Monday, October 16, 2017

Alys - a Steampunked riff on 'Alice In Wonderland' with homophobia as a theme and a lot of hope

Alys by Kiri Callaghan
Following her gay best friend’s suicide, Alyson Carroll descends into the realm of Dreams and Nightmares. In her quest to find home, she discovers that Charlie might not truly be gone after all, but when she meets Oswin, the prince of Terra Mirum, she must face her own fears and raise an army against The Nightmare Queen, or surrender as the world of dreams is consumed by terror and darkness forever.

I recently caught up with author Kiri Callaghan (dressed as a fae character from her novel) and got the scoop:

Add your review of "Alys" in comments!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter Six

In Chapter Five, Wyatt's first "date" with Mackenzie is cut short, and when he finally cracks open his book on Lincoln for his book report, he discovers the real-world historical letters that Abraham Lincoln wrote Joshua Fry Speed. Letters that, Wyatt suspects, reveal that Abraham was in love with Joshua!

Want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill fan art? Share them in comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, instagram. We're also using the hashtage #qaafdb)

Okay community, here's Chapter Six!

Chapter Six

Wyatt Yarrow’s Book Report Blog for Mr. Guzman’s 9th Grade History Class.
Lincolnville High School.
Book: Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend by Robert Kincaid.


First Impression Blog Post: Monday, January 12, 3:56 a.m.
President Abraham Lincoln Was Gay!

Fact: When Abraham Lincoln was 28 years old, he was a brand-new lawyer and moved to Springfield, Illinois. He went into Joshua Fry Speed’s store to buy the stuff for a bed so he’d have somewhere to sleep.
Fact: Abe was so poor, he didn’t even have $17 to pay for the stuff he’d need for his own bed.
Fact: Joshua told Abe he could share his bed.
Fact: Abe was a success as a lawyer and had the money, but still shared the bed with Joshua for four years!
Fact: The bed was a double bed, 53 inches wide (less than 4 ½ feet) and not even six feet long.
Fact: Abe was six feet four inches tall. Lying down, even like a soldier at attention, from shoulder to shoulder he’d cover 29 inches across.
Fact: If Joshua was average height (and the internet says that in the mid-1800s, that was around five feet seven inches tall) lying down, his shoulders would have been at least 24 inches across.
Fact: 29 + 24 = 53. Not an inch to spare.
The facts add up: There’s no way they could have shared that bed and not been touching practically the whole time. Here, I’ll prove it.

Insert Internet Video: “Abraham Lincoln Was Gay: BEDMATES!”

A hand moves away and Wyatt backs up from the lens. He’s in the Lincoln Room, black-suited wax-Lincoln by his side. Wyatt looks right at the camera.

Okay… Hi. I’m Wyatt, and this is my video proof that President Abraham Lincoln was gay. Or, at least, had a thing with Joshua Fry Speed. Like, a love thing.

This… is a life-sized wax figure of our sixteenth President, six feet four inches tall. And that…

Wyatt points over his shoulder to the bed where the old military mannequin, changed into his mismatched Union dark-blue wool coat, light-blue pants, and brown boots, lies on his back.

…is a guy pretty much the size of Joshua Fry Speed.

Wyatt struggles to carry wax-Lincoln over to the bed. The sculpture tips backwards, and Wyatt catches the right-arm-that’s-out-to-shake just before it smacks into the sideboard and breaks. Cradling the arm and leveraging wax-Lincoln onto the bed, Wyatt talks to the camera.

Lincoln was tall. He would have had to scrunch up in any bed, even one today, and this wax-figure’s knees don’t bend.

The video jump-cuts, and Wyatt approaches to take the camera off its tripod.


The camera aims back at the bed. Wax-Lincoln is on his left side and at an angle, size 14 shoes sticking past the footboard. His right arm rests across the other mannequin’s chest. From the end of the bed, the camera pans left to right. The two figures are pressed against each other with no extra room.


The camera flips around to show Wyatt’s face, Lincoln and the soldier on the bed behind him.

They didn’t need to share it. They chose to. For four years! Do the math: Lincoln was gay.

* *

* *

Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here.

Ready for Chapter Seven? It will be posted on October 20, 2017.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter or instagram.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

National Coming Out Day + LGBTQ History Month = Let's Discover the Men Who Loved Men, Women Who Loved Women, and People Who Lived Outside Gender Boundaries in History

Because if we (and especially today's teens) know our LGBTQ past, we can be assured Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Questioning, and Queer people have a place in the present. And if we know we have a place in the present, we can dream of our futures...

So let's discover the real history of Eleanor Roosevelt loving Lorena Hickok.

The real history of William Shakespeare writing 126 love sonnets to another man.

The real history of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut changing how they portrayed their gender over 22 years of rule, from being seen as completely feminine, to an in-between gender, to being portrayed as completely masculine.

And let's be real about the history of Abraham Lincoln loving Joshua Fry Speed. (Want to know more about that one? Check out my YA novel inspired by that true history, here.)

Here are this year's LGBT History Month icons:

And be sure to check out the more than 370 LGBT Icons from the Equality Forum's LGBT History Month celebrations of the past 10+ years here.

And let's celebrate who we've been, who we are, and who we can be!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, October 9, 2017

Arrests after seven people wave the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag at a concert in Egypt

It's being reported by many news agencies, including the BBC,


You can add your voice to the outrage by joining me and signing this ALL OUT petition to the Egyptian government.

All Out reports that
"At least 43 people have been detained in Egypt just because someone waved a rainbow flag.

The hunt started when images of a concert in Cairo were posted on social media, showing someone dancing with the rainbow flag. The police claimed that the people arrested were “homosexuals who raised the LGBT flag and encouraged the practice of immoral acts."

Most of those detained have been put through a speedy trial and sentenced to six years in prison. They are appealing these sentences and we need to show Egyptian authorities that colours are not shame. That's why activists from Egypt, the Middle East, and North Africa have started this petition with All Out."

Waving a flag shouldn't be a crime.

Being your authentic self shouldn't be a crime.


