Reading with... Andrea Lawlor

photo: Steve Dillion

Andrea Lawlor has published a chapbook of prose poems, Position Papers, and teaches creative writing at Mount Holyoke College. Lawlor's first novel, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, was just published by Rescue Press.

On your nightstand now:

Wendy C. Ortiz's Bruja: The perfect bedside book. Ortiz has invented or articulated a new genre, the dreamoir. I read bits in a twilight state of parental exhaustion and sometimes wonder who's dreaming who.

Eugene Lim's Dear Cyborgs: I heard Lim read at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn this summer; he was so deadpan and the cover was so gorgeous. Now I'm just wishing this book would never end because I love the combination of nerdcore coming-of-age and speculative-future NYC art world and Occupy-style protest culture. 

Brontez Purnell's Since I Laid My Burden Down: I loved Purnell's Fag School zine, and am very glad to read this tale of a queer black kid coming-of-age in 1980s Alabama.

Kai Cheng Thom's Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir: Spoiler--it's not a memoir! Also, there are mermaids.

Margaret Killjoy's The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion: I am a sucker for utopian fiction and also anything set in Iowa that has queer content.

Cory Doctorow's Walkaway: Another recent anarchist utopia, extremely overdue to the library but worth the fine.

Jordy Rosenberg's Confessions of the Fox: Is it fair to list a manuscript? It's coming in June 2018 from One World/Random House. And even if it wasn't my best friend's book, I'd be up late at night reading a trans prison break escapade, that's also a retelling of The Threepenny Opera, that's also anticapitalist metafiction. I mean, wouldn't you?

Carson Ellis's Du Iz Tak?: My kid's favorite picture book, written in bug language. We have read this upwards of 50 times and we see something new every time.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Marlo Thomas's Free to Be You and Me, Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen, Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand, D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, James Baldwin's Little Man, Little Man--I loved all the baby gay classics, anything that hinted at freedom.

Your top five authors:

Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Eileen Myles and Fernando Pessoa (though he's four in one, so maybe that's cheating).

Book you've faked reading:

Marx's Capital, many times. I've faked reading so many books, though. I've worked in publishing, in bookselling and as a professor--that's just what we do.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed. I wish everyone would read this book and then we could get started building our anarchist utopia already (not that Anarres is technically a utopia, but compared to the present-day U.S.).

Book you've bought for the cover:

I often buy books for the cover, either because I take design seriously or because my head is easily turned. I especially love those 1950s Doubleday/Anchor and Signet small paperbacks. I remember in my teens and 20s buying books like Zora Neale Hurston's I Love Myself When I Am Laughing... or David Wojnarowicz's Close to the Knives because of the covers, and then finding myself in the exact right new world.

I love beautiful and also clever design, so one of my all-time favorites is Lydia Davis's Can't and Won't, designed by Charlotte Strick like a perfect pop single.

I do have to be careful every time I pass by anything put out by Wave Books or I will spend all my money. My favorite of the Wave covers, Eileen Myles's Snowflake/different streets, is such a cool two-way cover (which I just learned is called tête-bêche), designed by the painter Xylor Jane. And of course the poems are so good as well.

Book you hid from your parents:

In junior high, Sasha Alyson's Young, Gay, and Proud! (which, come to think of it, I may have stolen from the Yale Co-op Bookstore--we didn't have the Internet in the early '80s).

Book that changed your life:

Samuel R. Delany's memoir The Motion of Light in Water cemented in my mind the idea that queer people could make art and make a life outside of the normal rules--and, crucially, that people had already been doing so for a long time.

Five books you'll never part with:

I hate parting with books, so my answer runs more to the "five boxes of books you'll never part with" and even that would be tough. I will certainly never part with the beautiful first edition of Isak Dinesen's Ehrengard my girlfriend gave me many years ago. I will also very likely never part with my box set of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (trans. Moncrieff), because I am stuck about 1,800 pages in and may never finish, but what if I am suddenly faced with so much free time and laser focus?

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I always want to read a beloved book again for the first time, and fortunately my memory is terrible so I am able to simulate that experience easily. One that springs to mind is Octavia Butler's shapeshifter novel, Wild Seed, which I first found in the early '90s while catsitting for a glamorous professor (not mine). I read it straight through sitting in the professor's living room in the humid Iowa City summer, eating whatever I could find in her refrigerator.

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