Drapetomania By: John R. Gordon | Book Review w/ Author Q&A

Drapetomania; or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler
By: John R. Gordon
Genre: History, LGBT, M/M, Slavery, Fiction, Literature
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: Team Angelica
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: When house-servant Abednego is sold away south, his heartbroken field-hand lover Cyrus snaps and flees the estate on which he has lived his entire life. Leaving everything he knows behind him, evading dogs and patrollers as he heads north, in the midst of a dismal swamp Cyrus receives the revelation that Abednego is his true North Star, and, impossible though it seems, he determines to find and rescue his lost lover from slavery.

Ten years in the writing, Drapetomania, Or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers, is an epic tale of black freedom, uprising, and a radical representation of romantic love between black men in slavery times.

A riveting, masterful work. Set against the brutalizing, material captivity meant to break the soul, that came to define the chattel enslavement of Africans in the American south, Drapetomania tells the compelling story of two men whose love for each other reimagines the erotic contours of what was possible under the whip and scrutiny of catastrophic bondage. Here is a story of love so powerful, so achingly present, it dares to consider not just the past but the future, as vital to freedom; and in doing so, defies any notion of the black enslaved body as an ugly, unpalatable thing, unworthy of the sweetness of love. Gordon’s novel enters the company of such classic works as Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger. We will be reading and talking about this extraordinary novel for years to come.

 

Book Review:

Reading this book was such an experience for me. Each chapter, character action, the accuracy in the details, the pacing; all of it reads like an epic.  I went through several stages of what felt like a symbolic, yet temporal, metamorphosis, both emotionally and consciously, by the lives illustrated by some of the enslaved characters in this book. So, I will try to keep my notes and thoughts on the story linear with this post.

Drapetomania is broken up into three books in this novel and told in a third person perspective that alternates between the lives and experiences of the two main characters, Cyrus and Abednego. Set in the late 19th century, where bristling talk and whispered rumors of a war between the Southern plantations faction of the United States, against the industrializing, forward-thinking North. However, unaware of the truth behind the rumors of a Civil War on the horizon, Cyrus, and Abednego, two enslaved men who live and work on the same plantation, have fallen in love.

I already knew a lot about the horrible treatment, abuse and dehumanizing conditions that enslaved Africans & African-Americans lived in, but to be placed in the middle it while reading this book took a whole other form and meaning.

During my Q&A with John, (the full interview is below) I asked about certain story themes and relative messages that he placed in the narrative. And one of those was the appalling suffering of enslaved African women, which I found one of the toughest aspects of this book I found to get through. Which is why I felt the practically spiritual connection and love between Cyrus and Abednego truly represented not only the light of this book but also the feeling of hope that pulled me through the story.

In book one, we follow Cyrus, a field-hand, as he runs away from the Tyler estate several months after Abednego has been sold away. He sets out for freedom and follows the North Star while being hunted until he realizes that he is running for a sense of freedom that he has only ever felt when with his lover, Abednego. Once Cyrus understands what he is truly missing, his character is driven by that singular desire of feeling whole once more—with Bed.

The journey we watch Cyrus go on to try to track down his lover’s potential whereabouts is anything but easy, clear or hopeful, but his compulsive need to try really resonated with me. I know it will with other readers as well.

And while I felt I was kind of on pins and needles reading this book with the tension engulfing Cyrus’ situation, I enjoyed the emotional connection I gain toward his character’s personal growth from one daring escape—each more intense than the last—to the other of the many hold-your-breath peril moments he encountered.

Cyrus’ shift from relying solely on his physical abilities, to quick thinking and blending in with other enslaved individuals really brought his character to life. In book two, the perspective shifted to Abednego and I love, love, loved that I was able to see Abednego’s point of view first-hand as all the information we have up until this point was from Cyrus’ s point of view.

And while book two depicts his life after Tyler’s estate and several months before Cyrus’s escape, it brought a validation to their relationship, their love for each other and their story all at once. As at the heart of everything that unfolds in Drapetomania, it was a reminder that it is a love story of one heart beating within these two men.

I loved reading/watching Cyrus’s character growth in this book, but what I think I loved more was the way in which Abednego’s character was more sound minded and clear within his identity. Compared to Cyrus, Abednego carried a rage and resistance within him even from his lover’s point of view.

In book two, there seemed to be an awakening within Bed to rise up; in contrast, the further Cyrus went along on his journey, the stronger that same thought took root within him.

