Transformation as Possibility in Queer Stories

Headshots and names of Mira Jacob, Alison Bechdel, Rivers Solomon, and Torrey Peters with multicolor ripped paper on bottom edge

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This event is part of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Visit pen.org/festival to learn more and get tickets for other events.

Three major voices from the queer community come together to explore physical transformation as an act rife with emotional, spiritual, and political possibility. Exactly how are we seen in the world, and how does being seen relate to who we are?

Cultural icon and cartoonist Alison Bechdel—best known for Fun Home and the hit Broadway musical it inspired—chronicles society’s unwieldy obsession with fitness fads, as well as her own personal journey toward introspection through exercise, in her anticipated graphic memoir The Secret to Superhuman Strength. In Torrey Peters’s Detransition, Baby, a trans woman, fears losing her dream of having children when her partner unexpectedly transitions back to living as a cisgender man, as, with a “charming mixture of generosity and irony,” the author “confronts the unruliness of our desires, and our vitality as we struggle within their limits” (The New Yorker). Lambda Award-winning writer Rivers Solomon offers a bold, speculative take on the transformative experience of motherhood, and on transformation as salvation, in their “tour de force,” “outstanding third novel” (Publishers Weekly), Sorrowland.

These authors’ works challenge us to live outside of binary ideals and transform our attitudes not only to our bodies, but also our families, society, and each other. Moderated by Mira Jacob, the critically acclaimed graphic memoirist behind Good Talk.

This digital event will start at 12pm ET / 9am PT. If you have any questions, please visit our FAQs.

Presented in collaboration with Burdock Book Collective.


Alison Bechdel headshot Alison Bechdel created the countercultural comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran in lesbian and gay publications from 1983 to 2008. In 2006, her graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was named best book of the year by TIME magazine. A musical based on Fun Home, written by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, won five Tony Awards in 2015, including best musical. Bechdel is a MacArthur Fellow. Her most recent graphic memoir is The Secret to Superhuman Strength.

Torrey Peters headshot Torrey Peters is the author of the novellas Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones and The Masker, which are available for free on her website. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and an MA in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. She grew up in Chicago and now lives in Brooklyn.

Rivers Solomon headshotRivers Solomon writes about life in the margins, where they are much at home. In addition to appearing on the Stonewall Book Awards List and winning a Firecracker Award, Solomon’s debut novel An Unkindness of Ghosts was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, an Otherwise (formerly Tiptree) Award, and a Locus Award. Solomon’s second book, The Deep, based on the Hugo-nominated song by the Daveed Diggs-led hip-hop group clipping, was the winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award and shortlisted for a Nebula Award, Locus Award, Hugo Award, Ignyte Award, Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize, British Fantasy Award, and World Fantasy Award. Solomon’s short work appears in or is forthcoming from Black Warrior ReviewThe New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Guernica, The Best American Short Stories, Tor.com, Best American Horror and Dark Fantasy, and elsewhere. A refugee of the transatlantic slave trade, Solomon was born on Turtle Island but currently resides on an isle in an archipelago off the western coast of Eurasia.

Cutout of Mira Jacob in front of an illustration of the Brooklyn BridgeMira Jacob is a novelist, memoirist, illustrator, and cultural critic. Her graphic memoir Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award, and her novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing was named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews, The Boston Globe, Goodreads, Bustle, and The Millions. She lives in Brooklyn.


About Burdock Book Collective

Burdock Book Collective aims to create radically inclusive community building and political organizing space in Birmingham, AL. In addition, they curate intersectional feminist literature written by authors of different identities and life experiences, while centering and uplifting marginalized voices.

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