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The Defiant Prose of Sarah Schulman


Sarah Schulman has been a formidable presence in the New York cultural and queer activist milieu for more than thirty years. She has fought for abortion rights, for women’s reproductive health, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rights, and against the AIDS crisis. In addition to participating in action in the streets, Schulman has also published numerous novels, plays, screenplays, and nonfiction books. In these works, Schulman has chronicled her experiences and the politics of her various communities in sensuous and candid detail.

The impact and reception of Schulman’s work, however, has always been controversial. From her claims that the content of the successful 1996 musical Rent was lifted from her novel People In Trouble (1991) to her oft-cited difficulty publishing on politically volatile themes like intergenerational gay relationships and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, controversy is never far behind her. In the face of such circumstances, Schulman remains a prolific writer and committed political agitator. Despite the systemic exclusion of lesbian and queer writers from most mainstream publishing houses and the political exclusion she has faced from the politically atrophying queer community, she continues to demand accountability of both.

I talked with Schulman, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the City University of New York, about her two most recently published nonfiction books, The Gentrification of the Mind (2012) and Israel/Palestine and the Queer International (2012). We discussed queer collaborations, the rapidly changing publishing industry, queer mentorship, and the politics of always coming from the margins.

—Ryan Conrad

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