Inspiration








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For Such a Time by Kate Breslin My rating: 1 of 5 stars Recommended for: Anne Rice; anyone who thinks that the dislike of this book is unfounded; bigots I’ve read many books that I could classify as “bad books” over the years, but this one is quite special in how awful it truly was. There was nothing enjoyable about Kate Breslin’s debut novel For Such a Time. First, let’s tackle something that was brought up repeatedly in the book and in its official descriptions. The lead female character Hadassah Benjamin (known through most of the novel as Stella Muller) has blonde hair and blue eyes. On the back of the copy I checked out of the local library, it is specifically described as, “her Aryan-like looks allow her to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller.” According to the official description on Amazon’s app, the description starts, “In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy.” On page 14 of the story, she is described this way, “Morty once told her that her beauty would save her–a “changeling,” he’d called his young niece, Stella’s blond hair and blue eyes a rarity among their people.” Early in the war, this might have protected her, but it wouldn’t have been guaranteed. When you consider that Werner Goldberg, the man who was literally the poster boy for the Aryan ideal, was expelled from the army in 1940 when it was discovered he was a “1st degree Mischilinge” and had to help his father escape a hospital in 1943 so that he wouldn’t be deported to Auschwitz, you can be sure that appearance wouldn’t guarantee the safety of a non-influential light-haired, light-eyed Jewish girl. And the supposed rarity of the trait is questionable due to the fact that now 32% of German-Jewish children also have blond hair. Brown (light and dark) and black hair each have slightly percentages than that. One would assume that the dark hair stereotype is just that, a stereotype. By focusing so much attention on the appearance of this woman who is also described as a savior, it is promoting a white supremacist ideal of beauty and moral value, while simultaneously justifying that ideal’s belief of punishing those who don’t fit their narrow standards of beauty. Somehow her beauty is able to trick Aric into believing that she isn’t really Jewish and that the papers that have been stamped saying that she is must have been wrong. Aric will eventually blame her for not telling him that she is Jewish and for not telling him that she did not support the Nazi’s cause. This is after he has seen her traumatized at the brutal killing of Anna while in a camp. He saw that this broke her spirit, but he believes she still might be willing to support Hitler and his group of bigoted, sociopathic thugs. Her beauty and position as Aric’s secretary also seem to convince every Nazi officer that she must be a prostitute. She even calls herself a “brazen hussy” when she is forced to kis Hermann in order to save the life of Joseph, Aric’s houseboy. And Hermann muses that she is a sorceress using her beauty to bewitch the Commandant into sympathizing with the prisoners. (Of course, Hermann also calls women weak-minded and mere vessels for man’s use, so he’s not exactly a great example of non-sexist thinking.) Another serious issue is the repeated use of rape and assault as a way to threaten Hadassah/Stella into doing things & the underlying Stockholm Syndrome-esque quality of the relationship between her and Aric. When she first meets Aric von Schmidt, she tells him that the Gestapo assaulted her in some way and suggests that it may have been a sexual assault attempt. He classifies their behavior as a prank. Twenty five pages into the book, he threatens her with being returned to Dachau while he tries to seduce her. She is reminded over and over that she is essentially his prisoner, that she has no true sense of free will or personhood, but that she should be thankful for his saving her and for his attraction to her. When she has a traumatic flashback in a nightmare around page 47, Aric expects her to be thankful that he’s moved her to Czechoslovakia with him, but he’s threatening her with being sent back. He even uses sexual innuendo in these conversations, while having no regard for the suffering that she has been through. All that he cares about is that attraction he has. And he tries to make that attraction seem more important than what he knows, as he witnessed some of it, she’s been through. He threatens her when she doesn’t want to do as he has told her, tells her he will send her to Dachau for not eating, forces her to eat food pork, forces her to type of the lists sending prisoners to Auschwitz, forces her to sit through meals as Aric and other SS officers talk about the benefits of slave labor in the camps and ghettos, threatens to kill people unless she kisses him, and forces her to agree to marry him. As I read the story, I saw his behavior as similar to Christian Grey’s behavior in the Fifty Shades series, only Aric was so much more vile. When the book started, Hadassah saw Aric as a “Jew Killer” and a potential threat to her safety. By page 82, she has begun to trust him, while knowing that he could turn on her at any moment if he found out who/what she really is. This is so reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome. She is living in the home of an SS-Commandant and sees him as a good person who doesn’t really want to hurt Jews. She doesn’t recognize that he continuously fails to show real compassion for the prisoners in […]

