The Queer Review | Issue 4 - The international issue

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Queer Review

issue #4 book reviews | film & tv opinion

WELCOME Yaiza Canopoli

Beverly A. Devakishen

This theme is one of the first ones we thought of when we started The Queer Review, and it’s the one I’m the most excited about. There are some fantastic recommendations from 28 different countries and all five continents, including books, films, TV shows, and webseries. Many of the countries we have featured have yet to decriminalise homosexuality, so the media you a r e about to look at is in many ways radical. We also have some interesting pieces in the opinion section (most of which was taken over by Ola), so make sure you have a read!

This issue was super important to me. It was one of the first ideas we had for the magazine when we were coming up with themes, and I've looked forward to working on it since. While I'm glad that queer British and American books seem to be so popular worldwide, and especially in the West, I sometimes dream about Singaporean queer authors having access to that kind of audience. This issue is dedicated to the queer books and media that are often left out of mainstream queer content in the West just because they are not situated in the centre of the world's publishing and film industries.


Deputy editor

© Photography by Beverly A. Devakishen, Yaiza Canopoli

The Queer Review

content 3



Japan South Korea Hong Kong Taiwan Philippines Singapore Thailand Sri Lanka India Kuwait

14 Africa Egypt Morocco Nigeria Uganda Zimbabwe South Africa

Europe Turkey Poland Sweden Germany France Italy Spain





Argentina Brazil Jamaica Mexico


29 The diaspora 31 Opinion


sputnik sweetheart by haruki murakami Sputnik Sweetheart details the story of Sumire, a twenty-something failed writer whose life is changed when she meets Miu, a glamorous and much older businesswoman. Sumire’s story is narrated by K, Sumire’s best friend, who has been in love with her since they met at university, but hasn’t had his affections returned. Sputnik Sweetheart chronicles the stories of both Sumire and K, as their lives follow different paths before meeting again. Whilst the book was enjoyable at the beginning, it got increasingly confusing as the story progressed, and I began to feel detached from the characters and events taking place. It became obvious that K is extremely reliant on his relationship with Sumire, and although

©Artwork by Megan Furr

his life is interesting, there is little point to some of the scenes featured. Sumire and Miu’s experiences are more engaging, but when Murakami’s magical realism kicks in it becomes difficult to keep up with everything that is happening. Sumire’s sexuality is explored well, but reading about it from K’s perspective gives some of the comments a slightly odd tone. Sputnik Sweetheart also has an ambiguous ending, something that not everyone enjoys, but can potentially be comforting. (Sputnik Sweetheart deals with some heavy topics. Sexual trauma and PTSD are both alluded to, so this may not be the book for you if you struggle with these issues.)


Ellie Robson

The Queer Review


between Eriko and her son is especially refreshing. However, Eriko's gender identity is somewhat romanticised, it being portrayed more as a reaction Banana Yoshimoto's 1988 novella to her wife's death rather than a Kitchen is a tale of grief, love, and food. concrete part of her own identity. That being said, it could be argued The Japanese novella tells the story that this adds a layer of complexity. of Mikage, who after the death of her grandmother forms a friendship with Although it is never explicitly stated, Yoichi and his transgender mother Eriko. Yoshimoto hints at a possible attraction The three live together in a dreamlike between Mikage and Eriko, especially world of love, nurture, and abundance. earlier in the book. Mikage describes Eriko comes and goes every night from Eriko's beauty in detail, and it is clear that her job as a stripper in a nightclub. the two share an intense bond, leading me to wish for a romance between From the moment she is introduced, Mikage and Eriko more than that which Eriko is portrayed as an almost blossoms between Yoichi and Mikage. otherworldly character, one of extreme and almost hypnotic beauty, completely Overall, Kitchen is a refreshing mesmerising the narrator. Her portrayal of a queer character—it is not transgender identity is never hidden, a sensationalized one, and is instead but rather openly discussed among an enjoyable and thought-provoking the characters. This destigmatises the read. However, it would have benefitted transgender experience and helps to from making sexuality and gender eliminate the taboo around it, and identity a more central part of its plot. the ease with which it is discussed

kitchen by banana yoshimoto

Lucy Caradog


The Queer Review

Hong KOng FILM

happy together Fittingly for this issue, Happy Together is centred around how place affects love, and how movement can or cannot help a relationship. In this case, it cannot. The film follows a couple trying to fix their crumbling relationship through a trip to a famous Argentinian waterfall, and how they fail at both staying together and making it there. It is a dive into the complex shared life of two queer people who cannot seem to stray far from each other for long. Good for the film buff, it plays around with just about everything: the colours, the cuts, the shots and images themselves. But most of all it plays with the passage of time. There is a sense of endlessness and constant return that mirrors the rut of the relationship and the issues they’ve been having for years. This artistic portrayal of their struggles

©Artwork by Isabelle Siddle

really sets it apart from other movies. The queerness of the film is inherent, and plot-wise never an issue in itself. It is precisely their attraction for and connection with each other that keeps them trying to make it work despite constantly breaking up. In a way, it’s a classic on-off-again story, except for the fact it’s nothing like the stereotype. Despite coming out in 1997, Happy Together feels like the kind of queer cinema we might start seeing in the next few decades: depictions of complex details of queer lives that go beyond the first stages of accepting yourself and finding someone to share that with. They are all important things to see onscreen, but there are many more stories to be told, and Happy Together is definitely unique.


