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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Your favorite queer-friendly books, films, etc.?

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Author Topic: Your favorite queer-friendly books, films, etc.?
Djuna
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Hey there! It's no secret that queer folks (both in terms of gender and sexuality) get underrepresented in books, TV, films and so on. But if you have any examples of things you really loved where queer people got represented positively or realistically, go ahead and share!

I'm going to start with A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham, where two queer men and a heterosexual woman (and a baby that's involved) who all live together at various times in New York City have to figure out what their sense of being a "family" means any more, given that the traditional worldviews of their biological families have all broken down. Probably one of my favorite books, and I just ordered another copy today because I keep giving mine away and not getting it back. [Smile]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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LOVE that book. They did a film of it here in the states a few years back, too, and that, as well, was fantastic.

For today, I'm going to go with a few classics. Woolf's Orlando, the poetry of Federico García Lorca, and D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow and Women in Love.

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Djuna
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Oh, Orlando is great. I love that a lot, especially when - spoiler alert! - after she becomes a woman, she realises she has to cover up her ankles or the sailors will be too distracted to keep the ship she's on afloat.

I think it was you who recommended A Home at the End of the World to me, come to think - thanks very much for that!

[ 06-07-2011, 04:43 PM: Message edited by: patrickvienna ]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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bump on a log
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I love Mary Renault. She started out writing hospital stories with homosexuality, both male and female, broadly hinted at for those in the know, and sometimes openly discussed. Then she switched to ancient Greece, where homosexuality was even encouraged within certain strict guidelines. Her Greek novels are the ones she's famous for. In between these two phases she wrote The Charioteer, which is one of the great books of my life, probably the great book. It's the story of a young man wounded at Dunkirk who falls in love with a Quaker conscientous objector and hospital orderly. Having read Plato's Phaedrus will help you get the most out of it. Apart from that one, the books of hers with the most homosexual interest are Purposes of Love, The Friendly Young Ladies, The Last of the Wine, The Mask of Apollo and her Alexander trilogy. They are all wonderful.

I also have a soft spot for the old boys' boarding school romance tales such as David Blaize, Lord Dismiss Us, Les amitiés particulières (Special Friendships), Les Garçons (The Boys), The Garden God and even, horribly imperialist though it is (Boer War), The Hill: A Romance of Friendship.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is brilliant. I like Ursula Zilinsky's Middle Ground, set in a Nazi work (not concentration) camp, the story of a love affair between the camp commander and a young prisoner -- sounds far-fetched but something like this actually happened once; also I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, the story of a thirteen-year-old boy with a crush on his best friend, elevated above the usual run of such stories by details like the boy's relationship with his beloved dog.

Iris Murdoch wrote some good novels with remarkably positive, for the time, depictions of homosexuality, notably The Bell and A Fairly Honourable Defeat. Jamie O'Neill's At Swim, Two Boys was a big hit a while back and deserved to be. And I remember what a joy it was to me, when I was about sixteen, to discover Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and Tonio Kröger. The latter described my own feelings so exactly that it might have been written expressly for me. I know no German, and though I like H. T. Lowe-Porter's translations I'm told they're full of inaccuracies and the best translations of Mann into English are David Luke's.

Alan Bennett is another to look out for, both his plays and his autobiographical writings. As for other plays I like The Invention of Love and La Ville dont le prince est un enfant. And I'm crazy about Stephen Fry's memoir Moab Is My Washpot. There are plenty of other memoirs which, if you can dig them up somewhere, give an insight into gay life back Before It Was Legal, including Robin Maugham's Escape from the Shadows and T. C. Worsley's The Flannelled Fool.

If you want poetry, Book Four of the Greek Anthology is a good place to start, also Horace's odes, and Hafiz, and Abu Nuwwas. Wilfred Owen, whose work I've always loved, wrote a lot of homoerotic stuff as well as the First World War poems for which he is famous, and of course sometimes combined the two, as in 'Arms and the Boy'. Try G. M. Hopkins as well, and Charlotte Mew, and it may interest you to know, if you don't already, which you probably do, that a lot of W. H. Auden's best love poetry was written about one Michael Yates.

[ 06-07-2011, 10:19 PM: Message edited by: bump on a log ]

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bump on a log
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Forgot A. E. Housman. How could I forget A. E. Housman? A. E. Housman was my comfort and joy three years ago when I was living in the same house as the girl I loved and her boyfriend. Yes, he is that kind of poet.

Rather than listing all the other poets who may be of interest, I'll refer you to Stephen Coote's The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, which covers a whole lot of stuff, from Sappho to the medieval scholar-monks and a couple of lesbian or bi troubadours to Richard Barnfield to Whitman, Edward Carpenter, Cavafy, the Uranians, Sassoon and Pasolini to Harold Norse and co. (Guess I did just list everybody.) A caveat: there are some odd omissions, such as Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen and more importantly Sandro Penna; and Coote's own translations can be wildly anachronistic, using words like 'gay' when the culture in question had no such concept. The man has an agenda. But it's a good jumping-off point, no doubt about that.

You can never go wrong with Shakespeare. Marlowe puts explicit homosexuality into Edward II and Dido, Queen of Carthage. Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset, a retelling of the story of King Arthur as it might actually have happened, has a very positive portrayal of a gay couple.

