Posts Tagged ‘things you should read’
Interview with Amber Dawn
Q: The format of How Poetry Saved My Life (prose pieces mixed with a variety of poetry forms) deviates from what readers might have come to expect from the literary memoir form. Sections “Outside,” “Inside” and “Inwards” hint at a narrative arc, though the overall structure remains more loose and thematic than chronological. Why did you choose to tell your story this way?
Amber Dawn: I have a great deal of admiration for authors—especially ex-sex workers—who write their memoir as a chronological journey. Some books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently are Whip Smart, by Melissa Febos and Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, by Diablo Cody. I doubt I’d have the wherewithal to sit down and write my own story in this manner. How Poetry Saved My Life encompasses nearly fifteen years of collected writing. I wrote each piece for different reasons. Some poems had more therapeutic or cathartic beginnings, harken to the book’s title. Some prose I wrote to present at sex worker conferences or forums. It took a while before I realized I had an entire book’s worth of writing, and a bit longer still before I felt brave enough to release these collected stories and poems publicly. I view the account of my experiences as more of an emotional journey, rather than a chronological one. Through this approach I hope readers will make there own personal connection to the book, even if they’re life experiences are different from my own.
Q: The book represents nearly fifteen years of collected writings. You’ve had a very diverse writing career—you’ve edited horror and porn anthologies and dipped into the magical realist genre with your first novel Sub Rosa. How did you come to write a non-fictionalized memoir?
A: I believe a voice is a powerful and privileged resource to possess, especially when it comes to something like sex work, which is constantly silenced and stigmatized. Through performing on both small and larger stages, I’ve found that in every audience there is at least one woman (or man) who not only relates to my story, but feels almost desperate to have silence around sex work and survivorship broken. I feel a duty to speak up.
Q: Is there a piece of prose or poetry in the collection that was particularly difficult for you to write or realize, and in turn share with readers?
A: “Lying is the Work” is a personal essay that juxtaposes a bad date I had during the last year of working in the sex trade with my grandfather’s story of joining the Navy at age 17 to fight in WW2. This is one of very few examples where I bring my family history into my work. I love my family and want to protect and spare them of triggers or “digging up dirt.” While I’m proud of who I am, I acutely understand that survivors and sex workers are stigmatized and that this stigma can impact families and loved ones.
Case in point, recently, my grandfather disowned me when I married my wife—a ceremony that everyone in my family attended but for him. Therefore, I feel I can tell a bit of the story between my grandfather and I—in a dignified and objective way—without worrying about him reading it. As an Italian-American immigrant and Navy veteran he has a tremendous story of survival. It’s bitter sweet that I relate to him as a survivor and yet we have no present-day relationship. This makes the personal essay very difficult for me.
Q: RADAR Productions recently awarded you the 2012 Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Chapbook Prize for “How I got My Tattoo.” How does the title poem of that particular collection fit into your personal narrative in How Poetry Saved My Life?
A: What an honour to win the Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Prize, and just before I launch How Poetry Saved My Life! I have a quite a few titles like How Poetry Saved My Life and “How I Got My Tattoo” that are posed like answers to questions. Sex workers and survivors get asked questions all the time. I could over-simplify all these questions to essentially, “How did this happen to you.” I hate that question—the question implies that being a survivor or being a sex worker is outside the norm and needs explanation—when in fact these experiences are very common. Nonetheless, I also sympathize that people need to ask questions and discuss. The titles that I’ve written as answers to questions are there to promote discussion in a proud and creative way.
Q: In the book you cite author Jeanette Winterson and “powerful women whose voices have been cut short” among your inspirations. Would you tell us more about how you have been influenced by literary and activist voices in your life?
A: I was in my teens and early 20s in the 1990s, and was gobsmacked by the Riot Grrl movement. My first serious girlfriend introduced me to the feminist music and zine culture and listing to Team Dresh and Bikini Kill gave me the idea that I too had something to say. Not only where these voices powerful, but they were accessible. I didn’t need education to understand the feminist politicking of Riot Grrl. But after being introduced to feminist art and literature, I wanted to learn more. This was probably the first time I ever wanted to learn or read anything. I began reading Jeanette Winterson, Beth Goobie, Larissa Lai, Evelyn Lau, Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, Michelle Tea, Sarah Schulman. Finally, I understood the comfort and solidarity that could be found through books.
Q: You’ve toured with the Sex Workers Art Show, created short films, as well as performed at a variety of venues including the Vancouver Art Gallery. How does your performance and film background compliment or deviate from your writing?
A: Performing at galleries or appearing in my own films has helped me get into my body. Like many survivors, I’m inclined to live in my head, my imagination is a real sanctuary. Performance art has allowed me to embody the themes and emotions of my work and connect more closely with audience. I really feel the work when I’m hurling my body around a stage. In turn, this has helped me sink into a deeper connectivity to my written work.
Q: You now teach creative writing classes—some to queer and at-risk youth. Can you say more about the potential of art to be a survival skill and lifeline to others?
A: Something very palpable occurs when a person writes their story. It doesn’t have to be for future publication, but simply to put memories on paper and/or to read them in a room full of safe, supportive listeners. It’s an investment in one’s self. It’s an act of acknowledging one’s worth. It’s making the unspoken, heard. This can have life-changing impacts on people who have been shut down or silenced. Each time I run a creative writing workshop I see a little bit of change happen. “Thank you for listening,” my students always say to me. They don’t need to thank me; they should thank themselves. They do transformative work when they use their voices.
I haven’t written as much, here, as I have in the past. I’m kind of sad about that, but that’s just the way 2012 was. My year was shaping up to be the Best Year Ever in January & February when Kristen and I were navigating the brand new openness of our relationship and I was falling in love with Rife, but in March when my dad died, everything got thrown off. I threw myself into traveling for my erotica anthology, Say Please, from April through August, and by the time I got back in August, Kristen had lost her job and I was a wreck. I’ve been working to pick up the pieces since then. Though I’ve continued to see Rife every other month or so, I haven’t written a lot about him here.
The combination of personal crises and traveling this year has meant that I have spent a whole lot more time in my inbox, and processing my fucking feelings, than I have spent writing.
Still, there were some notable posts in 2012.
It’s interesting to actually put the non-monogamy into practice. In some ways it feels like the most secure a relationship could be, that we both know to the core so deeply that our relationship is so good and solid that it’s totally okay for us to explore with other people. At our good moments that’s how it feels, anyway. In our harder moments, it’s a lot of reassurance—for both of us—that what we’re doing isn’t going to fuck up what we have. That is so, so important to me, to keep us safe and to not do anything that might jeopardize the foundation we’re building and the intensity between us and our sexual spark and all of those things, and if ever you feel like I am doing something that jeopardizes that, I want to know and I want to fix it as immediately as possible. I trust that, deeply; I have faith in us and I think we can figure this out. It’s hard, it continues to be hard, but I’m excited about the possibilities this is opening up and I’m glad we are exploring together.
I came out about opening up our relationship, and dating Rife, and how Kristen and I were dealing with that, in March 2012 with On Opening Up My Relationship With Kristen
I love you (I told her) and I don’t think this has to or does or will take away from that, from us. … Beyond that, I started asking myself and her: How can I love you well? How can I love you better than I do? How can I continue to make you feel special in our relationship, in ways other than exclusive sex? That is only one way, one fairly arbitrary way. What are the things we both need? How do we ensure that happens well?
We came up with some agreements about what I would or wouldn’t do with him, how we’d see each other, what kind of contact we’d have, and how my relationship and sexual connection with Kristen would be kept as the highest priority. It took a long time to negotiate that, to try some things and then try other things, and it’s a working document that keeps changing.
It’s still hard—there is still jealousy and insecurity and uncertainty, but the fighting has basically ceased. There are still complications, and we talk through it. We’ve been negotiating—fairly well, I would say—ever since.
