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LOVE YOUR ASIAN BODY

AIDS ACTIVISM IN LOS ANGELES

A mix of illuminating, though often dry, organizational lore and vibrant personal reflections on the war against AIDS.

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A labyrinthine study that recounts the struggle to mobilize Asian American communities against the AIDS epidemic in Los Angeles.

Wat, the author of The Making of a Gay Asian Community (2002), bases his history on interviews with 36 mainly Asian American activists, mostly connected with the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team—a group that did feisty, innovative work in AIDS education and organizing in LA in the 1980s and ’90s. Their activities included distributing safer-sex kits, staging explicit sex education sessions with simulated sex acts, and launching an ad campaign to promote HIV testing with images of gay and lesbian Asian people embracing above the slogan “Love Your Asian Body.” Wat takes a deep dive into APAIT’s history and its challenges, such as trying to connect in culturally appropriate ways with Asian immigrants who didn’t speak English; confronting homophobia in conservative immigrant communities that prevented gay Asians from discussing their needs or seeking medical treatment; and debunking a widespread impression that Asians didn’t get AIDS and were possibly immune to it—or that gay Asians didn’t exist. In this loose-limbed narrative, Wat’s interviewees, starting with Gil Mangaoang, one of APAIT’s managers on staff in the ’90s, discuss their journeys toward activism, the difficulties of gaining acceptance from older and stodgier gay organizations, the surprisingly cutthroat office politics of the nonprofit sector, and intersectional issues. At one APAIT fundraiser, for instance, the ill-advised entertainment was a drag skit that spoofed domestic violence between pop stars Ike and Tina Turner for laughs, which elicited furious denunciations of gay male sexism from lesbian attendees.

Much of the book is a saga of institutional development that delves into budgeting, hiring personnel, management structures, employee relations, and complying with the paperwork demanded by government funding agencies. Poignantly, it climaxes in APAIT’s transformation into a well-funded, impeccably credentialed professional agency that jettisons the scrappy, anti-establishment activist ethos that put it on the map. It’s an unusually detailed look at the nuts and bolts of the nonprofit sector, and readers interested in the business and culture of the social work industry will find it valuable. However, Wat’s recap bogs down in thickets of minutiae and organizational acronyms, written in prose that sometimes feels as perfunctory as a newsletter: “APAIT, LAAPIS, and GAPSN would often cosponsor social events like dances and screenings of films with LGBTQ and Asian” content for “the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (organized by Visual Communications around late April and early May).” More compelling are the interviewees’ intimate observations as they relate coming-out dramas, grieving remembrances of loved ones, defiant paeans to sexual fulfillment, and brash, in-your-face riffs on their determination to explode bourgeois propriety: “We were the ones that were boldly talking about sex in the Asian American community when no one wanted to talk about it,” says Lisa Hasegawa, a former administrative assistant at the Asian Pacific Heath Care Venture organization. In these voices, readers will hear the exuberant energy that powered the movement.

A mix of illuminating, though often dry, organizational lore and vibrant personal reflections on the war against AIDS.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-295-74932-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: University of Washington Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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