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Original Essays | July 24, 2014

Jessica Valenti: IMG Full Frontal Feminism Revisited



It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in... Continue »
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Customer Comments

Brandon Reich has commented on (11) products.

Ratz Are Nice (Psp)

Brandon Reich, January 20, 2007

Ratz are scary and mean. Right? They like to smash people in the mouth with their steel-toed boots and kick your butt for staring at their punked out looks. Braithwaite's book is a work of fiction, but even in that, it cannot escape being truthful. The skinheads/punks in the novel emerge as loving, community oriented people who adopt a look and a lifestyle both as an identity and as a reaction to the world around them.

We're supposed to hate and mistrust people who don't look like us. But it is hard to hate the characters in this novel because they appear as complex, round players in a larger dynamic. In one scene, one of the novel's protagonists is being hit on by a "punk lover" who wants to be beaten and brutalized in exchange for money or drugs or music, whatever he can offer the character. This wannabe's behavior is so annoying and inane that by the time the skinhead beats him and steals his car, even I am rooting for a clean get away.

But the characters aren't just violent. There are many carefully shared expressions of tenderness and love between the characters of the novel, including many unspoken intimacies and some sex among the male characters.

Although the subject matter might be uncomfortable for some, and it is easy to see the characters as simply violent, sexually charged, lower class beasts, a small suspension of pre-judgement may allow a reader to discover something more that the author is trying to share. It references to the "universal truths" Faulkner referenced in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, "lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed." This work succeeds because one finds a great deal of love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice in the lives of the characters in this story.
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Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth by Wayne R Besen
Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth

Brandon Reich, January 20, 2007

Besen is undercover throughout much of this book, exposing the methods the ex-gay movement uses to try to covert gay people into straight people. He repeats the arguments and the psychological and religious threats they used to try to convert him, allowing the reader to decide for himself or herself how effective, let alone ethical, these methods would be at converting anyone?s sexuality.

Part of the book covers John Paulk?s fall from glory as the poster child of the ex-gay movement, including Besen?s charged encounter with him at the gay bar in which Paulk was relapsing. Although Besen writes pointedly, giving his opinions freely, he reserves a measure of sympathy for Paulk, who appears to have been used by the ex-gay movement then dumped and ignored after his gay bar indiscretion.

Besen also examines the history of ?reparative? therapy and the main psychological theorists behind the movement, people like Joseph Nicolosi and Charles Socarides. This section is very well written with stories behind the theories being presented alongside personal encounters Besen has had with theoreticians. Besen offers a picture both terrifying and maddening of the actions of reparative therapists.

This is a book not to be missed. Surely no reader would be left wondering as to the effectiveness, or the ethics, of the ex-gay movement. The book has light moments (like when Besen tried to take Paulk?s picture), but, importantly, many serious one as well. Besen manages all of the discussion expertly, describing in personable details his encounters with a very mixed-up and cowardly movement.
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Macho Love: Sex Behind Bars in Central America (Studies in Functional and Structural Linguistics, 0165-7712) by Jacobo Schifter
Macho Love: Sex Behind Bars in Central America (Studies in Functional and Structural Linguistics, 0165-7712)

Brandon Reich, January 20, 2007

Shifter does it again. He enters into dangerous, mysterious territory and emerges with a fistful of facts, statistics, and stories. Never satisfied with the surface, Shifter takes the reader into the true depths of these prisoners' lives, sharing the balance of power and desire that is their sexual experience. He won't let the prisoners get away with the coy answers they give other researchers and government officials, he demands honest sharing and the reader is all the more richly rewarded for that.

Shifter examines many aspects of the prison sex culture in this work that doesn't shy away from issues of rape, prostitution, drugs, intimacy, and power structures. It's clear that the reason he dives in so deeply and completely into this culture is because he truly cares about the subjects of his research. The final chapter presents important ways to meet the safe sex needs of prisoners. Because his recommendations take into account many aspects of prison, such as sexual power structures, rape dynamics, and drug money, his model for addressing AIDS within the prisons is comprehensive and visionary.
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Who is Black?: One Nation's Definition by F. James Davis
Who is Black?: One Nation's Definition

Brandon Reich, January 20, 2007

Are you black if both parents were black? What if just one was? Are you black if you?re one-thirty-second black? What if you could find any ancestor whatsoever who had any trace of black blood, does that make you black?

It all depends on where you live. Cultures use different methods to attribute ethnicity to its members. In some cultures, if you?re not completely black or white, you fall into a middle group and that middle group is sometimes celebrated and sometimes despised. Others measure the amount of ancestry that comes from a person of color or one?s facial features or bone structure.

Davis lays bare a penetrating reality where many people are neither black nor white, but instead fall somewhere along a continuum. He also clearly explains how American?s current definition of black, the one-drop rule, (e.g., any traceable ancestry whatsoever to a black person) was established. Finally, he presents the stories of some people affected by our society?s racial rules. Most of all he never shies away from presenting the labeling process in all of its complexities and irrationalities.
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The Shared Heart: Portraits and Stories Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young People

Brandon Reich, January 20, 2007

Everyone should have a copy of this book to give to any youth who is just coming out. It?s not a how to manual, it doesn?t explore the psychological or religious dimensions of gaydom, but it?s tender and real and just right for a young person who needs to see that there is a place for his or her uniqueness in this world. About thirty young people write about themselves and their experiences being queer, or coming out as queer, along with pictures taken by the Mastoon and short letters or poem in their own handwriting.

The variety of people represented in this work comes very close to representing the real variety of queers in this world. In this book there are men and women who are feminine or masculine or both, youth raised by religious families, youth in accepting families, youth raised by gay/lesbian parents, and youth who have been kicked out of their homes. Some youth are into drama or music others are into sports or science. And all have their stories to share in a multitude of beauty and uniqueness that makes this work a warming and hopeful read.

Most of the youth talk about how, in finding themselves, they have also discovered how to make a place for themselves. They discuss how, though high school was bad, college is so much better, giving them the freedom to be themselves, explore their own interests, and find supportive and affirming friends. For a youth mired in a hostile and indifferent high school, this work could be a lifeline, setting them on a path toward self-acceptance and offering them that first tentative connection with other youth going through similar experiences.
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