Not fully compelling but a solidly researched, important addition to queer studies.

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THE PINK LINE

JOURNEYS ACROSS THE WORLD'S QUEER FRONTIERS

A global exploration of LGBTQ issues in the 21st century in relation to public policy, human rights, and economic pursuits.

In his expansive new undertaking, South African journalist Gevisser offers sharp insights into queer cultures throughout the world. Early on, he defines the titular pink line: “between those places increasingly integrating queer people into their societies as full citizens, and those finding new ways to shut them out now that they had come into the open.” In the current century, writes the author, “new battlegrounds [are] opening up new frontiers of the culture wars.” Traversing across a diverse selection of countries, Gevisser shares stories from either side of the line, reflecting a broad sweep of gay and transgender human rights and cultural challenges. These include a newly partnered gay male couple (Israeli and Palestinian) exploring their relationship in gay-friendly Tel Aviv, tested by the social intolerance directed toward Palestinians; a lesbian couple in Cairo struggling to keep their gay-leaning cafe afloat after the Arab Spring; a transgender woman in Moscow and another in Malawi, each caught up in her country’s bureaucratic restrictions. In alternating chapters, the author expands on emerging themes. He explores gender ideology and fluidity and how trans-related concerns have gained prominence. He examines the sociopolitical and economic motivations of these countries regarding their level of LGBTQ support, and he reports on anti–LGBTQ laws that expand and contract in response to right-wing or religious influence. Gevisser’s journalistic acumen and breadth of research are impressive. While he offers an unprecedented scope, however, the densely packed text lacks a unifying narrative flow, reading more like a series of articles (several of the chapters were derived from previously published pieces). Consequently, sometimes the author’s capable storytelling skills take a back seat to what often feels like an excessive overflow of reporting.

Not fully compelling but a solidly researched, important addition to queer studies.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-27996-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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