"I want the next generation to grow up embracing feminism as a word and concept--women, trans-people, and men alike. I believe in the intersectional ideals of third-wave feminism--the need for all civil rights movements to collaborate with each other, to build strong coalitions." Julie Marie Wade
While I don't know Julie personally, when Denise Duhamel recommends someone for Fierce Friday, you know she's fierce. And she wrote this in her essay "12 Things You Should Know, Even After Obergefell V. Hodges": "My dream is that one day children will not be raised with the assumption that they are straight. They will be raised instead with the imperative to be good, to be kind, to be curious, to be compassionate, but with no foregone conclusions about whom they’re supposed to love." Fierce.
Out of all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of and why?
Well, there are a lot of things I'm happy about and for which I feel tremendous gratitude. I'm thrilled that I get to earn a living doing the thing I love most--teaching both undergraduate and graduate creative writing students--and that I get to fulfill my vocation in the company of writers I respect and admire and with whom I share meaningful friendships. It was always my dream to teach at Florida International University, and I know more than a little serendipity made that dream come true. I'm also thrilled that I've had work chosen for publication by writers whose work I respect and admire, by writers whose work helped me and continues to help me to find my own voice and style. Albert Goldbarth chose my first poem for publication in Another Chicago Magazine back in 2004, and Mark Doty chose my first lyric essay for publication in Gulf Coast the same year. Later on, Rachel Zucker chose my poem "Source Amnesia" for the Spoon River Poetry Prize and Bernard Cooper chose my lyric essay "Tremolo" for the Bloom Nonfiction Chapbook Prize. Most astonishing of all, the late C.D. Wright chose my recent poetry collection SIX as the winner of the AROHO/ To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. But still, I know, on any given day, a different writer could have won these awards and been entirely worthy of them. When I received the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir in 2011, I felt proud to have been recognized as a literary contributor to the LGBT community--as a contemporary lesbian voice helping to resist silence and invisibility on behalf of others like me. But there are so many diligent and deserving writers, and now that I'm serving more often as a judge for literary contests and awards, I recognize that awards are always a bit lucky and can never be wholly earned. So I guess the accomplishment of which I am most proud has to be something over which I have control, and I think that's my attitude and approach to life. Like everyone else, I get discouraged from time to time, short-tempered and impatient, et al., but I'm dogged in my pursuits, and with rare exception, I am joyful. I'm proud that the quote from Andrew Carnegie on my office wall is a credo I have lived by for my sixteen years of teaching and the concomitant years of writing and publishing. I hope it's a credo I will always live by: "My heart is in the work."
What are you currently working on? How long have you been working on it? How did you become interested in it/ where did you get the idea for it?
I tend to work on many projects simultaneously, within and across genres. So right now I'm in the early stages of an essay collection called The Regulars. The first essay, "Where I'm From," was recently published by Superstition Review, and the title essay came out in 2015 in Ninth Letter. I have one essay left to write for my ongoing creative nonfiction project, Other People's Mothers, but I've been taking my time mulling it over since I think this essay-chapter will be the first in the book. On the poetry front, I've written about half, possibly more, of a collection called Quick Change Artist, which I began thinking about after publishing a smaller collection called When I Was Straight with A Midsummer Night's Press in 2014. It's likely that this collection will subsume the earlier volume, since most of the poems I've been writing have to do with various kinds of secular conversions, disguises, and shifts in jobs or roles. Recently, I've also been thinking that I need to start work on a follow-up sequence to When I Was Straight called Same-Sexy Marriage, which might become part of Quick Change Artist eventually. The idea for this project came about after I married my partner Angie in Washington State in 2014, but upon returning to our home in Florida, we were quickly reminded that our marriage was not recognized here. The email I received from Human Resources congratulated me on my "same-sexy marriage" and then went on to explain that my employer would not be able to recognize the marriage or provide my spouse with the benefits accorded to different-sex spouses. That typo came to stand in for so many of the painful events and ironies--many both horrible and humorous--that characterized this time in our lives. Still my spouse and I are often asked if we have a "real" marriage or a "legal" marriage, despite the Obergefell v. Hodges decision of June 2015, and with Trump in the White House, it's hard to know what will happen to those of us with "same-sexy marriages" going forward. The time feels right to write--as it always does!--but particularly surrounding this issue.
What issue are you currently most passionate about? What is the one thing you would like people to know or understand about this issue?