I also wrote a few posts about Rife, like our adventures at IMsL, in Like a Faggot, published in June 2012:
“I like your cock in my ass. I like it. Please, Sir, fuck my ass. Please please please.” His pleading cries became whimpers and I groaned, my hips jerking hard against his in response.
“Good boy,” I muttered as my cock slid in and out. I wrapped my arms around him, held us together, breathing hard, and brought my hand between his legs to his clit again, thrumming it gently, sensitive now. “Mmm, fuck, you feel good. Your ass is nice and tight, feels good on my cock. I like to fill you up. Squeeze me harder, let me feel how tight you are, that’s it, yeah.” He came again, squirting, I could see it darken the blanket as his body thrust forward in contractions.
“Just a little more. Then I’m going to beat you.” I slid in and he moaned deep. He whimpered and shook, straightening his body upright until I pushed him back onto the table.
“Take it,” I growled. “Just a little more. Take it like a faggot. You can do it. Come on, dirty boy, I know you like it.” He didn’t stop shaking, barely holding himself up on his legs, and I thrust in again, and again. I rambled on as I worked up a slick sweat. I wanted to wear him out, warm him up before I started beating him. “Do it for me again, faggot. Come on, boy, come on my cock while I fuck you. Do it. Do it for me.”
Kristen and I had some really good scenes this year, too. The Three Minute Game, June 2012
“For my pleasure …” I swallowed. “I would like you to kiss my feet.” We’ve played with this a little. It is only recently that I have admitted how much I like it—to myself and others—enough to actually experiment with the sensation. It makes me nervous to ask for. But that is partly what this game is for, and it’s only three minutes. I can do just about anything for three minutes.
She nodded, looked at me a little coyly, chin down eyes up lips parted, and said, “And suck your toes?”
My breath caught. “Yes,” I think I managed to say. I think it was audible. So nervous. And it’s something that I wanted to feel, so much.
I set the timer again and she slid down the bed on her belly to take my right foot in her hands and deliver a sprinkling of kisses along the top of it. She ran her tongue along the instep, the most sensitive part, and sucked gently with her lips. She tongued the crease between my big toe and second toe before sliding the larger into her mouth.
Another good Kristen story got really dirty: Dirty Filthy Nasty, September 2012:
I bring the bottle of lube, twist my legs up onto the bed and get on my knees, grab her thighs with my hands and pull her hips toward me so she’s at an angle. I pump the lube twice—once over the lips of her cunt, once on the head of my dick. I rub it slowly with my hand, showing off a little because I know she likes to watch me jerk off. Her legs are open on either side of my knees. Her cunt is mostly bare, her lips are pink and swollen.
I grip her inner thighs in my hands and poise my cock with my hips. Taking the cock in my fist, I use the head of my cock to rub the lube along her slit, rubbing it on her cunt, slick and smooth, and then smack her with it a few times, before I slide in. I reach up to her wrists and my hands fit so easily around them, she feels so small. She struggles against me, just a little, pushing back, but I have gravity and more than fifty pounds on her—we both know it’s for show. A request to hold her harder, a request to keep her down. We both shudder as I slide in deeper and put more of my weight down onto her, and she wraps her legs around me, her arms around my shoulders.
I vow to go slow, I keep repeating in my head, go slow go slow slow down go slow, but she feels so fucking good and she’s so wet and slick and pulsing around me so tight, and I’m so hard and deep, my hips start bucking and I don’t restrain them. She moans. I fuck her harder, reaching down with my right hand to lop my elbow around her calf and pull her knee up, her legs apart.
“Baby, baby, baby …”
I wish it was a given that I would fuck her like this until I shoot. I wish it was more consistent, to come inside her, to get off while she writhes.
There was a femme conference in August, and I wrote some about policing the femme identity and what it’s like to go to an identity-based conference: Are You Femme Enough for the Femme Conference? July 2012
I think the bottom line is that it’s incredibly complicated to occupy a socially-recognized identity like butch or femme, because while we have stereotypical versions of what those things “should” look like in our minds, we don’t necessarily have the complex deconstructions (and reconstructions) necessary to be able to see that person as butch or femme and all their other pieces of self too. Or, if the person doesn’t quite look like the stereotype, we don’t recognize them as “legitimate.” These queer cultures still see someone, recognizes them as butch or femme or neither, and draws all sorts of conclusions based on that.
