The Christmas Truck
Written by J.B. Blankenship
Illustrated by Cassandre Bolan
The Christmas Truck tells the story of Papa, Dad and their child, whose gender is ambiguous on purpose. This holiday picture book was created for all families and it is the first Christmas children’s picture book to prominently feature a same-gender couple. J.B. explains he wanted to tell a story about a kid that happens to have two gay Dads. The focus of the story is not about being different, it’s about existing in a world where unconditional acceptance exists and flourishes.
The story follows the family, alongside the retired Fire Chief Grandma and how they are able to save Christmas for a family in need. It teaches us that even when things don’t go your way, the spirit of the holiday season allows magical moments and adventures.
Illustrated by award-winning illustrator Cassandre Bolan, The Christmas Truck further distinguishes itself through breathtaking illustrations that normalize gay families and traditions against the backdrop of iconic Christmas imagery. Traditions like decorating a Christmas tree, wrapping presents by a glowing fireplace, and discussing the meaning of Christmas with their child, but for many LGBT parents this will be the first time they see their family represented.
When asked if there are more adventures in store for the characters in his book, Blankenship hinted at a possible yes. “I’ve been playing with a couple ideas” he said cautiously. “What I can say is that Grandma has a sister, and she likes adventure.” Connextions Magazine loves adventures, so we will continue to keep an eye on J.B. Blankenship, Papa, Dad, their child, and of course Grandma.
Review by Jaslene - 6 years old: "I like that it [The Christmas Truck] is about Christmas. I like that his Dads got a tree, my Dads got me a tree also. I like that they picked stu (stew) for dinner. I like that they had sparkles on a truck, i love sparkles. And I like they found the perfect way to celebrate together."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Read Connextions Magazine: Conversation with World Traveler & Author J.B. Blankenship
Living the Rainbow
By Hans M. Hirschi
Review by Skip Sheffield
In his gripping triptych, Hans M. Hirschi presents three very different and deeply moving portraits of gay family life. While each is a complete story in its own right, all three share common themes, exploring the devastating impact of death, the deep wounds left by abuse, the damage wreaked by homophobia, and, ultimately, the power of love to overcome and heal.
Living The Rainbow: A Gay Family Tryptych is comprised of Hans M. Hirschi's bestselling novels "Family Ties", "Jonathan's Hope" and "The Opera House".
What can readers learn from the adventures in your stories?
I don’t write to teach lessons. I often use stories to question beliefs. In the “The Opera House”, I explore how death can test faith. “Jonathan’s Hope” examines trust issues and “Family Ties” tackles monogamy. What I hope my novels do is ask questions and present possible solutions.
Are the stories autobiographical?
They are, somewhat. They deal with issues that are constantly on my mind as a gay father. I wrote “Family Ties” while my husband and I were pregnant. The prospect of fatherhood was constantly on my mind. Would I be a good father? What would people say seeing two dads with a child? “Jonathan’s Hope” probes, among other things, the age difference between the two main characters. I am twelve years older than my husband.
Is that a problem?
Not now but when I retire at 70, my husband will only be 58. When he’s 70, I’ll be 82. I’m sure we’ll work things out, but it scares me that I may not be there for him at some point. Or that he may have to care for me. The ending of “Jonathan’s Hope” is a glimpse at how that might look like, and it is bittersweet.
What binds all three stories together?
Love, hope and a message that gay families are just like any other family.
Do shows like Modern Family accurately reflect today’s gay families?
While they have done wonders for people’s conceptions of LGBT families, they tend to portray us as camp, butch or neurotic. They rely on stereotypes for laughs.
What is the biggest difference between nuclear and LGBT families?
LGBT parents tend to be a bit older and wiser. We plan long and hard for our children.
What unique challenges do LGBT parents face?
Homophobia is always showing its ugly face when you least expect it. It started for us right from the beginning. Homophobia from social services kept us from fostering and adopting. We ended up building our family through surrogacy and that has led to other forms of homophobia. More than once, we’ve been accused of buying our child.
What does the world need to know about modern LGBT families?
We’re as exciting and dull as the rest of them. My son’s diapers smell as badly as any other baby’s. We worry the same and we’re as willing to sacrifice ourselves for our kids as any other parent.
Your worry is reflected in the last novel in the trilogy, “The Opera House”.
The story explores the loss of a child, something I believe most parents contemplate in one way or another. I wrote it after my son’s birth. The fear of losing him was really difficult at times. Those first months, I’d listen to every breath he’d take. Any silence would alarm me. I was so afraid of SIDS.
What’s next for you?
I’ve just started a new novel. It is going to be about a man’s journey and travels. I have no idea where it’s going to take me; what the man is going to experience or what trials and tribulations may be ahead. My writing is very fluid and extremely unconscious. I let my fingers do the typing and marvel at the words that come to life on the computer screen. Every now and then, I gasp at the unexpected plot turns, wondering how on earth I’m going to fix the problem I just created.