I also loved being able to finally see things from Abednego’s perspective in book two because the shift reignited the tension in the narrative. The displacement puts you at a disadvantage to know not only what Abednego’s story will lead to or what it will mean for Cyrus who is traveling alone on a seemingly impossible (and further South) quest to track him down.

The recurring thought question of will they or won’t they find each other again? That plays in the foreground of your mind while reading this book, but as the author moves Cyrus and Bed’s stories closer together, we find the Civil War and a rebellion is just around the corner.

I don’t know about you guys, but I like not being able to tell what is going to happen next when books that I read because when I reached this point, all I could think about was: Okay, if they do find each other again, what happens next? Will they survive? Will they fight in the war? Are they going to make their way up North??

You can see where I am going with this (haha) just a few of the many narrative piques that we follow all the way to the end. When I spoke to John, he mentioned his hesitation about the narrative turn in the final book, but with all the other nuances and domino-effect aspects that lead Cyrus and Bed down this path, I do not think that there was a better way for the (their) story to develop.

Just to give you a better idea of some of the layers in Drapetomania, running parallel to Cyrus and Bed’s separation from each other, the author incorporated a number of other powerful themes that I might not be able to name them all. Such as: work and war (of white men) falling on the backs of others (black people), a message on universal morality versus the benefit of selected morality when it comes to a (white) person’s personal gain.

The driving theme of greed for wealth and power by (white) oppressors to better secure their statuses and finances by using and manipulating other (black) individuals. The power of the manipulation and control rooted in their (often public) abuse and separation of enslaved people to get rid of their independent thought, solidarity or unity and hope of freedom.

There was also such a strong presence/theme of religion in this book and on how the harsher the punishment or living conditions of the enslaved, the stronger and more resilient a group of people can become.  While I felt this build-up of resilience in the first chapter, book three acts as its true catalyst.

I don’t want to spoil anything by talking too much about what we finally see in book three, but I personally felt the build-up, Cyrus’s journey, all the people he met along the way, and Abednego’s experiences were all paid off and justly so.

This book will take you through so many different emotions even though it is a work of fiction, you are consciously aware that the situations are based on truth.

Two things I feel like I have taken away from this book are perseverance from Cyrus’ and Abednego story and their experiences. Second, a mindfulness to not let the present overshadow the past because so many of the themes verbalized by the characters in this book is still mirrored in our society today.

Before jumping into the Q&A with John, I just want to say that I highly recommend other book enthusiasts of History, LGBT+ and Diversity to read Drapetomania as well; it is an experience you will not forget.

 

Q&A With John R. Gordon, author of Drapetomania:

 

Hello, John. First, I would like to thank you for doing this Q&A with me for my blog. I really enjoyed Drapetomania and I wanted to send thanks for the opportunity to read and review it. I have so many notes and questions from this book; from character details, themes that were repeated and how each chapter kind of unfolded in to the next, BUT I also do not want to spoil anything when it comes to other readers’ experience with the novel so I’ll try to stay mindful of that line.

(Entirely my pleasure – of course it’s always a challenge to discuss a book in depth without sharing too much plot – I’ve tried to contextualize my replies so they make sense without excessive spoilers – tho I think on the whole the idea it sweeps up into an epic rebellion  will make readers more likely to give it a go – J)

1) I understand that this book was a project 10 years in the making and the work and detail poured into each page were incredible. I guess I would just like to know more about how and where the idea came from. In the Epilogue, there was a passage that alluded to a lost photograph being found and I was curious if that might have sparked the idea to write this book or if was something else entirely.

The cover is a recreation (by Jaroslav Scholtz) of one of those historical portrait photographs of male couples that strike a modern viewer very ambivalently. Brothers, ‘passionate friends’ or lovers? We can never know. There is one such photograph extant of two black men, in Civil War uniforms, gazing into each others’ eyes, and that was a foundational image for me. So the novel is, in typical Gothic fashion, the secret tale behind a mysterious image (though I avoided the trope of the framing narrative of discovery). At the same time I felt it would be wrong to use a real image (though many people have assumed the image I used to be real) as, even if their biographies are lost beyond reclamation, I didn’t want to co-opt and thereby overwrite the lives of real people. So I constructed a similar image with models who are themselves queer artists.

