The Queer Interior from Baldwin to Vuong: An Online Reading Group led by Thomas Dooley
6/9, 6/30, 7/21, 8/11 Tuesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT June 9 to August 11, 2020
6-7:30pm ET / 3-4:30pm PT
In his revolutionary novel Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin introduces David, a young man in flight from the desires of his heart and the increasingly dire pressures of the world around him. For many queer authors, this conflict is central to their characters as they chart a path through shame and grief, desire and joy. By chronicling the intricacies of the queer heart, these essential novels offer startling portraits of inner life that read as both anthem and elegy.
We will explore four visionary novels that imagine the interiors of queer identity: Giovanni’s Room (1956) by James Baldwin, Inferno (2010) by Eileen Myles, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019) by Ocean Vuong, and Grief (2006) by Andrew Holleran.
This reading group will take place online via Zoom. Participants will be emailed instructions for access prior to the first session.
Thomas Dooley is a poet who has taught creative writing and literature at New York University and Saint Peter’s University, respectively. As Artistic Director of Emotive Fruition, he has created and directed over thirty live literary events throughout New York City, bringing together hundreds of authors, performing artists, and audience members to engage with narrative poetry and storytelling. As a practitioner of medical humanities, Thomas is the Poet-in-Residences at New York Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center where he facilitates literature and writing workshops with clinical staff and narrative interventions at the bedsides of patients and caregivers. His debut collection, Trespass (Harper Perennial, 2014) was a winning selection by the National Poetry Series.
By James Baldwin
Published by Vintage
In the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.
By Eileen Myles
Published by Counterpoint
From its beginning—“My English professor’s ass was so beautiful.”—to its end—“You can actually learn to have grace. And that’s heaven.”—poet, essayist and performer Eileen Myles’ chronicle transmits an energy and vividness that will not soon leave its readers. Her story of a young female writer, discovering both her sexuality and her own creative drive in the meditative and raucous environment that was New York City in its punk and indie heyday, is engrossing, poignant, and funny. This is a voice from the underground that redefines the meaning of the word..
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
By Ocean Vuong
Published by Penguin Press
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.
By Andrew Holleran
Published by Hachette Books
Reeling from the recent death of his invalid mother, an exhausted, lonely professor comes to our nation’s capital to escape his previous life. What he finds there—in his handsome, solitary landlord; in the city’s somber mood and sepulchral architecture; and in the strange and impassioned journals of Mary Todd Lincoln—shows him unexpected truths about America and loss..
About this series
Whether you’re looking to catch up on great novels or you’re interested in exploring a new writer or literary period, our reading groups offer high-level literary discussion led by experts in the field.