Chloë Murrell

The Queer Review


notes of a crocodile by qiu miaojin First published in 1994, Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile is an enduring and honest portrayal of being young and queer in 80s Taipei. The novel is a pastiche of diary entries, love letters, and short stories, centred on the tribulations of the anonymous lesbian narrator, Lazi, as she navigates through her first love (and subsequent obsession) for S h u i Ling. T h e novel also follows her strange friendship group of queer misfits, including Meng Sheng, a rich, troubled boy who becomes her ‘sinister shadow’, along with his self-destructive boyfriend, Chu Kang. Lazi finds solicitude in Tun Tun and Zhi Rou, the impossibly intelligent and mysterious girlfriends she meets at university. Miaojin’s style perfectly records the

intensity of emotion experienced in adolescence: her blunt sentences capture the force of Lazi’s anguish, desire, and torment. However, the relentless angst has the potential to become repetitive. The highlights of the novel are the satirical asides about the crocodiles who live invisibly among us. These sections provide relief from the reader’s claustrophobic relationship with Lazi’s mind, as well as working metaphorically to complement the novel’s study of how society others queer people. Crocodiles come under public scrutiny and their existence becomes the source of much debate. Anti-Croc groups fear that crocodiles are infiltrating young people and pose a threat to moral values. Though written 24 years a g o , t h e book eerily captures the current language used by the conservative groups who were largely responsible for the loss of Taiwan’s marriage equality referendum this November. The issues the novel explores are sadly still relevant, which is one of the many reasons why this book should continue to be read.


Lucy Peake

The Queer Review


the rich man's daughter The Rich Man’s Daughter follows Jade, the jewel of her Chinese-Filipino family. She stays true to her parents’ traditional values, and wants nothing more than to marry her boyfriend David, until she meets the enchanting Althea, the woman in charge of coordinating her brother’s wedding. It’s an addictive drama that will get you tangled up in rich people’s business, and that explores the struggles of navigating culture, tradition, and sexuality, as well as balancing your own wishes with those of your family. The acting is superb, and the storyline provides an ideal escape from reality.

Yaiza Canopoli

SOUTH KOREA in between seasons FILM

For fans of Lilting, starring Ben Whishaw, I highly recommend the relatively unknown but really lovely In Between Seasons, an

adaptation of the Korean graphic novel of the same name: it's centred on a mother and her son's friend after an accident that leaves the son in a coma, and how she handles the news that they were actually more than friends. Naturally, it's heartbreaking. But it’s also incredibly heartwarming as the two of them navigate their grief and find a connection to each other within it. It's a beautiful exploration of love itself, and shows queer love in particular as much more than a scandal.

Chloë Murrell



The Queer Review

and the walls come crumbling down BOOK by tania de rozario In this autobiographical collection of short poetic prose, de Rozario traces important events in her life as a lesbian in Singapore. She leaves her home, moving from house to house, including that of her lover, and eventually lives alone. The book explores the relationship between a physical place to live in and the psychological construct of a home. De Rozario's writing is charged with emotion and expressed through potent metaphors, making it highly relatable. One of the stories, about her mother's inability to accept her daughter's sexuality, is relayed through two flashbacks to the author's childhood, both brilliantly written. There is a nightmarish edge to the way the author describes these scenes, with an honesty and rawness that makes you want to look away from the page. She breaks up the description of these events with her own thoughts: ‘Choose me.

I belong to you,’ she writes, almost as if she is still silently pleading with her mother to accept her even today. De Rozario cleverly plays with religious motifs, alluding back to the religious trauma that her mother imparted onto her. However, she refuses to allow her mother's intolerance to define her. As she tries to find a home away from her immediate family, she touches on some aspects of finding a sense of belonging in Singapore. She uses the home as a metaphor throughout the book, allowing it to manifest in different forms. Singapore, too, is a physical space she needs to make a home out of. De Rozario's writing puts into words what many queer Singaporeans feel: that sense of needing to create your own space in your homeland when the state has left no room for your queerness..

Beverly A. Devakishen


The Queer Review

funny boy by shyam selvadurai BOOK


This piece of historical fiction expertly deals with several important issues. Sri Lankan Tamil boy Arije prefers dressing as a girl, and eventually comes out to his family as gay. However, Arije's realisation that he is a 'funny' boy — different from other boys — also involves coming to terms with his ethnicity. As he becomes more aware of what being a Sri Lankan Tamil means, he is confronted with the reality of the Civil War, in which the Sinhalese Sri Lankans forced thousands of Tamils to flee the country. Shyam Selvaduri expertly weaves the narratives of homophobia and racism together, the Civil War intensifying the tragedy.

transgressing certain gender norms is not acceptable in society. His slow realisation of this exposes the fact that gender is not something people naturally conform to, as he has to repress his true self in order to fit what society deems a man. While this is nothing new and has been dealt with in many books, it is interesting to see it in the context of a Sri Lankan Tamil boy who is also learning to come to terms with other harmful social constructs such as racism and homophobia. The harshness of this new reality that Arije is discovering is fully brought out through Selvaduri's excellent writing, and the six short sections the novel is divided into The novel also deals with gender being make Arije's journey easy to follow.. a social construct, as Arije learns that

Beverly A. Devakishen

The Queer Review


topical malady

Tropical Malady is half a cute love story, and a half a complete trip. It’s one of the weirdest and most structurally entertaining movies out there, following the love story between a Thai soldier and a young man he meets while stationed to find the tiger that is killing people in the area. It’s sweet, if a little unsettling in terms of actual storyline, and simultaneously unabashed and unremarkable in the way it portrays the queer romance: it just is. This is a refreshing way of seeing queer characters in film, with little struggle or conflict surrounding their sexuality, and makes it thoroughly enjoyable to even the most casual of viewer. It’s the second half of the movie where things get strange. This part could be uploaded to Youtube and called ‘ASMR Room: One Hour of Jungle Noises & Unease (for Sleep)’, but instead it makes up the rest of the movie and makes you realise how much of an arthouse

project you were watching all along. We follow the soldier as he scours the jungle hunting for the tiger, who – plot twist! – is a mythical spirit tiger, and – another plot twist! – is actually his lover from before. And when I say we follow him, we really do. The entire film feels like it’s playing out in real-time, but the second half feels particularly like a real experience. Other reviewers have suggested people ‘watch with an open mind’, which definitely makes the experience worth it. As an experimental film, it is still, over a decade after its release, unlike anything else. Even without the queer love story, it is a movie that will pull you from any disillusionment at the stagnancy of cinema, and with the love story there is an element that makes it all the more interesting and engaging for queer audiences. Of all films, why put representation in this one? The answer is why not, as it should be.

