LaBonte, Richard and Schimel, Lawrence, eds. “First Person Queer: Who We Are (So Far): A Collection of Personal Essays”, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007.
There is a lot of non-fiction out there about who we are and some of it is very, very good. However, “First Person Queer” moves to the top of the list as far as clever writing and informative essays go. Lawrence Schimel and Richard LaBonte, two fine writers in their own way have collected and edited a series of essays that is intimate and honest and traverses the entire gamut of GLBT life. We have topics ranging from the coming-out experience to addiction to crystal meth to aging and living an out and proud life.
The essays peek into contemporary life from the GLBT view and we are able to read about a wonderful cross-section of gay life. The essays are sad, hopeful, funny and, above all else, truthful. The editors have assembled a collection that is truly diverse looking at gender, race, religion, age and all categories of sexual orientation. We see how we are truly like the rainbow—many colors and hues, many opinions and ideas but when taken together, we get a community that has a little something for everyone. Forty different authors are represented here plus an introduction, “We All Are Here, Somewhere” written by the editors.
The title alone seems to say it all; when writing in the first person, we can see that honesty is a necessity and the essays represent the satisfaction of the sexual self. As each contributor shares his or her personal, individual and intimate story, we see that we have a collective identity and we read of relationships with diversity that we all have. “First Person Queer” gives us wisdom and introspection as well as agreements and disagreements. The anthology, of course, cannot actually encompass all of our lives but it does give us a look at the myriad of experiences and each of us will find ourselves somewhere in one or more of the essays. Here is a welcome addition to the canon of gay literature and one that is badly needed.