The Music of Sin Against the Race: A Spotify Playlist

I created a Spotify playlist of the music associated with my novel Sin Against the Race. As I’ve written previously, and as those who have read the novel can attest, I reference a lot of music. It became, in effect, a character in the book. Tunes I listened to while writing and editing ended up becoming a part of the story. Most of the music in the book takes place in Sammy Turner’s corner grocery store, the neighborhood hangout for the book’s LGBTQ denizens. Indeed, Sammy is a semi-retired jazz musician. Thus, most of the music is jazz, though there are some variations on the theme.

In most cases, I reference songs by title in the book and these appear on the list. In a few cases, I just mention an artist by name–for the playlist, I added a representative tune. I found nearly everything. However, there are some unfortunate omissions, tunes not available on Spotify. These include “Alleybird” by Anton Schwartz and “Watching You Watching Me” by Mary Stallings. But you’ll still be able to get a feel for the music that went through my head as I wrote the novel by listening to this extensive playlist.

Warning: a few tracks (Miles Davis) go long!



Black Gay Bookstagram for Pride Month

This month, I’m curating a series of photos of books by and about black gay men on Instagram. We have a long, rich history of telling our stories. Sadly, much of it remains hidden just beneath the surface. Even today, one learns about these jewels by word of mouth.

Sometimes, folks ask me if I’ll continue writing stories involving black queer folks. My answer: yes. I won’t rest until black queers of all genders and orientations are part of the tapestry we call America, until our stories stand next to other literary giants. Because our stories are an integral part of America’s story.

I started this Bookstagram campaign with a classic: In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology. Edited by Joseph Beam and published by Alyson Publications in 1986, it quickly became the standard bearer for black queer righteousness. From the back cover:

Editor Joseph Beam, who died of AIDS-related causes on December 27, 1988, began collecting this material after years of frustration with gay literature that had no message for–and little mention of–Black gay men.

Joseph Beam

We lost many literary heroes to AIDS. How many from the anthology fell to that disease? (Answer: Too Many.) But today, we continue to pay homage to their voices by shouting and screaming with our own righteousness.

To paraphrase the classic line from Joe Beam, we continue to come home with our head held up high.

In the Life holds a special place in my heart. I came out 30 years ago, just a few years after this book dropped. Filled with wonder about my newly acknowledged identity, I traveled to A Different Light Bookstore in Silver Lake. I found the anthology and quickly purchased it. Coincidentally, my friend Carolyn also gave me a copy after she learned of my coming out. The book helped me to find my voice. And it proved to me that no, I’m not alone. Its importance to my own, personal history made it the obvious choice for me to start my Bookstagram series with.

Follow me on Instagram as I Bookstagram classics from yesterday and today all month.

Happy Pride! 🏳️‍🌈

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm by Hans M. Hirschi

Cover design by Natasha Snow

My friend Hans M. Hirschi’s 12th novel will drop on May 21, 2018: Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm. Here is a synopsis:

Martin is eighty-four years old, a Korean War veteran, living quietly in a retirement home in upstate New York. His days are ruled by the routine of the staff. In his thoughts and dreams, Martin often returns to the Seoul of his youth, and the lost true love of his life.

Two close friends urge him to travel back to search for that love. What awaits Martin in Korea, more than six decades after he left the country on a troop transport back to the U.S.?

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a story of friendship, love, and family, in all its many shapes, across time, generations and cultures.

It is already receiving interest in the writing community:

I can reassure those who know Mr. Hirschi as the Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings. He’s done it again.
This book, perhaps the most romantic of the books I’ve read so far by this author, in my opinion, is about a love story that has survived incredible odds and lasted almost a whole lifetime.

Although the story of elderly men or women trying to find a lost love is not new, I enjoyed Martin’s process of discovery and his coming into his own. I love the comradery and the way the three men helped each other, with Eugene playing the fairy godmother and facilitating the trip, Kevin providing the technical and hands-on know-how, and Martin confronting his fears to become the hero he was meant to be. This is a novel about friendship, about history, about love, and about hope. We should never lose our hope and dreams.

