RADAR & City Lights Books present a most excellent book party for Lenelle Moïse’s Haiti Glass on September 16, 2014 at City Lights Books (261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco) at 7pm. This book is part of the City Lights Sister Spit imprint! Now you have one more book you should most definitely read before summer officially ends. The time is now! Start reading it.
Here are some reasons why:
Haiti Glass, the debut book from award-winning playwright Lenelle Moïse offers an unflinching look at Haitian-American identity, disaster, desire, and death-defying love. In her debut collection of verse and prose, Moïse moves deftly between memories of growing up as a Haitian immigrant in the suburbs of Boston, to bearing witness to brutality and catastrophe, to intellectual, playful explorations of pop culture enigmas like Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Whether it is the presence of a skinhead on the subway, a newspaper account of unthinkable atrocity, or the “noose loosened to necklace” of desire, the cut of Haiti Glass lays bare a world of resistance and survival, mourning and lust, need and process, triumph and prayer.
“Lenelle Moïse brings fierce passion.”—New York Times
“Piercing, covering territory both intimate & political . . . vivid & powerful.” —Curve Magazine
“See Moïse push stories from her mouth like it might save your life.”—The Root
Lenelle Moïse is an award-winning poet, playwright, essayist, and internationally touring performance artist who creates jazz-infused, hip-hop bred, politicized texts about identity, memory, and magic. Her poems and essays are featured in several anthologies, including: Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution and We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists. Her writing has also been published in the Utne Reader, Make/Shift, Left Turn, and numerous other magazines and journals. A current Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow, her plays Womb-Words, Thirsting, Ache What Make, Expatriate, Matermorphosis, Purple, and Cornered in the Dark have been produced across the country. She lives in Northampton, MA where she was the 2010-2012 Poet Laureate. This is her long-awaited first book, and she is available for interview.
RADAR interviewed Ariel Schrag, author of graphic novels Awkward, Definition, Potential and Likewise. She has written for TV shows such as The L Word and HBO series How To Make It In America. She recently published her first novel Adam. She will be attending RADAR’s August reading on the 12th.
R: You did a tour with Sister Spit, right?
R: And was it just one tour or a couple?
A: I just did one tour in fall of 2009.
R: Had you already started your work for Adam, or how has your work changed since your tour with Sister Spit?
A: I think when I went on Sister Spit I’d written maybe like around 60 to 100 pages of Adam, I was really just at the beginning. And I was reading from short comics on that tour so I wasn’t doing any preliminary Adam readings.
R: So for the comics, you are at a projector type of thing reading along?
A: Yeah, basically starting around 2005/2006 a lot of cartoonists who had previously had to use slides to show their comics and read them all began using Powerpoint or other various software programs to use kind of rapidly on the computer through images. What most cartoonists would do is take a page of comics that had may twelve panels on it or six panels on it and then in Photoshop go in and separate the panels and turn it into individual slides that you could then put onto a Powerpoint. Some people would erase, if you had a lot of text in your comics it made sense to erase or to take out and photoshop the text so that people wouldn’t be trying to read too much at the same time as you’re reading. But yeah! So basically the idea is just that you read the voices and whatever missing text there is along with the slides and I would also include a musical sound track so music would be playing at the same time and it was super fun.
R: We’re you the only one on the tour who did that type of thing?
A: On our particular tour I was the only cartoonist doing that but Michelle’s definitely had other cartoonists on the tour.
R: So the next question is totally different. You moved from the bay to New York awhile ago, right?
R: I recently moved from NY to the bay and I’m wondering how exactly New York, the stereotypes that you think of when you think of New York, how it lived up to that and how it was different than you thought it might be?
A: I think my main motivation for moving to New York when I was 18 was this whole idea that it was this creative hub where if you wanted to be a writer this is where you go and I was definitely not disappointed. I found myself surrounded by people excited to do interesting things. So of course when I first moved I had to kind of work a string of pretty shitty jobs but, you know, whereas I had worked at a movie theater in Berkeley and most of the people I worked with, you know some of them were creative and had other pursuits, a lot of people were totally happy to just work at the movie theater. And when I moved to NY and worked at the Film Forum, I felt like everybody was like really intensely working on something else at the same time. I remember I came in one day to work and my coworker was reading Susan Sontag’s Illness As Metaphor, gosh I love that book, he then introduced me to what would then become one of my all time favorite books. That was just sort of like the type of environment that felt like everyday you would meet someone who was doing something exciting or would introduce you to something exciting. You need to feel that way you know, and now I’ve been here, I don’t know 15 years or something and I’m always meeting new and exciting people.
R: Mmhm, I feel like the level of productivity in NY is a little higher.
A: Berkeley’s great and I’ll always have a fondness for it and could see myself maybe living there when I’m older but I don’t feel the same kind of creative energy. Obviously some people in the bay area have it but I think, for the most part, you tend to find a type of intensity more often in NY.
R: What brings you to the bay at the time of the August 12th reading?
A: I’m coming out for the RADAR reading and also I’m going to visit my family and then go to spend some time in LA as well to visit friends and I’m going to be pitching an animated television show that may or may not happen but that is my August California visit.
