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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

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story

PLAGUE: A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.

About ordering


Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series


  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"


"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

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

Meditation Practice

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


Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality


 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice

Meditation

Historicity as Myth

Pilgrimage

No Stealing


Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
 
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles


The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?


The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists


Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash


 
Book Reviews


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


Two Spirits -- Reviews

To order an autographed copy from Toby Johnson
  
About reviews: I think to a writer the best comments always have to do with the book being compulsive reading ("I couldn't put it down") and with it bringing tears!

I've gotten several such informal, personal "reviews" from readers.


Wade Mccollum
Recently I've gotten email from Portland-based gay performance artist, singer, and playwright/producer Wade McCollum (his most recent album "Beauty is a Streelight"--lovely music--available from iTunes).
Wade wrote: "Can I tell you how many times I cried reading TWO SPIRITS?  SO beautiful...  like coming home."

New York writer John Caminiti wrote: "I just finished reading "Two Spirits" and I wanted to say that I found it to be one of the most moving novels I have read in a very long time. . .  It is still resonating with me. I can't get some of it out of my mind. I had a very similar feeling when I read Song of the Loon. Both books spoke to me in very deep emotional ways.



 Published Reviews: TWO SPIRITS


From a WONDERFUL review on Jessewave by Cole:
"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?"
Click here to read more



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."

 Click here to read entire review


  by "Betty Conley" ElizConley@aol.com   elizconley
    Mon Aug 21, 2006

    Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo
    By Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson
    Lethe Press 2006 $18.00

    Set in the New Mexican Territory in the Civil War era, TWO SPIRITS focuses on a little known and shameful fact of American history. Thousands of Navajo Indians, who refer to themselves as Diné, were held in US Government sanctioned concentration camp-like captivity, at Fort Sumner, from 1864 to 1868. Walter L. Williams, Ph.D. and Toby Johnson, Ph.D. combined their knowledge and talent to pen a historically accurate fictional account of the Diné's incarceration.

    TWO SPIRITS' factual story line centers around the callous treatment the Diné suffered under the supervision of the righteous Union General James Carlton. Carlton, an Indian fighter, devised a plan to relocate almost twelve thousand "savages" from their fertile homeland at Canyon de Chelly (now northeast Arizona), to the Bosque Redondo outside Fort Sumner. The Diné were forced to walk a distance of 325 miles, in winter, with insufficient wagons to carry the young, old, and infirm. More than three thousand people died en route to the desert area. Carlton's Indian "experiment" had the support of officials in Washington who wished the Indians pacified. The officials saw to it that sufficient funds for food and housing for the Diné were regularly sent to Fort Sumner. The funds, unfortunately, made General James Carlton a wealthy man. During the Diné's four years of captivity without government subsidies, and unable to grow crops in the arid soil, another quarter of their population died. The vulnerable Diné were also victims of raids by the New Mexicans. General Carlton never ordered the soldiers to defend his charges against these attacks.

    Adding appeal and fast pace to TWO SPIRITS' plot, Williams and Johnson developed a beautiful love story between a young Virginian, William Lee, and a high ranked Diné, Hasbaá. Will had been shunned by his fundamentalist preacher father after being found in a barn with another young man. With the advice and help of an influential townsperson, Will went to Washington, D.C. and was fortunate to be hired as an apprentice Indian Agent. Assigned to Fort Sumner, Will realized immediately that the Indians were poorly treated, then learned the previous agent was dead. Feeling fully responsible for the Indian's welfare, Will conscientiously wrote reports to his superiors in Washington requesting additional aid for the starving Diné. Will was not yet aware of Carlton's duplicity.

    Will frequently visited the Diné camp and after proving himself worthy was accepted into their talk circle. He became captivated with the spiritual person, Hasbaá. A two spirit person, Hasbaá was honored and respected by the people. According to Diné lore, people possessing two spirits were blessed with twice the spiritual gifts, both male and female, and thus had special powers to oversee healing rituals and other sacred ceremonies. Hasbaá and Will grew close and fell in love. The Diné celebrated their union, as was their custom.

    Will discovered Carlton's treachery so with the help of Hasbaá and other Diné, set out to prove Carlton's unworthiness as leader. Some of Williams and Johnson's characters, such as General James Carlton, were actual people who played significant roles in the circumstances  surrounding the Navajo's incarceration. In TWO SPIRITS' pages, the authors show how spirituality, wisdom, and true understanding of human nature existed among the native people of our continent for thousands of years before European settlers arrived.