A gorgeous cover, for a truly romantic book that goes beyond the standard love story and includes an ensemble of characters you’ll feel sorry to say goodbye to.
Olga Núñez Miret
Author & Reviewer

Author photo by Alina Oswald

Hans M Hirschi has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years. A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world extensively and published a couple of non- fictional titles on learning and management.

The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to once again unleash his creative writing, writing feel-good stories you’ll remember.

Having little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he simply indulges it and goes with the flow. However, the deep passion for a better world, for love and tolerance are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work.

Hans lives with his husband, son, and pets on a small island off the west coast of Sweden.

Click on the banner below for more info, including a book video.

Banner by Natasha Snow


Tiffany Austin Birthday Concert: A Review

Tiffany Austin and her band at the Sound Room, Oakland.

I’ve heard Bay Area-based singer Tiffany Austin several times. She frequently returns to her alma mater, Berkeley Law, to perform at the commencement day after party. My work often keeps me from hanging out and listening to her and her band perform.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hearing her perform in a more natural setting, at the Sound Room in Uptown Oakland. A nice intimate venue, I heard Tiffany perform without interruptions or work distractions. As always, she had a top-notch band accompanying her: Adam Shulman on piano, David Ewell on bass, and Leon Joyce, Jr. on drums. Tiffany had just celebrated a birthday a few days before, and like most musicians, she celebrated by doing what she loves best, getting on stage. What a wonderful present for the audience.

Tiffany Austin.

One word characterizes Tiffany’s singing and stage persona: ease. She appeared naturally comfortable with the audience, interacting as if in a room with friends. Then she seamlessly slips into performance mode, demonstrating intimacy with the songs she performs, interpreting them with care, and with great control of her voice.

She started with Abbey Lincoln’s “The Music is the Magic.” It crossed my mind that she sounded a bit like Ella Fitzgerald. She also reminded me of the late, great Minnie Riperton on some of the high notes. The next tune confirmed her Ella state of mind, as she launched into “Night in Tunisia,” basing her interpretation to Ella’s famous version. The scatting was hot, on point.

Tiffany gave generous space to her band, often leaning on the piano and listening to them do their thing. Each brought their own considerable gifts to the show. Mr. Joyce in particularly presented one hot solo after another on the drums. (I couldn’t resist playing “knee tabla” along with him.)

Her Law School performances typically stick to standards, so it was a real treat to hear one of her original compositions. Born from a new relationship that came on the heels of one that ended badly, she sang the appropriately titled “Lost” with freeness in her soul. The lyrics provocatively and joyfully celebrated her ability to fall in love again.

Tai-ge Min.

Another surprise came in the form of a very talented protege who she brought on stage. Tai-ge Min studies singing and drums. At age 14, she demonstrated talent at both, singing another Ella transcription, this time for “In A Mellow Tone.” Then later in the show, she played drums on “Body and Soul.” I particularly admired Tai’s scatting, not an easy art form. But like all good scat-singers, she made it look easy.

Tiffany and her band performed a generous set that covered much territory. It made for a very pleasant late Sunday afternoon. Unbroken, her latest album comes out June 1 and then she goes on tour to support it. Stops include Birdland in New York and SF Jazz. Her star is rising, as well it should. I’m happy to have had a chance to see her in so intimate a space as the Sound Room.

April 4, 1968

It happened six days after my 3rd birthday, so I don’t have memories of the day. But I can picture my mother screaming. I can picture my grandmother also upset. I can picture my father trying to console them, while tears ran down his own face. I can picture my older brothers, in their teens, stunned and confused, hurting. I can picture them worried that a repeat of the Watts Riots would happen again, when armed vehicles went down their residential street, when a bullet lodged into my grandmother’s house, when the local stores could not carry food for several days because the area had turned into a no-man’s land. I can picture them all staring at the little black and white TV, the one with the fake wood paneled exterior on the four legs, the one with the oval-shaped picture tube, in disbelief, dismay, distress. I can picture them all living in a haze for the next few days, weeks, months, years.

