Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer
The Way Out by Christopher L Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr
Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low
Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman
The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine
The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther
The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak
Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano
The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Occam’s Razor by David Duncan
Grace and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso
The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
"Lastly, I want to encourage those of you who, although you might think that this story sounds wonderful, are afraid to read it. It is true that this story is far from a typical story in the M/M genre, but the two essential things that make up a romance are present here: a sweeping love story and a HEA [Happy Ever After]. Yes, I admit I cried several times while reading this, often in frustration and sometimes with joy. I won’t say that it was an easy story to read, because it isn’t. I often had to put this book down and take it up later. But that was the key: I always wanted to pick it back up. And more than anything, I felt like I took a journey with the characters and they became my friends. What more can you ask for in a book?"
by Blondie at Rainbow-reviews.com:
"What can I say about this book. It was AWESOME. I felt like I was there among the Dine, in the Sweat Lodge, in Santa Fe watching Joelle sing. I could see the mountains and feel the hot air and all the glory of the Southwest. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction with gay characters in it. I'd give this book 10 stars if I could, but definitely 5 stars."
by "Betty Conley"
Two Spirits: A Story
of Life With the Navajo
Williams and Johnson's TWO SPIRITS is a very important work with far reaching social significance. TWO SPIRITS is a highly recommended five star read.
RFD, Winter 2006-07
Lambda Book Report
BY THOM NICKELS
Novels are generally written by one author, but Two Spirits: A Story of Life with tlte Navajo, is co-authored by Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson. Williams. of course. is known for his classic overview of Native American sexuality. The Spirit and the Flesh, a must-read for anyone interested in American (sexual) history or Native American life. In that work Williams explains the dynamics and the ways of the berdache, or the Two Spirited-third gendered male. usually gay, who would often dress as a member of the opposite sex, take a husband or wife (Two Spirited persons were male or female) and live among the tribe as a shaman or holy per-son. As a link between male and female. such persons were thought to have the ability to tap into mystical realms. and to create power-ful influences among the tribe.
Toby Johnson, the author of a number of spiritual books and former editor of White Crane Journal, a gay men's journal of spiritu-ality, is a logical choice to team with Williams. Being on the same page spiritually would indeed be a prerequisite for such a venture.
The novel follows the adventures of Will, a young son-of-a--preacher man who runs away from home after his father discovers him in the arms of his best friend, circa 1868, in—as it turns out—-a not so secret hayloft in the family barn.
Will runs away from home because he fears for his life and be-cause his preacher father (a 19th century version of the Religious Right) seeks to make an example of him before the congregation. Will feels that his father will hang him although at one point he contemplates hanging himself. He alters course when he runs to a family friend, an older unmarried man and
Walt Whitman devotee, who lectures him on the value of people who are "different." Although homosexuality or same sex attrac-tion is never mentioned per se. the old man talks to Will about the love of comrades, and Will. if only subliminally, gets the message. The old man also suggests that WiIl leave home immediately for Washington D.C. to see a friend of his in the government who might be able to get him a job.
This promise of employment is the springboard for Will's new life, and he ven-tures forth into the bureaucratic labyrinths of Washington D.C. where his introduction pays off. The old man's network of "secret comrade friends" helps the young man ob-tain the dangerous yet exciting job as an
Indian Agent. What follows is the story of how young Will travels to the displaced homeland of the Navajo people (who yearn for their original home in New Mexico) and how he slowly integrates himself into their community.
On the reservation Will encounters top military brass hostile to Native American interests; indeed, all the standard anti-Indian prejudices of the day are in full bloom there. Complicating matters, Will meets the Navajo Two Spirit, Hasbaa, and begins a personal odyssey of self discovery. His fascination for Hasbaa leads eventual-ly to a consummated love relationship or marriage within the tribe that has dire consequences for Will both personally and profession-ally.
The authors' acute eye for historical detail and fact make this a historical novel worth reading. This combination adventure story. history lesson, and love story/soap opera are as compelling as the early novels of Herman Hesse. While the straightforward narrative can sometimes have a "young adult" feel, the book is a page turner nonetheless, even if the grafting of erotic sequences and history lessons sometimes have the feel of self conscious constructions.
In the description of Will's making love to a Two Spirit Mexican before making his commitment to Hasbaa. we read:
As his kiss deepened, everything went out of Will's mind. He felt himself go all to jelly as his muscles began to move on their own as by reflex. His testicles contracted, and the warmth deep inside moved upward and out onto his belly against Jose's. He shuddered and convulsed in pleasure like never before.
In passages like these, this reader sensed an awkward confluence or clash of two writing styles.
Reading these explicitly erotic passages is a little bit like taking a supersonic transport from the 19th to 21st century. In one erotic dream sequence we read how "Hasbaa sucked and caressed Will's cock with her tongue," and how Will. getting it from behind in a menage-a-trios dream fantasy, felt "himself filled with the warrior's maleness and that that maleness was being pumped into him in this act. "
Eroticism is fine but here it feels very much out of place. The authors fare much better in their descriptions of the private rela-tionship lovemaking of Hasbaa and Will. This is perfectly in context in this historically im-portant and even beautiful story.
