Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pennsylvania Pride

As LGBT Pride events fill our national (and international) calendars, I want to focus on Pennsylvania, and the setting of my two most recent novels, where it seems the fictional dreams of my protagonists have come true.

Some background about the two novels Every Time I Think of You and Message of Love (with some minor spoilers).

Dancing in the streets of Pittsburgh
In 1979, Everett Forrester's sister and father live in Pittsburgh, and in the first novel, the two young men's first awkward romantic night is spent in Squirrel Hill, a scenic neighborhood similar to Shadyside.
This May, people were dancing in the streets in the neighborhood of Shadyside after Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban was declared unconstitutional. (Photo by Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

The legal action prompted international news headlines, since the fascinating history of the state of Pennsylvania mirrors our entire nation. This HRC report adds some other notable quotes, most notably:

"U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, III ruled that Pennsylvania’s law banning marriage equality is unconstitutional.  Pennsylvania becomes the tenth state where a federal judge has struck down a marriage ban since the U.S. Supreme Court issued their two marriage-related rulings last year. 

"Judge Jones' ruling opens the door for same-sex couples to immediately begin applying for marriage licenses.  In Pennsylvania there is a three-day waiting period before marriages can be performed after a couple receives a marriage license.  Some counties can waive this wait period.  

Same-sex betrothal ceremonies at Philadelphia's Pride March
"In the ruling, Judge Jones wrote, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

In my sequel, Message of Love, Reid and Everett discuss marriage as if it were a pipe dream, and at the time (the early 1980s) it was. But imagine these two guys being together after all these years, then in our time being able to wed. Pretty neat.

And although Everett and Reid limited their time in Pittsburgh to family (and museum) visits), imagine if they had been able to attend their first Gay Pride event there. This year's LGBT Pride events are said to include record numbers.

Most of Message of Love is set in Philadelphia in the early 1980s (including a very different visit to Independence Hall than in the new photo above). I learned so many fun facts about this amazing city during my visits and through my research and interviews.

Archival library microfilm copies of Philadelphia Gay News was a fascinating part of my research. so it was great to be included in a review of books in that same historic paper:

"The sequel to the Lambda Literary Award-winning Every Time I Think of You reintroduces readers to Everett and Reid as they traverse the next phases of their relationship.

It is 1980 Philadelphia, and the couple has settled into their first year at Temple University, together exploring the city and campus and adjusting to dormitory domesticity. Everett’s wheelchair, the result of a traumatic injury that left him partially paralyzed, is a ubiquitous presence in their physical and emotional relationship, as they learn how to be intimate despite physical limitations and how to balance independence with assistance. 

"In addition to grappling with late-teen relationship ups and downs, they also deal with family dynamics, especially Everett’s pedigreed mother who has ambitious aspirations for her son apart from Reid. And looming like a specter is a defining aspect of 1980s gay community, the HIV/AIDS crisis, subtly foreshadowed from the beginning until it becomes a focal point of the story later on.

Locals will love the Philly references, from Everett and Reid’s visit to Forbidden Drive to taking in Rocky Horror shows at TLA, and how the city shapes their relationship. Message of Love is a brilliant retelling of young love and the transformations it undergoes as lovers grow from adolescence to adulthood." — Jen Colletta, Philadelphia Gay News
Here's a review excerpt from the website Edge Media:
"The compelling tale of Reid and Everett reminds one of the age old saying that love conquers all and perhaps most importantly, that relationships are about compromise. While their initial story presented Everett’s paralysis as the life-changing event that turns the worlds of both young men upside-down, this sequel has its share of drama, but more of the everyday trials and tribulations and complications that hold true for any two individuals who share each other's lives – and an unconditional love.

"Message of Love is an earnest, heartfelt and refreshing continuation of a young couple's adventures that leaves the reader excited, amused and inspired." – Edge Media
And here's another new review, on the blog Joyfully Jay, which politely critiques its length and loose structure.

One of my favorite readings for Every Time I Think of You was at Philadelphia's Giovanni's Room. As most readers know, the store recently, closed after decades of serving the LGBT community with a store and a meeting place. Here's a touching Rolling Stone feature on proprietor Ed Hermance, and the loss of this great bookstore.

Proof of this store's professionalism and personal touches were proven to me this week, when, as the store's staff were clearing out their inventory, instead of dumping one of my books, the guys sent me a last unsold signed first edition copy of PINS. What with the Giovanni's Room sticker, I consider it quite a collector's item. Hopefully, if plans proceed, Giovanni's Room (also featured in my new novel) will return in some form.

So, it's not just Pennsylvanians and bookstores that support these two (and my other) books. You can do the same. You can read more reviews online, and in my previous posts. Respond to them, post your own, share them...whatever! Anything helps.
Tuesday, June 17, 7:30pm, I'll be reading at another indie bookstore, Books Inc., 2275 Market Street in San Francisco. The store has asked for each of my five novels, and they're currently in stock. You can support this store by buying in person or through their website.

Whenever you can, order books through independent stores like Wild Iris. Do you know of a bookstore in your area that would welcome an author like me? Let me know. Can't attend a reading? Here are some more ways to support me and other independent authors.

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