The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, October 6, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter Five

In Chapter Four, Wyatt gets assigned a book for his President Abraham Lincoln book report, uses Mackenzie as protection from Jonathon, and learns that if business doesn't pick up, his family might lose their Lincoln Slept Here Bed and Breakfast.

Want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill fan art? Share them in comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, instagram.)

Okay, community, here's Chapter Five!

Chapter 5
Sunday January 11

            It was seven o’clock, the exhibits were shut for the day, and Wyatt was just about to pick up a second kitchen chair to carry to the exhibition screen in the old dining room when Mackenzie walked in from the hallway. “Hi, Honeybear!” She was back from dinner with her dad, joining them for the first time for their family movie night.
“Oh.” She had been waving a packet of microwave popcorn, but Mackenzie’s face fell as she smelled the rich wafts of steam and heard the PUHP-P-P-P-P-P-P! coming from the covered cast-iron pot by Wyatt’s dad.
            Wyatt nodded ‘hi’ from behind the chair back he was still holding.
            His dad shouted over the popping, “This is going to be way more delicious than from a microwave! Just like in old times!”
            “Thank you, Mackenzie. That’s very thoughtful.” Wyatt’s mom took the package from Mackenzie’s hand, and gave her a big hug. “We’ll save this for next time.” She shot her husband a look, then turned to Wyatt. “Sweetie, why don’t you offer your girlfriend something to drink?”
            Wyatt felt bad that he hadn’t warned Mackenzie about his dad’s latest circa-1860s kitchen toy. But how was I supposed to know she was going to bring anything? She never brings anything. Then he remembered. This wasn’t just her coming over while her dad was at an AA meeting, like this afternoon, when she’d hung out and done homework while Wyatt antiqued a bunch of President Abraham Lincoln Timelines. This was more like a date. Oh, man. How was he going to survive a date?
            His mom prodded him with her eyes. Wyatt let go of the chair and played his part. “We’ve got some sparkling apple juice…”
            “That sounds great.” Mackenzie joined him at the counter to help with the glasses.
            Wyatt’s mom peered down the empty hallway. “Your dad couldn’t join us, after all?”
            Mackenzie shook her head. “He wanted to study. There’s another police officer test coming up.”
            Banished to the converted dining room to set things up so his mom and Mackenzie could have ‘a little girl time’ before the movie, Wyatt set the fourth chair in front of the only T.V. in their B&B. He hit eject and put The Civil War in Four Minutes DVD in its case. His dad was already reading the latest Kovel’s Antiques & Collectables, all ready for the Bond movie since it wasn’t some boring documentary on 19th century field hospitals.
            Wyatt loaded the DVD. At least he could watch the previews.

* *

Wyatt looked up as Mackenzie and his mom finally came in, each with a large bowl of popcorn – one for his parents to share, the other for Mackenzie and Wyatt.
            He would have rather had his own.
            This preview was more soda commercial than spy thriller anyway. “Ready for the movie?” Wyatt aimed the remote to go back to the main menu, but his mom took it from him and hit mute instead.
            “Let’s visit a little, first.”
Wyatt knew it was because she was in no rush to see the inevitable action movie he always chose.
            Mackenzie scooted her chair right up against Wyatt’s, explaining, “We can share better this way.”
Wyatt grabbed a handful of popcorn and stuffed his mouth.
Wyatt’s mom gestured to the T.V. screen, her voice light like it was just a casual suggestion. “Maybe we could do one of our own. A commercial, for the B&B.” She glanced at Wyatt’s dad, who was frowning.
His dad wasn’t hearing any of it. “Word of mouth is the best advertising, and it’s free.”
“But Wyatt has his new camera, and we could put it online. It doesn’t need to cost any–”
“Liz!” His dad cut her off. “I’ll thank you to let me handle things my way.”
In the silence Wyatt could almost hear his mom thinking that his dad’s way wasn’t working so well. That’s what the bank guy thought, too – but his mom would never say it.
To Wyatt’s surprise, his mom tried once more, “How could it hurt to let more people know about us?”
“New topic.” His dad bristled, giving her a move on look.
Wyatt leaned over and whispered to Mackenzie, “You’re really family, if they’re fighting in front of you.”
Mackenzie stifled a giggle.
 “Okay,” Wyatt’s mom put up a hand in surrender. “And we’re not fighting. It was just a suggestion...”
If you avoid making waves, your boat never capsizes. His mom had told him that fortune-cookie-worthy motto enough times. But it occurred to Wyatt that a boat that didn’t make waves was a boat that didn’t move.
 “So…” His mom included them all in the conversation’s new direction. “Mackenzie was telling me that the Lincolns had séances in the White House!”
            Séances? Wyatt gave Mackenzie a quick glance. Why didn’t she mention that earlier?
            “Eight of them, at least.” Mackenzie sparkled at the attention. “Trying to communicate with their dead son.”
            “Which one?” Wyatt’s dad asked over his glasses.
“Willie, who died a year into the Civil War. He was twelve.” Mackenzie answered, and then glanced at Wyatt’s mom. “At least they knew he was dead.”
No one said anything, and Wyatt wondered if Mackenzie was talking about her own mom, off on some journey to ‘find herself.’ It had been like three years since Mackenzie had heard anything from her.
Mackenzie spoke first. “It turns out my book’s a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.”
            Wyatt’s dad said, “Ah, don’t judge a book by its cover.” Trust his dad to pull out the most time-worn cliché possible, dust it off, and put it out there like it was new wisdom.           
His mom eyed the Bond movie menu screen that had come up after the final preview, and he knew she was wishing it was some HGTV house-staging marathon instead. She stalled with one more question, this time for him. “How about your book, Sweetie? What’s it about?”
            His book. Still in his backpack, untouched. Because really, what was he supposed to do? He had to do a good job, or his parents would kill him, but not too good a job, or Jonathon would really kill him. So he just… hadn’t done anything.
            Wyatt tried to say it like it was no big deal. “I still have a little reading to do.” But as soon as the words left his mouth, he knew he was sunk. There was plenty of time, but his mom fixated on how he hadn’t even cracked the book. And then Mackenzie chimed in that their ‘first impression’ blog posts had to be online by 6 a.m., and hers had taken a lot longer than she thought, because of all the footnotes.
            Not helpful.
            So no cool cars or gadgets or super villains for 007 – or Wyatt.
            Just his mom’s relieved scolding, as she put the disc away for next Sunday.
            Just his own pathetic apology to Mackenzie, “Sorry this pushes your movie back a week.”
            Just her saying, “It was still one of the nicest family nights I’ve had in a long time. You don’t know how lucky you all are.”
Just him not feeling lucky at all.
            Just an awkward hug where Mackenzie tried to kiss Wyatt goodnight – on the lips – and at the last millisecond he turned his head so she kissed his cheek instead, and then he pretended he didn’t notice anything weird.
            Just a look askance from his dad as he got up to drive Mackenzie home. “You know better than this, young man.”
            Just Wyatt standing in the kitchen filling sandwich bags with popcorn – snacks for him to take to school for the whole week ahead that would be stale by Tuesday.
            Just… Lincoln.

