The German word zugunruhe translates as the “stirring before moving.” It’s used to describe birds and herds of animals, like wildebeests, before the great migration. Though Jules Torti is neither German nor a wildebeest, she understands this marrow-deep anxiousness all too well; she is just someone looking for a home.
Free to a Good Home is evidence of Torti’s life-long commitment to feeling at home where it mattered most: within herself. At eighteen, with one thousand dollars in her bank account, she moved to the West Coast from Ontario to find “her people.” She headed specifically to Davie Street—that’s where all the gays were! Finding a girlfriend proved to be elusive, but she learned a lot of Pet Shop Boys lyrics and studied everything by Jane Rule and Chrystos for guidance.
Torti continued searching. Whether prepping chimpanzees breakfast in the Congo, searching for her own breakfast in the dumpsters of Vancouver’s back alleys or seeking a permanent address in Ontario’s unforgiving real estate market—with many other worldly adventures in between—Torti found that homesickness took up its own residence in her identity. While she longed for a home of bricks and mortar (or log or stone), she knew her greatest sense of home was to be found in a person, the missing her.
For many, the path to home is never linear. If Torti began her memoir in Amsterdam, you might not follow. If she began in Uganda, you might get it. If she started with her time spent in the soggy Costa Rican jungle, you’d have a better understanding. But, if she scrolled back to her tomboy self at age six, then you’d see. Logically, this is where she begins her memoir of emotional geography: on an unpaved country side road in Southwestern Ontario, among the corn and tobacco-fringed fields of Mount Pleasant, where she grew up. At turns poignant, hilarious and uncannily familiar, Free to a Good Home explores what it means to call a place home when life oddly mirrors a choose-your-own-adventure storybook.
There’s no straightforward path to LGBTQ2 parenthood and just as every queer person has their own coming out story, every LGBTQ2 family has a unique conception or adoption story.
In Swelling with Pride: Queer Conception and Adoption Stories, creative non-fiction writers celebrate LGBTQ2 families and the myriad of ways we embark upon our parenting journeys. These honest, heartfelt, unabashedly queer stories cover a gamut of issues and experiences, including the varied paths to queer conception—from DIY methods at home with the so-called “turkey baster” to pricey medical interventions at the fertility clinic—and the daunting task of choosing a sperm donor. This groundbreaking anthology portrays the journeys to LGBTQ2 parenthood that start or end with adoption and the countless hurdles that go along with it: from surviving the home study process and dealing with systemic homophobia to transitioning an adopted child into a new home. There are tales of shared nursing, blended families, communal parenting and non-binary pregnancy. There are also stories of grief, all too often suffered in silence, such as coping with infertility, pregnancy loss, stillbirth and adoption breakdown. These are the journeys of the early mavericks that formed families under the radar when fertility clinics were not open to singles and lesbians, as well as the Gen X and Millennial queers who’ve become parents during the current “gayby” boom.
Editor and proud queer mom Sara Graefe has assembled more than twenty-five creative non-fiction LGBTQ2 authors from across North America, both well-known and up-and-coming, including Andrea Bennett, Marusya Bociurkiw, Jane Byers, Susan G. Cole, Caitlin Crawshaw, Rachel Epstein, Terrie Hamazaki, Nicola Harwood, Natalie Meisner and many more. Together, their candid, moving, thought-provoking stories celebrate what it is to be queer and give voice to both the challenges and joys of building a LGBTQ2 family in a predominantly straight, cis-gendered world.
How can a god-fearing Catholic, immigrant mother and her godless, bohemian daughter possibly find common ground? Food Was Her Country is the story of a mother, her queer daughter and their tempestuous culinary relationship. From accounts of 1970s’ macrobiotic potlucks to a dangerous mother-daughter road trip in search of lunch, this book is funny, dark and tender in turn.
Bociurkiw’s Ukraine-born mother is a devotee of the Food Channel and a consummate cook. When she gets cancer of the larynx, she must learn how to eat and speak all over again. Her daughter learns how to feed her mother, but, more crucially, how to let her mother feed her. Food Was Her Country explores a daughter’s journey of grieving and reconciliation, uncovering the truth of her relationship with her mother only after her death.
Marusya Bociurkiw’s Comfort Food for Breakups: The Memoir of a Hungry Girlwas a food writing phenomenon: the world’s first LGBTQ food memoir. With this long-awaited follow-up, Food Was Her Country draws upon a queer archive of art and activism, stories from her popular food blog, Recipes for Trouble, as well as social histories of food, evoking new beginnings and fresh ways of tasting the world.
