Join us at for lively and informative discussions of your favorite lgbt-themed novels and works of non-fiction in a warm and comfortable setting. Past selections have run from mainstream reads to offbeat prose; newest of the new releases to tried and true classics. Come and explore the world of literature with like-minded folks who don't mind getting their hands a little dirty. The Center/Books Inc. Book Group is free and open to everyone. We encourage inclusiveness and promote diversity.
The SF LGBT Book Club meets at 7PM on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at Books Inc. in The Castro.
For more information call 415.864.6777
February 2016 Selection: Named for a part of the city where bribes bought police the highest-grade beef, San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood remains an island of primarily low-income, ethnically diverse residents in a city of ever increasing wealth. How has it survived? Randy Shaw searches for answers in this powerful account of the Tenderloin from its post-quake rebuilding in 1907 through today.
The Tenderloin fought back against the establishment time and time again. And often won. Shaw shows how those outside the mainstream--independent working women, gay men, "screaming queens" activist SRO hotel tenants and many others--led these struggles. Once known for "girls, gambling and graft," the Tenderloin was also fertile ground for the Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Dashiell Hammett and other cultural icons. This is the untold story of a neighborhood that persisted against all odds. It is a must-read for everyone concerned about the future of urban neighborhoods.
In the 1890s, a young man named Jack apprentices as a rent boy and discovers a life of pleasure and excess that leads to new friendships, most notably with the soon-to-be-infamous Oscar Wilde. A century later in 1998, David tells his own tale of unashamed decadence from prison, recalling life as a young man arriving in the city in the mid-'80s just as the scourge of AIDS hit. Where their paths cross, in the politically sensitive 1950s, when gay men were the target of police and politicians alike, the artist Colin tentatively explores his sexuality while working on his painting "London Triptych."
Moodily atmospheric and rich with history, "London Triptych" is a sexy, resplendent portrait of the politics and pleasures of queer life in one of the world's most fascinating cities.
January 2016 Selection:
Montreal, 1979. A boy's speech starts to fracture along with the cement of le Stade olympique. Do they share a fault line? Daniel Allen Cox's unconventional fourth novel tells the story of a boy with a stutter who grows up and uses sound to remember the past. A coming-of-age tale that telescopes through time like an amnesiac memoir, "Mouthquake" finds its strange beat in subliminal messages hidden in skipping records, in the stutters of celebrities, and in the wisdom of The Grand Antonio, a suspicious mystic who helps the narrator unlock the secret to his speech. This is a loudly exclaimed book of innuendo, rumours, and the tangled barbs of repressed memory that asks: How do you handle a troubling past event that behaves like a barely audible whisper?
Written with a poetic bravado and in a structure that mimics a stutter, the elegiac "Mouthquake" is speech therapy for the bent: the signal is perverted and the sounds are thrilling.
December 2015 Selection:
James Magruder s collection of linked stories follows two gay cousins, Tom and Elliott, from adolescence in the 1970s to adulthood in the early 90s. With a rueful blend of comedy and tenderness, Magruder depicts their attempts to navigate the closet and the office and the lessons they learn about libidinous coworkers, resume boosting, Italian suffixes, and frozen condoms. As Tom and Elliot search for trusting relationships while the AIDS crisis deepens, their paths diverge, leading Tom to a new sense of what matters most. Magruder is especially adept at rendering the moments that reveal unwritten codes of behavior to his characters, who have no way of learning them except through painful experience.
Loss is sudden, the fallout portrayed with a powerful economy. In Tom and Elliott, readers come to recognize themselves, driven by the same absurd desires and unconscious impulses, subjected to the same fates.
November 2015 Selection: The founder of "POZ" magazine shares "a captivating...eyewitness account from inside the AIDS epidemic" ("Next") and "a moving, multi-decade memoir of one gay man's life" ("San Francisco Chronicle").
As a politics-obsessed Georgetown freshman, Sean Strub arrived in Washington, DC, from Iowa in 1976, with a plum part-time job running a Senate elevator in the US Capitol. He also harbored a terrifying secret: his attraction to men. As Strub explored the capital's political and social circles, he discovered a parallel world where powerful men lived double lives shrouded in shame.
When the AIDS epidemic hit in the early 1980s, Strub was living in New York and soon found himself attending "more funerals than birthday parties." Scared and angry, he turned to radical activism to combat discrimination and demand research. Strub takes you through his own diagnosis and inside ACT UP, the organization that transformed a stigmatized cause into one of the defining political movements of our time.
