Between The Covers

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, September 2019 Issue.

The light beneath the door is just a sliver.

It’s enticing, though, and you’re eager to see what’s on the other side, finally ready to open that door and come out. In Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? by Riyadh Khalaf, you’ll find some advice for doing it.

For a while, months, maybe years, you’ve been “feeling different.” You think you might be gay and that’s “okay, it’s normal, and it’s not something you need to change.” Or you may be bi or pan or non-binary, “it simply comes down to how you feel” and it may have everything or nothing to do with the anatomy you got at birth. The thing to remember is that “you cannot change who you are.”

Author Riyadh Khalaf Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? A Gay Boy’s Guide to Life

This may cause a lot of worry, for yourself and for people you love. Recognize that anxiety before it goes wild and knows how to break the cycle. Being gay, says Khalaf, is actually a “gift,” as you’ll eventually begin to see.

That’s a gift you can share or not, says Khalaf, because “you can come out whenever and however you want,” it’s your call. Yes, family members might freak out at first and your friends might retreat but you’ll find advice on how to cope with that and a reminder that “almost every relationship is salvageable.”

So, let’s say you’re out, comfortable with it, and you’re ready to find your first true love. It’s okay to go online and look but Khalaf says to be wary: you know how easy it is to pretend you’re someone you’re not when you’re on a computer, so be safe. Also, be safe when you go to clubs or parties, and remember that protecting your heart is important, too. Relationships can be different, your first kiss can be amazing, and your body may respond in embarrassing ways to all of the above. And on that note, remember that consent is the new hot.

Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? A Gay Boy’s Guide to Life by Riyadh Khalaf
c.2019, Frances Lincoln | $14.99 / $19.99 | Canada | 223 pages

Here’s the very first thing you’ll need to know about Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? — absolutely anyone can read it — including parents and allies — but it’s really geared toward gay teen boys and young men. Indeed, author Riyadh Khalaf includes pages expressly for those allies and parents, but later parts of the book are filled with valid information that may be more graphic than they’ll want.

Still, that info will speak directly to the heart and the health of young men just coming out, in a way that’s not stuffy or clinical, but that’s more lightheartedly factual. Khalaf is gay and he uses his own personal anecdotes as tools to teach, but he’s not pious or pushy. Instead, there’s a whole lot of care and camaraderie in these pages, and the words “you are not alone” are not just written, but they leap from each page.

That could make this book a lifesaver for a boy with a dawning understanding but a short support system. Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? is serious but fun to read and may help to shed some light.

Lydia Lunch

Sometimes, a book should come with a warning label that says something a bit like this: The words within will make you think. They will also make you feel some feelings you might not enjoy. Proceed with caution because these words just might change your mind. Lydia Lunch, the exalted witch of spoken word, musician, artist, and author has a new book, So Real It Hurts (7StoriesPress), and the title is not only appropriate, it’s possibly the most honest title of any book I’ve ever read.

The “hurt” within Lunch’s kicks in almost immediately as you read the late Anthony Bourdain’s introduction. His words eloquently set us up to be taken in our poetic priestess and like the author herself, Bourdain pulled zero punches as he sets the table for the reader. At one point, Bourdain wrote, “She continues to write sentences so ballistically perfect, so lethally designed, that they always hit their targets — and with deadly effect.”

So Real It Hurts by Lydia Lunch
c.2019, Seven Stories Press | $17.95

Bourdain is not wrong. As you wind your way through the 20 chapters of the book, which come in economically at under 160 pages, Lunch sharpens her pen on the backbone of her heroes, villains, victims, and in many ways most triumphantly, herself. If it were a lesser writer, you might be tempted to call bullshit, at times, as in the case of chapter six, “The Spirit Of Philosophical Vitriol,” where Lunch among other things, talks about turning the tables on two would-be lotharios in Istanbul. At first read, you can’t help but think “She’s pulling our leg here” but when you dig a little deeper, you know she’s not.

Lunch is stellar at luring you in with her often poetic prose and then either educating or enraging the reader and sometimes both. Many of the chapters, which are really essays, have been released in other formats over the years, but there is a timelessness to the words and messages that will allow readers to gain an insight into not only who Lunch is, but also the world that she has decided to take on, rather than be a bystander.

You will laugh, too, while you learn. Chapter Three, “Motherhood: It’s Not Compulsory” is laugh out loud funny before it eviscerates the idea of procreation. Music fans, especially those who are fans of Lunch’s own musical projects, will enjoy chapter 12, “No Wave” and chapter 13, “Slobathon: One Size Doesn’t Fit All” as it postulates on the connection between t-shirts and the birth of punk rock.

Whether you savor So Real It Hurts over time or digest it all in one sitting, Lunch has provided her audience with many things to think about here and we highly recommend this collection of her work. With the holidays coming up in a few months, it is a perfect gift for any discerning fan of combative yet heart-wrenching work (although probably not great for your Trump-loving friends and family).