* *

            Wyatt thought about watching something online, but didn’t think he could get away with it. Instead, he killed time designing his own Bond car – one that could drive like a race car, but also maneuver like a hummingbird in the air and like an otter through the water… and still shoot out lasers to stop the bad guys in their tracks. He drew his soldier’s face. Then drew himself in next to him. Wyatt imagined going for a drive, a Bond guy and him. He added them holding hands, and doodled the beginning of a heart – STOP!
            He crossed it out. All of it. Again and again, soaking the paper with blue ink. Then he cut the paper into thin strips, first one way, then the other, hand-shredding it like confetti. He threw a third of it in his trash can, another third in the bathroom trash can, and tossed the rest in the toilet. FLUSSHHH! No one would be able to put that back together.
At ten o’clock, when he figured the movie would have been over anyway, Wyatt pulled the top comforter up over his feet and grabbed the stupid Lincoln book.
            It was thin, seventy pages. He loved Mr. Clifton. Not like that. Just, cool. At least it wouldn’t take all night.
He opened the cover. It was a bit crumbly at the spine. How old was this thing?
            The full title read:
                        Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend
                        by Robert L. Kincaid
            Copyright page said 1943. Wyatt figured back then ‘intimate’ just meant close. Best friends. Maybe today it would be
                        Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s BFF
            Maybe that’s what he’d call his blog.
            He opened the book at random. Page 55. It was a letter, signed
                        Yours Forever,
            Sounded like a love letter. Like it should be in Mackenzie’s book, love letters between Abe and Mary. With séances thrown in to keep it interesting. It was weird that Abe had signed it “Lincoln.” Wyatt scanned back to the top of page 54, where the letter began.
                        Springfield, October 5, 1842
                        Dear Speed:
            It was a letter to Joshua Fry Speed. Did everyone write like this back then? Why was Abe calling him by his last name? It was like they were in P.E. together or something.
            Wyatt started to read the letter. Joshua had been married eight months. Sounded like Abe had to talk him into it. And then Abe asked
“…But I want to ask a closer question, “Are you now in feeling as well as in judgment, glad that you are married as you are?” From anybody but me this would be an impudent question, not to be tolerated, but I know you will pardon it in me. Please answer it quickly, as I feel impatient to know.”

            Wyatt reasoned it through: So Joshua got married because he judged he should, not because he felt it. And Abe wanted to know if the feeling came later.
            When was this? He fished a piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and uncrumpled it to mark the page. It was Mackenzie’s note, the M and W for their names inside a heart.
He ran downstairs to grab a fresh President Abraham Lincoln Timeline. Back in his room, the stiff coffee-stained paper crackled as he unfolded it, and he searched for the year.
                        1842: Reconciles with Mary Todd. Marries her on November 4.
            This letter was before that wedding. Just a month before.
“Please answer it quickly as I feel impatient to know.”
            Abe was asking his BFF
“Are you now in feeling as well as in judgment, glad that you are married as you are?”

            Maybe Abe wasn’t sure if he should get married, either. Joshua hadn’t been.
            Wyatt stared at the heart note from Mackenzie. Goose bumps broke out along his upper back and arms. Whoa. He and Mackenzie weren’t married, but that was how he felt! He judged – it kind of made sense to be her boyfriend. But he didn’t feel it. Not the way he was supposed to.
            The goose bumps travelled all the way along his spine, down his legs. The hair on his scalp stood up.
            Was their reason for not feeling it the same as his?
            It wasn’t possible. Was it?
            He turned the pages backwards. This section was all letters, almost all of them from Abe to Joshua. He checked out how they ended
                        Ever Yours,
                        As Ever,
                        Yours Forever,
                        As Ever, Your Friend
                        Yours Forever,
            Who was this guy Joshua? Wyatt flipped to the beginning. He ran a store.
“A tall angular young man with lean, wrinkled cheeks and sad, gray eyes, walked into a general store in Springfield, Illinois, more than a century ago, and laid on the counter a pair of saddlebags which he carried in the crook of his long arm.  He asked the young proprietor of the store the price of a mattress, blankets, sheets, coverlid, and a pillow for a single bed.  The items came to seventeen dollars.
“It is perhaps cheap enough,“ the young man with the saddlebags said, “but small as it is, I am unable to pay it.  If you will credit me until Christmas, I will pay you then, if I do well; but if I do not, I may never be able to pay you.”
“The proprietor looked up into the face of his prospective customer and was moved by the forlorn expression in his eyes.  He said:
“You seem to be so much pained at contracting so small a debt, I think I can suggest a plan by which you can avoid the debt and at the same time attain your end.  I have a large room with a double bed which you are welcome to share with me.”
                        “Where is your room?”
            “Upstairs,” the proprietor replied, pointing to a pair of winding stairs which led from the store to the room.
“The tall young man picked up his saddle bags, went upstairs, set them down on the floor, returned below with a beaming countenance and exclaimed jovially,
                        “Well Speed, I’m moved!”

            That sounded weird. They didn’t know each other, but Joshua offered to share his bed with him? That was pretty intimate.
“This episode is familiar to all students of the life of Abraham Lincoln.  The date of its occurrence, April 15, 1837, marked the transition of Lincoln into a career which led to immortality.”