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Chloë Murrell

The Queer Review



she of the mountains by vivek shraya She of the Mountains is a unique book that deals in a fresh, new way with issues that queer men of colour face. The book jumps between two very different stories: a reimagining of Hindu mythology and a bisexual Indian-Canadian man's comingof-age journey. Vivek's Shraya's excellent writing is complemented by Raymond Biesinger's abstract illustrations that stick to the book's themes of gender, identity, and the human body.

gay community, which is something that not many queer novels explore. Shraya also writes the character's brownness in a brutally honest way, with a tinge of internalised racism that partly dissipates when he gets together with another brown woman. Whiteness had 'blinded' him, but his new relationship produces my favourite line in the book: 'In the absence of white, he could see colour.'

The physical form of the body and its relationship to one's identity is a central theme that is beautifully explored in the reimagining of Hindu mythology. The stories mostly revolve around Parvati, the Embodiment of Life. Although the connections are not explicit, Shraya enriches his readers' experience through Parvati's struggle with the physical manifestations of the life she gives. Combined with the Indian-Canadian man's narrative, this creates a larger-thanAfter realising that he is bisexual, the main life story full of excitement and wonder. character experiences biphobia in the The author's interesting use of space is first exhibited when the main character is bullied — there is a whole page covered with the words 'you're gay', written in different variations to express how 'the assault was in the repetition.' Shraya plays with the placement of words throughout the book, arranging the text in an evocative way that makes each phrase jump out at you.

Beverly A. Devakishen

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The Queer Review


margarita with a straw Margarita with a Straw is a wonderful film about Laila, a young queer woman with cerebral palsy. She develops a long, healthy relationship with a woman, who is coincidentally also blind. It's nice to see two South Asian queer women being happy together while simultaneously trying to navigate their way through an ableist world. Disabled people in the media are rarely given a chance to explore their sexual identities, but Laila is shown to be constantly experimenting and figuring out what she wants in a partner. There are also some racialised aspects of the movie, especially when she moves to America. One scene has her white friend implying that India seems like an exotic place where people like Gandhi meditate. Laila replies, laughing, ‘It's nothing like that!’ The film does an incredible job of portraying Laila's struggles as a person at the intersections of an oppressive society, yet does not overwhelm the narrative with negativity, her happiness radiating off the screen. The moment things start to go downhill is when she comes out to her mother, who does not approve of her sexuality or her relationship. However, the movie ends relatively

happily, with just a little heartbreak. The only negative aspect of the movie is that Laila is not played by an actual person with cerebral palsy. Disabled people need to be allowed to tell their own stories, and an able-bodied person imitating someone else's illness has its problems. Nevertheless, this film tells a story that should not be overlooked.

Beverly A. Devakishen WEB

the other love story It’s something of a rarity to find a queer romance that doesn’t rely on conflict and is just as toothachingly sweet as every romcom ever, and yet people always forget about The Other Love Story. It follows two young women whose friendship turns into more in nostalgic 90s India, and they even get a happy ending! This was revolutionary in both the queer narrative and queer history, and you can tell the twelveepisode series was created with love and determination in the face of hostility. It’s fluffy, feel-good, and realistic, so you can’t really ask for more.

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Chloë Murrell

The Queer Review


guapa by saleem haddad

The narrative of Guapa is set over the course of twenty four hours, covering everything from homosexuality and civil unrest to attitudes in America and the impact of 9/11. The main story arc revolves around a gay man, Rasa, struggling with his homosexuality, as he is caught in bed with his lover Taymour by his grandmother. The novel is further framed by the lead up to Taymour’s impending marriage. The three main queer characters, Rasa, Taymour, and drag queen Maj, encounter different struggles in their coming-out experiences, from internalised homophobia to challenging heteronormativity within their culture.

Indeed, the setting provides as much interest as the characters, as the topic of homosexuality within the ‘Arab world’ has not generally been explored to a great extent. However, leaving the country unnamed can leave the reader feeling vaguely detached from the setting.

While this book should be applauded for addressing such a complex issue, the inclusion of so many elements can sometimes be to the detriment of the central story arc, and the flashbacks can make the narrative appear disjointed. However, the novel’s exploration of sexuality and its relationship within a non-western society and culture ultimately makes it an interesting Through these characters, Haddad read. It functions as both a comingmanages to explore societal pressure out story and a narrative about the and cultural identity against the climate following the Arab Spring. backdrop of an unnamed Arab country.

Megan Furr

©Artwork by Beverly A. Devakishen

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infidels by abdellah taĂŻa BOOK

all my life

All My Life is known for being the first Egyptian film to focus on gay characters. It graphically details the story of Rami, a gay accountant and dancer living in Cairo. When his boyfriend leaves him for a woman, Rami is left to survive in Egyptian society on his own. While the film is not based on a specific real life person, the director, Maher Sabry, tried to portray the circumstances that a gay man would face in Egypt as realistically as he could. The film features a scene that is directly influenced by a police raid of a floating gay nightclub where 52 gay men were arrested, something that actually happened in 2001. It features both a gay Muslim and a gay Christian character, and is able to document the experiences of Egyptian men across religions.

