together a select book club of personalities, writers, performers, and other public figures from around Texas to zero in on the themes presented in Vieira’s series and to present their own favorite books.

In the show’s premiere episode, Ernie Manouse is joined by Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan, author Ann Weisgarber, author and former First Lady of Houston Andrea White, and editor/columnist Joe Holley who get together to discuss their favorite books relating to Texas while delving deeper into rather lively discussions about how Texas is presented to people unfamiliar with it and how it translates into the written word. At one point, Duncan even shares a story about a dinner she had with Prince Charles, in which he stated he’d expected more cowboys in this part of the South. Each guest took a moment to read an excerpt from their favorite Texas-centric books (which included Lonesome Dove, the River Oaks-inspired Blood and Money, and more) and share how the prose of each contributed to the success of the books, even if the portraits of Texas might come off somewhat askew to state natives.

Left to Right: Ann Weisgarber, Andrea White, Ernie Manouse, Deborah Duncan, and Joe Holley.

Manouse, as always, allows audiences to feel as though they’re sitting right there in the Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson Building with he and his famous friends as they foray into conversations not just about how each book portrays Texans, but what exactly Texans are capable of confronting when writers place a mirror in front of them. He and his guests are truly capable of having a funny, engaging, and scholarly conversation without sacrificing their candor and are having a nearly palpable good time laughing and smiling at one another’s high brow anecdotes. The round table of familiar faces — each a tad different from the next — is engaging, informative, and clearly learning just as much as audiences will when Manouse surprises them with a literary trivia game reminiscent of Vieira’s stint on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? — sans the million dollars.

Those familiar with Manouse — either from knowing him personally or enjoying his palette of work that has earned him no small collection of Emmy wins and nominations — will recognize the LGBTQ Community Pillar’s trademark sense of humor immediately and will feel right at home with him in the gaudy and beautiful Julia Ideson Building. Newcomers and lovers of literature will similarly feel as though they’ve known Manouse and his guests as if they were old college buddies catching up after years apart. And it is that sort of hallmark that keeps Manouse not only on screens and radios across the nation, but eagerly awaited by fans to see what he’ll come up with next. For lovers of books, those who simply enjoy seeing Manouse do what he does best, and freshman to either of the former, Houston Public Media’s Cover to Cover is certainly worthwhile TV programming. And most certainly, Manouse’s new television series is certain to awaken that old book lover in all of us, reviving that thirst for books we may often not have the time for or forget to let ourselves savor.

Cover to Cover, which premieres tonight at 8 PM on PBS Channel 8, will run its limited series for six weeks. Manouse’s rotating round table of guests on his pretaped episodes is set to include other Houston nobles such as America’s Got Talent star Christina Edwards Wells — who will be competing in the semifinals of the televised talent show tonight at 7 PM on NBC — poet Jasminne Mendez, Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush, meteorologist-turned-memoir penman Frank Billingsly, and many other familiar faces over its six week run. 


Click here for more information on Cover to Cover, including the show air dates, themes, panelists and books.

Click here to follow Ernie Manouse on Facebook.

About Houston Public Media
Houston Public Media is a service of the University of Houston and supported with financial gifts from the community. Houston Public Media combines broadcast and digital assets to serve residents of Southeast Texas with trusted local news and entertainment and national programming from NPR and PBS. With a combined weekly audience of more than 1.5 million, Houston Public Media is committed to delivering content that expands minds and possibilities with trusted information.

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Ernie Manouse Returns to TV in New Show “Cover to Cover”

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Ernie Manouse TV PBS Cover to Cover Great American Read

Houston Public Media presents Cover to Cover, hosted by Houston’s own Emmy-winner, Ernie Manouse: Tuesdays on TV 8 on PBS.

(HOUSTON) – The Great American Read launched on May 22 with a two-hour TV broadcast and voting kick-off for America’s favorite book. The PBS special returns on September 11, 2018 with a weekly series on book themes from heroes and villains to love and other worlds, culminating with the naming of America’s favorite work of fiction on October 23rd.

