Writing While at Risk: The Authorship and Urgency of Trans Stories
Trans stories today are working against a daunting history of suppression, erasure, and violence. For decades, authentic, complex narratives and literature about trans identity have been largely absent from mainstream page and screen. In the last few years, publishers and studios are finally responding to sustained calls for course correction by greenlighting books and projects that have led to a rise in trans visibility. At the same time, trans writers and artists are experiencing an alarming rise in hate speech and anti-trans legislation, with LGBTQ+ stories being removed from schools and libraries at increasing rates. As trans literature gains traction in tandem with an alarming cultural backlash, how are writers navigating the moment? Who is telling trans stories, and why? And how are trans writers making space to write beyond the struggle for equality, and toward power, joy, community, complexity, and the specificity of trans experiences? Join moderator and author Cyrus Dunham, novelist James Hannaham, poet and curator Anaïs Duplan, and literary critic Stephanie Burt for a conversation and Q&A on these questions and more. This online program is free and on Zoom, and the recording will not be posted.
James Hannaham is the author of the novels God Says No, a Stonewall Book Award finalist, and Delicious Foods, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist as well as a New York Times Notable Book. He lives in Brooklyn, where he teaches at the Pratt Institute.
Anaïs Duplan is a trans* poet, curator, and artist. He is the author of the book I NEED MUSIC; Blackspace: On the Poetics of an Afrofuture; Take This Stallion; and the chapbook, Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus. He was a 2017-2019 joint Public Programs fellow at the MoMA and the Studio Museum in Harlem, and in 2021 received a Marian Goodman fellowship from Independent Curators International for his research on Black experimental documentary. In 2016, he founded the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program for artists of color, based at Iowa City’s artist-run organization Public Space One. He is the recipient of the 2021 QUEER|ART|PRIZE for Recent Work, and a 2022 Whiting Award in Nonfiction. Duplan is a professor of postcolonial literature at Bennington College, and has taught poetry at The New School, Columbia University, and Sarah Lawrence College, and others.
Stephanie Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor with nine published books, including two critical books on poetry and three poetry collections. Her essay collection Close Calls with Nonsense was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other works include We Are Mermaids; Advice from the Lights; The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them; The Art of the Sonnet; Something Understood: Essays and Poetry for Helen Vendler; The Forms of Youth: Adolescence and 20th Century Poetry; Parallel Play: Poems; Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden; and Randall Jarrell and His Age. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The Believer, and the Boston Review.
Cyrus Dunham’s writing on trans life, politics, and art has appeared in publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Intercept, and Granta. He has reported widely on the impact of incarceration on trans and gender-nonconforming people, participating in mutual aid projects, coalitions, and campaigns to end gender-based violence in US prisons for over a decade. His memoir, A Year Without a Name (2019), was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Cyrus lives in Los Angeles, where he is a Dornsife Fellow in Nonfiction at the University of Southern California. He is a member of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.