I can picture these things because I, too, have experienced similar moments, when the world turned upside. Most recently, with the election of the foul one whose name I try to avoid using, the one who put out a perfunctory video praising Dr. King, but who works day and night to undo everything Dr. King stood for. I screamed the night he was elected, my mother’s scream, my grandmother’s scream. I shed the tears my father shed. That’s how I know how they reacted 50 years ago today. Because we live on the same path. Its windings are known to me.

April 3, 1968. (Charles Kelly/AP)


My standard workout routine runs Sunday through Friday. On weekdays, I get up quite early, usually by 4:30. After shaking away grogginess, I dress in a t-shirt and shorts—sometimes long pants in the winter—then go around the house in the backyard to the rear entrance to the garage. This leads to the basement, a low-ceiling expanse where the washer, dryer, and my workout equipment are located. I have a Bowflex and an elliptical machine.

After I finish my routine, I take the same route back to the main part of the house. During most of the year, when I finish working out, dawn has not occurred yet. Blackness still covers my part of the world. For a long time, this has given me pause. A series of what-if scenarios play uncomfortably through my mind as I emerge from the garage and walk the pathway around the house to the backdoor.

Opposite the back of the house lies a low fence between our property and our neighbor’s on the next street over. One can easily look into her backyard, see the sliding glass door into her house.

What if there’s a police action next door, officers roaming my neighbor’s yard after a break-in or perhaps searching for a runaway suspect?

Some my think my concerns silly. I live in a “good” neighborhood. Police actions are rare, though not unheard of. Once, while working at home, I heard a helicopter circling close overhead. Checking around different websites revealed that the police were searching for a suspect about four blocks from our house. I stayed inside.

Sadly, it doesn’t matter what type of neighborhood one lives in when one is black. Anything can happen. The latest police shooting in Sacramento give tragic justification for my concerns.

Stephon Clark was shot multiple times, with several bullets hitting him in the back according to autopsy reports. He was in his grandmother’s backyard, a place as familiar to him as my backyard is to me. He should have been safe, but was not. Details continue to emerge, and the initial police account does not jibe with the facts. They claim to have felt threatened by Mr. Clark. But how threatening could he be if he had his back to them?

The first report about this latest black man shooting stated that Mr. Clark had a cellphone in his hand, which the police mistook for a gun. I don’t own a gun. I despise them. But I do have my metallic water bottle with me when I work out. I carry it downstairs and have it with me when I emerge.

My water bottle, my backyard.

So now during those moments I feel a pause come over me, an apprehension fed by “what ifs” as I walk through my own backyard, I wonder if my water bottle puts me at greater risk. Does it look like a weapon from a distance, like a gun?

The tragedy of Mr. Clark’s shooting has played out as so many have in the recent past. Details remain sketchy. Video contradict police accounts. In the absence of facts, the victim becomes the subject of suspicion and derision: if he had done this or that, then the police wouldn’t have shot him. That the victim rarely has a gun on his or her person becomes an inconvenient afterthought.

Another “afterthought,” rarely discussed in depth, what happens to the victim’s family? Mr. Clark has two sons, ages 1 and 3. They are now fatherless. Former NBA player Matt Barnes and the Rev. Shane Harris of the National Action Network announced a new scholarship fund to help Mr. Clark’s sons get to college. The fund will also help others who lost a parent to police violence.

No one should feel unsafe walking in their own backyard. We should not have to make such declarations, anymore than we should have to say that black lives matter. But clearly we must. For clearly, too many fail to take the message to heart.

It’s springtime now. The mornings will grow lighter. When I finish my workout, I will emerge from the garage into a backyard bathed in the glow of a new dawn. My appearance, and that of my silvery water bottle, will not hide in the shadows. Perhaps we should put more lighting in that part of the yard for when the days grow short again.