From the New York of Studio 54 and Andy Warhol's Factory to the intersection of politics and burgeoning LGBT and AIDS movements, Strub's story crackles with history. He recounts his role in shocking AIDS demonstrations at St. Patrick's Cathedral as well as at the home of US Sen-ator Jesse Helms. With an astonishing cast of characters, including Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Keith Haring, Bill Clinton, and Yoko Ono, is a vivid portrait of a tumultuous era.
September 2015 Selection: "Totempole" is Sanford Friedman's radical coming-of-age novel, featuring Stephen Wolfe, a young Jewish boy growing up in New York City and its environs during the Depression and war years. In eight discrete chapters, which trace Stephen's evolution from a two-year-old boy to a twenty-four-year-old man, Friedman describes with psychological acuity and great empathy Stephen's intellectual, moral, and sexual maturation. Taught to abhor his body for the sake of his soul, Stephen finds salvation in the eventual unification of the two, the recognition that body and soul should not be partitioned but treated as one being, one complete man.
August 2015 Selection: Henry Willson was one of the quintessential power brokers in Hollywood during the late 1940s and 1950s when he launched the careers of Rock Hudson, Lana Turner, Tab Hunter, Natalie Wood, and many others. He was also a true casting couch agent, brokering sex for opportunity on the silver screen. While this practice was rampant across Hollywood, for gay actors and film professionals the casting couch was a dangerous cliff: a public revelation could and would ruin a career. "The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson" is an incredible biography as well as a harrowing look into Hollywood at a time of great sexual oppression, roaming vice squads searching for gay and/or communist activity, and the impossibilities for gay actors of the era.
July 2015 Selection: "Invisible Man" is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," Joyce, and Dostoevsky.
June 2015 Selection: Josie O'Conner travels to San Francisco in 1951 to locate her gay brother, a private dick investigating a blackmail ring targeting lesbians and gay men. Jimmy's friends claim that just before he disappeared he became a rat, informing the cops on the bar community. Josie adopts Jimmy's trousers and wingtips, battling to clear his name, halt the blackmailers, and exact justice for the many queer corpses. Along the way she rubs shoulders with a sultry chanteuse running a dyke tavern called Pandora's Box, gets intimate with a red-headed madam operating a brothel from the Police Personnel Department, and conspires with the star of Finocchio's, a dive so disreputable it's off limits to servicemen -- so every man in uniform pays a visit.
"Blackmail, My Love" is an illustrated murder mystery deeply steeped in San Francisco's queer history. Established academic and first-time novelist Katie Gilmartin's diverse set of characters negotiate the risks of same-sex desire in a tough time for queers. Humor leavens the grave subject matter. Set in such legendary locations as the Black Cat Cafe, the Fillmore, the Beat movement's North Beach, and the sexually complex Tenderloin, "Blackmail, My Love" is a singular, visually stunning neo-noir experience.
Author Kenji Yoshino is joining the SF LGBT Book Club for their discussion on May 13th at 7:00 PM!
May 2015 Selection: A renowned legal scholar tells the definitive story of "Hollingsworth v. Perry, "the trial that will stand as the most potent argument for marriage equality
"Speak Now "tells the story of a watershed trial that unfolded over twelve tense days in California in 2010. A trial that legalized same-sex marriage in our most populous state. A trial that interrogated the nature of marriage, the political status of gays and lesbians, the ideal circumstances for raising children, and the ability of direct democracy to protect fundamental rights. A trial that stands as the most potent argument for marriage equality this nation has ever seen.
In telling the story of "Hollingsworth v. Perry," the groundbreaking federal lawsuit against Proposition 8, Kenji Yoshino has also written a paean to the vanishing civil trial--an oasis of rationality in what is often a decidedly uncivil debate. Above all, this book is a work of deep humanity, in which Yoshino brings abstract legal arguments to life by sharing his own story of finding love, marrying, and having children as a gay man.
Intellectually rigorous and profoundly compassionate, "Speak Now "will stand as the definitive account of a landmark civil-rights trial.
February 2015 Selection: A daring and deeply moving novel set in Argentina in the time of the Generals--a time when the streets are empty at night, and people have trained themselves not to see. Richard Garay lives with his mother, hiding his sexuality from her and from society. Stifled by his job, Richard is willing to take chances, both sexually and professionally. But Argentina is changing, and as his country edges toward peace, Richard tentatively begins a love affair. The result is a powerful, brave, and poignant novel of sex, death, and the diffculties of connecting one's inner life with the outside world.
January 2015 Selection: After surviving the Dunkirk retreat, Laurie Odell, a young homosexual, critically examines his unorthodox lifestyle and personal relationships, as he falls in love with a young conscientious objector and becomes involved with a circle of world-weary gay men.
