Tag Archives: Masha Gessen

What to Read in October

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: “Blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.”

A Field Guide to the North American Family by Garth Risk Hallberg: “For years, the Hungates and the Harrisons have coexisted peacefully in the same Long Island neighborhood, enjoying the pleasures and weathering the pitfalls of their suburban habitat. But when the patriarch of one family dies unexpectedly, the survivors face a stark imperative: adapt or face extinction.”

The Future Is History by Masha Gessen: “Putin’s bestselling biographer reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy.”

Also this month: We’ll review new books from Jeffrey Eugenides and Lindsay Hunter, publish Rick Moody’s foreword to Charlatan by Cris Mazza, and get nerdy about disaster movies with Ashley Wells.

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Sexual Orientation Samizdat

Gay Propaganda

The stories in Gay Propaganda—a collection of testimonies by LGBT Russians about finding love and making their way in modern society—are dull, dull, dull, which actually drives home the book’s point and helps make it one of the most exciting and necessary publications I have ever seen.

Gays in Russia are being harassed, disenfranchised, and even legislated against. Putin has gone so far as to sign a law banning “gay propaganda,” by which he means all public tolerance of homosexuals. How do you even begin to resist this kind of persecution?

With a book, of course.

The people profiled in Gay Propaganda tell their own stories in plain terms. Vasili breaks up with his boyfriend. Olga and Maria get pregnant. Oleg and Dmitriy meet through online dating. It’s everyday stuff. But in the context of Russia’s campaign of hate, the choice to live openly and unapologetically becomes dangerous, brave, triumphant.

Gay Propaganda is a simple book for complicated times. It douses a socio-political firestorm with humility, defiance, and love. It’s more than a book—it’s a step toward basic human rights.

– Brian Hurley

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