Thursday, July 12, 2012

Christopher Bram on Emanuel Xavier

When the New York Times' Sunday Book Review ran a somewhat dismissive review of Christopher Bram's "Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America" back in February I was struck by couple of things that were not directly mentioned in the review.

The first was the striking similarity of the book's title and theme to that of of Jaime Manrique's 1999 "Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig and Me".  Like Bram, Manrique writes about a number of gay writers that influenced his life.

The second was the apparent lack of diversity among the authors discussed in the book.

That's not necessarily a criticism. By those same standards you could say that Manrique's book also doesn't include African-American or Caucasian authors.

I raise the issue because Lambda Literary just posted a fascinating interview with Bram in which he touches on the Times' review, the state of the publishing business, straight authors who write gay-themed stories and what he calls the myth of The Violet Quill ("Christopher Bram: Charting the Outlaws").

He also addresses diversity in queer publishing by invoking the work of one of my friends.  Excerpt:
Lambda Literary: Gay is no longer exclusively defined as white, educated, effusively cultural, exclusively homosexual, an ever-expanding definition of queer. When you look at Lambda Literary Review, the annual awards, works that are selling, there’s a lot of sub-genre smash-ups of race, economic class, HIV status, disability, sex, gender. Are these current writers, same as Quill writers, all white, all male, providing readers with exactly the same source of comfort as those men did? Creating visibility? 

Bram: Yes, they’re providing the same as an earlier generation of gay writers. There’s some really wonderful stuff. I was just rereading poems by a terrific Puerto Rican poet, Emanuel Xavier. His Pier Queen collection was just reissued—it was originally published in the 90s. It’s verbal snapshots of a population we usually don’t hear about, mostly black and Hispanic kids who hung out at the piers in the West Village.

Lambda Literary: As I remember from those days, they would get off that last stop on Christopher Street, by the Lucille Lortel Theater which has lots of gay theatre names in stars on the pavement, go down to the pier at the street…Christopher Street was then what Chelsea is today… 

Bram: At Christopher Street, yes. Xavier’s poems were really strong when they first came out, but now they seem even better. They function as both history and literature. But there are other writers like Xavier telling new stories, stories that we haven’t heard before. There’s Rakesh Satyal, an Indian writer who did a terrific book called Blue Boy, about a young Indian-American boy in Cincinnati, Ohio, White’s hometown, an Indian-American boy’s own story. It’s a coming of age novel about his double identity as both a gay kid and an Indian kid. James Hannaham a couple of years ago did a really interesting book called God Says No about a born-again African American gay kid, who is a real fuck-up. It’s very funny and very painful. There’s all these great stories still to tell that haven’t been told yet.
I love the fact that Emanuel got name checked in the piece. He has been promoting the re-issues of a number of his books including "Pier Queen", "Christ-Like", "If Jesus Were Gay" and, coming soon, "Americano".

If you live in New York City, Emanuel will also be doing a reading and signing along with the legendary Kate Bornstein at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art on Wednesday, July 25th as part of their "Testimony: A Living Exhibition of Queer Youth" multi-media exhibition. For additional information click here.

No comments: