I finally finished some books, and I’m going to pretend that it isn’t made much less impressive by having skipped last week. So in the last two weeks:
- SEXUALITY AND SOCIALISM. I loved this. I am proud of Sherry Wolf, the author, who is also my friend. I was very familiar with the U.S.’s history of homosexuality and homophobia through the early ’70s, and with many of the debates in the LGBT movement today, but almost totally ignorant about the period in between. So my favorite parts of this book were about the rise of queer theory (which the author has an interesting and, to my mind, convincing critique of as “militant defeatism”) and the connections between the LGBT and labor movements, from the 1930s to today. Fun stuff.
- DIARY OF BERGEN-BELSEN by Hanna Levy-Hass. This was fascinating: Levy-Hass writes about the starvation, the diseases, etc. but what seems to pain her the most in her concentration camp experience is the collaboration of her fellow Jewish prisoners. A committed communist before her imprisonment, she helps to lead resistance in the camp: she is chosen to represent 120 women when they organize to demand control over the food distribution (to take it out of the hands of corrupt relatively ‘privileged’ prisoners and make it equitable).
Her ability to keep her thoughts lucid in these conditions is remarkable, and she expresses immense frustration with her fellow prisoners and pain at seeing their servitude, even while acknowledging that her own relative physical health (and it was relative: the descriptions of all of their bodies are chilling) is likely what makes it possible for her to keep hold of her senses. At one point, she writes that for the rest of her life she will judge people not by how they act in “normal” conditions, but by remembering how they did, or imagining how they would, act in conditions of inhumanity.
Levy-Hass was the mother of Amira Hass, who remains the only Israeli journalist to live in the Occupied Territories so she can report in honesty and solidarity with Palestinians. Hass’s introduction and afterword, substantial essays about her parents’ lives before and after the camps, contribute enormously to the book. In particular, she draws out the personal and political implications of her mother’s subsequent disillusionment with the USSR, whose Soviet Red Army had liberated both of Hass’s parents.
- Most excitingly, I am back to reading kids’ books! Yesterday I finished ONE-EYED CAT by Paula Fox, a lucky find at a used bookstore, and GEOGRAPHY CLUB by Brent Hartinger, which kicks off my LGBT teen book reading series. Reviews of these two are coming.
Reading this week:
- The LGBT reading continues — others I purchased are Perry Moore’s HERO and Peter Cameron’s SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU. More recommendations very very welcome!
- I also bought THE HOT ROCK, the first DORTMUNDER book by Donald Westlake. There’s a long and sad history here, because Emily lent me the Dortmunder series years ago, and I left them in my boyfriend’s car, and it will tell you a great deal about the state of his car that they remained there, lost, until he had to trade in his car a few years later. Emily spotted the books in one of my apartment’s many random book piles this past May, and justly took them home; as penance (and ’cause I usually trust her recommendations) I’m going to make this the first of my mystery reading kick after Mieville’s CITY & CITY.
That’s the plan — it remains only to be seen whether the fact that I’m moving these next two weeks (uck!) means I read less ’cause I’m packing, or more ’cause I’m putting off packing…