    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.


The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services Library, located at Bloomington Indiana, STAFF PICKS

by Sarah Stumpf

Do you like historical fiction? How about standing up to corruption, challenging racism, and falling in love?


Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo by Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson is one of the best fiction books I have read in a long time. Johnson is an award-winning gay writer and Williams is an expert in same-sex relationships among the Navajo (or Diné as they prefer to be called). Together they create a beautiful work of fiction that blends historical truth with compelling fictional characters.

Shortly after the Civil War Will Lee arrives in the harsh desert of New Mexico to be the new Indian Agent at Fort Sumner and to escape his fire-and-brimestone father. He quickly finds himself captivated by Hasbaá, a Diné two-spirit, a man who lives like a woman and has a sacred role in the community. Her gender transitiveness fascinates and frightens him, as he is forced to examine himself, his spiritual beliefs, and his place in this world.

Is he falling for her? Can he help expose the corruption of the Army officials in charge of the fort as well as face his own racism? Is he willing to give up the privileges of being a ’straight’ white man to live in the Diné’s world? And would she even have him if he was able to get over his own issues?

You could call this book gay fiction or trans fiction, but the labels don’t matter as much as the strong characters, sexual and sensual relationships, beautifully harsh settings, and historical realism that William and Johnson are able to create.



Washington Blade (Aug 8, 2006)

Exploring a spiritual history (Gay)

New novel about a gay Navajo and his white lover examines gay identity

By GREG MARZULLO
Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The history of gay identity on the North American continent is totally absent from the educational system of the United States, and until recent years, the travails of the American Indians have been reduced to the myths of the bloodthirsty Injun or the noble savage.

With "Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo," gay authors Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson deftly unveil the great histories of gay people as seen through the mythic and cultural expressions of the Navajo.

The novel is set shortly after the end of the Civil War, when Will Lee, a white Virginian, runs away from home upon being discovered naked with his best friend by his stridently religious father. Will joins up with the Office of Indian Affairs and heads out West to his new post at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The Navajo were forced to live in the parched desert surrounding Sumner after the U.S. Army drove them from their ancestral lands in what is now northern Arizona. The tribe remained at the fort as prisoners from 1863 until 1867 when they were restored to their homelands.

While there, Will falls in love with Hasbaá, a "two spirit" shaman of the tribe.

"The Navajo as well as many other American Indians honored people -- who we today would call gay -- as spiritually gifted,” says Johnson. "They were understood to possess both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman.”

Two spirit people usually displayed signs of gender variance by dressing in clothing that was opposite of their biological gender and engaging in activities that were nontraditional for their gender. They held a spiritual position of honor within the community and worked as healers and intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds.

"The way America thinks of homosexuals is not as spiritual leaders," says Johnson, 61. I think in the long run it's more important that gay people change how we understand homosexuality than it is how we get straight people to change their minds about it."


THE AWAKENING OF gay consciousness, one of the book's central themes, is nothing new to the writings of either author. Johnson's nonfiction works "Gay Spirituality" and "Gay Perspective" have become classics in the queer spirit genre, and Williams, currently a senior professor in the gender studies program at the University of Southern California, wrote a seminal book on the two spirit phenomenon titled "The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture."

Both writers seamlessly weave their academic backgrounds into the fabric of Will's and Hasbaá's story. Surrounded by the culture and myths of the Navajo people, Will begins to embrace his sexuality as a vehicle toward liberation, happiness and a deepening sense of empowerment.

"One of the great mythological patterns is that people become heroes not because they set out to be a hero, but because they got drawn into it because of personal drive," says Johnson. "Those personal drives are more sexual most of the time. In writing a gay story, we wanted to be more open about the sexuality.

Researchers like Williams have determined that two spirit shamans regularly engaged in same-sex eroticism and even married their paramours.

"Same-sex marriage is as American as apple pie," Johnson laughs. "On American soil, there has been same-sex marriage for 5,000 years. It's the Christians who came along and objected 200 years ago. They're the new ones."