While still a teenager I was hugely inspired by reading African-American writers and thinkers, at a time (the early ’80s) when even The Autobiography of Malcolm X was often out of print. James Baldwin became my touchstone, along with Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Amiri Baraka, Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde and many others, each one adding to my mental mosaic as I haphazardly came upon them, and they greatly informed the evolving way I understood the world. They were not so far removed from actually enslaved generations, and often used them as visceral motifs (Malcom’s field versus house; Baldwin’s nigger and so on). In a way Drapetomania is my love-letter, my thank you to all those African-American revolutionary thinkers who moved, affected and evolved me so profoundly.

I was at a point in my life where I was surrounded by domineering personalities, and the image of a slave about to flee a plantation recurred in my mind, demanding in some way to be set down, to be told. The huge journey that followed was really about fully inhabiting that initial, after all, hardly original image and impulse. Cyrus was clearly African-American, and the Southern Gothic quasi-modernistic style – Faulkner as lensed through Wright, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and others – had to be the idiom and register in which to tell the tale. And so it became in part an experiment in sustained voice.

2) Besides, Drapetomania the other main projects of yours that I am familiar with (so far) is Noah’s Arc and the Yemi & Femi comic strip. How would you say your work in TV, Film, Books, Publishing and mentoring other writers helped you with your writing style/voice and the stories you are inspired to tell?

As a publisher and editor I’m very keen on writers self-editing: I’ve always seen it as part of the job of being an author. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to get rid of typos and infelicities of style and phrasing? I edit myself as I edit others: ruthlessly. Writing is about choosing the right words, images, rhythms and so on; and then cutting the flab. So to me my job as author isn’t complete until I’ve done all that – though I do have a few trusted readers. Editing others sharpens up one’s sense of what one’s trying to do: one’s ability to see what effective writing (in whatever idiom a writer is using) consists of. On each pass I made I cut several thousand words for repetition, needless ornateness and pace, and my general editing work no doubt enabled me to do so more incisively and quicker than I might have done previously.

Though Drapetomania is my longest novel, TV and film have taught me brevity, and to cut to plot and event (though in prose that includes psychological/interior events). Also, to write dialog that is flavorful and properly differentiated from character to character – something novelists often fail to do. In Drapetomania I very much wanted to show class nuances (roughly: proximity to whites and in particular to the Big House), and how they shift according to circumstances. I also like to make my dialog sayable, which again is something many prose authors don’t think about (and which sometimes gets laid bare in audiobooks of their works), but is my default as a screenwriter (and playwright): if an actor couldn’t say it convincingly, it isn’t right yet.

This has been my first historical piece: up till now I’ve felt it a sort of evasion to not write contemporary tales – an anxiety felt, interestingly, even by Toni Morrison. I was energised to finally complete it by a contemporary event – the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the way the many police killings of black citizens were a clear continuation of techniques of control, oppression and brutalization that came out of slavery and its aftermath: the present was (and is) once again shown to be viscerally connected to the past. James Baldwin could be quoted as though he wrote yesterday, and Faulkner was routinely cited: ‘The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.’

3) It has only been over the last few years that I have come across more and more authors, mainly poets, who had queer context—or themes of what was considered “homoerotic”—In their books, that were born or wrote in late 19th century. So, it was fascinating to follow Cyrus and Abednego’s story in this time frame. Did reading lesser-known pieces by queer writers help to shape the pair’s individual perspectives for one another?

In a sense I wrote partly against other neo-slavery narratives, because I wanted – needed – to create a story where same-sex love between black men was the emotional and also the conceptual center of the tale. Cyrus has a profound relationship to the natural world, and often this sort of closeness to nature is reified as heterosexual. I wanted to show ways in which this need not be so; and also how Cyrus and Abednego achieve a certain liberation precisely because their relationship is outside the heavily and often violently policed world of heterosexual desiring relations under chattel slavery. To a degree this perhaps echoes the passionate pantheistic work of Gerard Manley Hopkins (a celibate gay Catholic), a poet whose work I love.

A key to making a narrative which by definition could not have been written at the time the events occurred feel authentic was to embed their mindsets in that period; to show both men articulate a sense of what their relationship, their desire for each other, means and doesn’t mean: what can be spoken, and what cannot, in terms of the mental and cultural resources they would really have had in the mid C19th – hence the ambivalent Bible motif of Jonathon and David. To me that was simple realism, but I reached that approach through queer and postcolonial studies and analyses that point up the constructed nature of (Western gay) sexual identity, and indeed sexual identity as a category of self. Like race, sexual identity is a social construct, yet both are experienced as essences.