Beverly A. Devakishen

Infidels follows Jallal, a gay Muslim man living in Morocco. His home does not accept him because of his sexuality, and his sense of belonging is weakened even further after his mother dies. Jallal's mother, Silma, works as a prostitute and understands that sex is not a shameful activity. Jallal is influenced by her and is able to recognise the hypocrisy of the men who use her for sex and then publicly shame her for being a whore. His grandmother, Saâdia, is an introdutrice, a woman who helps married couples on their wedding night. She too is shunned for her intimate knowledge of sex. Jallal's sexual transgression seems to have been inherited from the two powerful women in his life; it is a familial sin. Not only does this book have great gay representation, but is also portrays strong women who challenge society's conservative views of sex. The book also focuses a lot on Jallal's religion, and presents his Muslim identity in a refreshing way.

Beverly A. Devakishen

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The Queer Review



the day ends like any day by timothy ogene Written by a graduate from our very own UEA, this book follows Sam, a Nigerian boy who learns to accept that he is a little different. His coming-ofage experience is shaped by the people he meets, all of them unique and interesting characters with their own stories to tell. These people open up new worlds that were inaccessible to him before, his life consisting of poverty and harsh reality, and he becomes involved with literature, history, and art. When he goes to university, he is confronted with the truths about himself that have finally caught up with him, unraveling his sexuality and facing his childhood trauma. Timothy Ogene writes lyrically, and explores philosophical questions and debates about life and literature through the characters’ conversations with each other.

Yaiza Canopoli ŠArtwork by Miles Atkinson

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UGANDA jambula tree BOOK by monica arac de nyeko W i n n e r of the Caine P r i z e for African W r i t i n g in 2007, this short story tells the tale of a young woman, Anyango, lamenting the departure of her childhood friend and one-time lover, Sanyu. Written in hindsight, the narrator recounts their shared childhood and eventual separation, as well as how her life was altered by Sanyu. Jambula Tree is a very atmospheric read: De Nyeko paints a portrait of contemporary Uganda that showcases both the comfort of one's native land as well as the isolation of it. Anyango and Sanyu's childhood is recounted as blissful in their freedom to be together, but is also marred by the sociopolitical issues of their country. Anyango serves as a relatable

and lovable narrator. The short story is written in the first person from her perspective, and takes the form of a long-awaited love letter to Sanyu. Reading the story from Anyango’s perspective allows the reader to sympathize with her and to understand the difficulties of being a queer woman in Uganda, of being torn between your feelings and your identity. Her love for Sanyu is humanised by their shared issues (those of being female in a sexist world, and of resenting their families’ class status), making Jambula Tree a heartwarming read. I cannot recommend De Nyeko's short story h i g h l y enough.

Lucy Caradog

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The Queer Review


the hairdresser of harare by tendai huchu

Hailed as one of the most important novels from Zimbabwe to feature queer representation, this book follows Vimbai, a hairdresser whose life is turned upside down when a new male hairdresser, Dumisani, shows up for work one day. The two slowly develop a friendship despite having very different opinions, and Vimbai ultimately becomes his landlady. Tendai Huchu explores a common concern in African literature: the corruption of new governments and the monetary issues that come with neocolonialism. However, these issues are looked at through the experiences of everyday people and how the struggles of the country as a whole affect them

as humans. The author presents the narrative with plenty of humour, showing Zimbabwe as a complex country, but ultimately one where people are just trying to get by and be themselves. The queer representation in the novel is interesting, albeit questionable, with a bit of ‘shock factor’ being part of the coming-out arc. It is important to understand where a rejection of homosexuality might be coming from in a country whose political climate has highly homophobic colonial remains. It is certainly a fascinating book, and one to be read with an open mind.

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Yaiza Canopoli

The Queer Review


the wound

The Wound (titled Inxeba in Xhosa) follows a group of South African men as they retreat to the mountains for a traditional circumcision ritual. A young boy, Kwanda, is sent there by his father, who believes this ritual will make him a real man. Two older men, Xolani and Vija, return to the mountains as mentors every so often to rekindle their secret relationship. The film challenges ideas of masculinity and ‘boys don’t cry’ with beautiful scenery and a variety of interesting characters.

It was categorised as pornography due to its homosexual content, and had to be taken out of cinemas because of this rating. Some people have also accused it of revealing secret cultural practices, although these accusations were then attributed to homophobia.

It is incredibly saddening that so much controversy around a movie came about in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal for a number of years, and it truly goes to show that marriage is far from the final goal. If It is worth mentioning that, despite you want to show a wildly criticised being shown at numerous film festivals queer film some support, this one and being shortlisted for awards, the certainly comes highly recommended. film was released to a lot of controvery.

Yaiza Canopoli

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The Queer Review



zenne dancr

Zenne Dancer is the beautifully tragic tale of a gay trio in Istanbul: Can, a crossdressing dancer, Ahmet, a young man from a religious and conservative family, and a visiting German photographer called Daniel, who eventually falls for Ahmet and becomes his boyfriend.


floating skyscrapers

When I first heard of Floating Skyscrapers in 2013 I was impressed - a film about queer men made in Poland by a Polish crew and cast? 'I must see it,' I thought, and see it I did. And while indeed it was a story all about the lives Compulsory military service and an of queer men in Poland, the film left me ongoing war make up the context of disappointed and frankly rather bored. Ahmet and Can's everyday existence. Although these are heavy themes, It follows the story of a young swimmer, tragedy does not define these characters, Kuba, who falls in love with a guy he and they are more than passive meets at a party, and proceeds to cheat victims of oppression. Each character on his girlfriend with him as they engage exhibits strength in his own way. The in sexual (and later more romantic) end of the film is heartbreaking, the relations. It’s one of the oldest stories tragedy enhanced by the fact that it is in the book, and while some may find based on a real story. However, this themselves relating to Kuba and the also makes it more meaningful, and confusion and angst he feels in relation to it's definitely worth the heartache. his sexuality, the film does little in the way of making this stand out in a unique way.

