Readable and provocative history for both nonacademics and scholars.

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HOMOPHOBIA

A HISTORY

A historical survey of opposition to same-sex relations—primarily those between men—since antiquity.

In the opening pages, Fone (English professor emeritus/CUNY; ed., The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, 1998) proposes that fear of and antagonism towards sodomy is “especially virulent in, and perhaps even unique to, Western culture.” For the next 400-plus pages he attempts to wrestle this broad, indefinite subject into manageable size by focusing on legal and literary evidence and by adhering to chronological progression from the Hellenic era up through the 20th century. Fone examines sources both canonical and (to use the proper term from fashionable academia) marginal—such as Plato’s Laws and the Pentateuch to J.A. Symonds’s Problem in Greek Ethics. He distills a great deal of the history of Western law and letters into this volume, which has the same invigorating effects as a well-researched and well-written biography whose chronology permits glimpses into tangents and peripheries: moments in times and places as widely separated as Corinth during the late Roman Empire and the London of Oscar Wilde are thrown into high relief. Ultimately, the implications of the title crystallize into a fascinating survey of the antipathy to sodomy through the centuries, which Fone plunges across like a determined conqueror. The thoroughgoing scholarship supporting Fone’s study, while reflective of its author’s biases (Fone backs his statements with references to respected if similarly ideological works by academics like Martin Duberman and the late John Boswell), is impressive. One problem, however, dodges Fone’s ambitious task from the beginning: definitions of and attitudes toward and against homosexual behavior (as with the concept of heterosexuality, for that matter) have varied from time to time and place to place. A thematic organization might have served Fone’s agenda better than chronological sequence, but he has written a book that will be of interest—and service—to a wide range of readers.

Readable and provocative history for both nonacademics and scholars.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-8050-4559-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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