In anticipation of our Edinburgh launch of Truth & Dare (on Sept 14th! Join us!) with the formidable So Mayer (hosted by our own, very smiley Mo) we invited the author to set the scene for us with some book recommendations, here they are:
"We're here! We're queer! We're not going shopping!" was one of the first protest chants I ever chanted, coming out shortly after ACT UP and Outrage had taken to the streets.
Hereness & queerness have long been entangled in my imagination: as a cultural historian and general nerd, I've long been drawn to a capacious & extensive here.
In writing Truth & Dare, I wanted a queer here, there and everywhere -- and while experimenting with speculative fiction means that can change spacetime, I also wanted to root it in historical moments from the 1926 General Strike to the convivencia of Al-Andalus/Sefarad.
These are some of the books that were companions on the way. Bookshopping is ofc very queer, so browse across millennia of storytelling for the daring truths of queer, trans and intersex persistence & resistance.
Jewelle Gomez, The Gilda Stories
Jewelle Gomez’s undying classic of vampire butch blues FINALLY gets a UK edition this Sept! Queer love, death to racists and enslavers, and a well-cut pair of trousers see Gilda through the long centuries of her beautiful and wayward life.
Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments
Exactly wayward, beautiful, revivifying and experimental, Saidiya Hartman's sui generis generous speculative history of queer and gender non-conforming Black women's lives in the cities of the northeastern US demonstrates the rigour, insight, fluency and tenacious intimacy with often traumatic research materials that writing the past demands. Unforgettable as the uptown parties she describes!
Kit Heyam, Before We Were Trans
Another non-fiction work of rigour and intimacy that makes a crucial argument about shedding/shredding assumptions of objectivity and conventional standards of "proof" when it comes to sounding out trans and intersex lives encoded in criminalising and transphobic official materials, or surviving in what's considered ephemera. Because history and our stories are richer and more precise when we look differently.
Ann-Marie Macdonald, Fayne
Shout-out to the brilliant Tramp Press for bringing this magnum opus to Ireland and the UK. Fayne is a place, a person and a state of mind, a refusal to conform, and a messy history. Rewriting multiple canonical modes all at once -- we get a Jamesian marriage, Dickensian poor Edinburgh, a Gothic upbringing, a Frankensteinian encounter, a long-lived intersex character, a literal bodice-ripper, and a little bit of the future -- MacDonald lets us loose to run free and queer through the house of fiction.
H. Melt, There are Trans People Here
Poetry is deep in the archives these days, singing histories differently. Jay Bernard's Surge and Joelle Taylor's C+nto and Othered Poems are absolute essentials, incredible works of lyrical tension and tenacity that give us thriving communities and/against their violent policing. H. Melt's There Are Trans People Here is another superb memory-work, one that moves through centuries to find moments.
Jackie Kay, Trumpet
Was this the first novel with a trans character that I ever read? How can it be 25 years old? And also only 25 years old? Published in 1998, Trumpet changed my bookshelf and my life. Its acute musical sensitivity -- also palpable in Kay's brilliant book on Bessie Smith -- will earworm you, implanting debonair protagonist Joss Moody's suited and booted life and love in your memory and in history (Kay has stated that Moody was inspired by trans jazz musician Billy Tipton) forever.
Juliet Jacques, Variations
It's easy to describe this collection as short stories that showcase British trans history from Victorian times to the present. And! The stories craftily take the forms of scripts for imagined films, case histories, blogs, interviews, long form journalism, and more -- all with trans vividness and vivacity at their heart, and placing trans continuity and community at the heart of the last century-plus of British history. Clever and tender, Variations has something for everyone.
No list for history nerds is complete without a sourcebook or anthology! This one is close to my heart not only because it gives me back some of the cultural history that was silenced by homophobia and transphobia in my upbringing, but because it also does so across a transcontinental diaspora community, across many languages (with full credit to all translators), eras and cultures. L'chaim!
More about So Mayer:
So Mayer is a writer, bookseller, organiser and film curator. Their first collection of short stories Truth and Dare is out now from Cipher Press. Their recent books include A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing, a book-length essay on queer films, bodies and fascism for Peninsula Press, and their most recent collaborative projects are Space Crone by Ursula K. Le Guin (Silver Press), The Film We Can’t See (BBC Sounds), Unreal Sex (Cipher Press), and Mothers of Invention: Film, Media and Caregiving Labor. So works with Burley Fisher Books and queer feminist film curation collective Club Des Femmes. 🐦@Such_Mayer.