Our previous installments of The Home Issue have revolved around design, interior and aesthetic.
We’re shifting focus today with an interview between our editor and travel writer Mike Luongo. Luongo’s longed to travel since childhood and has traveled around the globe documenting life in Afghanistan, Iraq and Argentina, among many, many others.
The New York-based journalist just edited and released Gay Travels In The Muslim World: an anthology of anecdotes and impressions from and of the Middle East. Though he and Belonsky definitely discuss the book, their conversation veers into religion, the parameters of democratization and the ever-troublesome “other”.
Check it out, after the jump.
Andrew Belonsky: What is home to you?
Mike Luongo: Home can mean many things. Home – I’ve lived here in Manhattan, in Washington Heights, for more than eight years, so that is home. New York will always be my home. I actually grew up in the suburbs. I grew up in New Jersey, but New York will always be my home. Also, because I travel a lot, home is where ever I feel comfortable. Argentina is a home of mine. I’m very comfortable in places like Afghanistan, which I’ve been to a few times. When you visit a place, that can become another form of home. Home really is where I feel comfortable.
AB: You were saying earlier that home is familiarity and feeling at ease. Is that – we were also talking about your father being homophobic, which we’ll get to in a second – when you were in his house, growing up, did you feel at home there? Sure, it was familiar, but is familiarity contingent on comfort?
ML: Well, I mean, my father was very homophobic, but the house that I grew up in was not necessarily a happy home. But, if you’re thinking in the long-term, maybe that made me a sensitive person, a writer. There was often a lack of a sense of comfort and his homophobia was a big part of that.
AB: Do you know where your father’s homophobia came from?
ML: I really don’t know. People could argue that he’s an old rural Italian. His father was from a tiny village in Southern Italy. They have an old world way of thinking. What’s kind of funny is that – we live in a primarily Jewish neighborhood and this woman was sitting shiva and my father wouldn’t go over to say hello, because he thought the whole neighborhood would gossip that he was visiting a widow! That’s a peasant village mentality.
AB: Including his ideals of masculinity?
ML: Yeah, correct.
AB: Explain the evolution of Gay Travels in The Muslim World.
ML: It took a really long time, that book. It took about 18 months to put together and it was a wonderful process. That book – I had done a book called Between The Palms, which was actually a gay travel erotica book and a third of the submissions were either about men who had met men from the Middle East or had actually visited Middle Eastern countries. I was very surprised. There’s a strong curiosity. Also, there’s a lot of homophobic coverage of the Middle East and Muslim countries. Yet you never really saw anybody gay, so I decided that I would do that.