Originally published in 1959, "The Charioteer" is a bold, unapologetic portrayal of male homosexuality during World War II that stands with Vidal's "The City and the Pillar" and Isherwood's "Berlin Stories" as a monumental work in gay literature.
December 2014 Selection: From the author of "Fight Club," comes a dark, irreverent, hilarious, and brilliant satire about adolescence, Hell, and the Devil.
Madison is the thirteen-year-old daughter of a narcissistic film star and a billionaire. Abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, she dies over the holiday, presumably of a marijuana overdose. The last thing she remembers is getting into a town car and falling asleep. Then she's waking up in Hell. Literally. Madison soon finds that she shares a cell with a motley crew of young sinners: a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker, united by their doomed fate, like an afterschool detention for the damned. Together they form an odd coalition and march across the unspeakable landscape of Hell--full of used diapers, dandruff, WiFi blackout spots, evil historical figures, and one horrific call center--to confront the Devil himself.
November 2014 Selection: Johnny Rio, a handsome narcissist but no longer a pretty boy, travels to Los Angeles, the site of past sexual conquest and remembered youthful radiance, in a frenzied attempt to recreate his younger self. Johnny has ten precious days to draw the numbers, the men who will confirm his desirability, and with the hungry focus of a man on borrowed time, he stalks the dark balconies of all-night theaters, the hot sands of gay beaches, and shady glens of city parks, attempting to attract shadowy sex-hunters in an obcessive battle against the passing of his youth.
October 2014 Selection:
After his wife dies in a car accident, bisexual writer and activist Steve Abbott moves with his two-year-old daughter to San Francisco. There they discover a city in the midst of revolution, bustling with gay men in search of liberation few of whom are raising a child.
Steve throws himself into San Francisco s vibrant cultural scene. He takes Alysia to raucous parties, pushes her in front of the microphone at poetry readings, and introduces her to a world of artists, thinkers, and writers. But the pair live like nomads, moving from apartment to apartment, with a revolving cast of roommates and little structure. As a child Alysia views her father as a loving playmate who can transform the ordinary into magic, but as she gets older Alysia wants more than anything to fit in. The world, she learns, is hostile to difference.
In Alysia s teens, Steve s friends several of whom she has befriended fall ill as AIDS starts its rampage through their community. While Alysia is studying in New York and then in France, her father tells her it s time to come home; he s sick with AIDS. Alysia must choose whether to take on the responsibility of caring for her father or continue the independent life she has worked so hard to create.
Reconstructing their life together from a remarkable cache of her father s journals, letters, and writings, Alysia Abbott gives us an unforgettable portrait of a tumultuous, historic time in San Francisco as well as an exquisitely moving account of a father s legacy and a daughter s love.
September 2014 Selection: When Adam Freedman -- a skinny, awkward, inexperienced teenager from Piedmont, California -- goes to stay with his older sister Casey in New York City, he is hopeful that his life is about to change. And it sure does.
It is the summer of 2006. Gay marriage and transgender rights are in the air, and Casey has thrust herself into a wild lesbian subculture. Soon Adam is tagging along to underground clubs, where there are hot older women everywhere he turns. It takes some time for him to realize that many in this new crowd assume he is trans--a boy who was born a girl. Why else would this baby-faced guy always be around?
Then Adam meets Gillian, the girl of his dreams -- but she couldn't possibly be interested in him. Unless passing as a trans guy might actually work in his favor . . .
Ariel Schrag's scathingly funny and poignant debut novel puts a fresh spin on questions of love, attraction, self-definition, and what it takes to be at home in your own skin.
August 2014 Selection: When Nicole Georges was two years old, her family told her that her father was dead. When she was twenty-three, a psychic told her he was alive. Her sister, saddled with guilt, admits that the psychic is right and that the whole family has conspired to keep him a secret. Sent into a tailspin about her identity, Nicole turns to radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger for advice.
Packed cover-to-cover with heartfelt and disarming black-and-white illustrations, "Calling Dr. Laura" tells the story of what happens to you when you are raised in a family of secrets, and what happens to your brain (and heart) when you learn the truth from an unlikely source. Part coming-of-age and part coming-out story, "Calling Dr. Laura" marks the arrival of an exciting and winning new voice in graphic literature.
July 2014 Selection: A poignant and satirical tale of one man's struggle to overcome the ghosts of his past and make sense of the present. In this, his third novel, acclaimed author Mark Merlis artfully intertwines the pathos of loneliness with a subtle critique of the American political machine.
June 2014 Selection: Twenty years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Now a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, a gardener happily ensconced with his much-younger husband.
More than three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin's legendary Tales of the City series rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent, and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion, and mordant wit.