People are probably always going to do this. I don’t mean that in an I-give-up kind of way, just in a this-is-probably-true-and-I-will-have-less-strife-in-my-life-if-I-accept-that kind of way.
And y’know, fuck that. I mean, I completely understand that that is a challenge and hard and sometimes makes me return home defeated after a night and just kinda cry and whine for a while, I also think part of the work of having these identities is recognizing that we are trying to rise them above stereotypes, and that the cultures we’re in still largely use big fat markers to draw pictures of these identities, not slim exact-shaded pencils. And part of our work, I believe, part of the work of occupying these identities, is uncoupling them from the heteronormative gender roles, and making them big enough and accessible to anyone who feels a resonance with them. They can be liberational, and the benefits of identifying with a gender lineage, a gender heritage, feels so important to me, putting me in a historical context with people who came before me, so I feel less alone in my forging forward. I’m not doing it exactly as they did it, I’m doing it my own way and in the context of my own communities and time and culture, but I am able to remake it and make more room for freedom and consciousness and liberation within it because I am on their shoulders, using the tools they left for me—us—to pick up.
That is all to say, you are femme enough to attend the femme conference. Or, you know, if you don’t identify as femme but you have some interest in learning more about femme identity and being around femmes and folks who are puzzling through femme identity, you can come too.
Though by far, the most viewed post was this one: Sugarbutch Star: blckndblue: The Pink Dress, January 2012, which is fiction.
“Was there something that you wanted? Sir?” She adds the last word in a low, sweet voice and my cock pulses. I drop my hand holding the glass to my side. Extending her arms around my neck, she draws closer to me. I can smell the sticky sweet of her lipstick. I lick my lips. Swallow again. My mouth is dry. I lift my arm, take a swig of the whiskey, and it goes down like a knife. She offers me her lips when I drop the glass again, whispering right up next to mine but not touching. She waits. I kiss her and her mouth is like candy, like being enveloped in silk. My knees go weak again and I lean against the wall to hold myself up. Her lipstick is a smear on my mouth and I don’t care. She leaves a trail of lip prints along my jaw and to the curve of my neck and I don’t care. She is devouring me one kiss at a time and I don’t care. My whole body shudders between her and the wall, held up by both.
She pulls on my earlobe between her lips before she whispers in my ear, “I would like to suck your cock now.” It’s almost a question, almost asking for permission, she knows that’s usually how it works, but this time it is more of a statement of intent. I notice she doesn’t say “sir” but I don’t care. She’s calling the shots now. She drags her body down mine and her skirt fans out around her legs as she kneels in front of me. She looks up, hands on her thighs, and waits, lips parted a little, lipstick smeared and thick which makes her mouth look even more swollen. I breathe deep, trying to focus. I’m supposed to do something. I manage to set the glass of whiskey down on the side table nearby and unbuckle my belt, unzip my pants, pull out my cock. She sits up on her knees to get it lined up with her mouth.
She holds the tip of my cock right outside of her lips, breathing, looking up at me, before dropping her eyes and extending her tongue, flat and soft, to lap the underside, and brings her lips forward to circle just the head and suck. She lifts her eyes again. I swoon, my head swirling, the bowl of my pelvis full and trying not to spill over. Her tongue plays down the shaft and leisurely flicks every little ridge. Her lips are soft and warm and I can feel every contour, every smooth curve.
I spent most of the last six months trying to untangle myself from grief. I wrote a little bit about that, like in Grief. Also, Trying to Find My Awesome Place:
Grief is not singular, it is not linear, it usually doesn’t even feel particularly knowable. It’s a mess, (or as I keep saying) a fog. Something engulfing that chokes and invades my lungs.