I was very aware that many of the great writers who inspired me more generally – James Baldwin and Richard Wright and many others – were only several generations removed from slavery; and back past Wright (himself Baldwin’s spiritual and literary father) there were the often queer articulations of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. There was to me something fascinating about the (often productive) clash between the modernism of, say, Jean Toomer, the earthy contemporaneity of (bisexuals) Claude McKay and Wallace Thurman, and the poets who harkened back to classic Western poetic forms, such as Countee Cullen. In a way my novel comes quite directly out of those fertile collisions – the Modernistic avoidance of speech marks, for instance; the earthy candor about sexuality; and the use of C19th narrative structures in a way that is not a pastiche. All these writers seem to me concerned with the conscious construction of a black self – in relation to Africa, to the modern world and so on – and this was an analog for Cyrus and Bed’s construction of their own sexuality.

4) As the novel is essentially broken up into three parts—and each part draws closer toward a darker and more dangerous tone paralleling Cyrus’s journey deeper and deeper South—was there any point(s) of the book that was truly difficult to map out/write while creating that “hellish” atmosphere Cyrus travels into?

As Cyrus travels further out into the world, a great challenge for me was a very prosaic one – the exponentially-expanding need for research. Everyday details can be oddly difficult to nail down, as, naturally enough, authors of the time tend not to describe the quotidien. I was hugely assisted by an 1830s memoir, A Journey Through The Southern Slave States, written by a British abolitionist member of parliament, W.S. Buckingham. Being a tourist, he described all sorts of mundane issues, such as stage-coach rates and the sorts of meals provided at inns, and as an abolitionist he was incisively interested in the psychology and economics of slavery in each town, hamlet or city he came to. That was a useful counterpoint to the more than 1700 pages of slave narratives I also read, which represented an extremely wide variety of experiences of both enslavement, and of flight.

Psychologically, the challenge was to build a sense of deepening dread for the reader without falling into Grand Guignol excess: it was crucial the reader never start to suspect I was exaggerating or making up cruelties just to ramp up tension. So every cruelty I show is analogous to, or extrapolated from, real events (but not simply rehashing them in fictional form, which to me would be pointless) – and I hope that many of the horrors are not the obvious ones.

Ending with an attempted uprising and pitched battle was a great challenge in terms of clear storytelling, and I drew maps to achieve consistency of geography and movement. There was a real danger that introducing many new characters late on in the novel would be offputting or confusing and kill the pace, so I took all the care I could to set them up distinctively and place them naturally in the build-up chapters. The decision to double back and show Abednego’s journey in Book 2 in part came out of needing to present the (climactic) Saint Hall estate from both the outside – Cyrus’ vision from the outcrop in the river – and the inside (so as to give the reader the information proportionately and not back-load it). I realized I could then have Cyrus arrive in the midst of something already happening, and create a sense of real narrative acceleration.

5) The narrative is so tightly woven with biblical symbolism and metaphors that nearly every character seemed to voice in one way or another. To me, I found it really interesting because it felt like each symbolic reference was foreshadowing the big uprising of the characters in book three as well as the impending Civil War on the horizon. I know I might be reaching with the connection, but was any of that a specific technique that you planned for ahead of time or was it just this wonderful coincidence that developed over time?

I think somewhere in between the two – convergence might be the best word. It seemed realistic that though Cyrus is really an animist, and Abednego secular by inclination, bible tales and metaphors would heavily inform their ways of thinking and expressing thoughts – Moses’ people in Egypt land, for instance, was a liberatory motif for the enslaved. The story of David and Jonathon is both used against them slyly by the preacher, and by themselves to legitimize their relationship’s place in the world.

The tension within the culture generally – the sense that filters down to the enslaved of the Civil War looming – feeds into Cyrus’ general longing for Apocalypse and, in particular, Judgment Day – though this is offset by his fear that Christianity, being imposed on the black people by the white, cannot deliver justice for black people, and might end instead in cataclysm, in which all would be ruined, and the enslaved suffer most. Both Cyrus and Abednego are proto-revolutionaries, in that they are prepared to risk everything to overturn the world as it is – as in Cyrus’ vision of his and Abednego’s skulls lying side by side, and that being a good death, and worthwhile.

The Amesburg foundry became a literal evocation of hell, and Bale, the  head blacksmith, is possessed by Apocalyptic visions that have driven him mad, and by that point I had a sense of that as a deepening element, but I think these motifs converged so naturally that meaning and theme evolved with little conscious planning on my part.