I don't know if it's available in English, but I was quite struck by Tout contre Léo, a children's book, told from the perspective of eleven-year-old Marcel, whose older brother is gay and dying of AIDS. It's used in primary schools in France. I also recommend The Lantern Bearers by Ronald Frame, a gay writer's flashback to the summer he was fourteen, when he stayed with a gay composer and the composer's boyfriend.

Some other plays: The Boys in the Band, Butley, The Collection.

Forster's Maurice is a great read. I also liked Annie Proulx's short story Brokeback Mountain, and I just finished reading the memoirs of John Addington Symonds, which tell the remarkable story of a Victorian gay man. Then there are Joe Orton's diaries and André Gide's Si le grain ne meurt (If It Die).

Schoolboy homosexuality is touched upon in Jeremy at Crale and The Loom of Youth, as well as in Goodbye to All That, which everyone should read anyway since it's a classic World War One memoir. Alec Waugh, author of The Loom of Youth, also produced Public School Life: Boys, Parents, Masters, a non-fiction book about what it says on the tin, and discussing homosexuality among boarding-school boys in some detail. And there's always his brother Evelyn's Brideshead Revisited.

I also recommend Marguerite Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien (Memoirs of Hadrian) and Christa Winsloe's Das Kind Manuela, the latter being a schoolgirl love story, which I read in French translation as L'Enfant Manuela, and of which the English title is The Child Manuela.

And there's still so much I HAVEN'T read but want to: everything else by Gide, everything else by Yourcenar, some other books by Peyrefitte (author of Les amitiés particulières), lots of Christopher Isherwood, Giovanni's Room, The City and the Pillar, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, Son frère, As Meat Loves Salt, Embrace, The Naked Civil Servant...

[ 06-07-2011, 10:23 PM: Message edited by: bump on a log ]

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eryn_smiles
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This is one of my favourite books and it's very realistic because it's an autobiography! My One-Night Stand With Cancer: A Memoir, by Tania Katan. Tania is an amazing Jewish lesbian who had breast cancer twice by the age of 31 and survived to write plays, books and run 10k races. Her writing is sarcastic, funny and inspirational.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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TonicTwelve
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Oooh I think a trip to the library is in order! I'm reading Orlando for the first time at the moment and loving it, but I think I need to branch out from the school library as their range of queer friendly material is extremely limited. I've got to go and search out some of these books, they sound great!

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~~Caitlin

"Oh baby I said,
It's all in our hands,
Got to learn to respect,
What we don't understand,
We are fortunate ones,
Fortunate ones, I swear."


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Djuna
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I LOVE Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit! That was the novel I read in the month or so before I came out. I love how it goes from this really ordered thing with lists and routine and a linear storyline, and gets fragmented with weird side-stories and magic and auras and confusion going on as she questions her mother's worldview. I'm using that for my English lit dissertation this year, as well as A Home at the End of the World, Orlando and some Iris Murdoch stuff (amongst others, I have a list of like thirty books already). [Smile]

Incidentally, my new (used) copy of Death in Venice arrived in the mail today, and it turns out it is the David Luke translation. We shall see whose is better! [Razz]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Jill2000Plus
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I love Oranges are Not the Only Fruit too! I'm not sure that I've actually read it from start to finish though, I flipped through it loads when I was in my tweens, hence my love of it, it's awesome. I think it was my dad who introduced me to it... it's a shame he doesn't read as much anymore, I got some really good recommendations from him when I was younger and there were loads of books in the house (a large chunk of which I think have now been thrown out/given away/sold due to lack of space). Anyway, I'm not sure what my favourite bit is, the book as a whole really captures the confusion and powerlessness of childhood (even moreso if you're LGBT).

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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bump on a log
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quote:
Originally posted by patrickvienna:
I LOVE Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit!

Have you seen the BBC miniseries? Also very good -- scripted by Winterson, so we can be sure it's authentic!
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Jacob at Scarleteen
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For me Carson McCullers books are really great... The Member of the Wedding especially. I love how incidental her description of sexuality is... there's no big gesture... it's the unconfortability of sexuality that is so familiar. And there's a wierd solidarity between the different ways her character are queer and incapable of normalcy and conformity beit in sexuality, or gender presentation... but it's also it's own best descriptor, it'd be massively unfair to pair down characters and to say "this one is a trans man, this one is a lesbian etc etc".

I didn't even think of them as queer books because they were so familiar in theme and not 'other' at all... but when I started googling them they appeared in lots of queer booklists.

Really great, and if nothing else her descriptions are absolutely beautiful.

"It was in that green and crazy summer..." *shudders with nostalgia*

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bump on a log
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You know, I don't know McCullers at all, except a few excerpts I've had to translate into French at university. I must read her.

And I've just found out about Sylvia Townsend Warner's Summer Will Show. Lesbian/bisexual women and Marxism and France in the mid-1800s, and it gets good reviews. I'm sold. The only thing I've read of Warner's before is her biography of T. H. White (he was a sadistic -- in the technical sense -- homosexual, though he doesn't appear to have been very sexually active). I really admired that biography, so I can't wait to get my hands on this novel. But at the moment I am skint, broke, fresh out of cash; I can't even stump up six quid for a used book. I start a new job in October but probably won't have any cash in hand till January or so. It's gonna be a long, barren wait.

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