This mouthwatering, intimate, and sensual memoir traces Monica Meneghetti’s unique life journey through her relationship with food, family and love. As the youngest child of a traditional Italian-Catholic immigrant family, Monica learns the intimacy of the dinner table and the ritual of meals, along with the requirements of conformity both at the table and in life. Monica is thirteen when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy. When her mother dies three years later, Monica considers the existence of her own breasts and her emerging sexuality in the context of grief and the disintegration of her sense of family.
As Monica becomes an adult, she discovers a part of her self that rebels against the rigours of her traditional upbringing. And as the layers of her sexuality are revealed she begins to understand that like herbs infusing a sauce with flavour, her differences add a delicious complexity to her life.
But in coming to terms with her place in the margins of the margins, Monica must also face the challenge of coming out while living in a small town, years before same-sex marriage and amendments to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms created safer spaces for queers. Through risk, courage, and heartbreak, she ultimately redefines and recreates family and identity according to her own alternative vision.
“Wanted: lesbian couple to foster wonderful eleven-year-old African American boy with gender identity issues.”
Meet Antwan. Not only has he got gender issues, he’s severely emotionally disturbed, severely demanding and, as he puts it, “born to argue.”
In the late nineties, Nicola Harwood and her girlfriend moved to San Francisco in order to be at the epicentre of queer culture. Shortly after arriving, they encountered an ad posted in the SF Bay Times looking for lesbian foster parents. Impulsively, they decided to answer the ad and offer to foster Antwan, an eleven-year-old transgender child* who had been living in group homes since the age of six. Suffering from post-traumatic stress, numerous disabilities and behaviour issues, Antwan turns out to be not only a severely challenging child, but also an irrepressibly honest and funny one.
The sex-positive butch/femme couple, new to foster parenting but confident in their skills and experience as queers, start introducing Antwan to their gay world–including Gay Pride in the Castro, shopping for female clothing among the flash and extravagance of their Latino neighbourhood thrift stores, accompanying him to the queer youth dance club and supporting the emergence of his female identity.
But being queer is only part of who Antwan is, and the couple are soon faced with the reality that his behaviours may be more than they can handle. They become a part of the “system,” working with over-burdened social workers, therapists, group home workers, special needs school teachers, psychiatrists and foster care agencies, all trying to help Antwan succeed outside the group home. Antwan, however, is oblivious to the massive amount of funding and attention being paid to him and just wants the couple to buy him more outfits and watch him perform as Britney Spears singing “…Baby, One More Time.”
While Antwan is introduced to the gay world of San Francisco, the white couple is introduced to his black world of Oakland. As the relationship develops, members of Antwan’s birth family, many of whom he has not seen or heard from in years, begin to emerge. It turns out that Antwan isn’t the only big queer in his family. One of his sisters is a baby dyke, and his troubled mother, who shows up when Antwan is thirteen, wears the strut of an old-school butch.
Outrageous, sad and very funny, Flight Instructions for the Commitment Impaired follows the couple as they attempt to build a relationship with Antwan and his world. As the three start to connect across an abyss of trauma and abuse, a relationship develops that challenges each of their notions of race, family and commitment.
Note about pronouns: Antwan has asked that we use male pronouns when referring to the time before she transitioned at the age of seventeen.
In 2007, at the age of sixty, Betsy Warland finds herself single and without a sense of family. On an impulse, she decides to travel to London to celebrate her birthday, where she experiences an odd compulsion to see an exhibit on the invention of military camouflage. Within the first five minutes of her visit, her lifelong feeling of being aberrant reveals its source: she had never learned the art of camouflage.
This marked the beginning of Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas. Taking the name Oscar, she embarks on an intimate, nine-year quest by telling her story as “a person of between.” As Oscar, she is able to make sense of her self and the culture that shaped her. She traces this experience of in-betweenness from her childhood in the rural Midwest, through to her first queer kiss in 1978, divorce, coming out, writing life. In 1984, she and her lover wrote lesbian erotic love poetry collections in dialogue with one another, the first and only tandem collections on this subject in English Canada. After the two split, she experienced years of unacknowledged exclusion from a community in which she thought she belonged.
In the process of writing Oscar’s story, Warland considers our culture’s rigid, even violent demarcations as she becomes at ease with never knowing what gender she will be addressed as: “In Oscar’s daily life, when encountering someone, it goes like this: some address her as a male; some address her as a female; some begin with one and then switch (sometimes apologetically) to the other; some identify Oscar as lesbian and their faces harden, or open into a momentary glance of arousal; some know they don’t know and openly scrutinize; some decide female but stare perplexedly at her now-sans-breast chest; some are bemused by or drawn to or relate to her androgyny; and for some none of this matters.”
A contemporary Orlando, Oscar of Between extends beyond the author’s personal narrative, pushing the boundaries of form, and by doing so, invents new ways to see ourselves.