Thom Nickels is a Philadelphia-based author/journalist/ playwright. and the author or eight published books including Out in History and Philadelphia Architecture.
An Exceptional Spiritual Adventure in Cross Cultural LoveJune 14, 2007
By Fred Stewart
I found Two Spirits to be a delightful and entertaining book bringing
together compelling history, culture, romance, and spirituality. The
authors vividly tell the story of the historical plight of the Navajo
(Dine) tribe forced to languish in an extremely hostile environment
far away from their homeland in an experiment in Indian management" by
the U.S. military following the Civil War.
The writing is lucid and the characters are exceptionally
well-developed. I readily experienced the hardships and the profound
spirituality of the tribe as I entered their world and joined the
journey. The tribal ways, rituals, and governing are rich in detail. I
became aware that under the horrendous hardships the tribe managed to
maintain an enduring sense of human hope, trust, and love. Tribal
members displayed this love and trust for each other and their
spiritual leader. The eventual acceptance of the "hairy face" (as the
Native Americans referred to white men) into the tribe's midst is a
lesson of tolerance and acceptance, especially when contrasted by the
ugliness of discrimination practiced by the tribe's so-called
Two Spirits is a must read for anyone who seeks to understand an
aspect of Native American culture that has been denied far too long.
GAY SHAMANS AS HEROES AND WARRIORS
A Book Review by Lewis Elbinger
Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson, Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo,
Lethe Press, New Jersey, 2006, 331 pages
Some books have veils over them. That means you cannot read them until you are ready for the message contained therein. Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo was such a book for me. I bought it immediately after it was published, but it sat on my shelf for almost a year before the veil was lifted and I could enter the world the authors created and described.
Perhaps the barrier that prevented me from plunging into this novel of American frontier life in the 1860s was the harsh and accurate description of the injustices suffered by the Native Americans at that time. I found the situation too painful to contemplate and refused to do so. When the veil was finally lifted, I was surprised and delighted to find a plot that veered from comedy to horror and back with an underlying message of hope, triumph and redemption. At one point I was moved to tears by the magnificence of the characters and the skillful manner in which they were portrayed. That, the shedding of a joyful tear evoked by artistic talent, is the surest sign for me that the authors have succeeded in their mission.
This book reminded me once again of the power of fiction to reflect and affect the so-called "real world." Toby Johnson literally wrote the book on gay spirituality (Toby Johnson, Gay Spirituality, Lethe Press, New Jersey, 2004, 296 pages). Here, with co-author Walter Williams, he delivers a message about the beauty, power and glory of gay shamans in the guise of historical fiction. The book has several levels: it is a story about the love between two men from radically different worlds, about the differences between those worlds and, ultimately, about the reconciliation of those worlds. The plot hinges on historical characters, situations and places, but incorporates a variety of elements, including magical realism, that make the story memorable, interesting and exciting.
The word "Navajo" is the Spanish name of a Native American tribe that calls itself Dine which means "the people." In the 1860s, the Dine suffered a devastation comparable that experienced by the Jews in Nazi Germany. They were forcibly deported from their homeland and relocated to a barren track of land outside of Fort Sumner in what is currently New Mexico. Their violent resistance to this deportation provided the excuse for further oppression. With little food, water or shelter, people died by the thousands. Eventually, the Dine made a treaty with the U.S. government that allowed them to return to their homeland from the brink of extinction.
Certain heroic and decent personalities among both the Dine and U.S. government facilitated this fortuitous conclusion. In this fictionalized version of the story, Williams and Johnson posit a love affair between a young Indian Agent from Virginia named William Lee and a Dine nadleehi (gay shaman) named Hasbaá. While the plot contains the heart-pounding twists and turns of an exciting movie, the underlying message of the book is William Lee's discovery, understanding and acceptance of Dine holistic and humane cosmology in contrast to the cosmology of his own tribe of rapacious and callous Americans. The love between Lee and Hasbaá served as a bridge between two utterly diverse and hostile cultures. This love allowed healing, growth and understanding to develop in an atmosphere in which only violence, oppression and cruelty flourished.
Love exists on four levels: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It was the spiritual bond between the white American and the red Native American that drew them together and allowed them to foster reconciliation between their antagonistic societies. William Lee's curiosity and fascination with Dine culture and religion in general and with Hasbaá's exalted position as a religious figure in that culture in particular opened a window onto a world which was closed to most white Americans. The reader is privileged to gaze over Lee's shoulder as he peers into the forbidden and foreign world that most of Lee's compatriots considered savage and barbaric. One wonders who is the savage and who is the barbarian when the truth is known about the values and behaviors of each society.
One message of Toby Johnson's considerable literary output is that the homosexual perspective makes a valuable and necessary contribution to the evolution of human consciousness. This book presents the same idea in an entertaining, interesting and enlightening way. After finishing the book, I bought three copies of it as gifts for friends who would appreciate the concept of same-sex love as a vehicle for intercultural understanding.
