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Books - Russian Lesbian and Gay Studies



CRACKS IN THE IRON CLOSET : TRAVELS IN GAY & LESBIAN RUSSIA

by David Tuller, Frank Browning
Hardcover - 276 pages (June 1996)

David Tuller traveled to the former Soviet Union expecting to find a still grimly repressive and closeted gay world; he found something quite different: a gay scene certainly unlike its western counterpart in many respects, and yet by no means the iron closet of the Stalinist era. There is plenty going on. Tuller's book serves as a travel guide to gay Russia, full of exotic stories that challenge American notions of sexuality.

Tuller is an experienced journalist and his language is very refined and easy to read. The plot is always entertaining and the book is full of interesting personalities. It is both a fiction story, and a serious insight into the Russian gay life of mid-90s.

In the nearest future we plan to publish a few extracts from the book on our site.



QUEER IN RUSSIA: A STORY OF SEX, SELF, AND THE OTHER

by Laurie Essig
Paperback - 244 pages (July 1999)

Queer in Russia is an engrossing and highly readable sociological study that will disturb readers who hoped or assumed that President Yeltsin's 1993 decriminalization of consensual sex between adults of the same sex would unlock the Iron Closet. Since 1917, homosexuality has officially existed in Russia only as a legal or medical category, either a criminal act or an illness. Russian men and women who experience same-sex desire have so internalized the various proscriptions of society and the law that they are hardly rushing to proclaim themselves gay, Laurie Essig found, let alone unfurl the rainbow flag. Many are happier viewing themselves as transsexuals -- simply born into the wrong bodies -- than as violators of Russia's rigidly gendered behavioral codes, and others are too strongly nationalistic to embrace what is widely considered a Western liberation movement. Incidentally, Essig discloses both an exquisitely lyrical Russian alternative to the term queer -- "people of the moonlight" -- and a creepy clinical designation for lesbianism --"sluggishly manifesting schizophrenia" -- a phrase that (happily) has no equivalent outside the former Soviet Union. -- Regina Marler, Amazon.Com



QUEER SITES: GAY URBAN HISTORIES SINCE 1600

by David Higgs (Editor)
Paperback - 240 pages (April 1999)

Queer Sites is a history of gay space in seven of the world's major cities from the early modern period to the present. The book focuses on the changing nature of queer experience in London, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Paris, Lisbon and Moscow, and examines the transition from the sexual furtiveness of centuries when male homosexual behaviour was criminal, to the open affirmation of gay identities in the 1990s.

The book provides an interdisciplinary analysis of extensive source material, including diaries, poems, legal accounts and journalistic material. Original in its comparative approach to gay urban history, the work reveals the differences between the American model of gay male life and that of cities in other societies, and the impact of changing regimes. By concentrating on the importance of the city and varied meeting places such as parks, river walks, bathing places, the street, bars and even churches, the essays explore the extent to which gay space existed and the degree of social collectiveness felt by those who used this space. Queer Sites offers compelling individual histories and discusses the gay past beyond living witnesses.

Read some extracts from the chapter on Moscow gay history >>



SAME-SEX UNIONS IN PREMODERN EUROPE

by John Boswell
Paperback - Reprint edition (June 1995)

Boswell (History/Yale; Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, not reviewed) convincingly establishes that, from ancient times to the 18th century, throughout Christian Europe, same-sex union rituals honored a form of "gay marriage." Working from church manuscripts, mainly in ancient Greek, that describe the ceremonies, Boswell carefully traces the historical context in which these practices occurred, exploring premodern beliefs about love and marriage, both gay and heterosexual. Past historians encountering these manuscripts have usually interpreted the same-sex ceremonies as honoring a spiritual bond or friendship, rather than a marriage equivalent. Boswell argues these readings overlook the ceremonies' striking resemblances to heterosexual nuptials in terms of the vows as well as the use of symbolic objects such as crosses, veils, crowns, and sometimes swords. In addition, both heterosexual and same-sex ceremonies usually involved the joining of right hands. He maintains that when other historians have neglected these parallels, they have done so out of a combination of homophobia and fear. Same-Sex Unions represents extraordinary scholarship, copiously detailing premodern rituals, laws, and value systems. The footnotes are as absorbing as the text, often providing crucial context or opposing viewpoints. Boswell is admirably attuned to the elusive subtleties of language and the dilemmas of translation, especially when it comes to matters of the heart; we are apprised of the multiple meanings and possible nuances of Greek words for friend, lover, kiss, brother, companion, etc. Appendices contain the original ceremony texts, accompanied by Boswell's translations. Also included is a translation of "The Passion of Serge and Bacchus," a story of love between two late-third-century Christian martyrs, which was frequently invoked in same-sex union ceremonies. Well worth the attention of anyone with a serious interest in the social and spiritual history of love and marriage. -- © 1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

More reviews available on Amazon.Com.



SEXUALITY AND THE BODY IN RUSSIAN CULTURE

by Jane T. Costlow (Editor), Stephanie Sandler (Editor), Judith Vowles (Editor)
Paperback - 372 pages Reprint edition (June 1999)

This comprehensive publication is an indispensable tool for any researcher in the field of Russian sexuality in general and Russian gay sexuality in particular. The editor did a huge work collecting essays from authors of different origins, backgrounds, and viewpoints to present them under this cover.

Scholarly papers follow personal anecdotes here, but that does not prevent the structure book from being logical and easy to read. It is worth noting that the book is cited as a reference source in all other books presented on this page.

Table of contents available on Amazon.Com.



THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA: FROM THE AGE OF THE CZARS TO TODAY

by Igor Semyonovich Kon, James Riordan (Translator)
Hardcover - 337 pages (June 1995)

Kon started his academic career with degrees in history and philosophy. He reached his present eminence as Russia's foremost sexologist (something he reluctantly admits) through his work in ethnography and anthropology, and his books remain the only nonmedical books on sex available in Russia. From the furtive character of nineteenth-century Russian erotica (overlaid with peasant prudery and reflecting attitudes then prevalent throughout Europe) to the brief explosion of liberalism after the revolution to the gray puritanism of the Soviets, Russian states have done their best to eliminate sex as a subject for public discourse. Kon has done a yeoman's job in pulling together information from many disparate and sometimes sketchy sources to provide a history of sexual attitudes and behavior in Russia in the twentieth century. Although he apologizes for intruding personal anecdotal evidence into a scholarly work, these supposed intrusions add an engaging human dimension to the data. --Dennis Winters, Booklist

Read the edited chapter on the Russian gay history generously contributed by Professor Kon >>



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