Some excellent summer reading choices for your hearts and minds

By : Watermark Staff
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You know the drill. It’s incredibly humid and everything is sticking to your hair. Your sweat rings are now a sign of empowerment and not a reason for embarrassment. You’ve got this. This is Florida, the place you go to in order to remove your shirt anyway, but for reasons of distraction – even enlightenment, despite the sun – it’s also a chance to let your eyes wander across pages. To that end, we present a not-at-all comprehensive review of lit-bits that we’ve been handling; some with local ties, some not. Now put on your tanning butter and get to riding the consonants into the vowels. Reading is learning, and learning is fun. Have a great summer!

Next Happiest Place on Earth
By Greg Triggs
We’re often reminded Orlando is a young city, relatively speaking, and one place that’s evidenced is in our stories. With some exceptions, the City Beautiful is more known as a place where stories come to be memorialized in dark rides and mascots. But Greg Triggs is among the scribes who seek to give Orlando its literary due. His freshman novel, The Next Happiest Place on Earth, is veritable love letter to our city and the unique lives we live in the shadow of The Mouse.

Triggs will be familiar to longtime readers of Watermark as he was a regular freelancer in the ‘90s, reviewing theatre productions and interviewing such luminaries as Bea Arthur and Lily Tomlin before settling into a regular column called “What Would Greg Do,” a showcase for his acerbic wit in which he commented on anything he saw fit. In fact it was his very last WWGD column that provided Triggs with the inspiration for this book; making a move to New York City to be with his partner, noted artist Matt Nolen, and to build a new career.Triggs said au revoir to Orlando in that last installment, noting how wonderful it had been to live and work in a city that has fireworks every single night.

From that spark to the book you can now purchase on Amazon, Next Happiest Place took the author seven-and-a-half years to complete. He laughs when asked about his writing rituals. As owner of “the world’s smallest production company” Strategic Entertainment, boasting clients such as the Tribeca Film Festival and the World Science Festival and co-producing the longformimprov show Broadway’s Next Hit Musical, Triggs wrote his book when he could carve out the time, but that turned out to be a plus.

“Boy, did I avoid dealing with the true emotion for a while,” Triggs told Watermark, reflecting on the writing process. “I don’t want to sound corny, but real life provided some insights. I think there’s a little bit of faith that’s going on there; if you don’t know the answer, the answer will come to you. I’ve always been deadline driven; there was a reward for doing things differently this time.”

Next Happiest Place finds recently divorced Frances Fiore moving from New York City to Orlando with her cat and undefined baggage that is carefully unpacked through the course of the tale. Our heroine has been hired as an Art Director for Planet Binger, a theme park centered around a world famous bunny cartoon character. The workplace Frances encounters will be familiar to those who have been employed by Disney, as Triggs drew on his 12-year career as a cast member to create this fictional land, complete with its own history, to both lampoon and honor life in the theme park industry. Seen through Frances’ fish-out-of-water eyes, our vacation culture, where a nametag is considered downright vital, is giggle-inducing and endearing.

“The irony that you can find real life in a land of make believe delights me,” Triggs writes in the book’s acknowledgements. Like Triggs who came down from the north to the Sunshine State many years ago to do improv on Pleasure Island, Frances learns that there is more to Orlando than Binger Bunny. “Nothing is real in Orlando, right? It’s all make-believe,” she says to her love interest,who points out real life is happening right before her. Frances’ Planet Binger life is juxtaposed with real things like marriage, children, death and love. You can’t help thinking Next Happiest Place will help dispel some misperceptions about living in our quirky burg.

Triggs chose to self-publish the book because the alternative route presented too many variables that decreased the odds of success — finding an agent, making certain that agent is the right fit, that agent finding a publisher, etc. Though there are different self-publishing models to consider, he chose a more “partnered publisher” that helps with copyright, getting a copy to the Library of Congress and barcoding for a percentage of the sales. He is understandably thrilled to find the book has been purchased in New Zealand, England, Africa and Qatar.

“The book now takes on a life of its own that has very little to do with me,” Triggs considers how the dynamic of being a book author is different from his other endeavors. “I don’t think it’s about me, because now’s the time the audience will let me know what it is. My intentions will be part of that, but it’s not going to everything about it.”

– Scottie Campbell

The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss
By Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt
It is sometimes difficult to be open and honest with a family member. The difficulty is compounded when you are one of the most famous journalists in the world and your mother is a celebrity socialite with a dynasty name, but so is the life of Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.

The usually very private mother-son duo penned the tell-all memoir, The Rainbow Comes and Goes, in as unconventional in the way that their relationship is. The book, told entirely in email correspondence between Cooper and Vanderbilt over the course of one year, explores the ups and downs of growing up as a celebrity child in the 20th century.

The pair holds nothing back discussing the suicide of Cooper’s older brother (witnessed by his mother), Vanderbilt’s dive into alcoholism and sexual promiscuity (she ran the gauntlet of A-list celebrities), as well as Cooper’s coming out to his mother and her own lesbian relationship when she was younger.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes will not make you envy or pity the “poor little rich girl,” more likely it will leave you with a sense that, no matter our lot in life, at the end of the day we are all just humans capable of great suffering and even greater strength.

– Jeremy Williams

When Your Child Is Gay
By Wesley C. Davidson and Jonathan L. Tobkes

Here at Watermark, we sit in a comfortable little LGBT-friendly bubble. If my child came out, I would know where to find resources that make the process as safe and loving as possible, and I would how to find support for myself and our family, to keep ourselves both mentally healthy and emotionally equipped to face any roadblocks that lie ahead.

It’s easy to forget that many, many people live outside of this bubble, and should their child come out, they might feel helpless and lost.

When Your Child Is Gay is a practical manual for parents, with chapters titled “Fear to Fearless,” “Loss to Gain” and “Acceptance to Celebration,” designed to help parents navigate what can be a frightening and confusing process. With an emphasis on communication and unconditional love, authors Wesley C. Davidson and Jonathan L. Tobkes, MD employ case studies and action plans in response to common challenges and issues parents face when their child comes out.

“Every child dreams of the perfect coming out,” the book states. When Your Child is Gay increases parents’ changes of providing just that.

– Jamie Hyman

Ask a Queer Chick: A Guide to Sex, Love and Life for Girls Who Dig Girls
By Lindsay King-Miller

This whimsical guide released earlier this year pulls from the acerbic wisdom of the its author Lindsay King-Miller’s column on lady-website-to-die-for and lays out some basic rules of engagement and disengagement in the queer community. Chapters like “Porn versus Reality” (“Trust me on this: Real lesbians have sex literally every way you can imagine and some you probably haven’t thought of yet.”); “The Reverse U-Haul: The World’s Worst Lesbian Sex Position” (“Yes, you do have to move out. Yes, really. Yes, even if you couldn’t possibly afford a place this nice on your own. Yes, even if it will upset your goldfish. Yes, even if your favorite Doc Martens are technically her Doc Martens and you’re not sure you can live without them. You cannot continue living with your ex.”) – they all make for a sometimes hilarious, sometimes just plain true read of how we live LGBT life now, especially as ladies who love ladies.

The book steps further into the future with a sort of call to arms on the “marriage isn’t everything” front, declaring that “marriage equality is only a minor component of what must be achieved before queer and trans activists can call it a day.

All in all, it’s a fun take on what we take in everyday, right down to lesbian hair and wedding attire, but it’s also a reasonably serious document of what it is we’re becoming. A queer chick knows.

– Billy Manes

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