A Regathering of SpiritEntertainment Feature, Entertainment News, Section 4A Thursday, September 4th, 2014
Lesbian Native American authors take center stage at historic San Diego literary event
This September, the literary community in San Diego will experience a historic first as two Native American authors perform special readings at the new Central Library, Sept. 13 from 6-8 p.m. This event will be especially meaningful for the LGBT community because the authors are also lesbian.
Hosted by the San Diego Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation in partnership with the Central Library, Native American writers and activists, Chrystos and Janice Gould will be performing in A Regathering of Spirit: Native Lesbian Writer, which will also include a resource and book fair and is part of the Literary Foundation’s ReadOut program.
“Because San Diego County is home to a number of tribes and has a significant Native population, programming focused on Native issues is especially important,” said Stephany Farley, director of communications of the Foundation. “We are extremely proud to collaborate with the San Diego Public Library in ensuring that San Diegans have access to such programming.”
The Foundation’s ReadOut program brings authors from throughout the country to San Diego to share their work. Chrystos is an internationally recognized poet (she refers to herself as a “street poet”) and activist of Menominee descent who contributed to the iconic book This Bridge Called My Back and was the keynote speaker at the 2011 Creating Change Conference, which she described as a high point in her career. Her powerful body of work includes Not Vanishing (1988), Dream On (1991), In Her I Am (1993), Fugitive Colors (1995) and Fire Power (1995). She also co-edited Best Lesbian Erotica in 1999 with Tristan Taormino.
Chrystos will read and perform selections from her entire collection, including rare and out of print titles, many of which will be available for purchase after the reading.
The event will also feature San Diego born Koyoonk’auwi poet Janice Gould, who was just named the Poet Laureate of the Pikes Peak region. Gould has received awards for her writing from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Astraea Foundation, and she has contributed greatly to the growing academic field of Native American Studies. Gould’s notable works include Beneath My Heart, (1991) Earthquake Weather (1996) and Doubters and Dreamers (2011). Her many other talents include music performance, music composition and photography. Gould is an associate professor in Women’s and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
Gould will be reading from her most recent volume of poetry, Doubters and Dreamers, which was a 2012 finalist for a Colorado Book Award and for the Milt Kessler Poetry Award from Binghamton University. “I’ll likely read Indian Mascot, 1959, a sestina and possibly some sonnets from one of the sonnet series,” Gould revealed. “I plan also to read a couple of new poems from my current manuscript which is titled This Music.”
Chrystos, who began writing at the age of nine, identifies as a lesbian and Two-Spirit writer. “Two-Spirit is a common reference among First Nations queers, to differentiate us from the white majority,” she explained. “Many of us have non-binary gender beliefs – i.e. I know five genders, rather than the two of either/or colonizer culture. We also don’t conflate gender with sexuality – so there can be a Two-Spirit whose preference is heterosexual.”
Chrystos was a contributor to This Bridge Called My Back, considered by many to be a unique and influential book bringing together the writings of women of color from diverse backgrounds and its linking of feminism, race, class and sexuality. More than 30 years later she still feels these writings are relevant and reveals that she rereads it herself every five years for clarity. “Racism continues on despite our work as does sexism and classism,” she added.
Both Chrystos and Gould are happy to be coming to San Diego for this historic event. “I’ll be reading from two of my books Fire Power and In Her I Am, the latter being erotica,” said Chrystos. “I love to do readings, so I’m excited to come to San Diego.”
Gould is equally as enthusiastic, “I’m very happy to be invited to San Diego to read poetry, to be recognized as an indigenous writer, and especially to be recognized as a California Indian poet,” said Gould. “While our numbers have been increasing in the literary field, California Indians have not generally been acknowledged as contributors to the arts. So it’s particularly gratifying to be numbered among the literary and artistic folks who are producing good work out there, some of whom are also gay and lesbian – writers like Greg Sarris, for example, and artists like L. Frank Manriquez. I appreciate that there’s a venue for our literature – the San Diego Multicultural Literary Foundation – and an audience who is interested to hear our work.”
When asked what they would say to an aspiring LGBT writer today, the authors had slightly different views.
“Publish yourself via eBooks, Amazon, print on demand, etc.,” said Chrystos. “Publishers work on a quota system and they will rip you off for royalties. You can become known for selling your work for $1.29. Word of mouth is now international because of technology. But when you do this check your spelling, punctuation and continuity. If you write poorly, word of mouth won’t be positive.”
Gould stressed the importance for aspiring writers to find good readers for their work. Not friends and family but someone with a literary sense of what good writing is and to ask for their opinion and suggestions. “I would say that in spite of the difficulties of breaking into the market, it’s worthwhile to persevere and to send your work out to literary presses that seem to have a good record of publishing unknown or emerging writers,” said Gould. “Those venues exist and I suppose you just have to be relentless in promoting your work where and when you can. I should add that few make a living at writing so it’s wise to be prepared to work at something else that pays the rent and puts food on the table.”
Gould also advised aspiring authors to learn from writers by reading what is written. “Notice how the imagination is put to use,” she added. “How sentences are constructed, the freshness of the writer’s vocabulary and the ways they utilize the genre to give readers a deeper sense of connection, insight and experience.”
These historic readings will take place Saturday, Sept. 13 from 6-8 p.m., in the Central Library’s auditorium (330 Park Blvd.). You can reserve your seat in advance by purchasing a $12 ticket at regatheringofspirit.brownpapertickets.com or, if available, general admission seating will be offered at the door on a first-come, first-served basis for a $12 suggested donation. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
For more information, visit the Foundation at sdliteraryfoundation.org.
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