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Book Review: Henry Darger, Throw Away Boy by Jim Elledge

By Amazon, Books & Authors, History, ReviewsNo Comments
henry-darger-throwaway-boy-jim-elledge-cover I’m going to admit that I’d never heard of Henry Darger before I read Henry Darger, Throw Away Boy.

Henry Darger (1904-1973) was an Chicago-based artist, who was completely unknown in his lifetime. He created pieces of art that depicted children. In some of the art children were innocently enjoying life and in others they were being horrifically tortured. Darger also completed two fantasy manuscripts entitled The Realms and Crazy House. Many critics dubbed Darger as a mentally unstable individual who may have thought about harming children.

But as Jim Elledge uncovers in Henry Darger, Throw Away Boy that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Elledge has spent a decade researching and writing this book which gives a comprehensive insight to the life of Darger. It is well researched, which is indicated by the extensive bibliography and notes sections.

The book starts by describing the poverty, dangerous street life and Darger’s lack of supportive loving parents. Darger’s mother died in childbirth and his father was an alcoholic. It is suspected that Darger was sexually abused on a number of occasions throughout his childhood. This commonplace abuse, did make uncomfortable reading at times. His behaviour, even as a young child was feral which is understandable given the emotional trauma he experienced. His bad behaviour led to his father putting him in a religious mission and later an asylum institution.

Darger escaped the institution and became a Janitor in a hospital. He began to create his art and write his manuscripts, as a way to fictionalise his traumatic childhood experiences. In his manuscripts he wrote about a number of secret societies, all that have one mission: to protect children. He fell in love with a man (Whillie) and continued to work tirelessly on his art over the decades that followed. But after some early criticism, he didn’t feel able to share his work with the world. It wasn’t until after his death that his landlord discovered the work.

Essentially Elledge tells the story of a gay man filled with fear and shame because of societies attitudes towards children, child abuse and gay people. Glossy pages show some of Darger’s work, but more would have been welcome.

Elledge brings Darger’s story to life through his engaging writing style. If you’re into gay art – in all it’s forms, you’ll love Henry Darger, Throw Away Boy which is available to buy on Amazon.

Review soon,

Antony

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Book Review: Family Pride by Michael Shelton

By Amazon, Books & Authors, Gigs & Shows, ReviewsNo Comments
Family Pride Michael Shelton Book Cover Family Pride by Michael Shelton is written like a research article and has an extensive list reference list. Shelton highlights early on that there is a lack of representation of ethic minorities and economically disadvantaged LGBT families in the research. The book is clearly structured and styled as an educational textbook. No definition of an LGBT family is made or attempted; probably because LGBT families are so diverse in their make up and scope. Just like ‘straight’ families.

Shelton interviewed some LGBT parents and even some of their children from across America for this book. I would have enjoyed reading more of these interviews; particularly around their coping strategies for dealing with homophobia, perceived hertrosexism and subtle prejudices. I would have enjoyed reading about these LGBT families hopes for the future.

Family Pride starts with an introduction, explaining the history of gay rights movement and the extreme rightwing (anti-gay) response to this agenda. How the progress of gay rights movement has had an unintended backlash on LGBT families and put many of them in the spotlight in their communities.

I should point out, at this point, that this book is completely Americanised and lacks any international perspective. However many of the issues faced by LGBT families in America will apply to LGBT families in the UK.

Then Family Pride gives a comprehensive review of the issues LGBT families face including:

  • Internalised homophobia.
  • Stages of coming out as an LGBT to children, families and the community.
  • The facade of the perfect family.
  • Issues in schools such as the other same-sex parent not being recognised and bullying of the children by other children (and potentially some of the school staff).
  • Access and engagement with physical and mental health services.
  • The ability to access and enjoy leisure activities (including the all American Summer Camps).
  • Religious Institutions.
  • and the Police & Legal System.

In the conclusion there’s a small section dedicated to how to improve attitudes and acceptance of LGBT families, which will enable better community integration and to give LGBT families a sense of belonging.

