GIVEAWAY + Blog Tour: Bear Among the Books by T.J. Masters

Please welcome T.J. Masters, who's making his first clubhouse appearance!

BLOG: Hunting the Bears.

It was with no small hint of irony that I had librarian Ben read/perform the Michael Rosen children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. As a teacher of young children I used to love reading the book to them with all the actions and sound effects and, just like Ben I am labelled a gay Bear. What do I mean by that?
In gay culture the term first appeared in 1970’s San Francisco as an affectionate label for hairy men of all shapes and sizes. Gay men however, love their groups and sub-groups, so it was not long before these men were divided into bear (stocky) wolf (medium) or otter (slim).

Debate as to the group definitions continues to this day and the sub culture will continue to evolve. Room has already been made for leather bears, muscle bears, daddy bears, bondage bears and polar bears. For most people however, the general term ‘bear’ will always mean bigger, older, masculine but cuddly men. Young bears are’ of course, known as cubs.

In recent years the term has also become more flexible and it’s use has even leaked out of the gay community. Straight or bi men exhibiting the same characteristics are often called bears and some non-gay celebrities have embraced an affinity with the gay community and been accepted as honorary bears (Ben Cohen?).

Asian bears (oriental) are now known as pandas. They may have many of the same physical appearance but are characteristically smooth skinned. There is also a lesbian sub-group who have adopted the distinct label of Ursula (from the latin, ursus, meaning bear) to describe their bigger, more masculine appearance.

What about Jason in the novel? Our handsome young man is clearly attracted to the warm, friendly, intelligent and cuddly bear. To some he might be labelled ‘twink’ but in the parlance of the sub culture, he is known as a bear ‘chaser’.


Forty-eight-year-old Ben Thompson is a librarian, a passionate book lover, and a man who embodies the definition of a bear. He’s also lonely after the loss of his long-term partner. Young ex-gymnast Jason Barnes piques his interest, but Ben quickly realizes there’s more to Jason than his good looks. While Jason visits the library almost every day, he never checks out a book.

With gentle persistence, Ben befriends Jason and learns the nineteen-year-old’s tragic secrets. After years of abuse at his father’s hands, Jason was kicked out of his family home for being gay. And despite his apparent love of books, Jason never learned to read. Ben offers to teach him, and the two men bond over their lessons. Ben can’t deny his attraction to Jason, but he wonders if Jason is too young and too handsome to return his interest. With the help of the close-knit library team and Jason’s growing self-confidence, they move beyond the books and into the bedroom, where their own story is just beginning.


Whenever Jason checked books out, he only seemed to keep them for two or three days before he returned them again. He always brought a ray of sunshine to our mornings with his ready smile and cheery greeting upon arrival, but it was difficult to engage him in any lengthy conversation. Even Daisy warmed to the lad, and while she might not count him among her favorite people, she had at least stopped complaining about him. For Daisy, this was a big, positive step.

One Thursday morning, we had a group of youngsters in from a local primary school. I had worked hard to forge links with all our local schools in an effort to get kids using the library. With my own teaching background, I had the skills and the drive to push this, even if the irascible Daisy found children difficult to cope with. On this particular morning the group was lively, but well-behaved, and I loved their natural curiosity and enthusiasm. I gathered the twenty-five or so seven-year-olds together, and they now sat cross-legged on the floor. I’d just read one short story to them. It was the lovely picture book called The Patchwork Quilt  by Valerie Flournoy. I loved the story, but it was also a great stimulus for talking about things like death in the family, multiculturalism, and inclusion. After we’d talked about it for a little while, I asked the children if they had a favorite book they wanted me to read. I was a little surprised when they all asked for the same book: Michael Rosen’s W e’re Going on a Bear Hunt. I asked why they all liked that one so much, and one forthright young lady gave the game away.

“Miss said that you read it funny!”

I glanced at the teacher, who was looking very red-faced as she mouthed an apology. Of course she had seen me do my performance of the story before. As if on cue, one child suddenly appeared before me and thrust the slim copy into my hand.

“I found it for you, Ben.”

“Why thank you. It looks like that’s decided, then.”

As I went through the story with all the appropriate sounds and actions, the whole group became animated and joined in with the bits they knew and reacted with joy and excitement as the tale unfolded. Partway  through the reading, I looked up and noticed that just behind the teacher, Jason was standing watching the whole thing with a huge smile on his face.

Part of me felt embarrassed at him seeing me behaving like this. At the same time, I registered the similarity between the look on his face and those of my young audience.


Author T.J. Masters recently and somewhat reluctantly passed his 60th birthday. After a long and happy teaching career T.J. wanted to follow a new path before senility set in. Books and stories have been a lifelong passion and there are many tales waiting to be told.
As a happily partnered gay man T.J. chooses to write what he knows best. His overactive and ever exploring mind is probably best described by the Oscar Wilde quote that “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.


Twitter: @TJMasters


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Do you have a favourite bear either fictional or real? Tell us who it is and why by posting in the comments here through Monday, September 5th (with a means to contact you, i.e. email) and I will choose the best one to receive a free copy of one of my previously published short stories. 


  1. Yogi Bear is my favorite. How can you go wrong with a bear who steal picnic baskets.

  2. Whenever I think about bears I think about rugby players, you know, so big and muscled, and all that testosterone... Some of them are really sexy like Yoann Huget (France) or Gordon D'arcy (Ireland). Yummy men!

  3. One of my favorite comfort reads is Muscling Through by JL Merrow. The main character, Al, is scarred and bulky, which makes him scary-looking, but he is the sweetest and most thoughtful person.

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