6) The narrative of Drapetomania is so dense with information and detail that I know the few things I mention in my review, rather my reflection, of the book will not do it justice. So, besides Cyrus and Abednego’s story to find each other again, is there another message(s) you hope that the readers take from the book?

In one way, simply that same-sex love was something that surely occurred under slavery, and that exploring same-gender-loving characters, and placing them center-stage, is valid, literarily rewarding, and can cast a different side-light on the times, and expand human possibilities. That gay – same-gender-loving – men can be heroes in a ‘classic’ sense. And that romantic love between black men need not – should not – be a retreat from involvement in wider struggles for uplift and liberation – and so I offer a fictive, but historically grounded pre-echo of the queer-founded Black Lives Matter movement.

7) Do you have a favorite character (or three) from this book who you felt kept the theme(s) and message you wanted for the story in the forefront of the narrative consistently while you were working on this book?

A predominant theme throughout is trust – both the need for it, and often the impossibility of it. Cyrus both needs to trust the white man, James Rose, for instance, and would be insane to do so. Both he and Abednego have constantly to judge how far to trust other black people. Finding themselves capable of trust – and hope – allows them to be fully human. And ultimately both men understand that liberation is meaningless if achieved only for oneself. Most of the people Cyrus encounters require from him – or themselves take – leaps of trust.

Apart from Cyrus and Abednego themselves, I became very fond of Durance, the older lesbian field-hand who is co-leader of the uprising at Saint Hall, and Lil’ Joe, who understands Cyrus’ grief once Abednego is sold away, but cannot run with him.

Being a tale centered around love between two men, I really wanted to ensure that the particular sufferings of enslaved women were properly shown, and through Cyrus’ awareness and compassion I felt a real fondness for Bella, who he cannot love, Miss Eunice, the cook at the crossroads tavern repeatedly cheated of her freedom, and Hebe, Miss Saint Hall’s abused maid.

7a) Cyrus seemed to have the biggest character development during his three-week (felt so much longer) journey. Whereas Bed’s character had a sort of awakening of something that was always there when we see him in book two and there’s a point where their physical and mental strengths in terms of their roles were shifted in the book; what was it like linking and flipping the similarities of their positions while you were writing?

Cyrus begins as someone with no knowledge of the world beyond the plantation, and initially with no clear knowledge of himself (in the sense that he initially plans simply to head north, and only after a sort of spirit rebirth realizes he must search for Abednego). By the time he reaches Abednego he has absorbed a massive amount of new information and, through deep reflection, reached a level of insight that has transformed him as a person. In the midst of Abednego’s need, Cyrus’ ability to at once become his lieutenant, and even take charge, is a huge liberation for Abednego also, and a validation of the value of his love.

Bed’s journey is perhaps simpler, in a sense a question of integrity: does he have the strength, the indifference to social status, that he imagines himself to have? Comparatively worldly and open-eyed, he is alert to the realities of each new situation he meets. It’s Cyrus being by his side, though, that really gives him the strength to become a leader, and Cyrus proving himself to the others the moment he arrives validates Abednego’s revolutionary leadership.

In a simple way they are transformed by shifting from being two individuals, alone and longing, to a couple, acting together, and able to lean on each other. Cyrus supports Abednego through several leadership crises; Abednego lets Cyrus cry unashamed in Saint Hall’s study, and has a lack of fear of the future and new situations in a way Cyrus does not. So once they come together, unexpected and unfamiliar strengths and vulnerabilities emerge. I tried to let psychological realism be my guide, and let twists and shifts emerge naturalistically.

8) There is a point in book two, I believe, where Abednego’s thoughts on luck and individual chances come up that I really liked. Although his situation changed so drastically from his time on Tyler’s estate, we see him placed in the perfect situation/environment for the rage that has lain dormant within him to be released. What was it like working on that slow build-up for the uprising and bringing all of those on the Saint Hall plantation into this unified force for book three?

In a way Abednego prefigures Malcolm X’s street corner cat, or Huey Newton’s lumpenproletariat hustler: someone whose burgeoning black rage moves them from a sort of easy (if anti-establishment) life between the cracks to incendiary activism. He would, I think, simply see himself as a realist, particularly as he comes to understand the lethal mechanisms of the Saint Hall plantation, the foreshortening time-line it imposes: doing nothing is really not an option. Extremity forces him to attempt to liberate himself, and others. It was oddly, feverishly exciting drawing him through the night-hunts into the uprising, and showing everyone around him reaching the point of no return, terrified but more alive than they have ever been. Seeing clearly, even into the abyss, and experiencing ecstatic unity.

