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DOWNLOAD “Stroke Book,” “Bullied,” covers + author photos.
09.10.21: 10 Reasons All Queers Are Creeps (and why that’s a good thing)
00.00.21 (forthcoming): Being Queer Is Everything! (That you “just happen to be” LGBTQ is a Lie.) Author asks, what stories do we tell ourselves to survive our queerness?
11.09.21: (Zoom event) Faculty Book Talk Featuring Author and Professor Jonathan Alexander (5:00 PM – 6:00 PM PST / 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST)
Text below is from the “Being Queer is Everything!” press release. View/download the Word/PDF/plain text without images/videos here.
Being Queer is Everything!
(That you “just happen to be” LGBTQ is a Lie.)
Author asks, what stories do we tell ourselves to survive our queerness?
“One of our finest essayists.” – Tom Lutz, founding editor, Los Angeles Review of Books
For author Jonathan Alexander, the claim that one “just happens to be” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer is a lie, a dismissive denial of the core queerness which is as much a part of who we are as our gender or skin color. Being queer is everything. It is the prism through which we perceive, imagine, and at times obfuscate our experienced reality.
This Fall, Alexander will publish “Bullied,” the second book in “The Creep Trilogy,” as well as “Stroke Book.” These titles constitute the latest in a series of creative nonfiction memoirs in which he grapples with how our relationship to our own pasts is always changing, how time is experienced differently by queer people, and how our identities continue to form and reform with new relationships, new experiences, and shifting political realities.
Alexander’s Creep Trilogy consists of “Creep: A Life, a Theory, an Apology” (2017, Punctum Books), “Bullied: The Story of an Abuse” (November 4, 2021, Punctum Books) and “Dear Queer Self” (Spring 2021, Acre Books).
“Creep: A Life, A Theory, An Apology,” a Lambda Literary Award finalist, is Alexander’s often humorous dive into owning one’s otherness, one’s queerness and making friends with one’s inner creep. “We’re all creeps, but much of that creepiness is a manifestation of the thwarted desire to know others,” he says. “We are curious about each other, but our culture has withdrawn the tools to approach each other openly and with interest. People are so unused to engaging strangers face-to-face, that what was once an innocent glance, hello or compliment is now questioned as creepy.” (“Creep” is also available as an 8-part podcast, accessible through the “The Creep Trilogy” website and on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, and Google Podcasts.)
“Bullied: The Story of an Abuse” probes the legacies of homophobic violence experienced by Alexander growing up in the Deep South of the 1980s and looks at how the pressure of being queer inescapably and fundamentally shapes our lives and the stories we tell ourselves to make our queerness bearable. Alexander reflects on a host of other oddly but intimately related topics, from drug abuse, sadomasochism, Catholic priests, and cruising to MAGA-capped boys and why Jussie Smollett may have staged his own homophobic attack. (“I don’t condone it. But I get it.”) We are our experiences, even those we imagined. But what happens when what you thought was the defining moment of your life–in Alexander’s case, sexual abuse by an uncle, which he blamed for his queerness–might be a figment of your imagination? How does one deal with the evaporation of a lie of one’s own making?
Maggie Nelson’s “The Argonauts” mixes theory and personal narrative, much like Alexander, to confront the complexities of living a queer life. Hilton Als’ “White Girls” offers a series of essays tackling the vexed racial and sexual subjectivists of its authors, comparable to the way in which Alexander grapples with the legacy’s of homophobic abuse and the temptation to tell untrue stories to exonerate himself from being queer. And Wayne Koestenbaum’s “Humiliation,” much like Alexander’s Bullied, blends personal narrative and theoretical and philosophical insights to investigate what it means to adopt — and come to love, however perversely — a self that one was taught to hate.
“Dear Queer Self,” (cover art forthcoming) to be published March 15, 2022, is a love letter written by Alexander, a gay middle-aged man to his youthful self, struggling to find a way to live and love as a young man who believed he had been sexually abused—when, in reality, what he was mostly struggling with was the self-hatred instilled by an insidiously homophobic culture. “We’re all still working on life,” he says, reflecting. “For queer people, it doesn’t necessary ‘get better,’ but viewed through our experiences, it does get richer. We learn to appreciate our complexity, our density.”
Accompanying the Creep Trilogy, and also to be published this Fall, is “Stroke Book: The Diary of a Blindspot,” (October 5, 2021, Fordham University Press). In the aftermath of an unexpected medical crisis—a minor stroke—Alexander considers how a lifetime in a society still toxic to queer people (recounted in “Bullied”) has impacted his health as well as his perception of queer time. Untethered to the markers of heteronormative life (marriage, birth of a child, raising kids, grandchildren), how do we queers experience time? Our aging bodies?
“Stroke Book” Comparisons
Patrick Anderson’s “Autobiography Of A Disease” deals with a similar medical crisis and the author’s attempt to understand it in the context of his life. Christine Hyung-Oak Lee’s “Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life” recounts its authors handling of an unexpected stroke, particularly in relation to cultural issues as a Korean-American, in much that same way that Alexander contextualizes his stroke as a gay man. And Herve Guibert’s “To The Friend Who Did Not Save My Life” recounts in fragmented form, much like Alexander’s, the trauma and possibility of confronting one’s mortality, Guibert from AIDS, Alexander from a stroke.
While all four books are memoirs, the pervasive questions raised are universal, particularly within the multifaceted universe that is queer life. Who do you think you are? How do you know? What stories, what lies, do we tell ourselves to survive our queerness? Does time feel differently for you as a queer person? And what does it all add up to?
Jonathan Alexander is a writer living in Southern California where he is Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author, co-author, or editor of twenty-one books. His cultural journalism has been widely published, especially in the Los Angeles Review of Books for which he is the Young Adult editor, where founding editor Tom Lutz called him one of “our finest essayists.” He lives with his husband and cat, and when not writing, dabbles in watercolors and plays piano in a music ensemble with friends. For more about Jonathan Alexander and his books please visit www.thecreeptrilogy.com and www.the-blank-page.com.
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