Why should we have to worry about such things?

Reading at Saints and Sinners Literary Festival

This weekend I’m attending, for the first time, the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. In its 15th year, this gathering of LGBTQ writers has become one of the premier events of the queer literary world. Today, I presented on a panel discussing Queer Fiction as Social Commentary with authors Matthew Griffin, Nick White, and Felice Picano, and moderated by Barry McCrea. We had a lively discussion. I learned a lot from this engaging panel of superb authors. I was particularly happy to meet Felice, a legend in the queer lit world.

In the afternoon, I participated in the reading series with Kathleen Archambeau, Peter Gajdics, Mary Griggs, Mercedes Lewis, Jeffrey Round, and Vanda.

What a wonderful experience it has been meeting and getting to know so many amazing writers. I thank my publicist Michele Karlsberg for connecting me with this wonderful event and to Festival organizer Paul J. Willis for scheduling me as a panelist and reader on my very first visit. I look forward to Sunday’s events and will be sorry to see the weekend end. But I’ll be back!

Here is video of my reading. I read excerpts from Sin Against the Race. Enjoy!

Boom – Homegrown Terrorists Are a Problem

Mark Anthony Conditt, deceased terrorist.


March 2, 2018, Austin, Texas. A package bomb went off at the home of Anthony Stephan House, killing him.


March 12, 2018, Austin, Texas. A package bomb killed Draylen Mason, a 17 year-old, and injured his mother.


On the same day, another bomb went off at a different address, injuring Esperanza Herrera, a 75 year-old visiting her aged mother.


March 18, 2018, Austin, Texas. Two young men, one 22, the other 23, tripped a wire and set off a bomb rigged on the side of a road near a “for sale” sign. Both were seriously injured.


After the fourth bomb attack, mainstream media finally caught on that the victims were mostly black and Hispanic. Black news sources noted this much earlier.


March 20, 2018, Schertz, Texas. A package bomb went off at a Fed Ex facility, injuring one employee. The bomb was addressed to someone in Austin. A second bomb at another Fed Ex facility, in Austin, Texas, was discovered and deactivated.


Police identified the bomber as Mark Anthony Conditt, a white male who wrote a screed in junior college wherein he declares his hatred of gays and abortions and where he also states that the government should get rid of sex offender registries.


The picture of Conditt smiling makes him look angelic, sweet.


News agencies refrain from calling him a terrorist.


Trayvon Martin was disrespected after his death, called a thug who got what he deserved by bigots and a young man who was not angelic by those deemed “more objective.” Both site his photos of marijuana, guns, and flipping the bird as examples of his supposed less-than-angelic nature. Or thuggery.


Trayvon Martin wanted to become a pilot and go to college to study aeronautics, a fact that only came to light after his killer was acquitted.


May, 2017. Florida University awarded Trayvon a posthumous degree in aeronautical science at the time he would have graduated had he not been brutally murdered.


June 17, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof sat in a bible study class at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He then stood and shot nine worshipers in cold blood. He spared the 10th so that she could tell the world what happened.


The police arrested Dylann Roof soon after the killings. They took him to Burger King on the way to jail. He was hungry.


April 12, 2015, Baltimore, Maryland. Police arrest Freddie Gray for allegedly having a switchblade on him that was illegal in Baltimore. They loaded him into a police van. They did not ask if he was hungry or wanted to go to Burger King.


Freddie Gray sustained injuries to his spine during his ride in the back of the police van. He fell into a coma then died seven days later.


February 14, 2018, Parkland, Florida. Nikolas Cruz goes into Stoneman Douglas High School and starts shooting. In the end, he murders 17 people, 13 students and 4 adults.


The media avoid calling Cruz a terrorist. Or a thug. Cruz is white.


Many say that Cruz has mental health issues.


But it is also known that Cruz wrote about killing Mexicans, black, and gays privately on Instagram.


