5 Questions with Jewelle Gomez, Author of The Gilda Stories

gilda_cover_fullCity Lights just released the 25th Anniversary Edition of Jewelle Gomez‘s classic novel, The Gilda Stories. We had a big celebration at City Lights Bookstore on April 13, 2016 with Jewelle reading selections from the book to the many vampires in attendance.

Jewelle continues to tour, and this Saturday, April 30, she’ll be at Laurel Books in Oakland, CA. Her other tour stops in May include Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City, among others. She took the time to answer our five questions. More about Jewelle and The Gilda Stories below.

About The Gilda Stories: This remarkable novel begins in 1850s Louisiana, where Gilda escapes slavery and learns about freedom while working in a brothel. After being initiated into eternal life as one who “shares the blood” by two women there, Gilda spends the next 200 years searching for a place to call home. An instant lesbian classic when it was first published in 1991, The Gilda Stories has endured as an auspiciously prescient book in its explorations of blackness, radical ecology, redefinitions of family, and yes, the erotic potential of the vampire story.

The Gilda Stories is groundbreaking not just for the wild lives it portrays, but for how it portrays them—communally, unapologetically, roaming fiercely over space and time.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

About Jewelle Gomez: Jewelle Gomez is a writer and activist and the author of the double Lambda Award-winning novel, The Gilda Stories (1991). Her adaptation of the book for the stage Bones & Ash: A Gilda Story, was performed by the Urban Bush Women Theater Company in thirteen US cities. The script was published as a Triangle Classic by the Paperback Book Club. Her other publications include The Lipstick Papers, Flamingoes and Bears, and Oral Tradition. She edited (with Eric Garber) a fantasy fiction anthology entitled Swords of the Rainbow and selected the fiction for The Best Lesbian Erotica of 1997 (Cleis). She is also the author a book of personal and political essays entitled Forty-Three Septembers and a collection of short fiction, Don’t Explain. Formerly the executive director of the Poetry Center and the American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University she has also worked in philanthropy for many years. She is the former director of the Literature program at the New York State Council on the Arts and the director of Grants and Community Initiatives for Horizon and the President of the San Francisco Library Commission. She lives in San Francisco.

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City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Jewelle Gomez: I’ve been to many readings at City Lights but one of my favorites was an evening about five years ago with Margaret Randall, whose work I really admire. The event was perfectly representative of who I imagine she’d be: an amazingly eclectic collection of people from all parts of her life. There was so much wondrous political conversation before she read. Then her work is so galvanizing the discussion after was buzzing. It was emblematic, to me, of her life and what City Lights has meant to the literary world.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?

JG: The Gilda soundtrack would have to be composed by a bunch of musicians: we’d have to raise Nina Simone and Donny Hathaway; Civil Wars would have to get back together; Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai; Toshi Reagon, who did the music for the theatrical adaptation of The Gilda Stories in ’96, and maybe Eddie Vedder!

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

JG: I think the first adult novel I finished when I was about ten was Mildred Pierce and it had pictures in it from the 1945 movie. I fell in love with the women’s empowerment story and when I finally saw the movie on TV I fell in love with Joan Crawford and Eve Arden. I wanted them to end up together.

CL: If you didn’t have your current job, what might you do?

JG: Well, I retired from working in philanthropy to write full time so no job is better than that. But if I hadn’t worked in philanthropy I’d have worked in a theatre . . . maybe manager or assistant to an artistic director or some aspect of production. Not stage manager though; I did that years ago and that’s a young persons’s job. But anything around a theatre, I love the team feeling and wild creativity.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi). 

JG: I’d need to have stacks of books, old favorites and new–actual books would be best!  I’d also need stacks of notebooks with lined paper and pencils–which would last longer–and a Swiss army knife to sharpen the pencils and catch food. I’d want a simple musical instrument like a kalimba (since I assume no power for playing CDs). So I’d teach myself to play music and sing. And of course my spouse, Diane.

Jewelle is on tour this Spring with the new edition of The Gilda Stories. It features a new foreword by the author and an afterword by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Get it for 30% off only on citylights.com. For more about Jewelle, go to her official site, and check out this interview she did for San Francisco Chronicle. Keep up to date on City Lights Publications!

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