Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Cover image: W.W. Norton

What are you reading in June?

This Pride Month, The A.V. Club gets Kink-y, says ¡Hola Papi!, visits the Sweet Gum Head, and more

Cover image: W.W. Norton
Graphic: Libby McGuire

In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. What Are You Reading This Month?

A Night At The Sweet Gum Head: Drag, Drugs, Disco And Atlanta’s Gay Revolution by Martin Padgett

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, goes the maxim, and in A Night At The Sweet Gum Head: Drag, Drugs, Disco And Atlanta’s Gay Revolution (June 1, W.W. Norton), journalist Martin Padgett makes sure readers don’t forget. A difficult but necessary trip back in time, A Night At The Sweet Gum Head introduces readers to Piedmont Park—ground zero for Atlanta’s queer grassroots organizing. In 1969, just one month after the Stonewall Inn rebellion, queer Piedmont residents created the Georgia Gay Liberation Front, and in 1971, they held their first Gay Pride Parade. Focusing on the lives of two of those gay activists—John Greenwell and Bill Smith—Padgett spotlights the realities of a past when being out was still very much illegal. From the cops who conducted raids to the government that let AIDS decimate communities, Sweet Gum Head writes a chapter of queer history that was once lost to violent homophobia. [Shanicka Anderson]

¡Hola Papi! How To Come Out In A Walmart Parking Lot And Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

Hola Papi book cover
Image: Simon & Schuster

When John Paul Brammer started his “¡Hola Papi!” advice column in 2017, it filled a void. It became a resource for queer people who needed advice, who needed healing, and who were just a little messy and loved to be in other people’s business. For his new memoir, Brammer leans into his now-signature style. He structures ¡Hola Papi! How To Come Out In A Walmart Parking Lot And Other Life Lessons (June 8, Simon & Schuster) similarly to his column—each chapter is prefaced with a desperate question. “¡Hola Papi! How do I make peace with the years I lost in the closet?” one reads. Another asks, “How do I let go of a rotten relationship?” “How do I overcome my imposter syndrome to live my life as an authentic Latino?” Brammer uses these questions to share anecdotes from his own life. He tells readers about his first time using Grindr. He recalls his first relationship with another guy. He writes of his struggles being a mixed Latinx man who never feels like he’s connecting to his culture enough. Brammer shares the evolution of his intersecting identities in bite-sized personal essays that are just as poignant, hilarious, and addictively readable as his column. [Shanicka Anderson]

King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes

King Kong Theory book cover
Image: FSG Originals

Virginie Despentes writes as if shouting into a crackling bullhorn. In King Kong Theory, the punk provocateur—whose 2000 film, Baise-Moi, was banned in her native France—doesn’t craft arguments so much as discharge a round of bold claims. Each sentence arrives with the surety of a truism, and Despentes gallops across their tough surface: “Powers granted by a sick state are necessarily suspect”; “Pleasing men is a complex art that involves erasing everything that concerns power,” etc. FSG Originals reprinted the manifesto in May with a new translation by Frank Wynne, and a lot has changed in the 15 years since it was first published, including the proliferation of once maligned propositions surrounding pornography, legal prostitution, and a woman’s anger—all of which the writer battles for here. But Despentes isn’t trying to convince people; she’s infuriated people need convincing. Any lack of nuance or true essaying or even her indelicate views on sexual assault (after she was gang-raped, Despentes found herself identifying with Camille Paglia’s assertion that women should accept rape as a risk they take when they leave the house) are counteracted by her sheer verve and spirit, which in addition to being filled with ire, is also rather generous. Sometimes there’s nothing more humanistic than saying, “Fuck this.” [Laura Adamczyk]

Girlhood by Melissa Febos

Girlhood book cover
Image: Bloomsbury

“Knowing we’ve been conditioned doesn’t undo it,” Melissa Febos writes in Girlhood, her third book of nonfiction. But deconstructing that conditioning at its most ingrained levels is a good step, and Febos makes reclaiming the female body the theme of this fierce and intimate collection. The first 200 pages read like dress rehearsals for “Thank You For Taking Care Of Yourself,” the essay where Febos’ blend of reportage and memoir come together for a feminist statement of stunning insight. Using Febos’ experience of being uncomfortable at a “cuddle party” as its springboard, the essay explores the gray area of unwanted touch, arguing that the lack of language to describe experiences that aren’t quite assault, but aren’t quite enthusiastic consent either, is indicative of a larger patriarchal project of holding women responsible for men’s emotions as well as men’s actions. “Thank You” prompted sense memories that I hadn’t thought about in years—the white tile bathroom where I attempted to shave my legs at age 12, a hand against the small of my back in a crowded bar—to flit across my consciousness, leaving me with a feeling that, like Febos’ essay, lives in a murky space between the unsettling and the sublime. [Katie Rife]

Kink: Stories, edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell

Kink: Stories book cover
Image: Simon & Schuster

Kink isn’t your average fetish-focused anthology. The collection features short fiction from more than a dozen writers—both emerging and more established—with most penned by queer people of color. While some focus on heterosexual relationships, including Larissa Pham’s “Trust” and R.O. Kwon’s “Safeword,” most of the stories focus on queer dynamics. Publishing their anthology with Simon & Schuster, critically lauded editors Kwon and Garth Greenwell bring a genre that was once fringe to a wider audience. What makes Kink so tantalizing is that the authors put their characters of color at the forefront, championing their desires; they’re the ones in control in these narratives. From the Black sex worker who has her white client lick her spit off the floor in Vanessa Clark’s “Mirror, Mirror” to the queer married couple that enjoys razorplay in Roxane Gay’s “Reach,” no fetish or fantasy is out of bounds. [Tatiana Tenreyro]