Grief it is not just about this one loss, either: it is about all losses, everywhere, ever, especially the ones I have felt. People keep reminding me of this, and yet I keep feeling surprised when I turn a corner and get sucker-punched by a memory of Cheryl, of an ex, of my fucking dog when I was seven, of every goddamn time I have to say goodbye to Rife, of those looks Kristen gives me when she’s angry and hurt and it’s my fault.
I know that what I’m feeling isn’t about that, except that it is. I know that what I’m feeling won’t last, except that it is seeping into every pore of me and I know that I am forever changed. (Fuck that sounds so dramatic. Forgive me the drama. It’s what drama was made for: loss, grief, feeling.) But it’s also true: Nothing is the same. It’s taken me months to feel that really sink in. March to August, I might argue. In August, I lost it. Since August, I’ve been trying to get it back. I don’t know how. Kristen doesn’t know how. We are both unsure what to do now, but it’s clear that we can’t quite keep going the way we’ve been going, spiraling down into something awful, me lashing out and angry, so angry. Why am I so angry? I know why I’m so angry. I probably need a punching bag daily.
We don’t know what to do, but also we kind of do. Or I guess I am starting to.
When I look back at the year, clearly the things that get the most visitors are the dirty stories. I’d like to write more of those in 2013. I like writing smut. It’s deeply pleasurable. I’d like to write more about Rife and the deep D/s that that relationship is developing. I’d like to write more about power and relationships and codependency and the ways that things can go so wrong. Mostly, I’ve just been waiting to get through these crisis months.
In this, the darkest time of year, the solstice, the time when we burn the Yule log, I keep thinking about the things I want to leave in the dark, the seeds I want to plant that will start to pop open under the surface in the next few months before pushing through the topsoil, the things that I want to grow.
I want more emotional resilience.
I want more self-confidence, less insecurity. To let go and be less controlling.
I want more radical acceptance of what is in front of me.
I want to date Kristen again.
I want to spend more time loving and less time fighting.
I want more sex. Goddamnit.
I want less railing, clinging, obsession, torture.
I want to leave the black hole of depression and grief here in the deep dark.
I want more love. More lovers. More exploration. More pleasure.
More pleasure. Yes—if I had to sum up my intentions for 2013, that would be it. More pleasure. Less grief.
The summer has flown by and I have barely updated this place. I have been traveling tons since March, if you’ve been keeping up with me on Facebook or Twitter you probably know that I’ve been in Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Boston, Portland, Albuquerque, Baltimore (twice), and Los Angeles in the last few months.
I have been having a wonderful time promoting Say Please—if you came out to a reading or event, thank you! I met so many people and taught workshops on Cock Confidence and Writing Dirty and all sorts of other fun things.
I kept thinking that I have August and September off from traveling, but in truth I’ve got a bit more to go. I’ll be near Baltimore for Summer Camp and then back in Seattle for my very last Tantra training, then I’ll be back on the road visiting colleges. Want to bring me to speak at your school? I’d love to go! I’ll be posting more details about that soon.
I’m starting to gear up for the fall in a serious way. I’m getting some new workshops together (including So You Want to Be A Daddy, Feminist Kink: You Can Have It All, D/s Protocol, The Sexual Politics of Topping, Butch & Femme for the 21st Century, and others!), and I’m getting together my tour list for the fall. I’m aiming to be in Boston, San Francisco, Hartford CT, Springfield MA, Albany NY, Austin, Chicago, Durham, Dallas, and more.
The other new exciting thing for this fall is that I’m starting to see people individually for sessions. I know “sessions” is incredibly broad, and that’s also accurate—content for these sessions can be widely varied. In general, I’m starting to work with people who want more of a one-on-one approach to learning some of the things that I have been teaching about, things like embodiment, sexuality, sensuality, pleasure, shame, writing about sex, self-actualization, touch, energy, and the many facets of queer tantric lineage I have been learning through. I’m not sure how to talk about this or advertise it yet, really,
Exciting Embodiment Workshops You Should Know About
Celebrating the Body Erotic for Women in Seattle, October 26-28
In a safe, serious and playful space that respects boundaries, embrace pleasure and experience your body as powerful, expressive and sacred. The class expands awareness and sensation through a process of breath, movement and touch. Each woman’s choices and rhythms are honored and celebrated. This workshop is for women of all sexual orientations and ages who are ready to learn about their own power to illuminate and enjoy sexuality and sensuality within a community of women.