Beverly A. Devakishen

The cinematography doesn’t help; most of the movie looks washed out and bland. Another feature that bothered me was

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The Queer Review

TV how little speaking there was in the movie. The audience is treated to long, drawn-out shots of characters looking at each other or performing daily tasks. At times it’s almost hard to tell if the scene is meant to tell us something or if they’re just padding the film’s 93-minute runtime. What makes the experience even worse is the ending. Without spoilers, I can tell you it features one of the most dreaded tropes in queer media. While the movie tackles Kuba’s complicated feelings between compulsory heterosexuality and stability with his old girlfriend and his attraction to Michał, it’s nothing new, and it’s been done better before. It deserves appreciation for being one of the few Polish movies about queer characters, but viewers may find themselves “floating” off to sleep..

Ola Jankowska


don't ever wipe tears without gloves The AIDS crisis shadows much of queer media as a backdrop, which makes stories specifically about it not only haunting but important. The lesserknown miniseries, Torka Aldrig Tårar Utan Handskar, follows the relationship between two young men from start to heart-breaking end in Stockholm in the 80s, as well as their circle of queer friends. In three film-like episodes, it presents such a familiar unravelling of events that it mirrors the many real-life cases of people losing their partners. It also covers a range of tensions, like sexuality versus religion, but above all it is a story about being nineteen and trying to make something of yourself. The characters are beautifully fleshed-out and well acted, with a variety of stories being told. If it’s not obvious yet, it’s not exactly uplifting or light watching, but it is one of the most moving pieces of queer media I’ve seen to date. If you can bear the overt tragedy and the mouthy title, Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves is a hidden gem of queer history onscreen

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Chloë Murrell

The Queer Review


free fall

Thanks to Netflix’s Sense8 (which we reviewed in our very first issue!), Max Riemelt has entered more mainstream media and become fairly well-known internationally, and while all the show’s actors are superb, I urge everyone to explore Riemelt’s filmography in particular. Free Fall was the first explicitly queer movie of his I watched, and remains one of my favourites: it’s the story of a training police officer whose life is in a rut until he meets another guy at the academy… you get the idea: oh my God, they were roommates. I should preface this by saying this isn’t an especially happy movie. As we all know, queer media tends not to be, but this is the type of selfexploratory film that is comforting.

and the movie’s high-focus on him lays out all his vulnerabilities for a pretty raw viewing experience. It’s a film that sticks with you throughout the storms of watching a hundred other queer films with the same white-knight self-discovery plot, mainly because of how easy it is to watch. It has a bit of an indie feel to it, the struggles being predominantly internal, but not to an extent that would make it tedious. Free Fall could probably have been less explicitly queer and still have a queer plot to stand on (like another of Riemelt’s highly recommended films, Napola), but luckily for everyone craving undeniable representation, the story is before anything else a queer one. If you want a quiet, understated movie to watch The main character Kay deals when you’re feeling low, I can’t with all the classics – internalised prescribe Free Fall fast enough. homophobia, repression, secrecy –

Chloë Murrell

©Artwork by Miles Atkinson

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The Queer Review

the end of eddy by édouard louis

Édouard Louis captures life in a poor factory town in France through the eyes of Eddy, a young gay boy coming of age and figuring out his sexuality. The semiautobiographical novel offers threedimensional, fleshed out characters, who, despite their terrible actions, are ultimately depicted as human. Eddy’s family is made up of workingclass people whose culture revolves around very traditional gender roles, harsh labour, and alcohol, and while they are not likable, they are a genuine representation of a large part of the world’s population. It is easy to dismiss uneducated people, yet Louis attempts to make the reader understand where their hate is coming from. Everyone in this tale of struggle is flawed, and while perhaps the exploration of toxic masculinity has been done before, the way the author presents it makes it an interesting read.




The huge following for G&T to this day is a testament to its quality: the third season was funded by fan donations after a two year hiatus. It follows the relationship between two childhood friends turned more, and has struck a chord with millions of queer fans as being authentic representative content that they could not find in channel television. The intimacy of the webseries platform is utilised to the fullest, which, along with universally familiar queer dynamics, gives the show a sense of viewer-investment that’s hard to find. There are a fair few episodes, too, so it’s the perfect thing to binge.

Yaiza Canopoli


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Chloë Murrell

The Queer Review



all about my mother

All About My Mother is a 1999 film by the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Themes like gender, sexuality and motherhood are explored in unique intersections. The main character is Manuela, a single mother who works as a nurse managing organ transplants, and who is preparing to celebrate her son Esteban’s 18th birthday. Manuela has decided to finally tell Esteban about his father, but on that same day he has a car accident that costs him his life. She realises that in order to cope with her grief, she must search for her son’s ‘father’, who is in fact a transgender woman named Lola – the secret she had kept from Esteban all these years. She quits her job and travels to Barcelona, where she is reunited with an old friend, Agrado, a trans woman who is a friend of Lola’s and works as a prostitute. In search of Lola, the two women experience a series of inspiring events and peculiar coincidences as they build relationships of mutual aid with other female characters throughout their journey. A highlight of the movie is Agrado’s touching monologue, about all the work she’s done to be seen as a ‘genuine woman’. She speaks of her personal experience as part of the universal struggle of women, forced to chase after an impossible ideal of beauty. The movie is set in the 1980s, during the AIDS crisis. The diagnosis of the disease was at the time a death sentence. We also see the reality for many transitioning women, who resort to sex work as a means to survive, even to this day, without having to hide their identity. However, this stereotype does not prevent the creation of dimensional and complex trans female characters, as well as positive relationships, which make All About My Mother a very enjoyable movie overall.

