An intellectually stimulating read where the author blends fact and fiction to throw light on some interesting early-20th-century sexuality research findings. (Image: DC)
The cover of this unputdownable book shows a cunning hyena stepping out of the darkness. Award-winning American author Justin Torress’s intellectual brilliance and meticulous writing shine in Blackout. The author very cleverly fictionalizes the findings and biography of early 20th-century sex researcher Jan Gay with a modern-day twist between the pages. There is very little known about Jan Gay (1902-1960). She was a German-born American journalist, activist, translator, writer, lesbian, and sexual scientist. She had done extensive research and interviewed several lesbian and queer folks, but her research was stolen from her and credited to somebody else. In fact, there were reports that it was used against her.
After flooding his apartment by mistake, the young narrator in Torres’s book moves out of his house and accidentally runs into an old dying man (Juan Gay), who lives by himself in a place called the ‘Palace’ in the desert. Juan and the narrator had met once when the youngster was a teenager.
The two candidly talk about their sexual encounters and exploits. They also share details about their respective families and loved ones. One day, while sifting through the dying man’s scattered belongings, the young narrator comes across a copy of Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns.
Torres’s book takes the reader through hidden queer history. His writing meanders between fact and fiction seamlessly. The author uses illustrations, historical records, testimonies, and some sepia-tone photos of people who were interviewed or those who shared interesting anecdotes with Jan.
Blackout throws light on several issues and invaluable findings on human behaviour, sex, sexuality, and sexual history -- subjects that were shoved beneath the carpet for a long time.