Blue, Too Gets Born!
Posted by unavitavagabonda
Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers is officially published (and just slightly ahead of schedule)!
And it’s a little love of a doorstop: 486 pages weighing in at a pound and three-quarters!
In addition to work by twenty writers (including Rigoberto González, Timothy Anderson, Tara Hardy, Keith Banner, Carter Sickels, and Renny Christopher, to name a few); an excerpt from John Gilgun’s unpublished autobiography; a Judy Grahn story from the landmark 1981 anthology, Lesbian Fiction; and a new translation from Italian, Blue, Too includes a 110-page theoretical and critical essay that reviews the history and present of working-class queers in literature and pop culture (“Class/Mates: Further Outings in the Literatures and Cultures of the Ga(y)ted Community”), as well as the “Reader’s, Writer’s, and Scholar’s Guide” and the Annotated Bibliography (more than 500 items) I’d always hoped would be part of this project.
There’s great reading between its covers, but Blue, Too is also designed for book clubs, discussion groups, and course adoption in working-class studies, queer/LGBTQ studies, and contemporary American Literature courses.
Small-press/independent books like this always struggle a bit to find their public, so this post is also a blatant plea for your support. Please buy a copy; please review the book; please let your friends know. (I can provide discounted copies to bookstores/resellers as well as review copies.)
This project, which has been part of my life in one form or another for more than a decade, answers my need for a response—not so much to silence, but to noise and lies, a reminder of the experiences that are elided, obscured, overlooked, manipulated, disdained, misunderstood, or simply out-shouted.
As Stanley Kunitz wrote in his poem, “The Layers”:
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
I, too, am scattered.
I like the part of me that gets about as excited by a demolition derby as I do by the Tony Awards, that likes both fancy cheese and Spam. Drag queens feel like home to me because they were there in the bars I came out in, but non-cross-dressing gay boys with tweezed eyebrows and shaved chests make about as much sense to me as a screen door on a submarine (as my mom used to say).
With all due respect to the many gay pride parades I’ve happily attended, I have experienced my most profound moments of bonding with other men when I have worked in prisons and jails in Texas, New Mexico, and San Francisco, places where poor and working-class men are not the majority, they are quite simply the whole.
Nobody better say a word against Tammy Wynette or Randy Travis in my presence, yet I suspect I might have learned to like opera more if you didn’t have to pay a day’s wages to get into one. I’m proud of being the first in my family to earn a college degree, and I’m just as demoralized by ignorance as I am by the attempts of the right to make formal education seem “elitist” and un-American. At the same time, some of the most decent, intellectually astute, and politically committed people I’ve ever known hated school and got out as fast as they could.
I can’t help feeling that “my” culture has been validated when Harvey Fierstein and Billy Porter take home prizes for Kinky Boots, a story about a working-class sissy who also happens to be a marketing genius, or when Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars pretends to mistake Liza Minnelli for a female impersonator, just as I can’t help recognizing the extent to which I am being dissed in politicians’ newfound love for the “middle class,” their slimy, calculated effort to make poor and working-class people invisible all over again. As if those who aren’t participating fully in American capitalism just aren’t pulling their weight.
I’m not sure where all of that leaves me. But I do know I don’t want to be told I’m not queer enough, and I don’t want to be told I’m not working class enough. I’d never claim that my experience of either one should be anyone else’s, but I do say that the issue of “realness” ought to be left to drag contests, where it still makes some sense.
“How many points determine a line?” a dear old friend used to exclaim in frustration whenever he argued with someone who refused to concede the obvious.
The answer, as it turns out, is a lot of them.