STRAIGHT

THE SURPRISINGLY SHORT HISTORY OF HETEROSEXUALITY

Independent scholar Blank, a social historian who has written extensively on sexual subjects (Virgin: The Untouched History, 2007; Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them, 2000), turns her attention to changing attitudes toward mainstream sexual identity.

She begins with the startling information that the term heterosexuality was invented as an identifying category in 1869. Until then, the term “sodomy” was used to describe proscribed sexual relationships outside of marriage—the presumption being that the purpose of a proper sexual relationship was procreation. In this chronicle of changing sexual mores, the author challenges the common preconception today that the distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality is legitimate. Beginning on a personal note, Blank reveals the circumstances of her own long-term partnership with a person whose genetic structure is anomalous—his sex chromosome is XXY rather than XX or XY—something he only found out belatedly since to all appearance he was a typical male, albeit with an absence of facial hair. The author explores the various ways that our beliefs about biological sex and gender have varied historically and why, in her opinion, they are still confused. Patterns of appropriate behavior have changed radically from the 19th century, when lawyers typically shared a bed when they rode the circuit without any implication of impropriety. While women since then have increasingly gained equality politically and in the workplace, only very recently has that autonomy extended to the bedroom. Blank uses the case of erectile dysfunction to illustrate a hidden meaning of heterosexuality today: In “the model of pleasure that Viagra is marketed to serve…Viagra-fueled erections are intended for vaginal penetration…the only fully legitimate source of sexual pleasure for most of Western history.” Moreover, homosexual “men who take the insertive role of sex with other men are likely to be perceived as more masculine and sexually respectable” than their passive counterpart. The author uses wisdom and wit to substantiate her contention that love and passion are not definable by biology.  

 

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8070-4443-8

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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