Well, I'm passionate about same-sex marriage, clearly--the rights of all people to marry whomever they chose, if they choose. And I'm passionate about being a feminist and reclaiming the power of this word. I want the next generation to grow up embracing feminism as a word and concept--women, trans-people, and men alike. I believe in the intersectional ideals of third-wave feminism--the need for all civil rights movements to collaborate with each other, to build strong coalitions. I think women's empowerment is and should be closely tied to the empowerment of people of color, to the empowerment of immigrants and religious minorities, to the empowerment of queer people. And if we are taking care of each other, looking out for our most marginalized citizens and non-citizens, then we should also be taking care of our planet. As a lesbian writer, I think the specific issue that has shaped my writing to date is resisting stereotypes about lesbians and pushing back against lack of representation, too--what scholar Larry Gross calls "symbolic annihilation." And nested within these concerns about how lesbians are treated and depicted, both as women and as gay people, I have an ongoing emotional and pedagogical investment in resisting presumed heterosexuality. Even during the last ten years, watching and listening to the ways people respond to my nieces and nephews, I have witnessed how heterosexuality is presumed by so many people even before a child is born. When my niece Evie was still an infant, her parents' next-door neighbor started talking about how she could date his infant grandson one day. And while, on the surface, these may be superficial comments by well-intentioned people, I know what it is to have been born a girl whose gendered existence and sexual orientation were scripted for her from birth. I know the tolls those prescriptions and presumptions took on me and how they resulted, ultimately, in estrangement from my family and many of my closest friends, after I came out in my early twenties. If we were raising children at large (I know some families are) without these presumptions of gender expression and sexual orientation, coming out itself could become obsolete, and with it, so much of the emotional trauma surrounding queer lives.
Recently, So to Speak published one of my essays that attends to many of these resident issues, "12 Things You Should Know, Even After Obergefell v. Hodges." Here's the link: http://sotospeakjournal.org/tag/julie-marie-wade/
What book or film with a female protagonist would you recommend and why? and/or What female author’s, artist’s, or musician’s work would you recommend and why?
When I think of women artists who have influenced me, poets spring first to mind. In college, I was galvanized by the poetry of Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, and Sandra Cisneros. They were my first cohort of feminist-poets, and I read all their books with a new kind of hunger. I was seeking permission, I think, to write my truest self on the page. When I encountered Adrienne Rich, her poetry and her essays became touchstones for me as a writer on the cusp of coming out. And then in graduate school, the first time, I started reading more experimental women poets, and so began my immersion in the work of C.D. Wright, Claudia Rankine, Rae Armantrout, Harryette Mullen, and my eventual thesis director, Suzanne Paola. When I moved on to my second graduate program, I began to read the poetry of Denise Duhamel, which lead me to the poetry of Maureen Seaton and also to their collaborative volumes. I was never the same after that, changed forever for the better, I think, as a feminist with new models that included humor and surreality and neoformalism, too. I should also say that the reason I wanted to study for the MFA at the University of Pittsburgh was because of a memoir I had read by Toi Derricotte called The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey. Derricotte is a poet, too, of course, but I came to her work through the door of memoir and this deep, painful, powerful project of reckoning with self, identity, and the perceptions of others. I had never read--and have still never read--another book quite like it. I was learning more about my own white privilege as I read her perilous journey as a black woman who sometimes passes as white, and I was also learning, by analogy, about the perils of being a gay woman who sometimes passes as straight. I teach The Black Notebooks every chance I get, and now I have other inspiring models for women writing lyric essays and other forms of creative nonfiction, including Brenda Miller, Maxine Hong Kingston, Karen Salyer McElmurray, Daisy Hernandez, Maggie Nelson, Neela Vaswani, and Lily Hoang. I recommend all of these writers. For films of female empowerment, the first that comes to mind--and I find these harder to find than books--is East Side Sushi, starring Diana Elizabeth Torres as a young Latina woman determined to become a sushi chef despite racial and gendered assumptions about her ability to do so. I'm just learning about the female director Rebecca Miller, but I was compelled by her film, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and plan to seek out more of her work.
Name one woman who has influenced you/ had an impact on you, perhaps as a mentor. Why and how did she impact your life?
Without a doubt, the woman who has most influenced me for the better is my spouse, Angie Griffin. She has a capacious intellect and possesses an incomparable wit. I admire her humor, her powers of observation, her concision--the way she can distill the essence of an idea into a few, clear words. Clearly, I am quite lacking in this area! Angie is also the most honest and ethical person I know, someone who challenges me to think harder about everything and not to cop out on anything. She is a true feminist, a realist who balances my sometimes reckless enthusiasm with good sense. As a voracious reader and a librarian, she cares deeply about literature--a passion I share--and I have had the most meaningful conversations of my life with her as well as the most outstanding adventures.
I should mention, too, that in my professional life, I have been mentored tremendously by female professors I am lucky now to call my friends: Suzanne Paola, Brenda Miller, Kathryn Flannery, Lisa Parker, Lucy Fischer, Annette Allen, and Catherine Fosl. When I joined the creative writing faculty at FIU in 2012, I met Denise Duhamel, my long-time poet-hero, and she took me under her wing as an assistant professor and an emerging poet. No one could ask for a better mentor-friend than the mentoring friendship I have found with Denise. When I told her how much her poem "When I Was a Lesbian" meant to me, she encouraged me to write a poem called "When I Was Straight," which became a series of poems by that title and eventually a whole book. She has supported me and my work relentlessly these past four years, and at her suggestion, we began collaborating together in 2013, and now we have a book forthcoming in 2018 called The Unrhymables: Collaborations in Prose!
Julie Marie Wade is the author of four collections of poetry and prose, most recently the lyric essay collection Catechism: A Love Story (Noctuary Press, 2016) and SIX: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2016), selected by C.D. Wright as the recipient of the 2014 AROHO/To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. A recipient of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir and grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami and reviews regularly for Lambda Literary Review and The Rumpus. She is married to Angie Griffin and lives on Hollywood Beach.