A valuable compilation that represents multiple paths for healing and thriving after sexual trauma.

Making Out Like a Virgin

SEX, DESIRE & INTIMACY AFTER SEXUAL TRAUMA

Sexual abuse survivors from around the world detail their journeys to healthy sexuality and bodily autonomy in this collection.

In this volume featuring 17 nonfiction essays, sexual trauma survivors describe their experiences with making out like a virgin “by encountering an altogether new way to engage in sex—one that’s emotional as well as physical.” Each author picks a particular angle from which to present his or her story while keeping within the theme of the collection. In “One Woman, Many Names,” Sally J. Laskey depicts her journey from “the Rape Lady” to “the Sex Lady” as her growing awareness of her own secondhand trauma leads her from rape crisis work toward a role as a sexuality educator. In “Freedom at My Fingertips,” Sarah Mell expresses the liberation inherent in masturbation after a lifetime of considering her own vagina a space meant for others. In “Four Out of Five,” Glen uses humor to take ownership of his experiences of sexual assault and turn them into tales that exemplify his skills of observation and judgment—abilities that he feels have increased as a result of his encounters. Tara Abrol explains how going for a year without having sex has made her sexuality seem more personal and less performative in “Year of the Make-Out.” While the collection’s concept of virginity carries uncomfortable connotations that valorize purity and inexperience, it is clear that editors McHardy (a Community College of Vermont faculty member) and Plourde (Out & Allied Volume 2: An Anthology of Performance Pieces Written by LGBTQ Youth and Allies, 2014, etc.) and the essayists have good intentions. For the most part, the authors avoid these associations in the actual essays. The stories are by turns moving, horrifying, and funny, and they truly represent an array of experiences and viewpoints; each author may find healing through meditation, massage, forgiveness, anger, sex, or celibacy. It is true, as the editors explain, that these essays are no “ten secrets” guide to finding a positive path after abuse, but they are vibrant tales of rediscovering sexuality and vitality.

A valuable compilation that represents multiple paths for healing and thriving after sexual trauma.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944568-00-9

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Portlyn Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

THIS IS SHAKESPEARE

A brisk study of 20 of the Bard’s plays, focused on stripping off four centuries of overcooked analysis and tangled reinterpretations.

“I don’t really care what he might have meant, nor should you,” writes Smith (Shakespeare Studies/Oxford Univ.; Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book, 2016, etc.) in the introduction to this collection. Noting the “gappy” quality of many of his plays—i.e., the dearth of stage directions, the odd tonal and plot twists—the author strives to fill those gaps not with psychological analyses but rather historical context for the ambiguities. She’s less concerned, for instance, with whether Hamlet represents the first flower of the modern mind and instead keys into how the melancholy Dane and his father share a name, making it a study of “cumulative nostalgia” and our difficulty in escaping our pasts. Falstaff’s repeated appearances in multiple plays speak to Shakespeare’s crowd-pleasing tendencies. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a bawdier and darker exploration of marriage than its teen-friendly interpretations suggest. Smith’s strict-constructionist analyses of the plays can be illuminating: Her understanding of British mores and theater culture in the Elizabethan era explains why Richard III only half-heartedly abandons its charismatic title character, and she is insightful in her discussion of how Twelfth Night labors to return to heterosexual convention after introducing a host of queer tropes. Smith's Shakespeare is eminently fallible, collaborative, and innovative, deliberately warping play structures and then sorting out how much he needs to un-warp them. Yet the book is neither scholarly nor as patiently introductory as works by experts like Stephen Greenblatt. Attempts to goose the language with hipper references—Much Ado About Nothing highlights the “ ‘bros before hoes’ ethic of the military,” and Falstaff is likened to Homer Simpson—mostly fall flat.

A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4854-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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