            Wyatt kept reading. Turned out Abe was really successful in Springfield. But long after he could afford his own bed, he still shared that bed with Joshua. They shared it for four years.
            The bed!
            Quickly, Wyatt thumbed back through the pages, scanning for the facts.
                        “Springfield, Illinois”
                        “a double bed”
            He raced out of his room to the stairs, nearly colliding with his dad who was coming out of the laundry room with a basket of folded kitchen towels and napkins. His dad put a finger to his lips, signaling there were guests in Room Six. “Where are you going?” he whispered.
            “Homework.” Wyatt held up the book.
            “Seems like there’s more to it than you thought. Good thing we didn’t watch the movie.”
            “Yeah. I guess you and Mom were right.” Wyatt kept his head down. There was no way they could know he’d just started.
            “Well, do your best. And don’t stay up too late.”
            Wyatt nodded to get away, and hustled one flight down, trying to not be too loud. Or too excited.
            He opened the door to their Lincoln Room and hit the switch on the electric-posing-as-oil lamp. Orange-yellow light flickered across the rocking chair, the dresser, the sheets.
            Suddenly in his mind Wyatt saw a second pillow by the first. He blinked it away. Abe hadn’t bought one, so maybe they shared the pillow, too?
            He knew the dates, but had to check anyway. The small bronze plaque on its wooden stand in front of the bed announced,

Lincoln Slept Here
1837 – 1841

            It was theirs. The bed Abe and Joshua shared.  It was their bed!
                        In judgment but not in feeling
            Was it code?
            Could Abe and Joshua have been…
            Wyatt’s legs gave way and he was sitting on the floor, heart pounding. He opened the book and read like his life depended on it.

* *

            It was past midnight when, back in his room, Wyatt went online. He’d read Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend cover-to-cover but now he hesitated, cursor in the search box. This was something he couldn’t take back. His mom had disabled ‘clear history’ and checked his browser once a week, part of their family internet compromise: If you’d be embarrassed for your mother to know you’ve been there, you shouldn’t be there in the first place. If it had been up to his dad, they wouldn’t have internet at all.
But Wyatt had to know, and he could figure out how to cover his tracks later. He typed,
                        was lincoln gay?
and hit return.
            50 million results.
            One of the hits on the first page was a review of some book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. There was that word again. Intimate. Wyatt toggled and did a book search instead. It was the only book that popped for “abraham lincoln gay.”
            But for ‘abraham lincoln,’ 38,355 books came up. If the gay thing only came up in one of them, how could it be true?
            Wyatt’s book didn’t come out and say he was gay, but those letters…
            And Lincoln was a hero. Lots of people wouldn’t want him to be in love with another guy. But, what if he was?
            Wyatt smoothed out the President Abraham Lincoln Timeline on his desk.
1837: Moves to Springfield (new capital) and begins practicing as a trial lawyer.
            Nothing about where he lived, or sharing a bed, or maybe falling in love with Joshua Fry Speed. The only stuff about Lincoln’s personal life was
1840: Becomes engaged to Mary Todd.
1841: Breaks engagement to Mary Todd and plunges into deep depression. This is one of many bouts of depression that Lincoln suffered throughout his life.
1842: Reconciles with Mary Todd. Marries her on November 4.
            The ‘Fatal First” of January 1841 was supposed to be the trigger of Lincoln’s giant depression. It was when he broke his engagement to Mary the first time round.
            But in Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend, January 1, 1841 was also when Joshua told Abe he was moving back to Kentucky. Away from Abe. Marking the end of their four years of living together. The end of their sharing that bed one floor down from where Wyatt was sitting right now.
            Nobody really had a reason why Abe broke things off with Mary the first time and got so depressed. But… What if Abe’s depression wasn’t about Mary, but about being freaked out about being in love with Joshua? About Joshua kind of breaking up with him, moving away, and eventually marrying that woman Fanny?
            And then eight months after Joshua got married, Abe went ahead and married Mary because he judged it the right thing to do. The politically smart thing to do. Even if his heart, and Joshua’s heart – their feelings – were elsewhere…
            In judgment but not in feeling.
            But no one’s ever said anything about it!
            Wyatt remembered that one book that came up in the search. Or maybe when they did say it, no one listened. He got back on the computer.
                        ‘was president lincoln gay?’
            A lot of the sites that popped up were angry, ‘the very question insults the memory of our greatest President’ – stuff like that.
            One site argued that no one could be a ‘homosexual’ before this Austrian guy invented the word for it in 1869, four years after Lincoln was gunned down by John Wilkes Booth. What a load of crap. Guys falling in love with other guys didn’t all of a sudden start when they came up with a word for it.
            I didn’t need any words to know.
            Wyatt found a video clip: “Was Lincoln Gay?” And hit play.
Internet Video: “Was Lincoln Gay?”

A professor in a suit stands at a podium in a small conference room. Words on the screen read “Family Values in Christ Coalition Summit.” He speaks with an I-know-better-than-you attitude.

Rumors of President Lincoln having a deviant ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ are simply that, wild expressions of a shrill homosexual agenda that no serious historian takes seriously. And what proof do they have?

The Professor holds up a copy of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln and sneers.

Conjecture and fantasy, by an activist with a pro-homosexual agenda. Pure trash.

He uses his foot to open the lid of a conveniently placed trash can and drops the book in with a clang.

Can you imagine lipstick and pink eye shadow on Lincoln’s face on Mount Rushmore?

The video cuts to a cartoon image of that very thing, with a pink feather boa around Lincoln’s made-up face on the mountainside. An unseen audience bursts out laughing.

* *

Wyatt hit stop.
He didn’t want to dress up like a girl, or be a girl. And he didn’t know if Lincoln did or didn’t, but that had nothing to do with whether or not Lincoln was gay. Or bi. Or whatever you’d call it if Abe’s feeling was for Joshua instead of Mary…
Next to the frozen image of Lincoln’s Mt. Rushmore face in drag, the website suggested:

Other videos you might like:
Marcia Gay Harden Visits Mt. Rushmore
Dead Presidents Punk and Rock Washington, D.C.
George Washington’s Gay Inspector General

What was that one about?
Cautiously, Wyatt hit play.
Internet Video: “George Washington’s Gay Inspector General”

A handsome teen guy sits in front of an outdoor-sized Gay Pride Rainbow flag pinned to the wall behind him. He wears a rainbow bracelet and is strumming a fast-intro on a blue acoustic guitar. The tune is ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.’

