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Cannonball Read V: American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics by Dan Savage

By Lollygagger | Book Reviews | August 29, 2013 | Comments ()


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American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics is the best memoir-style book I’ve read this year, and probably ever. It’s a mix of very personal and very political stories used to discuss issues like gay rights, same sex marriage, religion, death with dignity and feminism. It made me tear up twice, and had both me and my husband laughing, shouting and really thinking about the points being made.

Instead of reading the rest of my review you should just open a new tab (or run to your local independent book store) and purchase it.

Okay, have you done that? Awesome.

What, two sentences isn’t enough for you? Fine. If you still need some convincing, read on.

My husband and I listened to the audio version (read by the fantastic Mr. Savage himself) while driving across Scotland and Ireland on our honeymoon. Given how much time is spent on the Catholic Church and the conservative Christian fight against civil marriage rights, it seemed both appropriate and a little naughty. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Savage’s work, he’s been a sex columnist for the Stranger for years, and hosts a great weekly sex advice podcast (look up Savage Love - it’s wonderful). He is also one of the great minds behind Hump, the amateur porn film festival held in Seattle, Olympia and Portland each fall. He is an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, and, probably most importantly to so many, he and his husband founded the It Gets Better Project, which brings words of hope and comfort to LGBT kids around the world. If you’re not familiar with the It Gets Better Project, get yourself to the internet .

With chapter headings ranging from “At a Loss” to “Bigot Christmas”, Mr. Savage addresses the death of his mother, the fight against anti-gay hate groups, and some simple rules for when cheating might actually be okay. It’s made even more interesting set against the backdrop of his Catholic upbringing. He makes extremely well-reasoned arguments, addressing issues that so many are passionate about with logic and determination. Yes, I agree with him on most everything, but wow, I can’t imagine how those who disagree with him could even begin to logically address most of his points. They are just that good.

In only one part did I find myself somewhat disagreeing with Mr. Savage, and that was a point in his Straight Pride Parade (e.g. Halloween) discussion. I won’t go into detail here, but he and I differ on whether the teeny tiny costume for women thing is a problem. I think his argument (that it isn’t) was mostly fought against a straw man. I support women making the choice of what to wear, and I do agree that too many people judge that choice. However, I thought that he failed to address the expectation that is created around that, and how when the only choices out there are sexy nurse, not only does that create some messed up expectations for women, but for what men expect to see. That’s not the worst issue to disagree on, and I think reasonable people can. But since I fawned over pretty much everything else I thought I should sneak this point of disagreement in there.

Finally, a warning: the book is filled with honest language that can be extremely foul at time. I certainly didn’t mind it, and found that his way of writing sounds extremely natural, but I know some people cringe when they hear someone say “suck my dick.” So, there you go. Mr. Savage is also clearly very progressive so the conservatives among you are likely not going to like the book - although you might find it interesting to see how his ‘side’ views things.

Now. Go get the book. Please!

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of Lollygagger’s reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links
in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Sirilicious

    Your review makes me want to try this book. I have heard that he is (was?) very sceptical of the existence of bisexuality, so that has tempered my enthusiasm about him. I very much believe that homosexuality is a "born this way" thing, but i have trouble with a guy who believes homosexualtiy is in the genes, but bisexuality is a choice/escape from full on homosexuality.

  • Sami

    I think a lot of his scepticism was voiced when discussing the bi-to-gay transition that a lot of men go through. Honestly, I've heard a few podcasts where he's discussed the scientific data behind bisexuality and been a proponent of it's existence.

    Not that everything he's said on it has been fair. But I do think that contextually, the bi-to-gay male transition is a very real thing (I saw my own brother go through it for years, as do many gay men).

    While erasure is huge for the bi community and he didn't exactly do his part in highlighting it for quite some time, I do think some of the criticism against his bi-blinds has been a lot of half-quoted text.

  • Sirilicious

    Thanks. Seeing how man/woman, penis/vagina and xx/xy aren't binaries, you'd think people would start from the assumption that gay/straight isn't either, until proven otherwise.

  • Lollygagger9

    I'm glad the review was somewhat persuasive. I'd echo what others have said - he made some pretty problematic statements about bi and trans folk in the past but says he has come around and I believe him, although some in the trans community especially are not fond of him. At this point I think some of that is probably not believing he has changed or not forgiving past statements and that's their call. But I do still think his latest writing is really worth reading. I'd check out the books of his first to get a feel, then read his column or listen to a podcast to see if you like his more straightforward sex advice stuff. The worst that will happen is you'll learn it isn't for you, the best is you'll have found something new you like!

  • Sirilicious

    I put it on my to-read list. :o)

  • e jerry powell

    He's "evolving" on a lot of issues, and I think a lot of the criticism he receives is from people who don't actually read all of what he says -- if they read anything that he says at all.

    I'm not a Savage apologist; I tend to rail at him for his inconsistencies and his ego involvement with some of his causes, but I think that more people could give him the benefit of the doubt than currently do.

  • Sirilicious

    Extrapolation: He is coming around on the bisexuality issue and he is worth listening to?

  • e jerry powell

    I don't know if I'd go that far. He's coming around on the bisexual issue, but I gave up on the podcast several months ago, because of that ego involvement thing.

    When he takes the attitude that he is The Voice of Gay America, it chaps my ass more than a little.

  • Sirilicious

    So, i guess it comes down to trusting M. Tonin or M. Powell.

    ;o)

  • e jerry powell

    It won't hurt you to listen or read at all
    ;-D

  • Sara_Tonin00

    (sidebar: I'm not a fan of the sexy costumes either, but I also think that pretty much only lame people purchase their costumes)

    Dan Savage *is* a national treasure. I've read his lighter Skipping Towards Gomorrah and it was pretty funny (pair with Peter Sagal's Vice as the perfect gift for the intellectual hedonist you love). He is smart and opinionated, and gives you a lot to think about.

    Funny story: one night I couldn't fall alseep, so decided to try his podcast. It was too entertaining to fall asleep. I heard my roommate get up to go to the bathroom. And then I heard her start chuckling from the living room, and just stay there, listening. At 2 in the morning. *That's* how good he is.

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