On June 11, the International Armenian Literary Alliance (IALA) will present author Nancy Agabian, Dr. Rosie Vartyter Aroush and Hye-Phen Collective members Kamee, Sara Abrams and Ali Cat for a reading of recent narrative projects on queer Armenian community and solidarity.
Gabe Mugalian, a queer Armenian-American writer, activist and student of socio-cultural anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and JP Der Boghossian, founder of the Queer Armenian Library and host of the This Queer Book Saved My Life! podcast, will moderate the discussion and audience Q&A during the virtual event. Registration is required.
The works of these writers and editors will highlight queer diaspora narratives as they relate not just to experiences of living within heteronormative communities, but also through the “queering” of dominant notions of identity, solidarity and agency within and across communities. In discussing the queering of the form – in the sense of literary conventions and language – the writers and editors will discuss the way their works engage memory, represent conversations and spoken language, and ultimately bridge distances to enact agency as writers and community members.
In Agabian’s recently published novel The Fear of Large and Small Nations, bisexual feminist writer and teacher Natalee — aka Na—seeks to reclaim her cultural roots in Armenia only to be confronted with the many contradictions of being a diasporan. Alongside a mosaic of artists, activists, intellectuals and students facing restrictive gender politics, she sifts through her own traumatic history of genocide and survival, bears witness to post-Soviet echoes, all the while navigating the vulnerable borders that exist between nations and individuals. Written in short stories interspersed with intimate journal entries and blog posts, the fragmented narrative reveals what is lost in the tightrope passage between cultures ravaged by violence and colonialism—and what is gained when Na seizes control of her story, pulsating in its many shades and realities, daring to be witnessed.
Dr. Aroush’s upcoming book will investigate the impact of the Armenian family and diasporic community on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Armenians living in the United States. She depicts the struggles endured and strategies employed in the negotiation of LGBTQ Armenian identities and in coming out with family and community members. She examines family of origin relations in the multi-layers of coming out and the challenges to traditional notions of parenthood by queer Armenian families. Her project is based on over 50 interviews with LGBTQ Armenians from the United States and a decade of research and fieldwork.
Kamee, Sara Abrams and Ali Cat participated in the Gatherings zine, a series of conversations about solidarity among SWANA communities. Gatherings emerged from the 2020 Artsakh War and the relentless solidarity expressed between SWANA communities during and since that time. Organizers hope to follow in a long line of activists, healers, writers, artists and movement-organizers who have embraced the tension, braved the in-between and reached across fault lines with the intention of showing up and taking care of each other. The project includes five conversations around the theme of SWANA solidarity – what it has looked like in the past and present, what it could look like in the future and why it is so important.