An inset picture of an oil painting pops into the frame next to him. It’s of an old military guy in one of those white wigs from Revolutionary War-time, in a gold vest with lots of medals pinned to his jacket.

Words scroll on the bottom of the screen:

Music: George M. Cohan
New Lyrics: Martin Sykes

The teen, Martin, smiles – teeth brilliant white against his darker skin. His fingers fly, building the song to the familiar chorus.

Martin (sings)
Von Steuben’s a Yankee Doodle Dandy!
A Yankee Doodle who liked guys…
Freidrich Wilhelm Von Steu-eu-ben,
Without him there’d be no Fourth of July!

The inset image changes as Martin continues singing, showing other old paintings of:
Ben Franklin,
Washington at Valley Forge inspecting troops,
And finally, the famous painting of George Washington Crossing the Delaware, the new flag of the United States of America unfurling behind him.

Martin (sings)
Ben Franklin, knew that our army, need-ed help
General Washington, he knew it too.
Freid-rich. Went. To. Valley. Forge. Just. To. Train. Our. Sol-diers.
He’s why American’s here for you!

Martin finishes the song with a flourish of strumming. For the first time, he looks directly at the camera.

And that’s all true.

The video ended, and Wyatt stared at the guy on the screen, letting it sink in. He was so out. And proud. Probably lived in New York City, with some model boyfriend. And that song – a gay general who helped America win the revolutionary war against the British?
So cool.
The video player suggested another video, “Also from Martin Sykes:”

Legal Advocates of Oregon: Rhonda Sykes on 2 Years of Speaking Truth To Power

Not so interesting. And he was getting distracted.
            Back to Lincoln, and those letters. What if this Kincaid guy who wrote Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend was making it all up? What if the letters weren’t even real?
            Wyatt picked up the book and checked the boring stuff in the beginning. On the title page, above the year, it read, “Department of Lincolnalia, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee.” The author couldn’t have made up the letters and still gotten it published by a university named after Lincoln! They had to be real.
            Still, Wyatt had never even heard of Joshua Fry Speed before. And if they were an item, wouldn’t he have?
            Maybe not. Maybe historians were trying to keep this a secret.
            He’d never heard of Von Steuben – and him being gay – either, until a minute ago.
            But since everyone loved Lincoln, if the world knew Abe was gay – that he loved another guy – maybe they’d start to feel differently about gay people. Maybe, if Abe was out, everybody gay would be able to come out.
            Wyatt had a first impression about Abraham Lincoln, that was for sure. But if he was going to pull off this blog post, he had a lot to do.

* *

            It was past 4 a.m. when Wyatt finished and his post was live on the school blog host. He unplugged his laptop and fast-carried it to the bathroom sink before the two-minute battery charge gave out. Careful to not electrocute himself, he leaned the laptop on its side under the faucet and turned the water on. It poured into the side slot, drenching the keyboard. Something inside whirred and shorted out. The screen went blank.
            A dead computer tells no tales.
            He carried it back to his desk wrapped in a towel, and spilled a glass of water on the wood floor right below the table edge. He let it soak in, making sure his story would make sense.
            Tracks covered.
            Wyatt fell into bed, head swimming. He thought about brushing his teeth, but just pulled the three comforters up, overwhelmed and desperately tired. As he lay there, waiting to slip into sleep, one thought surfaced…
            Lincoln freed the slaves. Maybe now, he can free the gays.
            Maybe, he can free me.

* *

* *

Chapter Five Endnotes

In Chapter 5, Mackenzie discusses the séances held in the White House while Lincoln was President. The séances are discussed on pages 40-41 of Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Family Life.
Wyatt reads the whole 70 pages of Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend. The October 5, 1842 letter where Abe asks Joshua, “are you now in feeling as well as judgment glad that you are married as you are?” is on pages 54-55, and is also found on pages 161-162 of Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches And Writings, Edited by Roy P. Basler, Preface by Carl Sandburg, De Capo Press paperback edition, Perseus Books Group, Cleveland, Ohio, 2001. The excerpt explaining how Abe met Joshua, wanting to buy stuff for a bed from Joshua’s store, is taken from pages 9-10 of Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend. That same book includes the five letters Wyatt noticed Abe wrote Joshua that ended with the sign-offs, “Ever Yours,” “As Ever,” “Yours Forever,” “As Ever, Your Friend” and “Yours Forever” – on pages 53, 52, 50, 49 and 48.
Wyatt also refers to their B&B’s ‘President Abraham Lincoln Timeline,’ and the timeline dates and quotes I used are from the Abraham Lincoln Chronology (Historical Documents Co., 1993.) I purchased my copy at the Lincoln Memorial Shrine, Redlands, California in April 2011. Their timeline was “reproduced on antiqued parchment that looks and feels old,” which inspired Wyatt’s antiquing chore.
Martin’s video song about Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the gay man who helped the U.S. win the Revolutionary War and who “single-handedly turned a militia, consisting mostly of farmers, into a well-trained, disciplined and professional army that was able to stand musket-to-musket combat with the British” is also based on real history. You can read more about von Steuben, his being gay and his role in U.S. history here:

* *

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

One Of These Things First - A Coming of Age and Coming Out Memoir by Steven Gaines

One Of These Things First by Steven Gaines

Steven is 15 years old, growing up in 1960's Brooklyn. This memoir follows his trajectory from his grandparent's bar and girdle store to, after a failed suicide attempt, a private room in one of the most exclusive psychiatric hospitals in the world. Here Steven meets a brilliant young psychiatrist who promises to cure him of his homosexuality and provide him with the normalcy he longs for. At the hospital he also meets a Broadway producer, the husband of superstar Mary Martin, who opens a new world for him, an editor who claims she was President John F. Kennedy's lover, and other eccentric, wealthy neurotics, who make him feel like "Eliza Doolittle at the psycho country club."