Power, Surrender, and Intimacy for Queers in San Francisco, September 28-30
- This workshop explores techniques of BDSM practice, using the circle of women and men as a grounded, respectful container in which to discover and clarify edges of empowerment, liberation and embodiment.
Learn to recognize aspects of yourself that are continually engaged in power dynamics, and hence become more choiceful about how you can share power with compassion and skill. Learn ways that power and sensation can be wielded for a healing intention, and experience the intense fire generated by a surrender to trust. Expect heightened awareness of your body’s capacity for sensation, a greater sense of personal empowerment, and appreciation for the connection between the divine energy of power and the human energy of surrender.
The program begins on Friday evening 6:30PM-10PM and runs 9AM-6PM Saturday and Sunday.
Prerequisite: Celebrating the Body Erotic or equivalent experience. Contact coordinator to see if this workshop is right for you.
Event on Fetlife
Dirty Things For You To Read
Girls Who Score has my first butch/butch published erotica story included in it, about an encounter in a locker room. Check out my entry from the book’s blog tour for more about my process writing it. Anything For You: Erotica for Kinky Couples features a story about a threesome with Kristen and a (now good) friend of ours. Stripped Down: Lesbian Sex Stories reprinted the very first erotica story that I ever published, which was about packing to yoga class and staying after for some, ah, “adjustments.”
I’m still writing elsewhere online, primarily for Fearless Press and Lambda Literary Foundation these days. Here’s a couple recent articles.
I’ve got a long list of writing ideas, and I really want to actually write soon instead of spending all my time on marketing and promotion. I miss writing. I have so much to tell y’all about my poly experiment data collecting, sex, my dad and family, my ecology of desire, and all sorts of things.
I have been so busy telling you all about Say Please that I have barely even mentioned some of the other recent notable books I’ve picked up. All are fantastic reads and have plenty to offer for the novice or the very experienced kinkster.
Ecstasy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas I’ve already mentioned on Sugarbutch, but it’s worth mentioning again if you haven’t read it yet. If you’re interested in exploring your own sexuality, getting closer to your own desires, having a lovely introduction to some tantric explorations, or taking a good, long reflective look at your sex life and relationship/s, this is an incredible place to start.
Queer & Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein is a beautiful, stunning memoir about Kate’s time as a scientologist (!), then being excommunicated and losing her family, then transitioning and coming out as a kinkster on the West coast, and finally moving to New York. It’s an incredible story and I loved every page.
The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino really is the Ultimate Guide to Kink. There are essays in here from all sorts of mentors and experienced authoritative kinksters, and the book covers all kinds of fascinating topics. I’m especially excited about Barbara Carrellas’s chapter on kinky tantra, the age play chapter, and the “inside the mind of a sadist” chapter. I haven’t finished it yet (I’ve barely started it, actually) but I’m already thrilled. Cleis Press is contributing amazing things to the kink and sexualities worlds and I’ll read anything they put out.
Mind-Blowing Sex: A Woman’s Guide by Diana Cage might look like some basic women’s sexuality book, but it isn’t. It’s a complex commentary on our sexual culture and includes tons of ideas, exercises, and prompts to get you digging into your own sexual self. Kristen read it cover to cover and pronounced, “I’m going to send a copy to my sister.” It’s the kind of book that all our younger sisters should have (after we finish reading it).
There have been so many great books released this spring! I’m also really looking forward to Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel and Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. I haven’t been all the way through the Lambda Literary finalists, though I like to pick through that list because they are often the best of the best. And of course I’ll be at the Lammys this year! Very excited to continue attending and being involved.
What have you been reading lately? Anything good?