R: Very cool. Where are you at in the production of Potential?
A: That is now working with a new director named Matt Wolf who is really awesome. He recently had a narrative documentary film come out called Teenager about teenage living in the early 20th century and it is based on a book. He also is currently working on a documentary for HBO about the artist behind the Eloise books and he also grew up in the bay area and we’re now collaborating on the Potential film right now. We’re adapting the script based on his vision for it.
R: So, you’re pretty established in what you do, I was just wondering, as someone who isn’t so much, do you ever find yourself stunted by the expectation that you continue creating things because it’s how you make your living? Or I guess another way of saying that is how do you come up with your ideas when other people are expecting you to create ideas?
A: I mean I think there’s always going to be, you always have to find a balance. Most people have to find a balance between kind of art and commerce and when I was younger I never wanted art to have an expectation of money around it, that felt really stressful, and so I’d always planned to be a high school biology teacher and I would do comics on the side and so that was sort of, my plan for awhile. As it turned out, when I finished college, I was originally planning on looking into teaching, possibly teach for America, when I had the opportunity to write this Potential screenplay. Because of that, I was paid to do that which meant that I only needed to sort of work other jobs for a time and then the Potential screenplay led to a job on The L Word where I was then making a lot of money doing something that I really enjoyed and so I sort of found myself going down a path of making money through writing. And what I found was, I liked the idea that I could have jobs that were writing but done for money, such as working in TV. But then I could also do my own private projects on the side. So that way I wouldn’t have to feel so much pressure or stress around the things that were more personal to me but could pursue the other avenues and I found that they helped each other. Working on The L Word allowed me to get a book agent that helped me sell my books so the two could kind of help each other in a way that a separate career could not help my artistic projects. But it is definitely, it can sometimes be stressful when you’re working on a more commerce-type job and you kind of conflate the act of creating with something stressful or something that you need to do for money. And I don’t like when I get that feeling but I think that it’s just a painful part of the way it is and no one’s jobs are ever going to feel perfect at any point in time. So I just try and sort of make it work and set a balance between staying afloat with various types of work and working on stuff that is important to me.
R: And you still teach, right? I read somewhere that you teach at The New School, is that still a thing?
A: Yeah, every spring I teach a graphic novel workshop at The New School and I really like teaching sort of random comics classes just two hour comics classes at colleges throughout the year and I find that, that’s not something that I just do for money. Obviously I like the money but I also really like getting to meet new people and it’s fun to engage with people that are really excited about comics. And I also don’t feel burnt out on it because one class a year is really not that stressful.
R: You could always come to Mills College.
R: How exactly for Adam, how did you come up with the premise? Are you scared that it could perhaps become a guide for a cis-male into that queer world?
A: (laughs) Do I think that somebody would read it and be like “oo this is what I can do.”
A: No, I don’t. Or, maybe, I mean who can say? I guess that person could be out there but I think there’s a big difference between the scenario my character Adam finds himself in which is that he is at first mistaken for a trans guy and eventually throughout the book ends up allowing a girl that he has a crush on to believe that but there’s a big difference between coming at that predicament that way than being some cis-straight guy with the ambition to infiltrate the queer scene. I honestly feel like most straight cis guys are just not that interested in infiltrating the queer scene. My character wound up in that situation because he gets ostracised from his group of friends at school and he gets to spend the summer with his sister who happens to be gay and this happens to be the subculture that she’s living in. I mean it’s really very circumstantial, this hook of cis straight guy pretends to be trans is not say that it’s like a how-to or anything like that. I do feel that it is in many ways a guide to a cis straight guy understanding queer culture and trans identities, more than they would have before having read the book.
R: Do you know what you’ll be reading on the 12?
A: I’m not sure yet, I haven’t decided.
R: If you could eat one thing right now what would it be?
A: Maybe like a duck in orange sauce, with some rice on the side.
Ariel will be reading at RADAR’s August 12th reading.
Too much time on your hands? Need more summer reading? How about for the price of free? We love our RADAR Monthly Reading Series because we love the people who come to our monthly reading series! We want to celebrate the books from our City Lights Sister Spit imprint and so we are giving away a copy of Beth Lisick’s Yokohama Threeway during our AUGUST 12 reading. Head to the Radar Facebook page to enter. We will pick someone at random and announce the winner at the August 12th reading!
About the Book:
Peering into life’s cringe-worthy moments, best-selling author Beth Lisick excavates territory that most would rather ignore. Funny, odd, deeply personal, yet somehow universal, these are the kind of memories that haunt us all, the small, awful moments of shame and humiliation that we’d rather forget than relive.
Beth Lisick has made a career of opening her life to her readers in all of its messy, smart hilarity, but this type of story doesn’t usually find its way into a memoir. With her trademark humor and sly intelligence, writing in short flashes the way these episodes tend to pop up in memory, Lisick recounts her most embarrassing moments with gusto. From a trick she played on a neighbor thirty years ago to what she accidentally blurted out at last night’s dinner party, she explores the bad judgments and free-floating regrets that keep her up at night, and the result is a daring, candid and wickedly funny collection of embarrassment embraced, the triumph of humor and perspective over everyday mortification.