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Monday, October 2, 2017

TRANS/gressive: How Transgender Activists Took on Gay Rights, Feminism, the Media & Congress... and Won! - Essential Reading

TRANS/gressive: How Transgender Activists Took on Gay Rights, Feminism, the Media & Congress... and Won! by Riki Wilchins

In the early 1990s, no one talked about transgender people, and no one knew one. We were not on TV or in movies. What formed the visible part of the transcommunity – overwhelmingly white, urban, and middle class – was also overwhelmingly focused on conferences, surgery or hormones and cisgender acceptance.

This was still a determinedly non-political population, often in defensive crouch because it was also constantly under attack by the media, police, local legislatures, feminists and even LGB-but-never-T advocates.

We were a group that still thought of ourselves as a collection of separate individuals, not a movement. What made political consciousness so difficult was that there was no "transgender section” of town, where we saw each other regularly.

And mainstream society mostly ignored us. And when it didn’t, it usually made clear it despised us. We were freaks. We were gendertrash.

We lived in a transient and indoor community that knew itself only a few days at a time during conferences at hotels out on the interstate.

But all that was about to change.

Even when politics are avoided, bringing despised and marginalized people together is itself a political act. Without realizing or intending it, the community was reaching critical mass.

Even in those pre-Internet, pre-cellphone days, enough transpeople were running into one another often enough to begin realizing we could be a force, that we didn’t really need cisgender acceptance. What we needed was our civil rights.

This is the inside story of how in just a few years, a handful of trans activists would come together in the face of enormous difficulties and opposition to launch from the very margins of society what would grow into the modern political movement for gender rights.
Add your review of "TRANS/gressive: How Transgender Activists Took on Gay Rights, Feminism, the Media & Congress... and Won!" in comments!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter Four

In Chapter Three, Wyatt made the painful decision to go along with Mackenzie's Plan B... Mackenzie and Wyatt's parents are thrilled, but for Wyatt, it's like the hole he's in just keeps getting deeper and deeper.

Want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapters One and Two.

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Okay, community, here's Chapter Four!

Chapter 4
Wednesday January 7

            While Mr. Guzman droned on about how they had to stop thinking of him as a substitute and that he was a real teacher and that he was going to hold them to real expectations, Wyatt stared at one of the five new motivational posters surrounding them. Re-decorating the room pretty much cemented the fact that Mrs. Elliot wasn’t coming back until her new baby was stuck in high school, too. This poster had the fortune cookie saying One Person Can Change The World over a circle of ripples spreading from the center of a still body of water. The photo made it seem like the ripples would go on forever. Something about it felt wrong.
            “…annual President Lincoln book reports.” Mr. Guzman had changed topics, and Wyatt shook his head as he tuned back in.
“This year you’ll do those reports as a series of blog posts on your very own blogs!” He said it like it was something they should be excited about. “The student with the most traffic to their blog by February twelfth will not only get an automatic ‘A,’ but, as the 9th grade Lincoln book report winner, they’ll have a place of honor in the upcoming parade as 9th Grade Grand Marshal!”
It was a cool prize – like being a celebrity for a day – but no one in the room was willing to admit they wanted it.
Even with his Mom organizing the parade for the last two years, Wyatt didn’t get to be in it. Jonathon and his sister rode along with their parents since their mom was voted Mayor back in sixth grade, but the rest of them hadn’t been in their town’s Lincoln’s Birthday/Valentine’s Day Parade since they were little kids riding with Tykes on Bikes.
Wyatt did notice Mackenzie had sat up straighter. He figured she was thinking 9th Grade Grand Marshal would sound good on her college applications. She was all dressed up again, this time in some lichen-green shirt with a bow on it like a lawyer on one of those T.V. shows. He missed the big Ivy League sweatshirts. He missed them just being friends.
 Mr. Guzman peered sideways at them. “Did I mention the hundred dollar cash prize, donated by Rails Realty?” The room exploded in excitement.
Wyatt thought that could buy a pretty nice pair of sneakers. New ones, not from the thrift store.
When he could talk loud enough to be heard again, Mr. Guzman continued. “For your first blog post – which must be online by six a.m. Monday when I’ll read them – you’ll each share your first impression of President Lincoln from your book. Over the course of the subsequent weeks and posts, you’ll dig deeper into your primary source material, develop a thesis, and go about proving it. To accomplish this, of course, each of you will need a book on Lincoln.” Mr. Guzman stood up. “And to that end, we’re off to the library.”
“Now?” The word was out of Wyatt’s mouth before he could edit himself. The only time they went to the library was their once-a-month field trip when no one really checked anything out anyway. They’d never gone in the middle of a class before.
“You’re such a dweeb, Yarrow!” Jonathon imitated a little girl’s voice, “Oh, no! I’m going to miss some precious learning!” He cracked up, like he was a comedian with his own talk show on T.V. Everyone laughed along with him.
Wyatt’s face blazed heat. He squeezed his pencil between his thumb and fingers so hard he imagined crushing the space between the molecules of wood and lead and turning the whole thing into a diamond. A diamond pencil would be pretty cool. I could sell it, and go to some private boarding school in a city somewhere. And never have to see these idiots again.
With a frown, Mr. Guzman waved the class quieter. “Now.”
Jonathon shouted his question, “Can we drive, if we have awesome rides?” He back-handed Charlie on the shoulder. His fart-catcher smirked, full of their superiority – Jonathon was the only Freshman in their whole school old enough to drive.
“No, Mr. Rails. In loco parentis means we’re walking. All of us. One big, happy family.”
Chairs scraped the floor as everyone got up for the sudden walking-into-town field trip and it hit Wyatt – the problem with the poster. Life wasn’t some still body of water, where you could make a ripple that changed everything. It was more like a white water river. With sharks. You were so busy swimming for your life, any ripples… didn’t have a chance.

