Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with S. Bear Bergman

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S. Bear Bergman (photo credit: Zoe Gemelli)

S. Bear Bergman is a respected lecturer on trans and gender issues, appearing at schools, universities and events across North America. His acclaimed writing, including Butch Is a Noun and The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You are essential reading on trans life. His newest essay collection is Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter (Aresenal Pulp Press). Tender and hilarious, the book examines family (both biological and extended) in the context of trans experiences.

Today Bear joins us as part of our WAR Series: Writers As Readers, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Read on to hear from Bear about spelling 'cookie' with Beverly Cleary, adult books vs. adult books and the literary yardstick against which he measures himself.

You can catch Bear in person at the International Festival of Authors on October 27, November 2 and November 3 and at his launch on November 27 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (7:45p.m.).
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The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:

Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I was in first grade. I remember because I spelled the word cookie with a ‘y’, as Beverly Cleary does, on a spelling test and Ms. Gibson marked it wrong. Even after I showed her the book she didn’t reverse her decision, which I am clearly still a little sore about.

A book that made me cry:

I’ve re-read Beloved, by Toni Morrison, five times. Each time it takes me two weeks; I have to keep taking breaks. Stone Butch Blues, by Leslie Feinberg, is in the same category for me. I can’t be reading anything else, I have to just read some and then let it settle.

The first adult book I read:

Book for grownups? Probably a Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker, who was my dad’s favourite.

“Adult book”? Macho Sluts by Pat Califia, which I bought and threw out four times (so it wouldn’t be discovered) before I finally kept the fifth copy (which I still own).

A book that made me laugh out loud:

Kate Fox’s Watching The English. My in-laws are Brits, and their cultural stuff is so different from my NYC Jewish family. I laughed helplessly, mostly from recognizing the exact dynamic she was describing.

The book I have re-read many times:

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. She’s so dry and nerdy, and I find that so satisfying. I even sent her an email once when someone unearthed Shackleton’s store of whiskey and brandy from polar expedition site after 100 years and was auctioning it.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:

I never finished Wuthering Heights. I cannot even remember, for sure, who it’s by — a Brontë, I think? Maybe I should try again. Herewith, to my very beloved high school English teacher Mr. Parkman Howe, I apologize, but: I couldn’t.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:

James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son. It’s the yardstick against which I measure myself as an artist.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:

Dorothy Allison’s essay collection, Skin. I had been struggling and struggling with saying things in a way that felt interesting to me, not like littracha but like stories. All my early attempts were terrible and stilted and full of words I didn’t really want to be using. But she’s a storyteller, a great storyteller, and reading her non-fiction work especially — it was like the heavens opened and the angels sang. It was riveting, and it felt true, and honest and hot and close.

The best book I read in the past six months:

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, by Kiese Laymon. Hands down. Though, while I was writing Blood, Marriage, Wine & Glitter I also re-read a book called Facing It by Julian F. Thompson that I remembered from being a kid, an 80s YA novel about making chosen family in complex circumstances, and it was so tender and subversive.

The book I plan on reading next:

The stack contains Run Clarissa Run by Rachel Eliason, Infidelity by Stacey May Fowles, Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee, and the 2013 edition of Best American Essays. I should probably confess that the “stack” is largely digital, because we are dangerously low on room for new books. But in my head, it’s still a stack.

A possible title for my autobiography:

Walking In Circles While Talking To Myself.


S. Bear Bergman is an author, storyteller and educator working to create positive, celebratory representations of trans lives. Recent or current projects include two fabulous children’s storybooks featuring trans-identified kid characters, a performance about loving and living in a queer/ed Jewish family titled Machatunim, teaching pleasure-positive trans/genderqueer sex ed, and his sixth book Blood, Marriage, Wine & Glitter (Arsenal Pulp, 2013).

For more information about Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter please visit the Aresenal Pulp Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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