Author Picks for Pride
- Juliet Jacques
Juliet Jacques published her memoir Trans in 2015, which began its life as a regular column in The Guardian newspaper, and went on to become a staff and customer favourite at Foyles. This year Juliet makes her first steps into the word of fiction publishing, with her short story collection Variations. Innovative and fresh, Variations travels from Oscar Wilde's London to austerity-era Belfast via inter-war Cardiff, a drag bar in Liverpool just after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Manchester's protests against Clause 28, and Brighton in the 2000s. Variations is a bold and beautiful book which explores the history of transgender Britain with lyrical, acerbic wit. Especially for Foyles, Juliet has selected three books she would recommend to readers during Pride month
Transgender Marxism by Jules Joanne Gleeson & Elle O’Rourke (eds.)
In the 2010s, trans visibility – and the trans rights movement – rose to apparently unstoppable levels, only for transphobia to become a crucial part of electoral coalitions that have swept the far-right into power in the USA, UK, Brazil, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere. That decade also saw the revival of the radical left, which often adapted to incorporate anti-racist and LGBTQ+ politics – but not always. Transgender Marxism aims to close the gap between left-wing and trans politics, asking not just what socialism or communism can do for global trans and non-binary people, but also what trans attitudes to gender can bring to revolutionary movements. The essays and dialogues in Transgender Marxism are written by a range of contributors from across the world, and cover subjects as diverse as healthcare, unionising and workers’ rights, literature and the nature of trans ‘community’, moving beyond identity politics by asking not just who trans people are, but what are the social conditions that form our identities. Looking at the place of trans people at work, in the home and elsewhere, Transgender Marxism is an intelligent, optimistic contemplation of how our politics might develop over the coming years.
LOTE by Shola von Reinhold
Issued as part of Jacaranda Books’ #Twentyin2020 list, when they published 20 black British writers, Shola von Reinhold’s debut novel LOTE is about exclusion, and how the rediscovery of marginalised art and artists can provide an impetus for new creative cultures. Its queer, black, working-class protagonist, Mathilda, helps at an archive, exploring her fascination with the ‘Bright Young Things’ – the bohemian aristocrats, socialites and writers of inter-war London – building a personal canon of lesser-known figures who she calls her ‘Transfixions’. Some, by her own admission, are ‘recherché white queers’, but when she finds a photograph of long-forgotten black poet Hermia Druitt, who lived on the edges of the Bloomsbury Group, Mathilda goes to a residency in a secluded Scottish town, where she devotes herself to learning all she can about Druitt, using a book entitled Black Modernisms as her guide.
This book within a book is quoted extensively, providing the basis for von Reinhold to examine processes of marginalisation through its detailed study of someone who (sadly) did not exist. Who was allowed to exist, in which circles, on which terms, and how did they affect who has been allowed to write themselves into history? These questions have always been pertinent for artists of colour, queer people and women, and von Reinhold engages with them on the level of form as well as content. Stylistically ornate, LOTE’s sentences are clearly influenced by the decadent writers of the fin-de-siècle and their 20th century inheritors, blending its narrative with politicised cultural criticism, to ask how biases implicit in questions about art, as well as who gets to make art and who gets remembered, might be overturned
We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics by Andrea Abi-Karam & Kay Gabriel (eds.)
An interesting companion to the Transgender Marxism volume (above), Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel’s We Want It All anthology is a thrilling selection of radical poetry and prose by (mostly) contemporary trans and non-binary authors. Engaging with movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter, anti-capitalist and anti-colonial politics as well as the current state of things for trans people, the writers included here also push the boundaries of form. The editors note just how many poets emerged over the last decade, but include a few antecedents, with extracts from Leslie Feinberg’s semi-autobiographical novel Stone Butch Blues (1993) and trans activist Lou Sullivan’s diaries as well as one of the last speeches given by Stonewall veteran and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries co-founder Sylvia Rivera. Of the new wave, they feature US poet/novelist Jackie Ess and Arab Canadian author Trish Salah, along with younger UK-based voices such as Ray Filar and Nat Raha. Another highlight is the work of Ari Banias, which responds to transphobic currents with feminist movements, especially the poet Adrienne Rich’s association with notorious anti-trans theorist Janice G. Raymond. It’s an astonishingly varied selection that provides an excellent introduction to the cutting edge of today’s trans and non-binary literature.
Juliet Jacques is a writer and filmmaker based in London. She is the author of Rayner Heppenstall: A Critical Study (Dalkey Archive, 2007) and Trans: A Memoir (Verso, 2015). Her landmark column on gender reassignment appeared in The Guardian, entitled A Transgender Journey (2010-12) and she has written for London Review of Books, Granta, Sight & Sound, Frieze, Art Review, New York Times, and many more. Juliet was included on The Independent on Sunday Pink List of influential LGBT people in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.