Make sure to head to RADAR’s August 12th reading to collect your prize and watch some amazing performances. The event will be held at the San Francisco Public Library in the Latino/Hispanic Rooms A/B from 6-8 pm.
In last week’s review of LA-area biennials, I proposed the hashtag notallstraightpeople.
Let’s resurrect it.
Don’t get all #notallstraightpeople on me when my review of the Hammer’s 2014 biennial, MADE IN LA, begins and ends not in the main galleries, but with its AIDsy show-within-a-show: AMID VOLUPTUOUS CALM. This petite mise-en-abîme, which feels segregated since its tucked into the diverticulitis of gallery 5, contains ghosts.
Walls painted a dark, necrotizing fasciitis green warn you that you’re entering haunted territory. The late Tony Greene’s baroque pin-ups intermittently materialize along the hue. Meanwhile, a fabulous Cousin ITT hunkers down in the corner.
Meet Millie Wilson’s DAYTONA DEATH ANGEL. Confession: Hair art mesmerizes me, especially when I know that the hair belongs to someone dead. Wilson’s piece makes us want to give it offerings, bottles of high-end hair conditioner, promises of Brazilian blowouts. We put our ears to it to see if we can hear the ticking of a bomb because it looks so much like the wig Debbie Harry’s HAIRSPRAY character, Velma Von Tussle, uses to smuggle explosives into the pageant. I want the similarity to be intentional.
This gargantuan hairpiece honors every drag queen ever stomped by jackboots, every drag queen who’s had to steal her makeup, every drag queen with thick shoulders and thicker stubble, every drag queen who’s been murdered and a murderer. Ever hear of Dorian Corey? His is a real A ROSE FOR EMILY kind of story but picture it with queer people of color, sequins, and set in the closets of New York.
Next to the blonde hangs Monica Majoli’s UNTITLED (Bathtub OrGY).
Sticky shadows are at play here, and the recipient of so many fluids basks in such ecstasy that he might be dead. His face wears that died-of-ecstasy look, the feeling, not the drug, and UNTITLED’s lone penis makes eye contact with me. Only its tip is visible. The figure whose johnson locks eyes with mine wears a black mask, which begs the question: am I seeing his real face? Which face is which? Who’s really doing the talking here?
Okay, despite Tony Greene’s sumptuousness and Majoli’s Rembrandtian tones and Wilson’s follicular decadence, its a flippin’ fish that slays me.
This fish gives me theoretical flashbacks, and I know why: Jack Halberstam’s THE QUEER ART OF FAILURE. This scaly loser is kin to the QUEER ART OF FAILURE’S coverbird.
The fish and bird belong to a series of paintings of seemingly dead or lonely objects that achieve nothing. YOU SHOULDN’T DO THAT, YOUR FACE WILL STATY THAT WAY posits a raw oyster against a serengeti of dumb space. WELL IT DIDN’T JUST GET UP AND WALK AWAY depicts a rogue ben wah ball against scarlet. The dead bird painting has an awesome name that reminds me of childhood: I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT.
About Bamber, Halberstam writes: “[Her] horizons remind us that possibility and disappointment often live side by side.” That’s so the case with this would-be fish stick. It leapt to its dry death in reverse of a Kate Chopin novel.
Shots of Ron Athey’s performances, Bob Flanagan stuff, and copies of INFECTED FAGGOT PERSPECTIVES, a zine, haunt the space, too, but the thing I pause in front of for a super long while, having a quasi-religious experience with, is SLEEPING BEAUTY #1.
Resin paper-weight bolo ties holding globs of HIV-positive blood sleep in a log terrarium atop sand and wood. While I’ve admitted to my interest in hair art, blood art tends to seem a bit gauche to me. However, I see nothing gauche about HIV-positive blood art. SLEEPING BEAUTY #1 taps into a Victorian scientific vein, it evokes that era when white people went wild with taxonomies, shoving bones and bodies in museums. Nowadays, we deride such aesthetics as “steam punk.” Anyhow, this log, where a perverse squirrel hoards oddities, forces me to think about my cousin, the first homosexual I knew. The pretty red in that resin did him in, not a cold.
Jennifer Moon, Harry Dodge, the Frimkesses, Kim Fisher, and AL. Steiner’s work don’t haunt AMID VOLUPTUOUS CALM but they are must-sees if you’re into geoligical feminism, bastardized ceramics, occult sausagery, parties in eggs, and inanity. The show is up till September 7th.
Or maybe you live somewhere not in the bay and weren’t able to attend, either way, you can stay home in your PJ’s (or maybe slack off at work if you’re sort of productive) and watch some radicle people share their art with RADAR and others.
Achy Obejas‘s video may include feelings, be warned.
Martin Sorrondeguy‘s video is so funny you may actually start to feel stomach muscles doing things.
Julian Talamantez Brolaski gives a short list of banned poetry words such as aperture. Warning: you may start to consider your own usage of such words.
Have fun spending the next hour on your couch and remember, stretching is also good.