GAYLETTER

GAYLETTER

Tuesday 09.27.22

Ocean Vuong

It is impossible to ignore Ocean Vuong’s accolades: He’s won a MacArthur Genius Grant, a Whiting Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and in 2019 his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was long-listed for the National Book Award while spending several weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. His lyrical name is recognized outside of the literary circuit. Only so many authors are; many of them dead. That is to say, Ocean is not in the company of many contemporaries. While the ‘public intellectual’ has been called an endangered species, Ocean is one of the few we have writing today. This is more surprising given his lack of a Twitter presence, where writers often gain popularity for pontificating on anything and everything. Still Ocean, earning continued praise for his deft craftsmanship, is rarely far from the literary conversation. He is a writer’s writer — most comfortable at his desk, mulling over the pliability and banality of language.

 

Ocean broke out in 2016 with his debut collection of poetry Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press).. He enjoyed critical success and more. Fashion magazines, fashion brands, and even Netflix came knocking. Ocean, his star-ascendant, has made, and is making, poetry cool again.

 

Time Is A Mother, Ocean’s second collection of poems, arrives at a very different moment. While she lived long enough to see her son’s phenomenal success, in November 2019, Ocean’s mother passed away. She figures prominently in his first books as the central pillar of his matriarchal, immigrant family. …

Monday 06.27.22

THE OPENING OF THE AESOP QUEER LIBRARY IN LOS ANGELES

An intimate evening of queer discourse with author Paul Tran followed by a reception at Bacari in Silver Lake

Friday 06.24.22

Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok Vaid-Menon (they/them) is a multi-genre performance artist. They have headlined the New York Comedy Festival and Vancouver’s Just for Laughs Festival, authored a prose book, Beyond the Gender Binary (2020), published two poetry books, Femme in Public (2017) and Your Wound / My Garden (2021), and they’ve appeared on Netflix and HBO shows. Multiplicity is at the root of their sense of possibility. For Vaid-Menon the term means “being able to creatively self-fashion our identities and lives, not merely being offered pre-formatted categories and templates. It means affirming our continual potential for transformation and transcendence.”

 

One way that Vaid-Menon affirms the potential for transformation is by calling for an end to the unjust marginalization, within the queer community itself, that has historically harmed trans and non-binary people the most. When asked how they would like to see the queer community have grown by next year’s Pride, the artist urged, “I would like there to be unflinching solidarity for trans and non-binary people. Despite the fact that it was trans and gender-non-conforming people who started Pride, our communities have historically been scapegoated and demonized even within the queer community. That intimate betrayal is heartbreaking and disappointing and must be healed.” They added, “One thing I want to keep is all the dancing. We always need more spaces to dance!”

 

Vaid-Menon is as committed to dancing as they are to self-love. “I didn’t expect to learn how much courage it truly takes to love — especially to love oneself,” they admit. …

Thursday 06.23.22

The opening of The Aesop Queer Library in Williamsburg

An intimate evening of queer discourse with authors Meredith Talusan, Vivek Shraya, Raquel Willis, Qween Jean, Tourmaline, West Dakota and many more...

Isaac Fitzsimons

Isaac Fitzsimons (he/him) is the author of The Passing Playbook, a young-adult novel about a trans soccer star confronting whether to stay benched or fight for his right to play. The writer knows how important it is to find yourself on a bookshelf. When asked what library he first loved, Isaac recounted, “There’s a children’s library in the neighborhood where I grew up called Noyes Library. It’s housed in a one-room building in the historical part of town and looks like a fairytale cottage. I have memories of walking there with my mom and my brother and feeling like I was stepping into a storybook. For a child in a world that’s so big, having something made just for you feels really special.”

 

Remembering those who helped him see his own identity, Fitzsimons pays it forward. While some of his fictional characters deal with religious trauma, the author is fortunate to not have experienced this first hand, “in large part due to the rector of the church I attended in high school,” he explained. “Even though I wasn’t out as anything back then, seeing a proud gay man preach from the pulpit meant that I’ve never felt like I must choose between my identity and my faith. As I get older, I realize how privileged I am in that regard.” This role model was who Fitzsimons said he’d like to give flowers: “I’d send a truckload of lilies to Father Beddingfield as a thank you.”

 

Outside of writing, Fitzsimons likes to spend time in the water, swearing by aquatic exercise as self-care. …

Wednesday 06.22.22

Paul Tran

Paul Tran (they/them) has had dreams come true. Their debut poetry collection, All the Flowers Kneeling, was released earlier this year by Penguin-Random House in the U.S. and the U.K., and their work has been featured widely, from the pages of The New Yorkerto the soundtrack of the movie Love Beats Rhymes starring Azealia Banks. When we asked the writer to whom they’d like to give flowers, Tran was emphatic: “My mother deserves all the flowers in the world. She came to the United States from Vietnam in 1989. She raised me on her own and made it possible for me to be the first in my family to graduate high school and go to college. Now I’m a tenure-track assistant professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Everything I do is driven by my hope to give us a life we can be proud of. My book is titled All the Flowers Kneeling, and when I think of who the flowers kneel for, I always first think of her.”

