In the winter of 1992, my sister got married.  A year before the wedding, she asked me if I would grow my hair shoulder length for the occasion. At the time, I was twenty years old and just beginning to come to terms with owning a transgender identity (though I didn’t yet have words for it). But the dynamics of my gender “situation” had been playing out in my family life since my earliest memories. Stuffed into dresses for synagogue despite putting up a fight  (always a losing battle), or hiding in the dining room so as not to be stuffed into a dress (laying on the chairs tucked under the table) until I (quickly) got too bored to stay there, and then was summarily stuffed into a dress and off we went. I hated dresses, but I actually liked synagogue. The rabbi had a thick New York accent. He was a teller of fables, the kinds with foxes in them, and grapes, and though there was a moral at the end of each story, his stories were about the journey as much as the destination, and he always had a playful lilt to his voice and a twinkle in his eye.

Photo credit: A Pavhk

You are about to release your third book, prey. Tell us everything.

prey is a themed full-length poetry collection centered around navigating a culture of predation. It details various predatory relationships from childhood onward, drawing parallels between human and nonhuman predators. The book seeks to expose the depth of trauma caused by physical, psychological, and sexual abuse—exploring what it is to become prey.

She sits quiet, drunk on her own anger
again & his despicable

drips down each fang just like
the bourbon from out his pores—

don’t misunderstand, she’s seasoned, racked up
husbands & guzzlers, & all she learned

from Mother who was no princess &
all the grandmothers dating back

to the Revolution & perhaps even back
to Babylon, too, the kind of ladies

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Ottessa Moshfegh. Her new novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, is available from Penguin Press. Her previous novel, Eileen, won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

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This month, the TNB Book Club is reading The Dying of the Light, the excellent new novel by Robert Goolrick, bestselling author of A Reliable Wife, Heading Out to Wonderful, and The Fall of Princes. Stay tuned for Robert’s appearance on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast later this month. Enjoy!

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Bethany C. Morrow. Her debut novel, Mem, is available from The Unnamed Press.

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A month after the shooting, I held a yard sale. Out with the self-help books, the roller skates, the painting of the fortune-telling cat. Have to make enough money to get out of Orlando.

A pink woman crisscrossed my lawn, a Margaritaville visor shielding her broad face from the sun as she connected the dots: The Judy Garland vinyl, the stack of old Vogues, me in my denim cutoffs sipping a mimosa at 9AM. She tilted her head my way, and maybe in that moment put it all together. He’s gay. He’s available. He must have something to say about Pulse.

Was I friends with anyone who was murdered that night, the visor was curious. I smiled so I wouldn’t lose her. It was too early to talk about dead bodies, however, was she interested in a drink or perhaps a gently-used cocktail shaker I can’t figure out how to open, though I’m sure if you just run it under hot water…

She was proud of me, she said.

So no to the shaker?

Proud of us.

I had to make enough money to get out of Orlando.

Pulse, the bar with the watered down drinks and the impossible parking and the annoying chain-mail curtain you had to push through to enter, was gone. People like us were wanted gone.

So what was it that she was proud of? That I didn’t die? Or that I found a way to keep living? I know what she wanted, it’s what everyone wanted when they gave me their sad looks.

Tell me about it you poor, poor boy.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Ruth Ozeki. She is an author, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. Her most recent novel, A Tale for the Time Being (2013), won the LA Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Poe Ballantine. His new novel, Whirlaway, is available from Hawthorne Books.

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Congrats on publishing your first book, The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death Defying Acts. How exciting! It must be wild to walk down the street and have people recognize you and take pictures with you and stuff!

That’s never happened.

 

Hm. Even when you stand in a bookstore and hold the book up in front of your head so a passerby can see that your face matches the face on the back of the jacket?

Right. Not then either.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Jamel Brinkley. His debut story collection, Lucky Man, is available from Graywolf Press.

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Gaze

By Tamara Sellman

Essay

 

It’s a perfect night for sleeping outside. I told my husband so, but he said I was crazy.

Why would you want to do that?

I dunno. Fresh air? A chance to be swallowed by the night sky? To watch the Perseids?

I spend all day at work on a computer. Craving the aboriginal—dreamtime in suburbia—is nothing if not an act of psychic survival.

Whatever.

I flatten a sleeping bag on the sun chair, plump a buckwheat pillow. I hear my husband now, snoring through the open window above me. I unzip my down wrapping, find carbon-free climate control by slipping my foot into the cool August night.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Chelsea Hodson. Her new essay collection, Tonight I’m Someone Else, is available from Henry Holt. It is the official June pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

This is Chelsea’s second time on the program. She first appeared in Episode 340 on January 7, 2015.

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The last thing on earth I ever thought I’d do was write about fashion.

I equated the industry with the worst of capitalism: defining human beings as consumers, tricking them into thinking they need the “new look” simply to make a profit. I equated the industry with patriarchy and women’s internalized misogyny: the command to dress as the object of the male gaze, the message that you are subhuman, at best, monstrous, at worst, if you don’t comply. Fashion, it seemed, was the perfect vehicle for what Louis Althusser called the interpellation of the subject by an ideological apparatus.

That is, until I read Valerie Wallace’s House of McQueen (Four Way Books 2018).

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Aja Gabel. Her debut novel The Ensemble is available from Riverhead Books.

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