Erin Maniatopoulou ©Artwork by Isabelle Siddle

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The Queer Review


kiss of the spider woman by manuel puig Stories are windows to other worlds more beautiful than our own. They allow us to escape, even if only for a time. Or at least that is the perspective of Molina, a transwoman in an Argentine prison who escapes mundanity by recounting films to her cellmate Valentin, a political prisoner and revolutionary. And how wonderfully Molina manages to describe the films, paying exquisite detail to the way light shines through an actress’ hair or the material of her dress. The fundamental contrast in the book, more so than between selfishness and selflessness, romanticism and cynicism, is between the mundane and the sublime, which underpins every moment and is best captured by the writing style, or lack thereof. The story is told almost entirely through dialogue, a transcript of alternating speech, like a play with no stage directions. It

gives us no details about the way they speak or the cell they inhabit, making their existence seem flat and lifeless outside of the luxurious descriptions of the films which Molina relays. After escaping for an all too brief moment into the tale of the Panther Woman, being pulled back into the dullness of the characters' lives is a shock, building an eagerness to return to the comfort of the films instead of being stuck in dreary lives and awkward conversations. Molina and Valentin grow closer and more open through the course of the book, each of them learning from the other and becoming just a little less consumed by their own lives. The combination between the characters’ growing relationship and the recollections of films makes this a truly unique book, and one that, just like Molina’s film, allows its readers to escape from the real world.

Liana Ampelos

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The Queer Review



RED is a passion project by a group of women who wanted more queer content than they were seeing on TV, and then worked up the means to make it reality. It centres around two actresses whose chemistry onscreen bleeds into their real lives, much like Anatomy of a Love Seen (which we’ve also reviewed). It then turns into a sultry romance not often depicted between women, and especially for women. The acting is brilliant, and, as with many webseries, the realistic nature of the directing makes it compelling to watch.

Chloë Murrell


a brief history of seven killings by marlon james The winner of the Man Booker Prize, Marlon James’ career defining novel captures a ‘dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica's history’. The novel chronicles the fictionalised attempted assassination of Bob Marley, as well as its aftermath, while addressing many important themes. Most notably, it explores toxic masculinity and sexuality through a wide array of interesting characters. James’ exploration of the complex relationship between masculinity and queerness, as well as the balance between social identity and internalised homophobia, is one of the many successes of the novel. When interviewed, James argued that it was very important to him to include gay characters, ‘to reflect the gayness and

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JAMAICA hypocrisy in Jamaica.’ Given Jamaica’s colonial-era anti-sodomy laws and widespread homophobia, James wanted to portray Jamaica as a place where it ‘is dangerous to be a gay man’. This message is made more powerful through the use of Jamaican vernacular, and James’ own personal connection with the Jamaican narrative he is portraying. One of the narratives which was particularly engaging was the complex story arc of enforcer Weeper, who struggles with accepting his own homosexuality, the rawest portrait of this being through his sexual expression. James addresses Weeper’s relationship with his sexuality excellently, looking at the acceptance of gay relationships within the prison environment, where homosexuality is seen as an extension of heteronormative sexual desire, the reaction to homosexuality within a gang environment, and Weeper’s sex scene with the ‘white boy’ in New York. Here

James points to how he ‘didn’t want this wonderfully three-dimensional villain who’s gay. [He] wanted a dumb thug.’ The narrative following the character of John-John K, a gay hit man who has moved to the U.S. and has his own troubled relationship, provides another perspective on queerness and masculinity. Overall, through James’ use of narrative, there is a complex understanding of each character's sexuality. James constantly challenges expected stereotypes with well thought out characters who offer captivating, refreshing perspectives. Most importantly, James points to what masculinity means for black Caribbean men, which deconstructs the myth of aggressive heterosexuality defining masculinity and male sexuality. Queerness is interwoven throughout this complex novel in an effective and engaging way.

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Megan Furr

©Artwork by Isabelle Siddle

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made in bangkok

Made in Bangkok follows Morgana, a Florencio’s documentary shows that it transgender opera singer who dreams doesn’t have to be that way: Morgana of getting sex reassignment surgery. chats peacefully with the other girls, exchanging beauty tips, discussing The documentary is as low-budget as surgery, and having a laugh. One of it gets, the director carrying the camera the women becomes her close friend, as he follows Morgana from Mexico to and as they explore Bangkok, they Bangkok in search of her dream. The discuss the need for sex reassignment film is slightly shaky, it feels intimate and surgery. Her friend is perfectly happy personal, but it is never invasive. Morgana not having it, while Morgan wishes for seems comfortable, the director being nothing more. The director does not her friend, and she continuously shares disrupt any of these conversations, her thoughts and feelings with the but simply films and listens, giving camera, always smiling and full of love. both women an equal voice, and an opportunity to express their opinions. The pair travel to Bangkok for a trans women’s beauty competition, which If you are looking for a film that Morgana hopes to win to finance her lacks the invasive, sensationalising surgery. The documentary is fairly nature of so many documentaries, short, and the bulk of it is made up of but packs happiness, self-love, and her encounters with the other women a kindness exchanged between at the competition. Where most movies complete strangers that is rare to fall flat and depict beauty contests as find, this is an absolute must-watch. bitchy and filled with jealousy, Flavio

Yaiza Canopoli

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The Queer Review


holding the man Based on Timothy Conigrave’s memoir, Holding the Man chronicles his relationship with John from their teens to their early 30s. The memoir was a great success at the time of its release, and is still many people’s favourite. The stage adaptation was also well loved. The film, then, caused some concern, as often movies cannot quite capture the heart of the book. However, Neil Armfield portrays the struggles of the young couple beautifully. Tim and John face a lot of hurdles throughout their fifteen years together: they have a secretive relationship in school, they confront their disapproving families, and, finally, they are both diagnosed with AIDS.