TWO SPIRITS REVIEW
by Ruth Sims
Two Spirits combines a moving love story with a dark part of American history. Most American know, and choose to ignore, the historic treatment of the peoples who “were here first,” the broken treaties, the broken promises, the broken hearts and lives. It would be silly to pretend that the Indians (if I may use that non-p.c. term) didn’t war among themselves because they did. But they didn’t have machine guns and railroad trains and the belief that God gave them all the land from coast to coast, a.k.a. “manifest destiny.” Two Spirits is about one small group caught on the dark side of that manifest destiny: the people Americans called Navajo, but who called themselves Diné.
In 1864 the Diné were forced to walk 325 miles in winter from their green, fertile homeland in what we call Northeast Arizona, Canyon de Chelly, to what was actually a concentration camp at Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner. At least 3,000 of their number died on the way. This was General James Carlton’s version of “pacifying” the natives. Carlton, by the way, was a real person. The U.S. Government allocated what probably was sufficient money for the displaced Diné to feed, clothe, and house them, but the money found its way into Carlton’s private coffers. Not only were the Diné starving and unable to grow crops in the inhospitable land, living in substandard shacks, and dying from illnesses, Mexican bandits regularly struck from what became New Mexico, carrying the Diné children to be sold into slavery. Carlton did nothing to protect his charges.
Into this living hell comes a shy, uncertain and untrained Indian Agent named William Lee from Virginia, a young man kicked out by his father for loving another man. Young Will is truly tested by many fires—both from within and without. He’s puzzled why he’s fascinated and attracted to the beautiful healer and wise woman, Hasbaá, a loved and revered member of the tribe. A near-tragedy reveals Hasbaá’s physical strength and Will soon learns that the beautiful, spiritual, strong woman is really a man—a two-spirit. Far from being shunned, as she would have been in white society, Hasbaá is considered blessed. Will and Hasbaá fall deeply in love and are joined in a union by the customs of the tribe.
There is plenty of action and danger in this book, as Will, the Diné, and Hasbaá face persecution and annihilation when Will uncovers Carlton’s corruption and evil. He delves deeply into the life and spirituality of the Diné and his beloved Hasbaá.
As an incurable reader of forewords, afterwords, and footnotes, I especially appreciated the commentaries at the end. “About the Historical Accuracy of This Novel” is as interesting as the book itself, explaining as it does about, among other things, the use of peyote, some of the mystical references, and the acceptance of two-spirit people. This is followed by “A Commentary” by Wesley K. Thomas, a member of the Diné. These brief extras are the cherry on top of the sundae.
Ruth Sims is author of the wonderful romance novel The Phoenix
Two Spirits: A Story of the Life With the Navajo, November 5, 2006
By John W. Burkert (LA, CA)
As an acquaintance of Professor Williams through having read some of his other books, I highly recommend the reading to any others interested in the Southwest Indiam culture. This is true history with a mix of touching fiction.
Little Known Americana, September 28, 2007
By Amos Lassen (Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Known Americana, "Two Spirits" is set in the territory of New Mexico during the period that America was engaged in the Civil War. The book focuses on a piece of American history that few know of--thousands of Navajo Indians (referring to themselves as "Dine") were held in a concentration camp which was sanctioned by the government of the United States at Fort Sumner. The authors, Walter Williams and Toby Johnson have taken this and written a historical novel about what happened.
The true story of what happened reads like this. The Navajo were treated with callousness and suffered untold indignities under the supervision of the "righteous" Union general, James Carleton... Williams and Johnson took the story and added a love angle between William Lee, a young man from Virginia and a Dine of high rank by the name of Hasbaa. ...
I love historical fiction and "Two Spirits" is such a book. It is well written and the characters are unforgettable. The way the ceremonial acts of the Dine is depicted is sheer reality. It is easy to see the authors' passion for their material. The novel is based on real history buy it is the characters and their way of life and spirituality that makes this book such a treasure. This book is part of American history regardless of the shame it provides. Even though the book is categorized as fiction, the accounts are historically accurate. It brings together compelling history with spirituality, culture and romance and the writing is both literate and lucid. The history of the Native American has been hidden from us for a long time but with this book we get a glimpse of what really went on. History can often be dry but this book never does.
Two Souls October 4, 2008
By Ruth Thompson "Booksmania" (Venice Florida)
The setting of this book is Fort Sumner where the Navajo Indians were kept in captivity by our government…. This is an interesting book that is filled with facts of the Navajo's way of life.
Ruth Thompson is the author of "The Blue grass Dream: A Wilderness Adventure of Early Settlers” and “Natchez Above The River: A Family's Survival In The Civil War”
Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo, June 30, 07
By Waneta Falcon "Love to read" (Seattle, WA USA)
This is one of those books you just can't put down. Although it's categorized as fiction, there are historically based non-fiction accounts blended in. I highly recommend this book for all ages.
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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