Words to Our Now:



Imagination and Dissent
by Thomas Glave
University of Minnesota
Hardcover, $25.95
274 pp.
ISBN: 0-8166-4679-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“The word ‘faggot’ itself is to me as nasty a form of violence as the
perennial spit-nastiness in that classic American word ‘nigger.’ As a black
male who is also gay, I and my brothers and our black lesbian sisters are
considered ‘disposables’ in our own black communities and in white ones.
To this day I’m still extremely wary and skeptical of those black men who in
convenient circumstances glibly call themselves brothers… who then, in their
own peculiar type of fear, loathing, and hypocrisy often inflict violence on
black gay men and lesbians whenever we are found either not to be useful or,
far worse, too close to home.”                -- Excerpted from Chapter 1

    If you think it’s tough enough being a black male in America, you might
want to consider the plight of the gay black male. For as Thomas Glave
describes it, he feels alienated not only from mainstream white society but
rejected by blacks, too. Glave, a Professor of English at SUNY Binghampton
happens to be particularly adept at describing that sense of isolation in
Words to Our Now, a series of essays which condemn a variety of prejudices
which have persisted not only in the U.S. but around the world.
    Although he weighs in eloquently on an assortment of international concerns
from ethnic cleansing to Abu Ghraib, the author is most effective when
reporting on or recounting incidents of gay bashing, a subject with which he
is well acquainted. For one cannot help but empathize when he recalls from
childhood the “wicked pugnacity” of “boys my age and older.” He describes
the daily slamming of fists into his face unleashed by the meanest hoodlums,
beatings invariably accompanied by a long line of harsh expletives which
began with the word “faggot.”
    There is something truly touching and deeply saddening about a book which
has to make a case for the embracing of black homosexuals by their own
community, when acceptance has been the prevailing theme around which the
rest of African-Americana has rallied for generations. Who knows, perhaps it
is a holdover from mistreatment during slavery which causes his own people
to exhibit such severe intolerance for a minority within their own minority.
As a consequence, guess who now has the highest AIDS rate transmission, due
to so many scared brothers on the down low choosing to work both sides of
the sexual-preference street?
Glave’s intriguing answer to the crisis arrives in the form of a clarion
call for social change, arguing that we are at a critical crossroad, that we
must all put our bigotries behind us, and that time is of the essence. If
nothing else, in emerging from the shadows via such a compelling,
well-written opus, he has succeeded in humanizing the issue by lending his
face to it, and by proudly putting a personal spin on ACT-UP’s unequivocal,
defiant anthem of liberation.
“I’m here! I’m black and queer! Get used to it! “