The issue of how people keep in touch, and how quickly information can (or can’t) be shared, became a huge structuring element – something that strikes any modern reader (or myself as writer) used to Googling information and keeping in touch by mobile phone – and much of the unease of those climactic sequences arises from the impossibility of knowing things, the difficulty of making the best choice, the potentially lethal time-lag. Though I had it broadly planned out, I wrote into those chapters with no definite sense of who would live, who die; who escape and who be captured: I let the unfolding events tell me that.

9) Were there characters in this book that were based off real people that you incorporated into the book from some of your research? i.e. There was mention of Tyler running for Congress, so I was curious.

No-one was modeled on specific individuals, though those kinds of touches very much came from the sorts of people they were. Without overstressing it, I wanted to remind the reader that these plantation owners, sponsors of so much willful cruelty, were very much mainstream, establishment figures, in no way freakish or beyond the pale; that they were respectable even as they mutilated, raped and brutalized with impunity (indeed with the law on their side).

Cyrus was intentionally the opposite of most of those who escaped slavery, who in the main were lighter-complexioned (so could pass for Spanish, say), skilled (so were hired out and came to know local geography) and to a measure literate; Cyrus is a dark-skinned, illiterate field-hand – exactly the sort of person who would find it hardest to escape slavery, and who would therefore have to exert himself the most heroically in order to do so. Again, I very much wanted to avoid taking real people’s lives and (in effect) cutting and pasting their struggles into my narrative, which I think risks a sort of latent immorality or exploitation.

10) Lastly, ten years in the making and Drapetomania is finally here. Was there anything specific that writing and working on this book taught you when it was officially finished?

Above all, that I was capable of finishing this long, dense, and complex tale, which many times I started to believe would be a footnote in my life – ‘Oh yeah, Drapetomania. Good title. He never did manage to finish it. I wonder if it would have been any good.’

I think that sometimes writing what one needs to, one accidentally hits on something that chimes with readers. Lots of people (perhaps especially lgb African-Americans) who said that they were ‘sick’ of slavery narratives and settings, seem excited by the prospect of a narrative that is different because it puts same gender love (and love between two black men) at its heart, and uses it as a lens to tell these partly-familiar experiences in a very different way. So if you keep writing with sincerity, with any luck you’ll hit on a ‘wanted’ tale as well as expressing what you needed to for yourself.

Having always resisted research (because in a sense if you don’t understand something intuitively anyway, research will never get you there) I ultimately found it a fascinating experience to steep myself in a setting in the past, and it has certainly made me want to write other historical tales, something I had always previously considered too difficult in unrewarding ways.

Again, thank you so much for doing this Q&A with me, John. ^_^

Entirely my pleasure! Thank you so much for the attentiveness and seriousness with which you have responded to my work! ~J

 

John R. Gordon – Photo Credit – Bahareh Hosseini

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  JOHN R. GORDON lives and works in London, England. He is a screenwriter, playwright and the author of seven novels, Black Butterflies, (GMP 1993), for which he won a New London Writers’ Award; Skin Deep, (GMP 1997); and Warriors & Outlaws (GMP 2001), both of which have been taught on graduate and post-graduate courses on Race & Sexuality in Literature in the United States; Faggamuffin (Team Angelica 2012); Colour Scheme (Team Angelica 2013); and Souljah (Team Angelica 2015). He script-edited and wrote for the world’s first black gay television show, Patrik-Ian Polk’s Noah’s Arc (Logo/Viacom, 2005-6). In 2007 he wrote the autobiography of America’s most famous black gay porn star from taped interviews he conducted, My Life in Porn: the Bobby Blake Story, (Perseus 2008). In 2008 he co-wrote the screenplay for the cult Noah’s Arc feature-film, Jumping the Broom (Logo/Viacom) for which he received an NAACP Image Award nomination; the film won the GLAAD Best (Limited Release) Feature Award. That same year his short film Souljah (directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair) won the Soho Rushes Award for Best Film, among others. He is also the creator of the Yemi & Femi comic-strip.

As well as mentoring and encouraging young LGBT+ and racially-diverse writers, he also paints, cartoons and does film and theatre design.

**For all enquiries, including interview requests and review copies, please contact Rikki Beadle-Blair at rikki@teamangelica.com

 

Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out my post for Drapetomania. I hope it has inspired you to give it a read.

 

Until the next post,

Gia

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