#WriterLifeMonth Day 11: A fave author you met.
Four years ago, if you had told me Sarah Schulman would be a favorite author of mine – someone whose intellect, integrity, and values I would respect deeply – I would have honestly snorted. Before meeting Sarah Schulman, all I knew about her was from this (vaguely patronizing) article and a few other pieces of doggerel which painted her as a scary lesbian separatist of some kind.
When I applied for a Lambda Literary Fellowship in 2013, I knew she would be on faculty. I was going to be in the Young Adult and Genre Cohort, however, and Schulman was teaching Nonfiction, so there was no reason for us to cross paths. In many cases, sadly, this would have been the case. With Sarah Schulman, however, that would never be the case.
I don’t remember how and when exactly I met her, but I do remember being honestly frightened. I thought she would be much more intimidating, and instead she turned out to be warm and supportive. When I first met her, we had but a brief conversation and she asked me my name. I thought: oh, that’s the beginning and end of that. Later during the fellowship retreat, when she called me by name, I was stunned.
“You remembered,” I sputtered.
“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked, clearly bewildered by my bewilderment.
I gave a reading of my work (as all Lambda Literary Fellows do), a piece about Lord Byron. Afterwords, she came up to me and said “well done”, and I couldn’t have been happier. Samuel Delaney was not twenty feet away, a man renowned for his mark on science fiction – genre fiction – and yet Schulman’s support meant more to me in some ways.
After the retreat, I bought two of her books, Ties that Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences and Gentrification of the Mind. The former possibly saved my life and helped me recognized and deal with familial abuse that I had experienced due to my transition. The latter continues to give me food for thought, and reminds me to “stay woke”, as the expression currently goes.
Gentrification of the Mind is a powerful meditation on the way neoliberal bullshit has razed American culture and our arts, and the impact that has had on artists (queer artists in particular), and how it lends itself towards a bland, homogenized culture where no one takes risks.
Both of these books are an important part of my library, and my personal and mental landscape. They have informed my work on numerous occasions. Schulman’s deep sense of integrity and accountability to her communities is wonderful, truthful, and honest in a time when most activism is anything but.
So yup. Sarah Schulman is one of my favorite authors, and she became one of my favorites simply by being a good, kind person.