He’s still not referred to as a terrorist.


November 8, 2016. The United States elected a known bigot (They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.) President of the United States. He has no political experience. He has no military experience because he received a series of deferments during Vietnam for bone spurs.


The man elected president appointed to his inner circle known bigots and extremists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.


Stephen Miller grew up in liberal Santa Monica, California with liberal parents, but developed a great dislike for Mexicans and blacks. He reportedly unfriended someone (not on Facebook, but in real life) because he’s of Mexican heritage.


We’re going to continue having terror campaigns targeting people of color, LGBTQ people, and women in this country so long as we have an Executive Branch composed of bigots.


Being white does not absolve people from being terrorists.


Don’t ask black people why they have rage. If you have to ask, you are not paying attention.


A group of teens, survivors from the Douglas High School shooting, are leading efforts to end gun violence. They are called every name in the book and are targeted by the NRA. To date, thousands of students across the nation are heeding their call and demanding an end to weapons of mass destruction on American streets and in their schools.


The Parkland teens give me hope. They acknowledge that black kids have tried to warn the country about gun violence for years. I can’t wait until all of these kids, the Parkland activists and the Black Lives Matter activists, run the country.


Black Panther Power

My husband, our friend, and I had dinner at a Thai restaurant just around the corner from the theater. Across the room from us sat a group of about 10 African-Americans, ranging in age from youngster to auntie. Most wore beautiful prints of African origin. Some of the men wore hats.

We smiled. No need guessing where they were going after dinner. I wish I could have taken a picture of them. They looked so beautiful. Beyond their outfits, their demeanor carried purpose and pride. Folks don’t normally get that dolled up to see a movie. Wakanda had already cast its spell.

When was the last time I stood in a long, long line waiting to get into a movie house? I can’t recall. None of the recent blockbusters — Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the like — trigger that memory. I think I have to go way back, to the original Star Wars trilogy of the late 70s and early 80s. Or maybe to the very first Star Trek movie in 1979. In any case, it had been a while.

But there we stood, on Grand Avenue. We all braved the weather, clustered as close to the building as possible to guard against the cool breezes. Our friend had left the Thai place a bit early to secure a spot for us. We got lucky. We stood only a couple doors down from the theater. I tried to look at how far the line stretched down the block, but couldn’t. I’m sure it reached the parking lot about a good 400 feet away.

Color filled the line as it had the restaurant: beautiful, billowing dresses, dashiki, amazing hair, spirited talk and laughter, giggles, selfies.

High excitement ensued when we started to move. Despite the colorful chaos in the lobby and entering the theater, we found good seats rather easily. I heard that mall cineplexes held equally animated crowds, but for Oaklanders, there is only one place to see an epic like Black Panther: The Grand Lake. The director himself, Ryan Coogler, an Oakland native, had come to the Grand Lake and surprised the crowd a few nights earlier. The old movie house still knows how to throw down the magic.

When the movie started, all became serious. No distractions. We lived the movie with laughing, cheering, and gasping. I loved the older black lady behind us who said “That’s right!” whenever someone on screen referenced their ancestors. I wonder when was the last time many of the aunties and uncles came out for a superhero movie?

My short critique: I loved it. I had feared that the story would depict Wakanda and its ruler T’Challa, aka Black Panther, fighting off racist colonialists trying to takeover the magical kingdom and strip it of its scientific secrets. In other words, I feared it would depict a world too close to our own, where a white man rose to power to undo all that his black predecessor had created.

But there was none of that. Indeed, throughout the movie white people were unimportant. Instead the story focusses on conflicts within Wakanda itself. By extension, the story addresses issues relevant to African-Americans and Africans. Mainstream movies don’t normally do this, unless they deal with slavery or the Civil Rights Movement. For a superhero film to take this approach is nothing short of revolutionary.

I think we were hungry for Black Panther. We need Wakanda. How happy I am that we entered its realm.