Book Marks, Sept 25, 2006

Review by Richard Labonte

Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo, by Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson. Lethe Press, 332 pages, $18 paper

Cliched passion between the Sensitive White Man and the Noble Savage has been a subset of gay romantic and erotic fiction since Richard Amory's Song of the Loon set the standard almost five decades ago. The bar has been raised much, much higher by this compassionate collaboration between academic Williams, whose scholarly The Spirit and the Flesh explored sexual diversity in American Indian culture, and novelist Johnson, whose several books blend gay fiction with spiritual wisdom. Their enchanting and suspenseful romance, set in Navajo-territory New Mexico shortly after the Civil War, eschews those unfortunate cliches: the young Virginian and the two-spirit native who come to love each other here are fully dimensional characters. The story hews closely to real history, too, as it recounts the callous eviction of the Navajo from their sacred homelands, a shameful era of cultural oppression and brutal discrimination in America. Two Spirits bristles with an angry depiction of regrettable history, but any hint of didactic overload is totally tempered by fine writing.


RFD, Winter 2006-07

Review by B

Two Spirits, A Story of Life with the Navajo
by Walter L. Williams & Toby Johnson
Lethe Press, 331 pages, 2006

"Two Spirits, A story of Life With the Navajo", is an eminently accessible novel. It is written with joy and sensitivity and successfully evokes the post-Civil War era. In addition, it offers a lucid and simple (at times almost too simple) view of Dine (the word the Navajo peoples have for themselves) spirituality and the unique role of the Two Spirit people in Dine culture.
In the first three chapters we are introduced to the hero, Will Lee (a distant relative of Robert E.) who arrives at Ft. Sumner NM to take up duties as an apprentice to the Indian Agent. Following chapters alternate between his earlier life in Virginia and his experiences at the Fort. Will, we learn, has had some questions about his sexuality; had a brief romantic/ sexual experience with his best friend, Michael; and is discovered just after the act by his Bible-thumping father with the expected dire consequences. Michael escapes to Norfolk to follow his dream of becoming a sailor; and Will, through the intervention of a local lawyer is given a copy of Walt Whitman's recently published "Leaves of Grass"; given a letter of introduction to the lawyer's friend in the Department of the Interior and encouraged to escape to Washington, D.C. where he is assigned to the post at Ft. Sumner.

Through this devise of alternating episodes between his earlier life and life at the fort, a picture of a sensitive and caring, though confused young man emerges. He meets, and is very attracted to Hasbaa, a Dine Two Spirit spiritual leader of his/her people. Will is appalled at the destitute conditions to which the Dine are subjected by General Carlson, the Fort Commander, and gradually discovers the extent of the General's perfidy.

Love blooms between Will and Hasbaa and as he learns about the Dine life and spirituality the reader gains a clear picture of the profound reverence for life and the joyous and innocent sexuality evidenced by the people. The device works well and the adventure provided by the pursuit and ultimate downfall of Gen. Carlson and the return of the Dine to their homeland makes for a satisfying tale.

If you are interested in Native American culture and spirituality I highly recommend" Two Spirits". It will be a treasured addition to your library.



Midwest Book Review  Dec. 2006

by Lori L. Lake, author


This is the first work of fiction I've read that speaks about the world of the berdache with such clarity, depth, and soulfulness.  The novel draws much of its historical fact and information from Walter L. Williams' nonfiction book THE SPIRIT AND THE FLESH: SEXUAL DIVERSITY IN AMERICAN INDIAN CULTURE, but despite its historical base, the book never feels dry.  Instead, it is lively, entertaining, and a fascinationg look at a time gone by when two people from completely different cultures came together as friends, lovers, and trusted allies to prevail over an enemy that seemed impossible to defeat.  Highly recommended.



Ashe Journal Vol 5, Issue 4

Also from Toby Johnson, this time joined by anthropologist Walter Williams, comes a new work of historical fiction: Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo (Lethe Press, 2006, 331pp, $18.00). Set in the Civil War era of the 1860’s, Two Spirits tells the story of a feckless Virginian who finds himself captivated by a Two-Spirit male. This is a fascinating book that combines tragedy and oppression with a tale of love, beauty and self-discovery.



Barnes & Noble.com

This book I could not put down, with its visual beauty and its base in historical truth, I found it enthralling.  I am most grateful to learn yet another piece of who we are, and understand more fully why we are here.
--- Craig A. Lee



Lambda Book Report
Winter 2007


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 Love

June 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
'protectors'.

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     Reviews by Ruth


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.

Highly recommended!

Ruth Sims is author of the wonderful romance novel The Phoenix


From amazon.com

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.

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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 GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY 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 Press.

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