A Story and a Study of Queer Realities

Sighs Too Deep For Words
By William Jack Sibley
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
$15, 314 pp.

Lester Briggs has just finished a five-year prison sentence for stealing, of all things, a church, and travels to Rockport, Tex., to find the love of his life: Laurel Jeanette, a woman he has never met, but who corresponded with him during the long, hard days of lockup. Through a series of tragicomic twists and turns that paint small town life in camp-gothic colors, Briggs discovers that his pen pal is no woman, but a closeted gay preacher, and the photo he has obsessed on is the preacher’s lesbian sister. What’s a cowboy to do when he discovers he’s fallen in love with the mind of a man?

The second novel by William Jack Sibley, a screenwriter, rancher, and sixth-generation Texan, Sighs Too Deep For Words uses farce to critique mainstream society’s expectations with gambits as improbably successful as the novel’s own trajectory. After being wooed and dumped by three publishers, Sibley gave up and stuck the manuscript in a drawer. He decided to self-publish in 2012, almost a decade after writing it. Sighs is the winner of the 2013 National Indie Excellence Book Award and a finalist for several other major recognitions, including the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize and 2013 Lambda Literary Awards.

Performing Queer Latinidad
By Ramón H. Rivera-Servera
University of Michigan Press
$32.50, 272 pp.

In the 1990s and through the first years of the 21st century both Latinos and the LGBT community became media darlings. Selena, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and many others saw their careers skyrocket during the Latino Explosion, Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O’Donnell became queer celebrities, while TV embraced a gay worldview with shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

But the new prominence was countered by a right-wing backlash. Xenophobia launched a frenzy about border issues, and gains by the queer community were resisted with measures like the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Ramón H. Rivera-Servera argues that Latinos and queer folk have been presented — even in ethnic and gender studies — as separate, non-intersecting communities, whose rise is predicated on each accepting middle class norms. Latino strength is seen to emanate from the traditional nuclear family, while queer progress is assumed to be dependent on corporations seeking the “pink dollar.” Rivera-Servera asserts that an important, though little acknowledged, overlap between the communities does indeed exist.

Through studies in the Bronx, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Chicago, he examines the human body as a medium for political expression whose strength is centered in working class sensibilities and aesthetics. From cruising and the dance floor, to the stage and public assembly for civil rights, Rivera-Servera charts the history and power of the unacknowledged force for the politics of hope — queer latinidad. Of special interest to SA readers is the section on Esperanza Peace & Justice Center.


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