Tuesday, July 17, 2012

booknotes: i do, i don't

A few months ago, Hanna found me a copy of I Do, I Don't: Queers on Marriage edited by Greg Wharton and Ian Philips (Suspect Thoughts Press, 2004) on one of the $1 used book carts of which there are so many in Boston.* For obvious reasons, I picked it up a few weeks ago and finally started reading it. Here are a few thoughts.

The usual proviso for anthologies applies here. Some pieces I found illuminating, though-provoking, well-written "keepers." Others I read a paragraph or two of and skimmed to the end, not feeling obligated to spend my time on a piece that was not altogether coherent, or just didn't offer anything I found to be original on the subject to hand. Which is, as the title implies, marriage of the non-heteronormative variety.

Published in 2004, this anthology feels dated. It's weird to say that about a book less than a decade old, but in the landscape of political debate over marriage equality and queer identities, eight years is practically a geologic age. In 2004, Massachusetts was just on the verge of making same-sex marriage legal and Prop 8 was still in the distant future. Don't Ask, Don't Tell was still in effect, and with George W. Bush' in the White House the DOJ was still enforcing DOMA and the idea of a president coming out in support of my right to marry my ladylove was laughable (or would have been, if I'd had a ladylove to contemplate marry yet!). Suffice to say, readers will find some of the language and pressing debates herein slightly stale on the tongue.

At the same time, personal narratives of courtship, partnership, love and hate, household dissolution, and the process of decision-making when one's personal choices have been highly politicized don't entirely lose their timeliness. In I Do, I Don't contributors argue for their own marriages, and for the right of their friends to marry (despite the fact the author eschews the act themselves), or make passionate pleas for queers everywhere to "just say no" to marriage as an institution, to turn their attentions (our attentions) elsewhere. Marriage, in this volume is an object of desire, of derision, a practical decision, a romantic undertaking, a bid for the mainstream, a leap into the radical unknown. Don't come to reading this book expecting an agenda in the singular: queer folk, like any other class of people, are a heterogeneous lot and herding us is like herding proverbial cats. If we ever did get our act together to have an agenda, I doubt we'd ever agree how to act on it!

Definitely a volume worth checking out if you find it cheap and/or at your local library. I'm particularly interested in comparing its contents to that of Here Come the Brides! (2012) which I currently have on hold at the public library.After I read it, I'll let you know how the conversation has shifted since 2004.

UPDATE: My review of Here Come the Brides! can be found here.
*I'll say it before and I'll say it again: $1 books are 90% responsible for the overflowing state of our bookshelves because, seriously, so many books can be justified with, "pfft! for a dollar ...!"

No comments:

Post a Comment