Need a summer read? I have recieved several queries (from Plain Rainbows) about my book of poetry, photos, essays & a short story "The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America", published via inGroup Press a decade ago.
EDGE MEDIA BOOK REVIEW:
With apologies to Max Weber and Margaret Mead, any armchair anthropologist or sociologist in North America worthy of cocktail party chatter will be able to explain the propensity of sub-groups and clans and tribes to gather into ever-tighter circles as the onslaught of cultural evolution broaches their sacred world-view. The Mormons did it in their westward trek in the 1840's, the Quakers, the Mennonites and the Jim Jones Temple folks and of course the Amish as well, all have their stories of hiding from the realities of the then-perceived world and its evils. The difficulty lays in the troubling fringe of each of these groups, how to control, guide, indoctrinate, and sublimate their individual members into compliance with group norms and expectations; Ross Douthat of the New York Times calls it the paranoia of the six-degrees of separation game.
"The Literary Party: Growing up Gay and Amish in America" helps us to see into one of these uniquely American groups and the ways in which it builds tight walls of protection around their world-view by destroying the internally unacceptable. James Schwartz shares with us a view point that is at the same time unique, fascinating, real, and also horrifying, as a young gay man growing up in a traditional Amish farm family. His voice, and his story, which we are allowed to glimpse through his poetry, helps us to understand what it may be like for such a cloistered view of the world from the inside out.
Certainly every such group in American history has similarities, familiar trajectories, and expected time sequences: a coming-of-age story in any other setting, East Los Angeles, for example, or Bedford-Stuyvesant, or Salt Lake City, may stand on similar ground. What helps us appreciate the struggle of Schwartz' "Literary Party" is the rare insight that is current, fresh, and authentic. I am still upset at Tim Allen and Kirstie Allie for that horrible "For Richer or Poorer" (1997), and I also have to suggest that all of hip-hop and rap combined may not be as authentic as we wish it to be, at least in an anthropological sense. I am still waiting for the Langston Hughes of the twenty-first century, and I am not at all sure that even Martha Beck, with her brilliance, is an authentic Mormon voice either.
Conversely, Schwartz seems to have made the transition to the mainstream American cultural highway fairly easily: "In this time and at this rate/ the world prefers its assassins str8./ Heros for heteros to relate/ comfort for their grieving mate." Poetry is elastic, no matter which culture upon which it focuses nor from which it may be derived, and as a reader, my experience, world view, politics, religion, sexuality, age, and ethnicity all come to bear upon the machinations of my interpretation of any poetry, and in Schwartz' work I can reflect on not simply what he meant to say, but what the poetry is saying to me right now and right here. The inferred message is, an Amish gay man can speak to me and we can share some universality of human emotion and cross-cultural meaning, and succeed in making the world a little easier to deal with and a little easier to negotiate.
I am eager to see the maturation of this poet; in "The Pale City" ("From the pale city/ beside the sea/ I traveled once more home/ to the fields in hues of tea") helps us see the future of James Schwartz, an authentic American voice, and that uniquely individual voice as well.
Available as a Kindle eBook!
Happy Pride to all the Plain Rainbows out there from Detroit!
It is Pride weekend so here's a Pride playlist comprised of some songs from my clubbing days, some MI. artists etc. in no particular order. I loved manning the DJ booth on a slow night at The Zoo or Brothers, once and I will always love club music.
8 Rise Up
11 Just Be
13 Not Afraid
16 God Control
Chicago Review of Books reviews Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology from Middle America: A Midwestern LGBTQIA+ Book a Day for Pride Month! There will also be a Pride Month virtual reading from the anthology June 23, which you can register for here!
Happy Pride Month everyone! If you missed our season premiere, "Kicking Off Pride Month", you can watch it on YouTube (above) or on the Plain Rainbows FB Page!
We would like to take a moment and thank all the Plain Rainbows out there for supporting the podcast and our fabulous guests for sharing their stories and wisdom and showing us there is life beyond the Amish / Mennonite / Anabaptist closet!
My co-host Mary Byler and I are bringing you weekly episodes through Pride Month with a season of special guests discussing LGBT Amish and Anabaptist issues!
Consider making a donation here. Mary Byler spends time and resources in her Amish advocacy work and the LGBTQ Amish podcast would not be possible without her (thank you on behalf of us all, Mary)!
A few #PlainRainbows highlights thus far:
Publication date for Good Cop/Bad Cop: an anthology will be 05/25/2021— FlowerSong Press (@FlowerSongPress) May 24, 2021
One year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.https://t.co/axcp4My7Ei
Important conversations on abuse within the Amish and Plain communities are taking place on several podcasts including THE PLAIN PEOPLE'S PODCAST & THE AMISH MISFIT. We also have a conversation on abuse within Plain communities on a forthcoming episode of the #PlainRainbows podcast.
Please consider buying merch or making a donation to support!
Attendees at the recent Amish Abuse Awareness conference included The Plain People's Podcast and Plain Rainbows!
I came across the (above) film on writer Gore Vidal which speaks to our present as well. Having read a few of his novels and many of his essays, I am still Team Capote but anyone who wishes to understand American politics should certainly read Vidal!
At the 3rd annual Amish Heritage Foundation (virtual conference)
Are you of Amish heritage and an artist?
It was an honor to serve as the first Artist Ambassador for the AMISH HERITAGE FOUNDATION. During the 3 month progam I gave a talk on LGBTQ Amish issues for AHF's 3rd annual (virtual) conference.
This gave me an oppurtinity to address LGBTQ+ Amish issues in an academic space for which I am grateful. Thank you TORAH BONTRAGER and to Lars for participating. I remain a supporter moving forward, now accepting applicants for new Artist Ambassadors, see AmishHeritage.org for details!
Check out the podcast below for more on AHF and Torah Bontrager's writing tips!
Ross Murray from GLAAD, Yass, Jesus! podcast and the Naming Project is back on the pod! His new book ”Made, Known, Loved” shows congregations how to create a program that affirms LGBTQ youth. How can we transform religious spaces into more welcoming environments and guide future leaders?
Hello / goodbye #NationalPoetryMonth!
I have teamed up with THE FORBIDDEN APPLE PODCAST to celebrate! Above: "Satan's Inches" was originally published in "Michiana's Rainbow Gazzette" (2007) & below: "Slundered" from "The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America" (2011).
Promo Art: BJK "KICKING OFF PRIDE MONTH" Happy Pride Month!! I am looking forward to the PLAIN RAINBOWS: LGBTQ AMISH & ANA...