Public libraries: Bad news, good news

Guest.Phyllis

Phyllis Guest Taking Notes

The legislature slashed state funds, but city funding cuts weren’t as bad as they could have been. Best of all, there are ways you can help keep our libraries flush with LGBT content

Back in the winter, I wrote here about problems facing our libraries (“Losing our libraries,” Dallas Voice, April 1). The theme of that piece was the enormous losses the Dallas Public Library system was likely to face if the 82nd Texas Legislature took an axe to public systems statewide.

Well, they did wield an axe — and we lost a lot of state funding. This adds injury to insult, since the city of Dallas has cut library funds drastically over the last three budget cycles.

But the recently approved 2012 budget is less austere than it might have been. City Manager Mary Suhm proposed, and the mayor and city council agreed, to fund the new branch library now under construction on Ferguson Road, to maintain the current 40 hours at other libraries and to plump up the meager materials budget.

However, the approved budget also cut more than 90 salaried positions and eliminated others.

As of Oct. 1, the number of hourly workers known as pages dropped sharply. Remaining staff and volunteers are taking on much of the work once done by pages: sorting and shelving books and other media, maneuvering heavy carts and duck-walking between the low racks of the children’s sections.

And new books are in short supply.

But that’s enough whining. Let’s get to the good news.

First I want to tell you about some terrific mystery novels with gay angles that are now available at the Oak Lawn Library. Some are just slightly bent, while others are way over the edge, and two or more are probably available at this very moment on Oak Lawn Library’s LGBT shelves.

(Unless otherwise indicated, all are available within days through the Dallas Public Library’s online catalog at Catalog.DallasLibrary.org.)

My newest discovery is John Morgan Wilson, whose main series character is a California writer named Benjamin Justice, an edgy, flawed and therefore believable guy.

The series begins with Simple Justice and proceeds through Revision of Justice. By the time the series reaches the book I just finished, Justice at Risk, Ben is living like the Blanche DuBois of Hollywood. Best you read the books in order to learn where he began and why he fell so far.

My other new discovery is Matt Beynon Rees, a Welshman who worked as a journalist throughout the Middle East for several years and, in 2006, became a full-time fiction writer living in Jerusalem.

vook-cover

YOU CAN HELP | Want to be a Book Hero? Consider buying a copy of E. William Podojil’s ‘The Tenth Man.’

The detective of his series is a Palestinian schoolteacher who cannot walk down a street without being pulled toward the most appalling crimes. The book to read is the third in this series, The Samaritan’s Secret. The plot turns on a single gay character and the effects his sexual proclivities have on all those around him.

On the hunt for more LGBT mysteries, I did an Internet search and came up with a list of recommendations for five books that sounded good.

I ordered the two that were immediately available, whipped over, picked them up, devoured them in a single weekend and thus can recommend both: R.D. Zimmerman’s Closet and Mark Richard Zubro’s File Under Dead.

The Dallas system has other books by Zimmerman, all with one-word titles, and others by Zubro, including one that is new.

But here’s the thing: The system did not have three of the recommended books, including one by Michael Nava, whom I had read years ago and had liked a lot. So I went to DallasLibrary2.org with mouse in one hand and charge card in the other, then clicked on “Support Us” and chose to “Be A Book Hero.”

A recent system upgrade allows me, you and other booklovers to make purchases at the library discount. The library contacts the bookseller and the seller sends the book directly to the Central Library downtown. Central enters it into the system, then sends the book to the designated branch and contacts the “Hero” to pick the book up.

At the same time I bought Nava’s The Little Death, I bought a book that was favorably reviewed here in the Dallas Voice: Bronson Lemer’s The Last Deployment: How a Gay,Hammer-swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq. I just received an email notice that the books await me. Purchase and processing had taken less than three weeks.

When I read and return them, they will likely stay at the Oak Lawn branch, which houses the system’s modest LGBT-specific collection.

I’m telling you all this because Dallas Public Library has zero copies of books by two other gay mystery writers who are highly recommended: E. William Podojil and Greg Lilly.