“Living The Rainbow: A Gay Family Triptych” is available now, digitally and as a softcover boxed set, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble (Nook), and at selected local bookstores.
I Am Loved Right Where I Am
Written & Illustrated by Jason J. Galvez, M.A.T.
An adorable, easy to read, and fun children's book featuring positive messages of love.
Sometimes, the hardest thing about being a child is feeling different from others, but with positive messages of love, those differences become unique blessings. What I appreciate most about this children's story is that the focus is on 'love', not 'difference.' The underlying message is that families come in all different forms, but the take-away of the story is that no matter the family make-up, each child is loved. A valuable benefit to every child's bedtime story book library.
Available at Amazon
Some People Have Two Mums
Children’s Book by Luca Panzini & Fabri Kramer
Some people have two Mums is the second book in a series of children’s stories that aims to help children understand families with same-gender parents. While the combination of what makes a family may be different in each household, each child has a unique story of how they came to be part of their particular family.
The book puts it in simple terms for a child - no matter the family dynamics, he or she is loved. This 33-page illustrated tale would make for a great bedtime story.
As featured in Connextions Magazine, Issue 13.
Suburbia Gone Wild
How suburbia is conquering the world
A project by Martin ADOLFSSON
44 suburbs, 8 countries, 5 continents, 2,600 + photos.
A completely intriguing look at the symmetry of suburbia. The book is much more than arranged photos, it is a thought provoking piece of art. Interestingly, Adolfsson, a professional photographer, shot each photo with a handheld SLR camera -- no post photo alterations and no special lighting. The images are completely raw.
Photographer Martin Adolfsson’s project Suburbia Gone Wild provides a fascinating window into one of the greatest structural changes of the 21st-century, the rise of the upper middle class in the developing world. Exploring the search for identity among this new strata of society, Adolfsson takes us where they live: the shiny, newly-developed suburbs surrounding the new economic centers of the world. He documents a curious phenomenon that looks more and more like the constructed world of The Truman Show.
As featured in Connextions Magazine, Issue 13.
Your Story Matters... (Tell it)
by Linda Bunker
This story, as told by Linda, contains her detailed memories about a lifetime of love with partner Nan. The story begins when they met, in 1958. Against all odds and self-inflicted restraints, they selfishly allowed themselves to fall passionately in love. Fifty-five years later they find themselves still sharing this “secret” love. They decide now is time to come “out of the closet.”
I enjoyed this relatable love story of a life well lived, but of particular interest to me, are the historical details and mentions of gay politics going on in America that were not displayed in the media, as they are today.
Available at Amazon.
As featured in Connextions Magazine, Issue 13.
Rainbow Plantation Blues
Fiction/Historical Novel by Robert L. Sheeley
Available on Amazon or in paperback
Sheely has written this novel with incredible historical detail, as if he is reflecting on his own past, although not possible since the story takes place in the 1850’s. There is just enough drama in the novel to keep you turning pages, but not so over dramatic that it seems an unbelievable tale. The story depicts equality issues, such as slavery, women’s rights, and gay liberation – from the perspective of life in a pre-civil war era.
Not only do the characters in this book undergo a self-discovery process, but they also discuss their uncertainty for the future of America, which is ironically similar to what many of us are presently going through. While reading, I was filled with a sense of hope -- learning where we were as a segregated nation, and knowing where we are today. Change is inevitable. My so-often feelings of despair in this-age society in America were given a short break during this read, and I felt a greater appreciation for my life and the freedom I have been granted.
In a brief conversation with the author, here is his response to my most important question: "Yes, there will be a sequel but not for about a year."
As featured in Connextions Magazine. Click here to view this editorial.
"In 1850, Jonathan Thomas, a young, personable, and aristocratic Southern gentleman, has returned to his antebellum home from an Ivy League school in the North. His father is dying and Jonathan is sole heir to the family's lavish prosperous, and renowned Rainbow Plantation. While up North, two major revelations had seriously shaken his self-image. His exposure to Northern abolitionism had permanently shaken his outlook on slavery, the South's peculiar institution. Worse, he had begun to believe he might be a sodomite, a most wretched creature reviled by the customs of nineteenth-century American society.
When he tours the plantation grounds for the first time in years, he sees that his boyhood playmate, a slave named Kumi, has matured into a black Adonis. Jonathan is instantly captivated. Now he is convinced he is a sodomite, and even worse, he is hopelessly smitten over a slave.
As he grapples with his sexual proclivity and the peculiar institution, he befriends Steven Wentworth, a social non-conformist living an esoteric lifestyle, who has a deep, hidden connection to him. Under Steven's progressive influence, and from another unlikely source-the Bible-Jonathan is able to unravel his demons and triumph in the end."
Available on Amazon
Typically, Connextions does not promote books and stories that are as overcharged in sexual nature as Promiscuous, but this 97 page manuscript is actually a diary, a true written account of 123 different sexual partners. In the constant quest for companionship and love, Jones writes an honest and raw journal of how her sexual encounters replace the feelings of loneliness.
