October 23, 2014

The Banal and the Profane: Elizabeth Koke

Posted on September 22, 2014 by in Opinion

“Lately, my maternal fantasies have become almost as frequent as my homicidal ones.”

“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.

This month’s “Banal and Profane” column comes to us from Elizabeth Koke.

Elizabeth Koke is an activist and cultural organizer, writer, and sometimes performer who lives in New York City. She is currently the External Relations Manager at Feminist Press where she has proudly worked on several Lambda Literary Award-winning titles including Justin Vivian Bond’s Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels and Laurie Weeks’ Zipper Mouth.

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“Dear Mr. Bezos”: Pushing Queer Romance Forward With Community Action

Posted on September 16, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

Did you know that you could write to Jeff Bezos?

You can. His email is online. (more…)

Bad Romance: Writers and Suicide

Posted on August 13, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

Suicide.

It goes against the grain of our very DNA. We are hard-wired to survive. Our autonomic reflexes tell us, live, breathe, run, live. For God’s sake, live.

Sometimes our brains rewire themselves. Sometimes pain outdistances DNA. Sometimes we want to die. Sometimes dying is not the threat, but the promise. (more…)

The Banal and the Profane: Nik Nicholson

Posted on August 6, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.

This month’s “Banal and Profane” column comes to us from writer Nik Nicholson

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Reader Meet Author: Personal Advice from Author La JohnJoseph

Posted on July 27, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

Do you have problems with your love life? Do you hate your job? Is your social life lacking a certain zing? All of these questions and more can be answered through literature—or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at the Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader, Meet Author.” Think of the column as a sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set.

This month’s author is La JohnJoseph, a British-born, American-educated performance artist and writer living in Berlin. The original scriptwriter for radical Californian Dada drag revue BoyfriendRobotique, she is also a librettist and the author of the critically acclaimed solo memoir play Boy in a Dress. Her performance work has taken her from the San Francisco MOMA to the Royal Opera House, and across Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, including The Gay Times Book of Short Stories, Bird Song, P.S. I Love You, Fat Zine, and 21st Century Queer Artists Identify Themselves. Everything Must Go , her first novel, debuted this spring. (more…)

Looking at ‘In Cold Blood’: Violence, Masculinity, and Compassion

Posted on July 26, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

My interest in violence is organic and manufactured like the testosterone I inject, the metallic fact of the needle I push into my thigh every Thursday. It’s socially enabled, like the startling effect my male body has on other men: the locker room size-ups, the threatened exes, the shoulder-swiped near-fights on the train. It’s relational as my own brush with death at the hands of a man who later went on to shoot two other men and kill one, or the father who modeled the worst kind of masculinity: predatory, crushing, anxious. Whatever the tangles—and maybe I’ll never fully understand, as much as I try to excavate and map, my own heart—what I do know is that my memoir, Man Alive (City Lights Books), which explores the way violence can be gendered and also undone by queering gender, owes its lineage to Truman Capote’s brilliant, chilling true crime classic, In Cold Blood.

For the uninitiated, Capote’s 1966 work was originally serialized to wild acclaim in the New Yorker and is a beautiful, epic piece of literary nonfiction that details the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas. Legend has it that Capote—fey, bowtied, tiny—read a 300-word New York Times story about the killings and traveled to Kansas accompanied, cinematically, by his good friend Harper Lee, to chronicle the search for the murderers and the effect the killings had on the town. Ultimately the two men responsible for the murders were captured and Capote spent six years on the book, forming a particularly close relationship with one of the accused, Perry Edward Smith, in the process. His portrayal of Smith is nuanced, almost affectionate, and, in many ways, deeply queer—a fact that caused rumors about the nature of their friendship even at the time.

I don’t believe the two men had an affair, but the fact of Capote’s identity, to this reader, is the lens that allows for a more complex, humane layer in a story that could easily have been reduced, normatively, into villains and heroes. Capote brings an ephemeral sympathy for the outsider, distinctive but not cloying, that asks us to see ourselves in Perry’s miserable life.