 

The elements that Tran alchemizes to create magic are love, language, and time. Meditating on the idea of possibility, Tran explained, “I used to think that, if I could, I would go back in time and change the course of my life. I’d tell myself, and those I love, that we were doing our best, and I’d tell us that a better life was yet to come. But, now, I think that possibility means going forward, to keep going forward, daring and dreaming, and to keep seeing what extraordinary magic we can make happen with this life.” …

Tuesday 06.21.22

Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya (she/her) is a chameleonic artist who has produced award-nominated albums like 2019’s Part-Time Woman, best-selling books like 2018’s I’m Afraid of Men, and a publishing imprint of her own, VS Books. In I’m Afraid of Men, Shraya shares her record of the traumas that homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia inflict. Her talent for pulling off whatever genre best frames her creative vision has long been nurtured by regular trips to the library. “Being an introvert,” Shraya recalled, “I wasn’t drawn to the so-called cool places in the mall, but I loved the Edmonton Public Library (which was also in malls!) because it was a quiet place full of adventure and discovery, where I could access dozens of books filled with knock-knock jokes, origami instructions, and detective stories. That library was a portal — I could go anywhere, try anything, be anyone — and for free, which was especially useful being from an immigrant household.”

 

The multidisciplinary artist’s commitment to community shines through when asked what changes she’d like to see by next year’s Pride. Highlighting values like respect and generosity, Shraya revealed, “I would love to see our communities address lateral violence more head-on. How do we find ways to be kinder to each other and if we need to hold each other accountable, how do we do this with respect and generosity?” This sense of responsibility is nourished by the wisdom that to care for the self is to care for others. , “A self-care practice that I’m deeply invested in,” Shraya shared, “is my friendships (and doing what I can not to just center romantic intimacy). …

Monday 06.20.22

The Aesop Queer Library 2022

The Aesop queer library is now open! This Pride initiative by the beloved beauty brand Aesop, is the kind of pride programming we can get behind. Instead of slapping a couple of rainbows on the side of their Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash, and calling it a day, the brand is putting their dollars to truly good use. For pride they are turning some of their stores around the world (Williamsburg, New York, Silver Lake, L.A. and Queen Street West, Toronto) into actual queer libraries. Each store will stock over 140 titles by talented queer writers like Paul Tran, Vivek Shraya, Isaac Fitzsimons, Alok Vaid-Menon, Meredith Talusan and many others.

 

According to the brand “The library is fuelled by a belief in the transformative power of queer storytelling: its ability to broaden minds, embolden individuals and unite the community and its allies.” Any young queer kid who was able to find queer stories when they were learning about their gender expression and sexuality knows how valuable the written word can be. Books have the power to introduce us to new worlds, and new ways of thinking that can be life lines for many people. With new bans on queer books in repressive states across the U.S. it’s more important than ever to elevate queer voices.

 

This year the library is putting a focus on voices that explore the BIPOC trans experience. The Aesop Queer Library is a meaningful way to support our community and probably the nerdiest Pride event you’ll ever find — which is obviously why we love it, and why we feel so honored to be a part of it.  …

Friday 05.06.22

Linda Simpson’s The Drag Explosion at C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn, NY

With performances by Merrie Cherry, Horrorchata and Tyler Ashley

Friday 04.15.22

Tobias Carvalho – As Coisas

A conversation with the Brazilian literary sensation

Tobias Carvalho, 26, is already a literary sensation in Brazil. His award-winning debut story collection, As Coisas, describes the lives of gay characters in and around the city of Porto Alegre, in the south of Brazil. In brisk, steamy, and at times, chilling narratives, Carvalho captures an array of experiences from Grindr dates, to love magic, and gay saunas. As Coisas, which translates to The Things, pays close attention to intersections of technology and intimacy, the things we do for love – how young queer people search for connection in real and digital space. Before the launch of his second book, Visão Noturna (Night Vision), published in Brazil in November 2021, I spoke with the author about his story collection, As Coisas. I’d first read it when I lived in Porto Alegre, in 2018, and was taken by the spare prose and how accurate these stories represented the gay dating ecosystem of that city. The second book, Carvalho says, is not a “gay book” at all, but the third one, a novel, will be “very gay.” Here is our conversation:

 

 

How would you describe Porto Alegre to someone who’s never been? Well, Porto Alegre is a [city of 1.5 million people] in the south of Brazil, and I guess that it’s kind of known for its traditions, but it’s also a place where [the] Left has grown a lot in the 2000s. It’s kind of this place of freedom where left-wing people, parties and organizations in Latin America used to meet, and at the same time, it’s a place where there’s a lot of conservatism, you know, and the state, Rio Grande do Sul, is really conservative. …

Thursday 11.04.21

Alan Cumming celebrates the release of his latest book “Baggage” at L’Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue

Featuring a DJ set by Lady Bunny

Wednesday 10.27.21

The Drag Explosion Book Party at Parkside Lounge in NYC

Linda Simpson celebrates the second re-print of her book "The Drag Explosion" with performances by Julie J, Voxigma Lo, Paris Alexander and Linda Felcher