Ernie Manouse TV PBS Cover to Cover Great American ReadAs The Great American Read prepares to reveal America’s favorite novel in the fall, Houston Public Media is putting a local spin on the PBS special that celebrates reading through Cover to Cover: The Houston Public Media Book Club.

Cover to Cover follows the same themes as the Greater American Read with Emmy-winning host Ernie Manouse inviting a changing panel of Houston influencers each week to talk about their favorite books in a lively, insightful half-hour discussion.

With lots of laughs, self-reflection, and shared learning moments, the series explores books that help us understand and define our identities and our place in the world to books that discover the trials and tribulations of literature’s favorite heroes.

Panelists include KHOU-11’s Deborah Duncan, Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star’s Pierce Bush, and Former First Lady Andrea White. Books highlighted include the favorite “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the timeless “Macbeth”, and new reads such as “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

Each feature will broadcast on TV 8 at 8:00 pm on Tuesdays, starting September 11. Watch the first episode of the much anticipated series here.

Click here for more information on Cover to Cover, including the show air dates, themes, panelists and books.


About Houston Public Media
Houston Public Media is a service of the University of Houston and supported with financial gifts from the community. Houston Public Media combines broadcast and digital assets to serve residents of Southeast Texas with trusted local news and entertainment and national programming from NPR and PBS. With a combined weekly audience of more than 1.5 million, Houston Public Media is committed to delivering content that expands minds and possibilities with trusted information.

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Asexuality

BOOK REVIEW: “Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann

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“Let’s Talk About Love”, a biromantic, asexual coming-of-age story for some of the underrepresented parts of the LGBTQ spectrum gets 4 out of 5 stars.

“Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann tells a story of college-aged student Alice as she endeavors everything that life has to offer her. Throughout the novel, Alice struggles with friendships, romances, and even future career plans. “Let’s Talk About Love” is easily one of most realistic books I’ve ever read. The timeline and characters all flow nicely together. While reading, it felt like I was there with the characters, experiencing everything as they did. I would consider this book to be a nice escape from my own reality, not something intensely exciting or mind-blowing, but a nice distraction from real life.

Claire Kann does an excellent job of painting the character Alice as a real human being. Her feelings and thoughts were all easy to identify with. I was falling in love with Alice as I was reading; and the characters were my favorite part of the book. Each one is so independently developed that it is clear that Kann spent a lot of time crafting them.

I also can’t help but praise the book for including a biromantic, asexual character. The book I read previously, “Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman, included an asexual character, but didn’t delve too much into detail as to what that meant. While that was still an incredible book, I appreciated that Kann took the time to explore the different types of asexuality as well as what asexuality meant to Alice. Alice has a great appreciation for aesthetics and the “cuteness” of people. She’s even made a cutie code to classify how looking at someone makes her feel. It’s details like these that really enhanced the book for me.

Alice also regularly visits a therapist. This is the first book that I have ever read where I actually got to see a character talking to a therapist. I think this is something that is important for young people to see in books. I talk a lot about how normalizing LGBTQ characters is important (which it is), but these are also things that need to be normalized. Young adults will read this book and see that it’s okay to get help with these things. Alice also struggles with the uncertainty of not knowing who she is, a reason for the therapy visit, and I think these are all great topics to include in a book.

While I did love everything that this book stood for, talking about love and sexuality and gender equality, I felt as if it was made for people much younger than myself. I almost always enjoy young adult fiction, but Kann’s writing struck me as rather simple. It would be easier for a younger person to understand and even identify with, though it’s written about a girl in college. There are mature topics in here, but not many. I think the only thing some may deem as inappropriate is the conversation about arousal. Even then it’s spoken about only to figure out Alice’s feelings toward a person.

