Words and Actions: A Pride Month Reading List from ONE Archives Foundation
This Pride Month, PEN America Los Angeles invited the ONE Archives Foundation to create a reading list as an extension of their exhibition, Pride Publics: Words and Actions.
Curated by Rubén Esparza, the multisite exhibition—which aims to stage a visual dialogue between historical and contemporary changemakers —includes 28 large-scale posters installed at a public site and at ONE Gallery in West Hollywood.
For the exhibition, artists, writers, and community organizers were asked to submit a portrait and a short text from themselves, as well as a quote from an LGBTQ+ luminary of their choosing. The resulting exhibition chronicles moments of multigenerational progress and community actions that contribute to the well-being and advancement of queer and trans life in the public realm.
Below is a list of recommended readings from some of the artists included in the exhibition. You will find a wide range of classics and recently published works, across a variety of genres. You will find beloved texts, talismans, and personal notes from each artist about how these texts have given them language and form, possibility and permission. We wish the same for you!
—Jaime Shearn Coan, Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and Communications Manager, ONE Archives Foundation
Reginald Shepherd is a writer whose poems and rigorous essays have inspired me for over a decade. Fata Morgana is the last poetry collection he published in print before his untimely passing in 2008. It overflows with lush images, rich music, and surprising textures. When I began writing poetry, Shepherd’s poems—erotic and intellectual, mythic and mundane—were deeply formative, and I continue to return to his work.
Originally published in 1948, this collection of short stories by iconic author Tennessee Williams takes on homoeroticism and the dark side of sexuality, in an era when LGBTQIA+ sexuality was illegal. Over the years, the book has been reexamined numerous times as social mores relaxed, and is now considered a gothic cult classic. It has been written that Marlon Brando purchased the film rights to One Arm with the intention of playing the lead character, a prizefighter who loses his arm in a car accident and becomes a rough trade street hustler. Legend has it that the first draft of the script to One Arm is part of Brando’s archives, now stashed away in a vault.
Pride so often gets co-opted and repackaged to center the experiences of white, gay, hard-bodied, and cisgender men, while the rest of us who identify as LGBTQIA+ get regulated to the sidelines. This memoir by Randa Jarrar centers a fat, queer, Muslim, Arab American woman’s experience as she drives cross-country in a post-Trump America, where Muslims are banned, families are torn apart at the borders, and mass shootings (usually carried out by white men) target the communities who are most vulnerable. She confronts white supremacy at every stop and waxes poetic on what it means to be brown and queer, and to invest in beautiful queer friendships.
This book was an endeavor of Michiyo Fukaya’s close people to publish her work and remembrances, so that she would not be forgotten. It was published at a time when I was just starting to communicate with myself and others about my own queerness and intersectional being, but I didn’t know about Fukaya until much later. Reading through her moments of strain and love and identity, I felt like this had been kept from me for an entire lifetime.I was enveloped by her words, which, to this day, burn deep within me.
Fernando Lopez recommends:
An achingly beautiful and raw collection of poems by one of my all-time favorite contemporary queer poets. Each page is an impassioned vignette of desire and yearning ruminations. Each metaphor is a piercing anecdote that refuses to apologize for its vulnerability.
Written in the style of traditional folklore but with a pulsating backbone of queer liberation, Larry Mitchell’s 1977 manifesto is the perfect read for any blossoming disruptor who wants an equally entertaining and romantic introduction to the lifestyles of the queer ancestors who came before us. A must-read for anyone looking to dismantle the mental inhibitions that our postmodern, heteronormative, and patriarchal society has caged us in, in exchange for reimagined, communal lifestyles.
This memoir by the award-winning science fiction writer, educator, and literary critic covers his coming of age as a writer and gay man in New York in the 1960s. It is an essential text about Black masculinity and sexual dissidence. Samuel R. Delany’s recollections of his encounters with several cultural giants of the 20th century are both fascinating and funny. He and his then-wife, lesbian poet Marilyn Hacker, lived in an apartment in the East Village neighborhood where I grew up, which makes the book even more intoxicating to me.
Candid and powerful, A Two-Spirit Journey is a book with an almost gravitational pull that calls you back to read it every so often. Ma-Nee Chacaby’s life and work are undoubtedly a reminder of the legacies that queer elders of color have championed that remain the heart line of our communities. Those stories are largely still unknown. We must continuously fight for them to be seen, preserved, and celebrated, and carry them with us as we move toward liberation.
Every bit of spilt ink and cum that Paul Preciado drips into this world is a gift to transmasculine ”worlding,” or world-building, and Countersexual Manifesto is no exception. This brilliant and sardonic treatise contains high theory, low theory, and features many a crude drawing of a human dildo; in my opinion, a perfect coffee table read to jerk off to.
This book was a guiding light to me as a queer person growing up. I learned about shame and how carrying it can lead to the attrition of the heart and mind. I learned about the danger of loving others when your sense of self is false and hidden. But the story is also an enduring remedy—an antidote. It is a love story that taught me who I could be, if I chose to step out into the light.
I just submitted this astounding poetry collection as required text for a Filipinx diasporic aesthetics and poetics class I’ll be facilitating in the fall. The letters on these pages have teeth; safeguard the tips of your fingers.
“. . . The Pacific is our trauma and
Our desire. The rim is everywhere there has been a war
To get caught up in, always carrying the officer’s status in the body
In the closed-door domesticity of empire.”
Professor Hernandez explores the works of several gay Chicano artists in 1980s Los Angeles who were pursuing queer avant-garde strategies when HIV/AIDS hit. He documents its impact on the network of Chicanx artists who were creating queer-identified work just as the community from which it sprang, and the audience for whom it was created, was devastated. The focus is on the work of Mundo Meza, Cyclona, Teddy Sandoval, and myself, with myriad references to others in those artistic circles. Mundo and Teddy were friends of mine, and I am glad to still be alive to share their stories.
Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider is a blueprint—very nearly an oracle—that illuminates the path for Black queer women in America. When fear silences me, these essays unlock my voice, take my hand, and guide me through the maelstrom of sexism, racism, and much more. Guided by her, I always emerge stronger and more insightful. A self-defined “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” she’s fine company, and holds us still.
About One Archives Foundation
ONE Archives Foundation is the independent community partner that supports ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California (USC) Libraries, the largest repository of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) materials in the world. Founded in 1952 as ONE Inc., the publisher of ONE Magazine, ONE Archives Foundation is the oldest active LGBTQ organization in the United States. In 2010, ONE Archives Foundation deposited its vast collection of LGBTQ historical materials with the USC Libraries. Today, the organization is dedicated to promoting this important resource through diverse activities including educational initiatives, fundraising, and a range of public programs.