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Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Eating Fire
    Book Description:

    When Kelly Cogswell plunged into New York's East Village in 1992, she had just come out. An ex-Southern Baptist born in Kentucky, she was camping in an Avenue B loft, scribbling poems, and playing in an underground band, trying to figure out her next move. A couple of months later she was consumed by the Lesbian Avengers, instigating direct action campaigns, battling cops on Fifth Avenue, mobilizing 20,000 dykes for a march on Washington, D.C., and eating fire-literally-in front of the White House.

    At once streetwise and wistful,Eating Fireis a witty and urgent coming-of-age memoir spanning two decades, from the Culture War of the early 1990s to the War on Terror. Cogswell's story is an engaging blend of picaresque adventure, how-to activist handbook, and rigorous inquiry into questions of identity, resistance, and citizenship. It is also a compelling, personal recollection of friendships and fallings-out and of finding true love-several times over. After the Lesbian Avengers imploded, Cogswell describes how she became a pioneering citizen journalist, cofounding theGullyonline magazine with the groundbreaking goal of offering "queer views on everything."The first in-depth account of the influential Lesbian Avengers,Eating Firereveals the group's relationship to the queer art and activist scene in early '90s New York and establishes the media-savvy Avengers as an important precursor to groups such as Occupy Wall Street and La Barbe, in France. A rare insider's look at the process and perils of street activism, Kelly Cogswell's memoir is an uncompromising and ultimately empowering story of creative resistance against hatred and injustice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4132-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. I. Activist Honeymoon
    (pp. 1-60)

    In 1992, when the Lesbian Avengers started, I was living in a loft on Avenue B with my ex-girlfriend Amy, and her roommate, Rennes, who would pick up closeted fags and have noisy, slurpy sex. I shouldn’t complain. He’d agreed to let me live there for cheap, the broke poet with some weird disease that had me crying out with feverish dreams, disrupting his postcoital sleep. Drag queens had been there first, and it took days for me and Amy to clean the eye shadow ground into the bathroom grout. Above us was our tequila-soaked landlady whose overflowing Jacuzzi sometimes...

    (pp. 61-138)

    I courted her with pints of chocolate Häagen-Dazs and lines from Calderón de la Barca, “¿Qué es la vida? / Un frenesí. ¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión/ Una sombra, una ficción . . .” What is life? A frenzy. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a lie. I took her to Kathryn’s where we gave a command performance as The Sextets.

    Once, I recited the litany of all the places I’d stayed after the shaving performance when the Colombians kicked me out of the Rego Park apartment. There was the house in Long Island packed with South Asians...

    (pp. 139-198)

    Melanie moved out, fleeing the former activist den, and we turned her bedroom into an office with a desk for each of us. I was done as an activist, I declared. Done as a poet. I didn’t do another performance until long after we moved to Paris. My lofty thoughts were all about money. I decided to try my hand at the voodoo of fiction. First, a screenplay set at the New York headquarters of a tobacco company with a cast of interracial queers solving a murder. See how easy it is to get along if you just know your...

    (pp. 199-236)

    Véronique was right. The apartment was tiny. The kitchen no bigger than a bathroom stall, the toilet instructive, teaching me my first new word,fuite. Leak. Also, escape. We walked from dawn until dusk as if we were still in flight, returning only for Ana’s quick translations and to sleep. The city smelled of sun and ripe fruit. It didn’t rain for weeks. When we got hungry, we’d pop into a bakery and grab a croissant or baguette stuffed withsaucissonor cheese. When we were tired, we’d sit in some crumbling church and listen to organists practicing on ancient...

    (pp. 237-237)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-238)