Also — and this might just be me — but I for one am thankful to see a bi (romantic in this case, but sexual in others) person end up with a male. Bisexuals get a lot of heat for their “bi status” and it’s awesome that Kann included a bi character whose romantic interest is a male. Often times bi stories are about girls realizing they’re bi by falling in love with a girl. I appreciate that Kann paired Alice up with a male, showing people that bi people can be with either sex.

Kann filled “Let’s Talk About Love” with important messages for the youth, and I think everyone could learn at least one new thing from reading this book. And even if nothing new is learned, at least the younger generations reading books like these will realize that therapy is okay, being uncertain is okay, and speaking your truth is okay.

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Asexuality

BOOK REVIEW: Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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“Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman – 5/5 Stars

“Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman is a young adult LGBTQ book that deals with the topic of asexuality at a young age. The novel revolves around a young girl named Rumi, struggling with the loss of her sister and best friend, Lea. Lea was always there for her sister; the two wrote music together; they talked about boys together; they were inseparable. And while there is only one brief scene of the two of them at the beginning, it’s easy to see the qualities they share and the love that they have as a family. Of course, this is not all we see of their relationship, as Lea appears many times in flashbacks both warm and heartbroken.

As the story progresses, we watch Rumi foray through the stages of grief. Shortly after Lea’s death, Rumi is shipped off to Hawaii to live with her Aunt. As many people would, Rumi takes to anger in this new environment, finding herself wanting to yell at anyone who tries to help her. Because she is a seventeen-year-old girl, and Dawn Bowman did a great job of painting her as a fiery angst filled teen who just wants her sister back, Rumi’s anger is relatable. 

If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect much from this book. I picked it off a list at the mention of an asexual character. Asexuality is highly underrepresented in books and media; and I thought it would be an interesting read. What I got from the book, was so much more. Dawn Bowman does an excellent job at crafting a story where there isn’t much going on within the narrative. Rumi spends the summer on the island of Hawaii meeting new people and dealing with new experiences. There isn’t much of a story, and the arcs are all character-based. That being said, this book probably isn’t for someone mainly into adventures. But it is for someone liking character-driven stories with rich connections.

I fell in love with these characters, as seeing myself within them became easy — Rumi with her grief-based anger and her willingness to lash out at those around her, her confusion with attraction and sexuality; Kai with his troubled family and his uncertain future; Aunt Ani just trying to help out wherever she can. That’s not all of them. There were so many more amazing, detailed, well thought-out characters. I was impressed with each of them, as they all had such varying quirks and personalities. If anything, I would suggest reading “Summer Bird Blue” simply because of it’s amazing characters.

But the book is much more than that. Bowman’s novel reads almost as a stream of consciousness. Page-after-page, we listen in on Rumi’s thoughts and feelings. The great thing about the story is that we get to watch Rumi grow as a person, not only through her actions, but through her thoughts. She struggles with the idea of being able to play music again, and we get to witness her thought process as she overcomes this fear.

Then, of course, there’s her sexuality. “Summer Bird Blue” tackles a lot of tough issues within its pages. Dealing with the loss of a family member and figuring out one’s sexuality? It’s a lot; but the two plot lines meshed incredibly well together while also bringing to light sexualities that don’t often get a lot of attention. The storyline is focused mostly around Rumi’s possible asexuality (and yes, they actually say the words ‘asexual’ and ‘asexuality’ aloud in this book — amazing, right?) while also describing other orientations. They touch briefly on being aromantic and demisexual, something that a lot of other LGBTQ books never do.

I applaud Akemi Dawn Bowman in writing a book with such diverse, amazing characters. It isn’t something that I’ve seen before and it feels fresh and new, a feeling that is always amazing to have when reading a book.


The LGBTQ novel “Summer Bird Blue” is expected for release Sept. 11th, 2018 from Simon Pulse, the YA imprint of Simon & Schuster Publishing. You can preorder your copy here. It is recommended for ages 12 & up, specifically grades 7 through 9.

 

Summer Bird Blue Asexuality Akemi Dawn Bowman LGBTQ Book

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