A legendary “one-eyed” stagecoach driver who could steer a whip of six horses in one hand and wield a pistol in the other, all while casually puffing on a cigar, becomes known as a “woman in disguise” after his death. A chambermaid once accepted as a girl is deported as a man. A renowned hunter who declared himself to be “a man in all that name implies” becomes nonetheless written into history as a woman. History is full of figures who queered gender—yet their queerness is often contested, shaped, and narrativized only long after their death, visible primarily in what has been erased, denied, or persecuted.
This program will combine literary readings of new work by three authors with discussion about how we feel into and create story from the gaps of queer history. KJ Cerankowski, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, and Clare Sears tell archival ghost stories that consider how queering genre might serve as a strategy against erasures of queer gender.
Might inserting speculative imagination into historical representations be what allows us to bring the past to a more truthful life, one that transcends the violence of the archive? Can queering, critiquing, broadening, and experimenting with the archive help us arrive at a more just conception of the past, and thus of the present and future? This session explores these questions through narrative storytelling and participatory discussion on the methods and genres of queer history and memory.
About the Programmers
KJ Cerankowski is the author of Suture: Trauma and Trans Becoming, which received the 2021 Queer Indie Award for Nonfiction, was named among the Best of 2020-2021 Nonfiction by Entropy Magazine, and was shortlisted for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present 2022 Book Prize. His poetry and prose have also been published in DIAGRAM, Pleiades, Sinister Wisdom, and The Account, among others. His current book project on object encounters in transgender archives, Roar of Wanting: Touching Trans History, has received research support from the Newberry Library, Yale’s Beinecke Library, and Harvard-Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library. He is an associate professor of American Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Oberlin College.
A 2023 United States Artists fellow, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, which received a Lambda Literary Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the Grand Prix des Lectrices Elle, the Prix des libraires du Quebec, and the Prix France Inter-JDD and was translated into 11 languages. Their essays appear in The New York Times, Harper’s, and THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2020 and 2022. They live in Vancouver, Canada, where they are an assistant professor and the Rogers Communications Chair in Creative Nonfiction at UBC. Their next book, BOTH AND NEITHER, a transgender and transgenre reimagining of life beyond the binary, is forthcoming from Doubleday and publishers internationally.
Clare Sears is an associate professor at San Francisco State University, where they direct the MA program in Sexuality Studies. Their book, Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century History (Duke University Press, 2014), was short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award and cowinner of the Committee on LGBT History’s John Boswell prize. Their writing on queer and trans histories has also appeared in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Routledge History of Queer America, Jacobin, and SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies. They are currently writing a novel on queer and trans history, haunting, and memory set in 1870s San Francisco.
This program is organized by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, KJ Cerankowski, and Clare Sears as part of the 2023 Circa: Queer Histories Festival, presented by One Institute. This program is co-presented with the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
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