* *

After his latest humiliation, Wyatt didn’t feel like talking. And once Mackenzie informed him, making it sound like Mr. Guzman had made a mistake, that In Loco Parentis actually meant ‘in the place of a parent,’ she was silent, too. They walked together, though.
With the trees lining both sides of Route 37, Wyatt could almost remember what it felt like when they were just best friends. But now, everything was different. The class trailed behind them as they followed Jennie and Mr. Guzman on the sidewalk. Mackenzie wore her backpack, but Wyatt carried his in both hands. It wasn’t that heavy, but this way he didn’t need to deal with figuring out what to do if Mackenzie tried to hold his hand.
Jennie answered their new teacher’s question about the best donuts in town (Sandee’s Liquor and Candy Mart, hands down), and they crossed under the covered bridge with its sign,

Welcome to Lincolnville – Real America

Ten minutes later, the age-old riddle of what do you get when you take 35 Ninth Graders to a public library in the middle of the school day? was answered: Chaos.
“Please have your library card ready!” Mr. Guzman tried to control things, but he sounded like he was about to lose his voice. “Once you get your Lincoln book, head out to the steps and you can start reading before we all head back!”
Wyatt straggled behind the team guys, not wanting to get called out for being too into it. One advantage of having a last name starting with “Y” was that no one ever complained if he was at the end of the line.
“So, whadda ya think? Mud Flaps?” Jonathon was four guys ahead of him.
 “The kind with the naked girl silhouettes with the pointy tits?” Charlie sniggered. “Becca would kill you!”
Jonathon shook his head. “The only reason I’m not going to punch you for saying something as girly as ‘silhouettes’ is because you used it in a sentence with ‘tits.’”
“That’s big of you.” Wyatt said to himself.
“I’m bigger than you!” Jonathon shot back.
He heard that? Oh, man.
Wyatt looked away. Where was Mackenzie?
Jonathon said to Charlie, loud enough for the whole library to hear, “Does that guy even have any balls?”
Wyatt spotted her. Mackenzie already had her book, but something had pissed her off – she was all waving arms at Mr. Guzman. She clomped over to Wyatt in his mom’s knee-high black boots. His mom and his girlfriend sharing shoes was something that was going to take some getting used to.
“They’re not even letting us choose!” She showed Wyatt proof of the injustice: her book had an oval cover photo of Lincoln and his son reading together, under the title, Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Family Life. She made a face. “I wanted something important. Not a bunch of ‘how are the children?’ love letters!”
            Wyatt wanted to commiserate, but was hyper-aware Jonathon was tracking every word. “How many pages is it?”
Mackenzie rolled her eyes. “That’s such a guy question.”
Wyatt shrugged. “I’m a guy. Sue me.”
She flipped to the end. “One hundred and twenty-four. And the type is huge!” With a growl that made Wyatt grin – there was the old Mackenzie! – she shoved the book in her backpack.
“Hey, Mackenzie.” Jonathon said, all smooth. They must have switched places with Tai and Miguel because now he and Charlie were right in front of Wyatt. It put Wyatt even more on edge. And was Jonathon checking Mackenzie out?
“Once again!” Mr. Guzman called out, “If you have received your book, you should be outside, reading!”
“Hi,” she answered Jonathon, then focused back on Wyatt. “Here,” she pressed a square of folded paper into Wyatt’s hand. “I better go…  See you out there.”
“Sure.” Wyatt wove his fingers through hers, holding her a moment. He was pretty sure she wouldn’t try to kiss him with all the people around, and he wanted to make sure Jonathon saw them connect.
She smiled down at the library’s worn shag carpet. She might have even blushed, but with her makeup, Wyatt couldn’t tell. With a squeeze to his hand, Mackenzie headed out, all glowy.
Wyatt unfolded the note. She had drawn their initials across lined paper. M & W in a 3-D cartoon heart. Wyatt’s throat tightened. I’m such a jerk.
“Whatcha got there, freak?” Jonathon was trying to see over Wyatt’s shoulder, so Wyatt shifted back to acting-mode and showed him. He gave Jonathon a Got that? She’s mine look.
Jonathon turned to Charlie. “I feel sorry for her. Dating a guy with mosquito balls.”
They burst out laughing, and once started, couldn’t seem to stop.
“Mosquito balls!” Charlie howled.
Wyatt pretended he didn’t notice, but he could feel his face get hot, like sunburn. Welts and boils. Puss oozing down his cheeks. Fourth-degree life-threatening sunburn. He made like the books on the shelves were suddenly interesting. Really interesting.
Everything would be so much easier if I really did love Mackenzie that way.
The line crept forward. Twenty-five kids left. They passed the teen shelves, the handful of books Wyatt was never going to check out. Nobody ever checked them out.
Boy Meets Boy.
Rainbow Boys.
Absolutely, Positively Not.
            Over Thanksgiving Break Wyatt had tried to grab Absolutely… He’d hidden it inside this giant soccer bio The Great Dens and tried to read it in the far back by the parking lot window. He’d even shelved it in-between these ancient issues of Ladies Home Journal, whatever the heck that was, so he could grab it the next time to keep reading about Steven and his secret – he square danced with his mother – and his other secret… To cover his tracks, Wyatt had even checked out Pete Schmeichel’s bio. But when he’d come back to read more, Absolutely… was gone.
            He didn’t have the nerve to try again.
            Wyatt tried to not stare at the books, but he was jumpy, like they might throw themselves out at him and ruin everything. Jonathon and Charlie were right next to him. Real guys don’t ache to read stuff like that. So I won’t.
            Fifteen kids left ahead of him. Six.
            Mr. Guzman came up to them. “We needed to start back two minutes ago. Get your books, and hustle up to join us. Can I trust you gentlemen?” They all bobbed their heads yes. Mr. Guzman looked at each of them in turn. He gave a nod, and then took long strides out the door.
Wyatt heard Mr. Guzman call, “Okay, just a few more students to go, so let’s start heading back. Miss Miller, lead the way!”
            When they were the last three in line, Jonathon asked the librarian, “You got anything short?”
            Mr. Clifton, who was Wyatt’s dad’s age but dressed like an old man even when the two of them went bowling, jerked his head up in surprise. Jonathon gave him his teeth-whitening brochure grin, all Recognize me? I’m the Mayor’s son, and you owe me. After all, there used to be six librarians in their town, but last summer Mayor Rails closed all the school libraries as a cost-saving measure and all the books came here. So now there was just Mr. Clifton.
            Their town librarian reached for the smaller of the two books left. Of course. He knew who Jonathon was, all right.
            Jonathon squinted at the title, “You’ve got to be kidding me. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates? Boooring!”
            “I have some encyclopedia-length sets I was saving for the upper-classmen, if you would prefer…”
            Jonathon put up a muscle-veined hand and grumbled, “I’ll make this work.” On his way out, he lowered his voice so just Wyatt could hear, “You better make sure my grade’s better than yours on this… If you know what’s good for you, Mosquito-Ball Boy.”
            Wyatt didn’t say anything. You don’t provoke a shark.
            Charlie got his book next. Jogging over to where Jonathan was waiting by the door, he tossed it up in the air while he spun around and almost dropped it.
            “Nice move, twinkle-toes.” Jonathon teased.
            Charlie shot back, “Bitch, shut up!”
            Mr. Clifton scolded them, all uptight. “Please respect library property!”
            They ignored him.
            Charlie clapped Jonathon on the shoulder. “Let’s blow this dump.”
            They headed out, pausing in the patch of sun on the stone landing. Jonathon nudged Charlie, “Hey, let’s stop at Sandee’s. Guzman practically gave us a late pass!”
Hooting, they ran down the steps.
Mr. Clifton and Wyatt both let out a sigh. The librarian chuckled, and Wyatt turned back to him.
            “You the last one, Wyatt?” He glanced around for stragglers. There weren’t any.
            “Looks like it.” Wyatt handed him his library card.
            “That was my last ninth grade book.” Mr. Clifton gestured to the counter. The pile he’d been pulling from was gone.
            “You mean I get out of this?”
            “Hardly.” He sounded amused as he ran the scanner’s red light over Wyatt’s card. “But there is a title I thought you might enjoy.” From somewhere under the counter he fished out a book. It was thin, with a worn brown cover. It seemed old, like something Wyatt’s dad would read to fix the hot water faucet in the third floor bathroom, which was still dripping after he’d ‘fixed’ it the first two times.
            Mr. Clifton scanned the book’s bar code and handed it and Wyatt’s card over.
            Wyatt read the title. “Joshua Fry Speed?” He looked up at the librarian. “That doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t even about Lincoln.”
            The skin around Mr. Clifton’s eyes crinkled, like he knew something Wyatt didn’t. “You never know where a book might take you.”