I won’t lie: Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Inga Muscio’s first book, changed my life. In fact, when I got Rose: Love in Violent Times in the mail last week, it made me want to pick up Cunt, and I started talking about it even as I was reading Rose. Kristen picked up Cunt this week (can you believe she’s never read it? I would have gifted her a copy two years and four months ago had I known that, I just assume everyone has) and has enjoyed reading it on her morning subway commute (and then I get to hear the stories later—love that).
While Kristen has been reading it this week, she remarked on how dated it seems, and I realized that it was published 13 years ago. Not only that, but it’s a very western American perspective, which struck me from reading Rose, how western Muscio’s voice and perspective is. It makes me a bit nostalgic, to be honest, and homesick, missing the culture on the west coast.
Rose is a bit different. Just released by Seven Stories Press, they describe the book with this question: “Rose breaks new ground in answering a fundamental question in most feminist and antiracist writing: how do we identify, witness, and then recover from trauma—as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a country?” I love this, it is fascinating and deep and hits on many of the things that I’m interested in exploring, especially around queer and gender stuff, but Muscio tackles larger (primarily US-focused) questions of war, rape, and abuse. I found it hard to read, because it was so direct and descriptive in the wrong-doings that surround us in this (western, US) culture. Of course, that’s also precisely the point, so though it was difficult to read, it was also quite successful.
I wish I could say that those questions of witnessing and recovering from trauma were addressed, though I think the “love” section of this book was a bit lacking. Maybe I just read it too quickly, maybe I wasn’t taking it to heart the same way I took in the “violence” section. I do think it’s important to participate in the healing process, not just for myself but for the culture, and Rose did a great job of inspiring more hard work towards those lofty goals, which I appreciate.
I’d be less inclined to pick it up again, however. Not like I am inspired to pick up Cunt or even Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil, Muscio’s second book. Still, all of her books are worth reading, and I adore her style and tone. But Cunt is the one I go back to again and again. As soon as Kristen’s done with it, I may just re-read it myself, it’s been a few years.
Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio was sent to me by Seven Stories Press to review. Pick it up at your local independent queer feminist activist bookstore, or directly from the publisher, or order it online from Amazon, if you must.
The Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just three weeks. And in honor, I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend.
Butch Is A Noun, S. Bear Bergman’s first book, has been re-released by Arsenal Pulp Press just in time for the fall series of regional Butch Voices conferences. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a personal collection of essays about what it’s like to live outside the binary gender system, in more ways than one, and what the identity, word, noun, verb, and adjective “butch” means to Bear.
The first chapter of Butch Is A Noun, “I Know What Butch Is,” is one of my favorite essays that I think I have ever read. Bear has a PDF of it over on hir website, if you’d like to read it as a preview to perhaps buying the book, and there’s also a great video of Bear reading the first chapter (that I have posted before, but it’s time to post again):
(Just ignore the girls in the background. Seriously.)
One of my favorite comments about the book comes from Kate Bornstein, who says: “Butch Is A Noun is a book that… a) should be required reading in any gender studies curriculum, b) femmes should read whenever they’re feeling unloved, lonely or misunderstood, c) butches should read, d) all of the above. The answer, of course, is d. Thank you, dear Bear.”
There’s lots in there for not just butch-identified folks, but also for folks who love butches, regardless of your gender.
Here’s the description of the book from Arsenal Pulp Press:
Butch is a Noun, the first book by activist, gender-jammer, and performer S. Bear Bergman,won wide acclaim when published by Suspect Thoughts in 2006: a funny, insightful, and purposely unsettling manifesto on what it means to be butch (and not). In thirty-four deeply personal essays, Bear makes butchness accessible to those who are new to the concept, and makes gender outlaws of all stripes feel as though they have come home. From girls’ clothes to men’s haircuts, from walking with girls to hanging with young men, Butch is a Noun chronicles the perplexities, dangers, and pleasures of living lifeoutside the gender binary.
This new edition includes a new afterword by the author.
In case you don’t know about it, Bear also has a new anthology, co-edited with Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation just released from Seal press. Pick that up directly from Seal Press, at your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.
Pick up a copy of Butch Is A Noun directly from Arsenal Pulp Press, or head out to your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, as usual, if you must, from Amazon.