If you decide to “Be A Book Hero” to yourself and others, the recommended books are Podojil’s The Tenth Man, in which a guy’s past live-ins and other lovers are done away with one at a time, and Lilly’s Fingering the Family Jewels, in which the tale is more frightening but less suggestive than the title.

More good news: The Friends of the Oak Lawn Library just voted to spend $1,000 to freshen the LGBT collection. The $1,000 came from ongoing sales of library calendars and of gently used books or magazines.

So whether you buy the former, donate the latter or order a newbie through the system, you’re helping our whole community.

Meanwhile, there must be mysteries starring Ls, Bs, and Ts. Yes. More soon.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

—  Kevin Thomas

Sprinkles rolls out 2 new cupcakes for March

You get an abundance of options at Sprinkles this week — more so than even on a usual week. The gourmet cupcakery is revealing two new flavors. The first, available only tomorrow, is a green velvet cupcake, for helping you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a little flamboyance. Of course, red velvet cake is merely chocolate cake with tons of food coloring; I’m assuming the same is true for green velvet, although the color takes, uhh, an adjustment.It’s really green.  Really. But tastes just as good as what you’ve come to expect from Sprinkles.

Then later in the month, you can go back to red velvet with a little Red Cross topper thrown in. From March 27 through April 1, 100 percent of the proceeds from this version of the classic go to the American Red Cross.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

10 countries now allow same-sex marriage

Associated Press

NEW YORK — A leading rights group says 10 countries have legalized same-sex marriage in the past decade.

But Human Rights Watch said in a survey released Monday that bias continues against people who want to marry people of the same gender in those 10 countries and many others.

Boris O. Dittrich of the group’s gay rights program says that the growing number of countries legalizing same-sex marriage demonstrates progress in sexual equality around the world.

The first same-sex marriages took place in the Netherlands on April 1, 2001. The countries that followed were Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina.

—  John Wright

FEEDBACK: Looking at District 14

Looking at District 14

This spring’s Dallas City Council District 14 race should draw our community into the voting booth in far greater numbers than any prior municipal election. Angela Hunt, the incumbent, announced Feb. 9 that she would run again for her seat. Jim Rogers had previously announced with the stipulation that he would withdraw from the race if Hunt ran.

The Feb. 4 issue of Dallas Voice announced that Erin Lasseter and Victor Franko were also running. I do not know either of them, but I do know the final announced candidate, James Nowlin.

Frankly, I think the race will be between Hunt and Nowlin. They have important commonalities: Both are experienced attorneys, highly analytical, forthright and hardworking.

Their differences are just as striking. Hunt is straight and married; Nowlin is openly gay. Hunt has served three two-year terms; Nowlin would be a fresh face. Hunt considered a run for mayor; Nowlin announced early for the council seat.

And Nowlin is a Stonewaller — a long-time member and former board member of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — and a neighborhood activist.

Monday, March 14 is the last day for candidates to file. April 1 is the last day to register to vote or to change your voter registration if you have moved since your card was issued.

What happens in Dallas affects us at least as much as what happens in D.C. Your voice is your vote. So is mine. Let’s speak out loud and proud to assure that our community is heard.

Phyllis Guest
Dallas

—  John Wright

Concert Notice: MEN at The Loft in April

Back in 2007 when their band Le Tigre was on hiatus, members JD Samson and Johanna Fatemen created the side project MEN. The magazine Sentimentalist describes them best: “Anthemic, synth-heavy dance beats team up with fiery topics from sexual freedom to wartime economies to both queer lifestyle and pleasure politics in MEN’s cathartic songs like ‘Who Am I to Feel So Free?,’ making them the perfect band to open tours for The Gossip and Peaches in America, in addition to doing their own headlining stints in the U.S. and overseas.”

And headlining they will be come April 1 touring in support of their upcoming February release Talk About Body. Fatemen is less a member and more a contributing writer to the band, but the out Samson, center, holds down the fort and brings her activist gay party perspective to the alt-dance pop side project. I mean, just check out this video for the single “Off Our Backs.” Pretty gay … and hot.

Tickets are $10 now and $12 at the door.

—  Rich Lopez