* *

            “You keep talking about the payment deadlines we missed, but shouldn’t we get some credit for sending in January’s early? If you count that, we made ten out of the last twelve!” The panic in his dad’s voice stopped Wyatt just before the kitchen doorway. His dad was on the phone, and while Wyatt wasn’t an eavesdropper, he was hungry. Maybe he’d just wait.
            “The Richardson wedding really helped – and they said they had friends who were planning an April wedding that might… Okay – I’m listening.” A few seconds later, his dad blurted out, “Benny, you know we’re good for it! Liz works for the mayor, for God’s sake, and that’s a solid income!” His dad’s voice dropped. “Business will pick up, I know it.”
            Wyatt was thinking maybe he should go up to his room after all, but he didn’t move.
            “I know I’ve been saying that for years. Come on…”
            Wyatt and his dad were both silent for nearly a whole minute.
            “I hear you. Last chance, I promise. Thanks.” His dad hung up, and Wyatt counted to ten before heading in.
            Making sure to keep his voice light, like he hadn’t heard any of it, Wyatt said, “Hey, Dad.”
            Reading glasses on top of his head, his dad jerked away, but not before Wyatt could see that his eyes were all red. Wyatt took his time staring at the bulk-case yogurt packs in the fridge.
            “How’d your day go?” His dad asked, voice still raw.
            Wyatt kept his back turned, but he could see his dad in his mind: He was 48 years old, ran a failing business, was always stressed about money, and spent most of his time lost in history. He would never understand. So all Wyatt said was, “Fine.”
Wyatt grabbed a mango yogurt, peeled off the top and snagged a spoon.
            “Don’t ruin your dinner.” His dad said, sounding nearly back to normal.
            Mouth full, Wyatt grunted that he heard him. He headed to the stairs but his dad pushed out the chair next to him. “We need to talk.”
            All the muscles in Wyatt’s shoulders tensed up. Not much good ever followed those words. He swiveled slowly. His dad pointed to the spot next to him at the American Pine and Poplar Farm Table. 1820s. Kentucky.
            Wyatt sat down, wary, staring at the upside-down pile of bank documents in front of them. He didn’t want to hear about his dad’s argument with the guy at the bank. Were they going to lose the B&B? Where would they move? Wyatt squished down his questions and waited, the yogurt all of a suddenly violently sweet on his tongue.
            “So,” his dad said. “Are you being careful? You know, with Mackenzie?”
            With her feelings? Wyatt resisted the wave of guilt that threatened to swamp him.
            “I mean, you’re using… protection, right?”
            “Your first girlfriend, you must be in a rush to try everything, but–”
            “…But you need to be smart.”
            “I don’t want to be having this conversation!”
            “I don’t want to be changing your kid’s diaper while you’re still a Freshman in High School!”
            Wyatt couldn’t help but smile. “Babies take nine months. I’d be a Sophomore.”
            His dad brandished his reading glasses. “Don’t get funny with me! This is serious!”
            Wyatt met his dad’s eye – on this, he could be totally honest. “Dad, I promise. You have nothing to worry about.”
            “Why? How far did she let you get?”
            “I’m not having this conversation!” Wyatt leapt up and ran to the stairs.
            “Wyatt!” His dad called after him. “We haven’t even talked about S.T.D.s!”

* *

* *

Chapter Four Endnotes

The books I imagine Mr. Clifton gives our three main characters are: for Mackenzie, Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Family Life by David Herbert Donald, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1999; for Jonathon, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Edited by Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson, The Knox College Lincoln Studies Center, University of Illinois Press, 2008; and for Wyatt, of course, Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend.

* *

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