Alll in the family: new anthology examines queer relationships

Check out this great write up about A Family by Any Other Name in the new issue of Xtra by Scott Dagostino.

It features quotes from a number of the anthology’s contributors about reclaiming the idea of family for LGBT people, including this one from Paul Aguirre-Livingston:

“I don’t believe in ‘queering’ definitions, nor in ‘institutions’ like marriage or family,” he says. “I would suggest we champion words like ‘clan’ or ‘household’ or ‘kin.’ Fuck, call it ‘dynasty’ if you want. How’s that for fabulous?”

Read the whole story here.

 

Where to buy A Family by Any Other Name

Now that A Family by Any Other Name has been released officially, I’ve had lots of people ask me where they can find a copy. The short answer: anywhere you’d normally buy books.

All titles from TouchWood Editions are distributed widely across Canada, the U.S. and around the world. If you can’t find a copy in a particular bookstore, it’s easy for them to order you a copy through our distributor. All you need to know is the book’s full title (A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships), author (Bruce Gillespie, Editor) and ISBN (9781771510547).

You can also buy a copy from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, where it’s available as a trade paperback or as a Kindle e-book.

You can also buy a copy from Indigo.ca, where it’s available as a trade paperback or as an e-book for your Kobo or tablet.

If you’re in the U.S., you can also buy a copy from Barnes & Noble, where it’s available as a trade paperback or an e-book for your Nook.

The book is also available as an iBook in the iTunes Store or as an e-book through Google Play.

And, as noted, you can always order a copy through your favourite local bookstore.

Meet Kate Barker

Now that A Family by Any Other Name has been released, I’d like to continue introducing you to some of the book’s contributors.

Kate Barker

Kate Barker

Kate Barker is a writer based in Toronto. Her essay is called “Wife.”

How did you find out about the project?

Bruce invited me to submit an essay.

Why did you decide to contribute?

I was thrilled to be asked so of course I said yes.

How did you decide what to write about?

I knew I would write about Kim because for years she wouldn’t let me. When I wrote a column for Xtra, I could never use her name. So I’d execute ridiculous semantic contortions around it. I think she read “loved one” one too many times in relation to herself, or maybe it was “she who must be obeyed.” When I told her about this she was very gracious. She now fully accepts the fallout that comes with marrying a writer — and it only took 18 years.

Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and writing experience.

I’m a writer. I began as a playwright and who knows how I’ll end up, but it will always have something to do with writing. Professionally, I’ve been a magazine writer and editor for 15 years. Now I also teach as an instructor at Ryerson’s journalism school. And for the past two years, I’ve been a full-time graduate student in history at York. I did my master’s last year, and I’m finishing my PhD course work right now. When I have an extra five minutes, which is never, I keep a blog about it: The Gradual Student.

Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging?

The call for submissions came when I was up to my eyeballs in essays and readings, so, yes, it was a challenge just to get my head around it. But when I sat down to write about Kim, no, I wouldn’t say it was a challenge. It was more like a gift. I finally had her permission, and this wonderful opportunity to write about the most important person in my life. I ran with it.

What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?

My approach to writing personal essays hasn’t changed since I was a teenager. I knew then what I know now — you can’t hide in this format. A personal essay should scare the hell out of you if you’re doing it right. I’m very proud to be a part of a group of queer writers who are all so clearly doing it right.

Do you have any new or upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?

Keeping my sanity — at least until I write my comps in November.

 

A Family by Any Other Name’s book launch

Yesterday was a big day. First, A Family by Any Other Name went on sale officially. That means you can now order it through Amazon and Indigo (both the trade paperback and the e-book version) or at your favourite local bookstore. You can also buy the iBook version through the iTunes Store. You might also consider recommending it to your local school or public library.

Thanks to a miracle of scheduling, which almost never happens, the launch party for A Family by Any Other Name was also held yesterday at Ben McNally Books in Toronto. Ben and his staff were terrific hosts, as usual, and I’m delighted to say that we packed the place. And for a nonfiction book, let alone an anthology of personal essays, put out by a small (but mighty!) independent publisher, that’s really something.

By my count, we had between 85 and 100 people there, plus our eight contributors who read excerpts from their essays. The night surpassed my expectations in every way, so thanks to everyone who came out to support the book and the brave folks who read from their essays. It’s one thing to write a personal essay – it’s another all together to read it to a crowd of strangers. It was also great for me to be able to meet so many of the contributors in person. Although I worked with them during the past year on their essays, I didn’t know most of them and had not actually met them until last night.