Review: For Such a Time





100 LGBTQ Black Women You Should Know: The Epic Black History Month Megapost (Being Posted Here For LGBT Pride Month): thepoliticalfreakshow: This epic megapost is your glorious opportunity to meet 100 amazing black LGBT women who’ve made their mark over the last 150 years. See the first 20 below, then click the above link to see all 100 who made the list. Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender women represent a vibrant and visible portion of the LGBTQ community. In addition to the legends of the Harlem Renaissance and the decades of groundbreaking activism spearheaded by women like Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith and Angela Davis, many of the most prominent coming out stories of the past two years have been black women like Brittney Griner, Raven-Symonè, Diana King and Robin Roberts. Meanwhile, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have become the most visible transgender women in media.  So, in honor of Black History Month, below you’ll find over 100 lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer and transgender women you should know about. If she was still alive, the oldest person in this list would be 189 years old. The youngest person on this list is a mere 21 years of age. Like all our lists of this sort, this post aims to contain a wide variety of humans of all ages and backgrounds, from reality TV show stars (despite its numerous failings, Reality TV has been a major mainstream source of LGBTQ visibility dating back to the early ’90s) to State Representatives to actresses to game-changing activists.  Keep in mind, there are so many more prominent black LGBT women than are represented below. This list isn’t representative or comprehensive, but I did aim to include the “big names” and beyond that, present a broad and diverse range of visible women. The hardest part of making this list was that it was originally twice as long! So please feel free to share some of your heroes in the comments and we’ll have more lists like this in the future! If any of these pictures have been attributed incorrectly or lack proper attribution or contain misinformation, please email bren [at] autostraddle [dot] com and she will fix (or remove it) for you. Frances E.W. Harper (1825-1911), Abolitionist / Poet / Author Harper published her first book of poetry at age 20 and her first novel at the age of 67. She chaired the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad, and spoke all over the country with the American Anti-Slavery Society. She helped found the National Association of Colored Women in 1894 and published in so many periodicals that she became known as the “mother of African-American journalism.” She is listed in Lesbian Lists as an “early Black Lesbian and Bisexual Writer.” Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis (1844-1907), Sculptor This African-Haitian-Ojibwe Native American sculptor was born in New York and began studying art at Oberlin in Ohio, one of the first universities to accept women and non-white people, and later began sculpting in Boston. She showed her work internationally and spent most of her career in Rome. The National Gay History Project notes that “she is considered one of a few African-American artists to develop a fan base that crossed racial, ethnic and national boundaries — and the first to develop a reputation as an acclaimed sculptor, which would later give her access to circles that generally excluded people of color and women.” Alice Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935), Poet / Journalist / Activist Nelson, who allegedly separated from her first husband, poet Paul Dunbar, in 1902 because he was “disturbed” by her lesbian affairs, was an influential writer and journalist active in efforts to promote African-American and women’s rights. She was a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958), Journalist / Teacher / Poet / Playwright Harlem Renaissance writer Grimké, who was biracial (her father was the second African-American to graduate from Harvard Law), was one of the first African-American women to have a play performed publicly. Of that play, The NAACP said, “This is the first attempt to use the stage for race propaganda in order to enlighten the American people relating to the lamentable condition of ten millions of Colored citizens in this free republic.” At 16, she wrote a letter to her female friend Mamie Burrile in which she declared, “I know you are too young now to become my wife, but I hope, darling, that in a few years you will come to me and be my love, my wife!” Modern literary critics who have analyzed Grimké’s work have found “strong evidence” that she was lesbian or bisexual. Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966), Poet / Playwright Another prominent figure in the flourishing Harlem Renaissance, Johnson grew up in Atlanta, the daughter of an African and Native American mother and an African-American and English father. In addition to writing poems and plays, she was an anti-lynching activist and hosted weekly Salons with other friends associated with the Harlem Renaissance, like Lanston Hughes and Angelina Weld Grimke. The book Lesbian Lists notes that “although her letters reveal love relationships with women, she is best known in the heterosexual world for her affair with W.E.B. DuBois.” Ma Rainey (1886-1939), Blues Singer The legendary “Mother of the Blues” was one of the first blues singers to record. She toured extensively all over the country for mixed audiences and released over 94 records. Her 1928 song “Prove it On Me Blues” declared They said I do it, ain’t nobody caught me. Sure got to prove it on me. Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must’ve been women, cause I don’t like no men. Gladys Bentley (1907-1960), Blues Singer Bentley is a legend known for her piano-playing, raunchy lyrics and her signature top hat and tuxedo, headlning gay speakeasies and Harlem’s Ubangi Club and later in Southern California. Bentley was an out lesbian from the get-go and once, dressed in “men’s clothing,” tried to marry a woman in Atlantic City. But during the McCarthy era Bentley took a turn — she married a man and wrote an article for Ebony magazine entitled “I am woman again,” about how […]