The period between the 70s and 90s was a harsh time to be a gay man, with ignorance and fear surrounding HIV and AIDS, and homosexuality being perceived as disgusting, dangerous, and, quite literally, sickening. People with HIV can often be sensationalised or plain silenced, so the movie being based on the memoir of a man who lived with the disease and lost his partner to it rings of good, honest representation. The cinematography is entertaining and calm, the relationship is lovingly acted, and the story is accompanied by music from the era. As some people have suggested, this is ‘the great Australian love story.

Yaiza Canopoli

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Four committee members from Diaspora Diaries share their favourite books written by immigrants and members of the diaspora. Make sure to catch their next issue when it's out on the UEA campus - our very own deputy editor Beverly will be writing something for them!

THE DIASPORA Quenelle Forbes

Elodie Mayo

Farah Mostafa

Thai Braddick

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The Queer Review

juliet takes a breath by gabby rivera

for colored girls by ntozake shange

Following a Puerto Rican lesbian, this YA novel takes on issues of family, representation, and, of course, sexuality.

This prose poem/theatre piece comes with colourful imagery, and presents multi-faceted, indepth portrayals of black women throughout different life events. Quenelle says: It answered a Shange was truly ahead of her lot of questions for me and has time. This is another must-read, great representation of brown especially for fans of theatre and queer girls! poetry.

Quenelle Forbes

Elodie Mayo

aristotle and dante by benjamin alire sรกenz

undersong by audre lorde

A must-read of queer YA, this book offers a beautiful comingof-age story that wonderfully acknowledges the tapestries of culture and queerness and how they interact.

This collection of poems has been praised high and low, and for good reason! Audre Lorde is an author not to be missed. Farah says: Anything written by her is brilliant!

Thai Braddick

Farah Mostafa

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sexuality in asian mythology Gender fluidity and queer identities seem to be gaining more acceptance in the 21st century liberal West, and it can be easy to assume that queerness is absolutely intolerable outside of this majority white region. However, it has not always been this way. There is a wealth of beautiful stories in Asian mythologies about incredible queer deities. They are less prominent in Asian religions than they were before, but many queer Asians hold onto these stories, as it gives them hope. In pre-colonial Philippines, mythology was an important aspect of people's religious and spiritual lives. One of the most powerful deities, the god of death Sidapa, was charmed by a moon god named Bulan. The story goes that Sidapa courted Bulan by commanding the birds and the mermaids to sing for him. Sidapa also sent Bulan fireflies fashioned from starlight (which is obviously every gay person's dream). Bulan fell right back in love with Sidapa. Then Bakunawa, a moon-eating dragon, rose out of the sea to attack Bulan, and Sidapa

descended from the heavens to save him. The pair went off to live on Mount Madia-as and lived happily ever after. While this tale comes from an ancient culture, queer Filipinos today look up to Sidapa and Bulan as a gay Filipino couple. It gives them hope to know that same-sex relationships were once accepted in their society, and there are even several stunning pieces of fanmade artwork around the internet.

"many queer Asians hold onto these stories, as it gives them hope" In Japanese folklore, two deities, Shinu No Hafuri and Ama No Hafuri, were male lovers who served the sun goddess, Amateratsu. When Shino died, Ama committed suicide, and Amateratsu buried them together and mourned for days. In another tale, Amateratsu reveals her own queerness. She retreats

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OPINION into a dark cave after a conflict with her brother, depriving the world of sunlight. In order to coax her out, the deity of humour and dance, Ame No Uzume, does a sexual dance for her, exposing her own breasts and inviting Amateratsu to admire them. A transgender female deity, Ishikori-dome, the kami of mirrors, holds a mirror up that mesmerise Amateratsu even more. The sun goddess, entranced by both Ishikoridome's mirror and Ame No Uzume's dance, leaves the cave and doesn't notice when the other deities seal the entrance behind her. Amateratsu is mesmerised by Ame No Uzume's body but stares at it without saying a worda, and Ishikoridome being transgender isn't a big deal; she's useful because of magical relationship with mirrors, and her gender identity is simply another part of her.

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queering japan

‘There are no gay people in Japan’ is a disappearing but still oddly prevalent opinion among the Japanese public. Although few may openly admit it, the idea lingers somewhere in the Japanese subconscious. As queer characters become the norm in Western entertainment, the same cannot be said about Japanese media, where such representation is rare and characters who do appear are gross homophobic and transphobic caricatures. Looking at such a media landscape, it’s easy to conclude that queerness is a Western phenomenon which doesn’t exist in Japan - if it’s not in the media, who can say that it actually exists? Although modern Japan is arguably less homophobic than other Asian countries, it suffers from These mythical Asian tales show that being homophobic in its ignorance. homosexuality and queerness are indeed not a Western concept. They have existed But Japan wasn’t always like this. If we go in our cultures way before Western back 200 years, half a century before the influence altered our societies forever, Meiji Restoration and the subsequent and I hope that one day our countries westernization of the country, we’ll will find a way to return to their roots. quickly realise that Japan under the shogunate was a different Beverly A. Devakishen Tokugawa place. Shunga - popular erotic artworks

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of the time - although primarily maleon-female, also often depicted male homosexual scenes, and occasionally even lesbian ones. The art represented the state of the society, wherein male homosexual relationships were common in monasteries, the military, and society at large. In fact, it is thought that sleeping with both beautiful women and men would have been the ideal. In modern terms, it’s fair to assume the people of Edo-period Japan were largely bisexual. It appears that homosexual practices have existed within Japan since the conception of the country. Even Oda Nobunaga, one of Japan’s greatest historical figures, is said to have had a male lover named Ranmaru, with whom he shared a famously strong bond. Going back to the 11th century, we can see that even the famous Tale of Genji depicts the protagonist being rejected by a woman and then opting to sleep with her brother, as he ‘found the boy more attractive than his sister.’ Looking back at Japanese history, it becomes clear that it was homophobia and shame related to sexuality that was the Western import, not queerness itself. And although Japanese

homosexual practices were steeped in pederasty and power structures of their times, the acceptance and almost natural assumption of bisexuality is something worth thinking about.