In one particularly poignant scene, Capote describe the recurrence of a lifelong dream Perry has while in prison: “Throughout his life—as a child, poor and meanly treated, as a foot-loose youth, as an imprisoned man—the yellow bird, huge and parrot-faced, had soared across Perry’s dreams, an avenging angel who savaged his enemies or, as now, rescued him in moments of mortal danger: ‘She lifted me, I could have been light as a mouse, we went up, up, could see the Square below, men running, yelling, the sheriff shooting at us, everybody sore as hell because I was free, I was flying, I was better than any of them.’”

Growing up, my biggest fear was that I’d become my father. The reality that I was actually a transgender man forced me into a crucible I’d never have chosen otherwise: at 30, as I grew ever hairier and muscular, as my voice dropped and I passed like a ghost through locker rooms and confused men in gay bars with my dissonant presence, I had to make peace with the shadows and ghosts that bruised every pronoun, every “sir,” every gesture of fraternity, every woman who crossed a lonely street to avoid crossing my path late at night.

The first year of my transition I monitored myself, alert to secret signs of impending evil, as if a blooming would accompany the testosterone shots—a secret, psycho gene just waiting to turn me into a boogie man. It was in this edgy borderland that I re-read In Cold Blood and wrote most of Man Alive. I waited for my worst self, resigned like a guy with a rifle watching the door in a horror film, out-powered perhaps but not going down without a fight.

There’s no doubt that Capote and his wild, dark book changed literary history. Many critics believe it popularized, if not fully created—the nonfiction novel. Even the critiques of his work are familiar to anyone working in this genre today—accusations of fabricated scenes or dialogue, places where facts are sacrificed to the gods of larger narrative. But for this writer, Capote’s effort here—tight, dark, sharp, kind—is cause for celebration for another reason entirely: its bravery. In Cold Blood taught me that I could dive into my shadows, face my would-be killer, plumb my heart for the kind of compassion that the worst kind of men never gave me, and find myself there. I’m not sure what Capote went looking for in Kansas exactly, but it’s impossible to not see his tenderness toward Perry, the kind of open heart that results from being vulnerable enough to identify with and integrate your most shadowy self, and to make room for the multitudes of others in that harrowing process.

I can’t speak for Capote, but the tilt of my masculinity, the outsider nature of my view, gave me access to both a deeper empathy and a broader lens for the world around me. In one of his pretrial hearings, my mugger and I made eye contact and I believed, for just a moment, that he recognized me. I held his gaze, I tried to see the humanity there. I’m not, as it turns out, my father’s son and here’s why: I knew, in that moment, that it was the least I could do. It’s just the kind of man I am. I’d never have known if I hadn’t been willing to look.

Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop: A Stellar Program for Writers

Posted on July 25, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop is a week-long intensive course for established writers. It’s also been one of the best experiences of my life. (more…)

Trans Women & The New Hypertext

Posted on July 8, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

1.

Encyclopedia Fuckme and The Case of the Vanishing Entree was one of the first Twine games I ever played. It’s a relatively simple game: the player takes on the role of the titular character and, by making a series of choices throughout the narrative, attempts to avoid becoming her ravenous date’s dinner. It’s funny, smart, hot — everything you probably don’t think of when you think about about videogames. (more…)

Re-Education at the Lesbian Herstory Archives

Posted on June 28, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

American history was never my strong suit. From grade school through those pesky requisite undergrad courses, the subject bored me to tears. Not only were historical narratives presented to us in a predictable, memorization-friendly format (name of notable event, date(s) of notable event, key figures in notable event). In many instances, these narratives were spit-shined, polished so well that colonization, capitalism, and eurocentrism’s smudges went entirely unnoticed. The “facts” written on the page were often half-truths; stories of critical social upheavals and their leaders–often women, often people of color, often queers–glaringly omitted from textbooks and, thus, American consciousness. Because the history of my communities were absent from the textbooks placed in front of me, it was easy to zone out as my Peanuts caricature of a teacher continued emphasizing the importance of the Louisiana Purchase. (more…)

Riley MacLeod on the Writing Trans Genres Conference

Posted on June 25, 2014 by in Features, Opinion

The Writing Trans Genres Conference was a four-day conference (May 22-24, 2014) held at the University of Winnipeg, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and co-hosted by the University’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department and the Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies. The conference brought together scholars, performers, writers and activists to explore, discuss and create new directions in transgender, transexual, two-spirit and genderqueer poetry, literature and performance.

In the following post, writer and Topside Press editor Riley MacLeod provides a detailed snapshot of his time at the conference.

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