Edited by Allison Fradkin, NewTown Writers. $12.50; iUniverse; 167 pages
A potpourri of poems, prose and essays, Off the Rocks, Volume 16, addresses the questions of identity"How do you identify, do you ident-defy, what are your identities, do you identi-tease?"as editor Fradkin states on the back cover. NewTown Writers Chicago accepted submissions from 31 LGBT writers and advocates from across the country for this edition. Two of the most endearing are Forgiveness by Vince Sgambati and Ejaculating Beauty by Aimee Herman.
"Forgiveness" is the heartbreaking account of Charlie and Michael, who tend to Charlie's mom, Lena ,in their South Beach, N.Y., home, as Lena settles into a dementia-like fog. The story begins with Lena peering into a mirror. "And why is the stranger in the mirror wearing the identical nightgown?," Lena asks herself. Charlie lovingly cares for her and for his and Michael's daughter, Rochelle, pushing aside unease that his own union with Michael is falling apart.
In "Ejaculating Beauty," Herman captures, in brutally honest fashion, the pain of a young girl growing up uncomfortable in her own body. At 6 she practices being a girl. She moves on to tomboy and eventually embraces the word "queer." All along, she's battling against stereotypes: "You homos ignored me because I didn't look like younot gay enoughdyke enoughfemme enoughlesbian enoughpolitical enough."
The anthology nicely distributes prose and poems so the reader can variously enjoy it all. At the back are biographical notes on all the submitters. Off the Rocks makes for a thought-provoking as well as a tear- and laugh-inducing read.
With a mission of fostering gay literature, NewTown Writers publishes the literary anthology Off the Rocks and the e-zine Swell. NewTown Writers also holds frequent public events, including a performance series, dramatist workshops and workshop-style meetings. The organization was founded in 1980.