Ola Jankowska

is queer media radical? Marriage equality is, for many queer people, the ultimate goal and a measure of how accepted we are by society. Logically speaking, countries like the UK, US and over 20 others which have already welcomed same-gender couples into their legal definitions of marriage can’t achieve any higher status of queer acceptance in society …or can they? Theoretically, marriage equality should mean that society accepts us and allows us equal rights. But the same could be said about the end of segregation. And yet, in practice, it would be silly to imply that homophobia or racism respectively have magically disappeared thanks to changes in legislation. The truth is that even when we are acknowledged as

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OPINION valid and equal under the law, prejudice is one hell of a drug, and hate crimes against queer people are still committed even in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. Even when no lawbreaking is involved, some people are certain to scoff at any sort of queer representation in media as ‘pandering to the SJWs’ or being ‘too politically correct’ or other buzzword phrases. All of this leads to a simple conclusion: To be a minority, to exist as a person other than the ‘norm’ is already a form of rebellion. This, by proxy, means that queer media, even in countries with marriage equality, is inherently radical. Especially in the current media landscape where straight, cis and white stories still dominate all forms of media, to create something which doesn’t fit that image is to stand up against societal norms and preconceptions of what fits the label of a ‘romance’, or even what makes a character who they are. The sad truth is that many people still don’t appreciate having their preconceptions challenged and will often dismiss such media, either as something not made for them, or as

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something ‘too PC’, and therefore somehow infringing on their freedoms. A good example would be pride month celebrations, during which many companies change their logos on Facebook for ones with rainbows, invariably sparking some outrage in the comments, as though something as irrelevant as a profile picture showing support offends people enough to threaten boycotting the company. Another sign of just how radical queer characters can be is when people criticise their featuring in stories because ‘their queerness didn’t add anything to the plot’, as though they need to justify their reason for existing, while straight characters are allowed to have romantic subplots without being scrutinized for plot-relevance. Queer media shouldn’t be rebellious, it shouldn’t be radical. But for that to happen, we will need many more years and many more queer characters to normalize the phenomenon and make people forget that a character being queer is something that requires a knee-jerk reaction.

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Ola Jankowska

The Queer Review


queer representation in anime Sailor Moon: magical princesses who come from space and transform into warriors to fight evil made a strong impression on most kids in the 90s, but how many of us remember Sailor Neptune and Uranus, the queer sailor scouts who were in a relationship and to this day remain some of the best representation in anime? Also hailing from that period is Revolutionary Girl Utena, who true to her name defied gender roles by choosing to perform as a prince instead of a princess - she conformed to masculine gender roles, while still embracing her identity as a woman. In many ways a feminist icon, Utena also came to be in a romantic relationship with one of her female classmates.

the anime industry, praised for its selfawareness and criticism of Japanese society as a whole. Fetishization is sadly the most popular, best-selling type of queer ‘representation’ in anime.

There are two categories: Yuri, which focuses on romantic and sexual relationships between women, and BL, an abbreviation of ‘Boys Love’, focusing on such relationships between men. Made for straight audiences, these rarely count as good representation. Often pornographic, and too often non-consensual, these stories tend to romanticize abusive or toxic behaviour for the sake of the titillation of their straight fans, and are looked down upon by most queer It might be no surprise that the man viewers, Japanese and foreign alike. who directed the queer part of Sailor Moon and all of Utena is one person, Sadly, the struggle doesn’t end there, Ikuhara Kunihiko, who remains a as a lot of anime only features queer legendary auteur in the industry. In people in the form of background2015, he directed another queer anime, character stereotypes. Most commonly Yuri Kuma Arashi: a satirical take on this is presented in the form of the the fetishization of queer women and okama/onee trope. The word can be the sexualization of underaged girls in translated as the archaic ‘transvestite’,

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OPINION and the trope often includes gay men with 5’o clock shadows crossdressing and harassing straight male characters. These are homophobic and transphobic caricatures of the community, which sadly persist within the minds of the older generation of Japanese people to this day. But the situation is not as tragic as it seems. In recent years, we have seen a rise of good queer representation in anime. This includes titles like Yuuri on Ice, a story of a male skater and his coach, who fall in love as the series progresses. More recently, there’s been Yagate Kimi ni Naru, which follows an ace girl and her female classmate who falls in love with her, and Zombieland Saga, an anime where one of the main girls is casually revealed to be trans. Other honorable mentions include Banana Fish, No.6, Doukyuusei, Asagao to Kase-san, and Hourou Musuko. Not to mention that Ikuhara will be returning in 2019 with a new anime, surely to be queer given his history. All of this will hopefully help normalize queer people as interesting characters with stories worth telling.

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ola's recs • sailor moon • revolutionary girl utena • yuri kuma arashi • yuuri on ice • yagate kimi ni naru • zombieland saga • banana fish • no. 6 • doukyuusei • asagao to kase-san • hourou musuko

Ola Jankowska

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The Queer Review

COMING SOON ... rafiki This Kenyan film follows Kena and Ziki, who are meant to be good girls and to one day make good wives, and instead fall for each other. It is currently showing at film festivals all over the world, so keep an eye on it to find out when it's out for the public!



Miles Atkinson (artist), Megan Furr (copyeditor), Beverly Anne Devakishen (deputy editor), Yaiza Canopoli (editor-in-chief), Chloë Murrell (TV & film editor), Isabelle Siddle (artist)

NEXT ISSUE Non-fiction Coming February 2019

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Twitter @queerreviewmag © Photography by Sylvie Tan

Š Cover artwork and lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen. Logo by Isabelle Siddle

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