Overall Family Pride has good, evidenced-based content. The writing style could have been more engaging and I felt that Shelton over-explained his point at times. This book is ideal for Students or Practitioners in the disciplines of Social Work, Nursing, Mental Health, Youth Work, Housing, the Police, Prison Officers and other public service institutions. It will give Students and Practitioners an awareness of the issues LGBT families face with accessing and engaging with institutions in a way that is dignified, respected and valued.

Family Pride by Michael Shelton is available to buy on Amazon.

I recently interviewed two LGBT parents for The Gay UK; so you might like to read FEATURE: Coming Out to The Kids – Paul’s Story and FEATURE: Coming Out to The Kids – Linda’s Story.

Review soon,

Antony

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Two Hundred

By Life, The Web8 Comments

Can you believe that this is my two hundredth blog post? In celebration here are some questions answered. Hopefully you’ll learn more about me and what makes me tick, expect references to some of the posts I’ve written:

1. Why do you blog?
Blogging for me fulfils my creative urges and is also theraputic. It allows self expression on how I view myself, the world around me and how I experience it. It is also a great way for family and friends to keep up to date with my antics.

2. When do you blog?
I usually blog during the weekday evenings. Occasionally I do have a full day blogging on a weekend. On a weekend day, I can bash out several blog posts and schedule them to publish at a date and time of my choosing in the future. So don’t assume that the date of publish is the time I’ve written them.

3. What do you blog about?
Anything and everything. My blog is abstract really. I tend to blog about my own life experiences, what’s going on in my life and other things that I’m passionate about. My main two passions I’ve noticed I blog about a lot are gay rights (including homophobia) and my religion, paganism.

4. Is there anything you don’t share on your blog?
Although I may appear open and that I share everything on my blog, I actually don’t. I only blog about things I would say to a member of the public (as anyone can access this blog on the World Wide Web). There are many things I consider to be private that I never blog.

5. Where do you live?
I’ve never revealed this on my blog and don’t intend too. I live in an apartment I’ve recently bought. You can see photos on my blog post The Move.

6. Whose important in your life?
My family and friends. You can read more on my blog post People that inspire me.

7. What have you achieved in your life?
A many number of things, like I’m sure you all have. I’ve bought an apartment, completed a HE Diploma in Children’s Nursing, learn’t to drive, a many number of spiritual achievements. I guess it depends what you call an achievement? And anyway, how is an achievement measured?

8. What would you like to achieve in the future?
Well I have a grand plan, you can read more on my blog post A Magickal Grand Plan. It includes things I wish to achieve in all areas of my life, health, family and friends, love, education, creativity, career, paganism and spirituality, experiences, home life, finances and travel.

9. Are you religious?
Yes, I’m a pagan. You can read more about what being a pagan means for me on my paganism page of my website.

10. What is your religion? What does it involve?
My religion is paganism. It involves following the cycle of the year, you can read more on my blog post entitled Pagan Festivals.

11. I’ve noticed your adventures page hasn’t been updated in a while. Do you ever plan on updating it?
Yes, I plan to do some more adventuring in the next year. I hope to travel a bit more next year. I had intended too this year but travel got delayed due to buying my apartment,

12. Are you on any of the popular social networking sites?
I’m on facebook, for friends only. I am also on twitter @antonysimpson. It mainly contains tweets from when I update this blog and replys to other people’s tweets.

13. What’s your websites design? And how did you come up with it?
The idea is that it’s a cork notice board with a piece of paper pinned to it. It was designed by my good friend Sye. I am especially proud and love the cartoon style naviagation icons that change on mouse over at the top of the site that Sye did the art work for.

14. What do you like to do for leisure?
Write blog posts, obiously. Surf the web, read, TV, socialising, meals out, see friends, cinemas and films, allsorts really.