To back up a bit, if you live in the Toronto area, you may also have heard contributor Maya Saibil and me on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning yesterday, talking to Matt Galloway about the book and queer families. If you missed it, you can listen to it here. Maya and I had a great time, and I was delighted to hear from a number of people at the launch that they’d decided to join us after hearing about it on the CBC.  Long live public broadcasting! (And for everyone who asked: yes, Galloway is every bit as warm and charming in person as he is on the air.)

One of those people was a long-time friend of my mother, who had heard me on the radio and decided to come to the launch. She was probably the first queer person I ever met and certainly the first one I knew was a lesbian. She and my mom are both in their sixties but have been friends since their summer camp days. She told me last night how proud she was of me and how happy she was that a book like A Family by Any Other Name exists. She said that among the many reasons why she always liked my mother so much was the fact that even after she came out to her, way back when, she didn’t care and still continued to bring my brother and me to visit her, which she said was not the way most people reacted at the time.

I could tell by the way she spoke that that seemingly simple gesture on my mother’s part meant a lot to her, and it reinforced for me the importance of being able to choose our own families and was a great note on which to end the evening.

Meet Danny Glenwright

As we approach the April 8th release of A Family by Any Other Name, I’d like to introduce you to some of the book’s contributors.

Danny Glenwright

Danny Glenwright

Danny Glenwright is the managing editor of Xtra newspaper in Toronto. His essay is called “A History of Peregrination.”

How did you find out about this project?

Bruce Gillespie got in touch hoping I’d know of some LGBT writers who had good stories. Modest as always, I suggested myself — along with a handful of other writers.

Why did you decide to contribute? How did you decide what to write about?

My husband and I had recently returned from living in South Africa, and I wanted to share our stories of racism and discrimination. It also looked like a really interesting project.

Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and your writing experience.

My love of journalism began in Winnipeg about 15 years ago, when I was an arts and culture writer for Swerve, the city’s LGBT newspaper. I moved to Toronto in 2002 to attend Ryerson University’s four-year journalism program — that’s where I met Bruce. He was my instructor in a course on how to freelance. Thanks to his help, I went on to do a bit of freelancing and I have written for various magazines, guidebooks and newspapers.

I’m currently the managing editor of Xtra newspaper in Toronto. I’ve been with the paper for almost three years and spend much of my time editing the work of others rather than writing my own — another reason I jumped at this opportunity.

Before Xtra, I spent much of my professional career working in human rights and media training in Africa and the Middle East, including in South Africa, where I was the communications manager at Gender Links, a regional gender and media organization. While there I was a columnist for South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper — a sister paper to the UK’s Guardian. I also co-authored the groundbreaking Gender and Media Progress Study, which looked at general media practise, gender in the media, HIV and AIDS and gender violence by analyzing more than 30,000 news items in 14 countries.

Prior to my time at Gender Links, I worked as a communications officer and media trainer for the United Nations Association International Service (UNAIS) at Bethlehem University in the Palestinian territories. I have also worked in Rwanda with UNESCO and I spent two years as a media trainer with Journalists for Human Rights in Namibia and Sierra Leone.

I have won several awards for my international work, including the 2006 Canada-EU Young Journalist Award. In 2011, I completed a master in international cooperation and development and my thesis focused on the use of new media to empower women in Africa.

Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging in any way?

It can sometimes be challenging to imagine that there’s anything interesting about one’s history and personal life. Even though they are personal essays, I often felt I was sharing too much or writing too much about myself — or appearing narcissistic. At the end of the day, Bruce encouraged me to write even more personal details, which meant lots of dredging up of old memories.

What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?

I realized (even more than I already knew) that I sure love my husband. I feel a bit like the piece is a testament to our relationship and our resilience in the face of external pressures and our own personal hang-ups. I get all sappy when I read it and then seek him out for a big wet kiss. It’s a bit odd putting all our personal details out into the world, but also quite fun. I can’t wait to see what readers think of it.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?

Nothing other than the bi-weekly rhythm of Xtra — stay tuned for coverage of this anthology.

 

Meet Keph Senett

For the next few weeks, as we approach the April 8th release of A Family by Any Other Name, I’d like to introduce you to some of the book’s contributors.

Keph Senett

Keph Senett

Keph Senett is a writer based in Toronto. Her essay is called “Requiem.”

How did you find out about this project?

The call for submissions was forwarded by a friend with a note that said something like, “You must have a story for this!”

Why did you decide to contribute? How did you decide what to write about?

My friend was right. The topic gave me the perfect excuse to mine the vein of my relationship with my mother. I frequently tell stories about her at dinner parties (a part of me supposes that’s why I keep getting invited back) but this was the chance to treat the subject with a bit more precision in language and emotion.

Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and your writing experience.

I’ve been writing all my life, but its really only in the past several years that I’ve resolved to carve out a career-sized space for it. I’m also an activist, which doesn’t pay, but travel writing does. Journalism does. So I do my best to fund my activism by working in those markets. This piece is a bit different, though. This one is intensely personal.

Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging in any way?

It’s challenging to lay yourself bare, though that’s a part of the work that I ultimately enjoy, but I was afraid of hurting feelings. Both of my parents are alive, and they are both in this piece. It was an enormous relief when my mother saw the essay. She said it made her laugh — and cry — and I was free to send it out with her blessings.

What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?

The impetus to pick apart some of my more complicated feelings was a gift. It’s hard to make time for that, and this process legitimized the effort.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?

I have a bunch of projects on the go, but nothing I can talk about yet.

Meet Jason Dale

For the next few weeks, as we approach the April 8th release of A Family by Any Other Name, I’d like to introduce you to some of the book’s contributors.

Jason Dale

Jason Dale

Jason Dale is a high school teacher in Port Dover, Ont. His essay is called “Piecing My Family Together.”

How did you find out about this project?

As a friend of Bruce, I was familiar with his other books. Years ago he had asked me to contribute something, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind or life was simply too busy; this time I felt ready, I suppose, to revisit the darker days of our adoption journey.

Why did you decide to contribute?

I decided to do it this time for two reasons: (1) to leave an “origin story” behind for my sons and (2) because Bruce bribed me with the promise of one of his legendary pecan pies (still waiting, by the way). Regarding the topic of choice, being familiar with most of the details of our adoption experiences, Bruce specifically requested I focus on them because he felt they would add something unique and meaningful to this compilation.

Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and your writing experience.

My life is pretty full: fantastic husband, three wonderful sons, a dog I adore, close-knit and supportive extended families, a dozen or more lifelong friends to hang out with and a job I honestly love going to every day. I’d hate to jinx it, but I feel I’ve won the lottery of life.

Professionally speaking, I’m a high school teacher who works one-on-one or with small groups of teens with a wide range of potential barriers to success: learning disabilities, social or behavioural issues, poor mental health, family or home life difficulties, subject-specific challenges, you name it.

I’ve never been published before, apart from dozens of letters to the editor of local newspapers challenging homophobia and teacher-bashing, advocating for same-sex marriage, opposing various forms of discrimination and addressing the myriad politically-based issues that have enraged my liberal heart over the years.

Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging in any way?

Not really. I write to my boys in a journal anyway — recording fun family adventures, offering advice for when they’re older, telling them about extended family members who have died, that kind of thing — so this was a great opportunity to work with a professional editor and create a more polished legacy piece for them.

What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?

I found it therapeutic, actually, to revisit our hellish “Middle Period,” as I refer to it, now that five years have passed. All things considered, Regan and I are incredibly lucky guys. One thing is certain: the teenaged me would be shocked to discover that I am now a married man with three children, still living in my hometown of Port Dover, literally four houses down the street from Mom. In the ’80s, I would have said, “Gag me!” but nowadays it’s just fine with me.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?

Someday I hope to write that book my friends are always suggesting, chock full of outrageous stories from my personal, family-based and work-related lives. My life has been quite a trip thus far and I’m hoping it’s only half over.

 

Meet Jean Copeland

For the next few weeks, as we approach the April 8th release of A Family by Any Other Name, I’d like to introduce you to some of the book’s contributors.

Jean Copeland

Jean Copeland

Jean Copeland is a high school English teacher and writer from southern Connecticut. Her essay is called “The Gay Divorcée: How Marriage Equality Couldn’t Save My Marriage.”

How did you find out about this project?

I don’t recall exactly how I found about this project, but it was most likely by trolling the internet for calls for submissions on LGBT subject matter, as I often do.

Why did you decide to contribute? How did you decide what to write about?

I decided to contribute to A Family by Any Other Name because this collection is the venue in which my story was waiting to be told. Four years out of a civil union and wonderfully healed, I wanted to revisit the breakup with someone I’d spent most of my adult life with and view it for what it was, not how I’d interpreted it while living through the anguished, drawn-out denouement and the subsequent grieving process. And besides, I simply couldn’t resist sharing the delicious irony of a nearly 16-year lesbian relationship imploding just as the fight for marriage equality was getting into full swing.

Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and your writing experience.

I’ve been writing and publishing short fiction and personal essays for over 10 years since returning to college as an adult to get my B.S. and M.S. in English Education. By day, I teach English at an alternative high school program in Connecticut and absolutely love watching all my young writers grow and develop while taking my creative writing classes throughout the year.

Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging in any way?

It was challenging in a positive way. With fiction I take the story wherever I want, but with essays, there’s a responsibility to remember facts and avoid the revisionist history that can sometimes appear when writing emotional pieces. Whatever I write about on a personal level always brings a sense of closure after it’s complete. I like when things are nice and tidy, wrapped up and stored away neatly. The biggest challenge was trying to be as objective as I can on such a sensitive subject and tell the truth without portraying my ex as an awful person. She wasn’t—just confused and trying to make sense of things like anyone else.

What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?

Whenever an essay I’ve written about a painful, bewildering time in my life gets accepted into a collection, it’s a validation, a reminder that everyone’s story matters. If another LGBT person reads my story and feels less like a “big gay failure” as I once did because his or her relationship is ending while, state by state, our country inches toward full marriage equality, I will feel immensely satisfied sharing my experience.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?

I’m in the process of trying to get my novel manuscript, The Revelation of Beatrice Darby, published. It’s a lesbian coming of age story set in the 1950s and ’60s that is seasoned with my own reflections on when I was coming of age in the 1980s. I also hope to one day edit a poetry collection comprised of poems my former students wrote throughout the years in my workshops.

 

Meet Betty Jane Hegerat

For the next few weeks, as we approach the April 8th release of A Family by Any Other Name, I’d like to introduce you to some of the book’s contributors.

Betty Jane Hegerat

Betty Jane Hegerat

Betty Jane Hegerat is the Calgary-based author of The Boy, Delivery, A Crack in the Wall and Running Toward Home. Her essay is called “Finding My Grace.”

How did you find out about this project?

Bruce’s call for submissions on Facebook snagged my attention because of the editor. I have read two previous anthologies that he co-edited with Lynne van Luven: Nobody’s Father and Somebody’s Child, as well as Lynne’s Nobody’s Mother. I felt sure that this new anthology would be as fine a book in both content and design.

Why did you decide to contribute?

I knew I had a story to tell, and in fact, I had been writing it in my head for several years. Our daughter is a lesbian, and her “coming out” affected both me and her father profoundly. I wanted to write a parent’s experience, and it had be a mother’s experience because I would not, could not write from my husband’s point of view. In fact, I think Robert was able to come to terms with this shift in dynamics in our family far more quickly than I was.

I had believed through most of my adult life that sexual orientation is not a choice, nor is it a “correctable” condition. Intellectually, I had no doubt about where I stood; this was my child and nothing could shake my unconditional love for her. But the visceral, emotional, and spiritual turmoil I experienced, I could never have predicted.

People told me repeatedly that they admired the ease with which Robert and I had dealt with Elisabeth’s disclosure. And each time, I merely shrugged or nodded, but in my mind I was telling them, “If only you knew.”

Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and your writing experience.

I am a social worker by profession, but since childhood had believed that I was meant to be a storyteller. After narrating scenes in my mind for years, I finally decided that if I was going to put my feet in the water it was time.

Almost 20 years ago, I took my first creative writing class. A few years later, I took an early retirement from social work, and plunged into writing, determined to make something of this desire to write. If it came to nothing, it would at least be a fanciful adventure. I have published two novels, a collection of short stories and most recently a book that is a hybrid of fiction, non-fiction and memoir. During that time I also completed UBC’s optional residency MFA Creative Writing. I took great pleasure in walking across the convocation stage just a week after my 60th birthday.

Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging in any way?

I am primarily an author of fiction and have steered away from writing about my personal life and that of my family because of privacy issues, so this was a risky venture, but one to which Elisabeth and Barb gave their approval and encouragement.

Writing non-fiction, memoir, personal essay, will always be a challenge for me, because I remain a writer of fiction and love to embellish, to play with real life stories. But there is no room for smoke and mirrors in non-fiction. One of the important lessons I learned at UBC in working with Terry Glavin on my last book, The Boy, is that “truth matters” and this should be uppermost in my mind during my writing. In writing this essay, truth meant stripping down to bare-naked honesty about how I felt and how I was not dealing with this issue with grace, particularly where my faith and my church were concerned.

What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?

Putting this experience into words finally convinced me that I have indeed made peace with my worries, in my heart as well as my head.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?

I have a novel for teens which I hope will be published in fall 2014. This is a new audience for me, and I’ve had fun writing the book, so I’m anxious to see it out into the world. The working title is Odd One Out, but that may change, and it will be published by the wonderful people at Oolichan Books who have so beautifully produced my last three books.