As stated by Author KD Jones: "Not another Sex and the City, but many indiscretions. More compared to Tucker Max. More direct than Chelsea Handler. My story, is my time of promiscuity. I know, big deal. But this true tale comes rapid-fire. In your face. Raw and raunchy. Diary or blog-style. Like today’s world, fast-paced.
Not a groupie, not entirely a slut. More a consenting adult. Confronting a life with no commitments, no family obligations, just a passion to live with an insatiable need to party and lust and actually challenge death with my own means of survival.
This is a totally honest depiction of the actual events that took place in my search for companionship. Some I will never forget, some I remember only because I kept a diary. There came some good times, some very bad, some happy, some very sad, which included 2 rapes, a near gang rape, and incidents where I am very lucky to be alive.
This story reveals desperation, loneliness, desertion, feelings of fear, lots of drugs and sadness in my search for compatibility.Love would have been nice, but I knew better. So sex was better than nothing. Diligently documented 123 different guys and their many
adventures, with several repeat offenders…Just a wild and crazy girl, I guess."
A salacious, unapologetic and sometimes shocking account of a woman's mad dash for sexual escapades after her divorce, with a preference for younger men way before it became "fashionable". These interludes include 3-somes, 2 guys in the same day, new encounters the very next day and lots of drugs. Not all good experiences, there is documented rape and instances where she is lucky to be alive. Overall a facinating diary.
Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009JU20FA
Promiscuous website: http://www.promiscuoustales.com
Some People have two Dads is an inspiring educational childrens book that conveys the message of love no matter what the dynamics of family may be. Daisy is the young birthday girl with the gift of two loving Dads, who express the meaning of love with the story of how Daisy was born and how important family is, no matter the combination.
Sensible, hearfelt and warming, this childrens book brings forth a smile from all of us. This book would certainly make a wonderful addition to your child's library.
In The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, author, activist and historian Sarah Schulman shows us the scorched surface of the earth, much like Morpheus did with Neo, so that we might see, with our own eyes, the consequences of the last 30 years of urban renewal—to see how our collective identity was forced out while consumerism trickled down through our institutions, communities and identities, colonizing our minds in "body-snatcher" fashion, even as we slept.
To the author, this current cultural moment is much more profound than we know. Just as the AIDS crisis took a generation of our best artists, mentors and producers, government inaction left our communities and identities vulnerable to the private sector predation that continues unchecked to this day. AIDS produced—along with hysteria, stigma, resentment and death—an abundance of urban space to be occupied by the dominant culture. For decades, climbing costs and corporatist doctrine waged a silent war against genuine artistry and invention, pricing out the young, and marginalizing the city's vibrant history to the point of invisibility. During this time, our communities were replaced with homogenous neighborhoods and conformist states of mind, meant to preserve consumerism and the dominant culture that lay subservient to it.
Say that corporatism destroyed America and most people won't flinch, because the word has become, whether we like it or not, a cliché—a euphemism for organized evil—a breeding ground for the worst elements of human behavior—protected, predictable, ubiquitous and deceptively benign. Say that corporatism leveled our communities and our identities, colonized them with
consumerism, homogeny and compliance then made us forget, and you have a recipe for revolution. But is it already too late?
Schulman says it's still possible (probable even) that we'll recover from gentrification—the removal and replacement of people, histories and ideas in urban centers, politics, art and thought—to return to a cultural moment rooted more in consciousness and social cohesion than in conformity and material possession.
Gentrification. At some point, the word came to symbolize the beautification and "stabilization" of our communities. But with urban
gentrification, diversity and social cohesion were the values hardest hit. To the gentrified mind, self-identity and empowerment are no match for the desire to belong—a condition once reserved for suburban sprawl that now leaches cultural complexity and innovation from our cities. Gentrification represents a systematic dismantling of the human spirit—first authenticity, then memory, now autonomy.
Schulman describes her work as a personal intellectual memoir, not an academic book, but to enlightened readers struggling through the current paradigm, The Gentrification of the Mind is a poignant call to action. It's easy to dismiss the spiritual vacuum of mass culture and corporatism as a sustained collective lapse in judgment, or as the byproduct of rampant materialism, or a side effect of seeing our reflection in technology with unprecedented clarity; or maybe it's ideology and circumstance recycling itself too thin. Whichever theory you prefer cannot adequately represent what Schulman calls "an internal replacement that alienated people from the concrete process of social and artistic change." So, it would seem, the power of redemption lies within us.
The Gentrification of the Mind takes into account supremacy ideology, marriage equality, literature, urbanism and politics, offering numerous solutions, practical and theoretical, with which to avoid further loss. Most importantly, Gentrification makes an astonishing connection between the AIDS crisis, urban reorganization and corporate colonization, shining a beacon far and wide for those of us who find ourselves "still attracted to justice."
List Price $27.95
Hardcover, 192 pages
University of California Press
As featured by Edward Truth for Connextions Magazine, Issue 8.