15. I’ve noticed you write a lot about gay rights. Why’s this so important for you?
I think it’s important to me as I know friends who have experienced homophobia. People I love and care about being isolated and mistreated because of their sexuality. I have experienced homophobia, but not to this degree. I also have read up on my history and know what it used to be like for gay people. No role models in society (on the TV, media, etc.), no rights (no recognition of gay relationships by the mainstream hetrosexual world), being mistreated by institutions (police raiding gay pubs, courts prosecuting gay people, homosexuality being treated as a mental health condition, etc.) and I never, ever want it to go back to how it has historically been. Right I’ll get off my soap box.

16. What’s your faviourate film?
Any Disney film. I was brought up on Disney. Probably the reason I’m single though, as I often want the ideal and can’t settle for less. I love rom-coms. The typical love story were boy meets girl, falls in love with girl and ends up with her in the end.

17. What’s your faviourate artist or band?
I’m werid. I like a whole mix of different music from cheesy pop, soft rock, a bit of r n b, opera, indie, everything really. I tend to like songs rather than artists. If that makes sense?

18. What’s your faviourate colour?
Yellow. The colour of the sun (am sooo a sun worshiper!), colour of intelect and creativity.

19. Who are you idols? Who inspires you?
My family and friends inspire me, you can read more on my blog post People that inspire me. But if your talking in the famous world you can find out on my blog posts Inspirational Icons and Inspired by Stephen Fry.

20. Is it true you have diabetes?
Yes. Type 1. Insulin dependant.

21. What’s your diabetes diagnosis story?
That’s a blog post that’s already written. It’s scheduled to publish January 2010 which will mark 3 years since my diagnosis of diabetes.

22. How’s the elearning going? (see Back to University)
I’m ok on one of the modules and the other one I’m slightly behind. I intend to play catch up this weekend. I couldn’t find the resources I needed to do the work. I’m still new to this style of learning and it’s taking some getting use too. But I have bought some new uni books.

23. You seem to post a lot about comedy. Why is comedy so important to you?
I think as Dame Edna would say “we all need to laugh, especially in this world…more than ever”. Comedy enables you to see things from a different perspective and not take things too seriously. I think we need that with all the negativity we are peddled by the media.

24. You seem to love books, what are you currently reading?
Several university text books.
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend by Jenny Colgan
Wannabe a Writer? by Jane Wenham-jones
How to Create a Magical Home by Marie Bruce
Book by Whoopi Goldberg
So yeah a quite diverse selection of literature.

25.What star sign are you?
I’m a taurus (a bull). You can read more on my blog post As a Taurus….

Take care,

Antony

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I ran out of Milk

By Life, Thinking2 Comments

This morning I ran out of Milk. It happens. So I popped on some clothes and headed down to the shop. I am walking up the street and see two men (one on each path opposite sides of the road) wearing a shirt, tie and pants. Both the young men are good looking. The one on my side of the road approaches me.

He introduces his self. I am smiling at the beautiful man and then he starts talking about Jesus Christ. Damn, I’ve been caught by a good looking man! He tells me that Faith in Christ can help me resolve personal and family challenges. He discusses at lengh about family being important. (I don’t disagree with that.)

I explain that I am gay and pagan, which he seems to ignore. Usually they recoil in horror and walk away. We discussed where the church is (I asked!). He gave me a leaflet. And then we parted, him continuing his journey to convert/persuade and me continuing my journey to the shop.

I think it is very clever that they use good looking people to draw you in. Overall it was an odd experience. I looked at the leaflet, it appeared they where mormons. I looked up their views on their website that they gave me, they are not positive on the gays:

“People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.
(from: http://www.mormon.org/mormonorg/eng/basic-beliefs/glossary/glossary-definition/homosexuality, Accessed online: 4th July 09)

But that is most christian religions for you. I have many christian friends (including some mormon’s). However homosexuality is seen in nature, so is it not natural? (I won’t get in to that debate!)

However this young man did look like he had gay tendencies. I feel sorry for him growing up being oppressed religion and that condems gay, lesbian and bisexual people. I pray that he finds his way.

Write soon,

Antony

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