School might be getting out for the summer, but that doesn't mean we can't learn a little something with a dive into non-fiction this month at the lending library. We have three books of essays and critique covering American politics, world history and fairy tales, and Cherokee queer expression and tradition.
We'll start with American Homo by Jeffrey Escoffier, a collection of essays covering many topics about life, politics, and the struggles of LGBTQ+ movements in America. Part history, part insight, the essays balance the energy and hope of queer movements across the country with the new ways those movements are countered and attacked. Offering a deep dive into the ways that queer politics falter and flourish, the book is full of provocative analysis and measured defiance. From the publisher:
"American Homo offers a sweeping interpretation of the political, cultural and economic struggles of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to reveal how sexual minorities have challenged and changed American society. These provocative essays by long-time activist, writer, and theorist Jeffrey Escoffier track the lesbian and gay movements across the contested terrain of American political life. Starting from an urban subculture created by stigmatized and invisible men and women, LGBT movements have had to negotiate the historical tension between the homoeroticism that courses through American culture and virulent outbreaks of homophobic populism. Escoffier explores how every new success—whether it’s civil rights, marriage, or cultural recognition—also enables new disciplinary and normalizing forms of domination, and why only the active exercise of democratic rights and participation in radical coalitions allows LGBT people to sustain both the benefits of community and the freedom of sexual perversity."
Next up is Resistance and Transformation by Mari Ness, a book of essays on fairy tales and the people who wrote them. The work focuses on how fairy tales and politics often walk hand in hand, stories toeing around revolution, rebellion, and reform. The essays look at different historical figures and authors, weaving commentary across centuries but all linked by the veins of fairy tale running through them all. From the publisher:
"A group of French aristocrats, trapped by their culture and gender, wanted to speak out against the regime and the king. But they could not, for that king was Louis XIV. And so they turned to fairy tales. In this collection of fourteen essays, Mari Ness explores the lives and tales of these remarkable writers who used fairy tales to subtly critique – and in a few cases, support – the absolutist rule of Louis XIV. They include the scandalous Henriette Julie de Murat, imprisoned for debauchery, and rumored to wear men's clothing; Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, imprisoned for writing impious poetry; and Madame d'Aulnoy, who spent years of her life in exile from her beloved country, but still insisted on contributing to French literature. Told with wit and humor, the essays help set beloved fairy tales into their historical and cultural context. A must read for fairy tale lovers and anyone interested in how words can be shaped into acts of resistance."
And finally, Asegi Stories by Qwo-Li Driskill builds up an idea and critical framework around Asegi, which is used by some Cherokees similarly as "queer." The book blazes new trails in mingling history, activism, and identity into a critical structure, drawing from oral traditions and archival documents to center and explore Cherokee theory and critique. From the publisher:
"In Cherokee Asegi udanto refers to people who either fall outside of men’s and women’s roles or who mix men’s and women’s roles. Asegi, which translates as “strange,” is also used by some Cherokees as a term similar to “queer.” For author Qwo-Li Driskill, asegi provides a means by which to reread Cherokee history in order to listen for those stories rendered “strange” by colonial heteropatriarchy. As the first full-length work of scholarship to develop a tribally specific Indigenous Queer or Two-Spirit critique, Asegi Stories examines gender and sexuality in Cherokee cultural memory, how they shape the present, and how they can influence the future. The theoretical and methodological underpinnings of Asegi Stories derive from activist, artistic, and intellectual genealogies, referred to as “dissent lines” by Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Driskill intertwines Cherokee and other Indigenous traditions, women of color feminisms, grassroots activisms, queer and Trans studies and politics, rhetoric, Native studies, and decolonial politics. Drawing from oral histories and archival documents in order to articulate Cherokee-centered Two-Spirit critiques, Driskill contributes to the larger intertribal movements for social justice."