Outspoken: An LGBTQ Author Festival in Maine


By Carla Charter

Maine Outspoken: An LGBTQ Author Festival, the first ever LGBTQ author event in Maine, will be held on Saturday in Portland. The all-day event sponsored by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)Maine and hosted by the Portland Press Herald. 

“There occasionally has been a one-time event held by an author but this is the first whole day long event with authors speaking about books, according to David Torresen of Maine AARP. “Different state AARP’s have been reaching out to different communities including the LGBQT and rural communities.  Here in Maine we have been attending Pride Festivals around the state including in Rutland and Bangor. We wanted to do an event that was more meaningful and more substantial that would engage one on one with the LGBQT community and members. Through the 90’s there has been an explosion in the LGBQT publishing industry It has only grown through the ability to self-publish and publish electronically,,” he continued.  With almost 900,000 of our nearly 38 million members self-identifying as LGBTQ, AARP may have one of the largest constituencies of LGBTQ members among US membership organizations Learn more at aarp.org/pride Torresen continued.

Among the authors at the event will be Robert W. Fieseler, author of Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation.  Tinderbox reconstructs the June, 1973 fire that devastated New Orleans’ subterranean gay community. Fieseler chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of 32 people at a bar called the Up Stairs Lounge, the largest mass murder of gays until a 2016 nightclub attack in Orlando. Relying on his access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates a portrait of a closeted, blue-collar gay world that flourished before an arsonist ignited an inferno. The aftermath was no less traumatic, revealing a world of prejudice that thrived well past Stonewall, yet proved essential to the emergence of a fledgling gay movement.


Also included will be Japonica Brown-Saracino, author of How Places Make Us: Novel LBQ Identities in Four Small Cities, an ethnographic study of lesbian, bisexual, and queer individuals. The cities studied include Portland, Me.; Ithaca, NY; San Luis Obispo, CA; and Greenfield, MA.  “Brown-Saracino shows how LBQ migrants craft a unique sense of self that corresponds to their new homes. Subtle differences in the cities themselves shape what it feels like to be a sexual minority and how one “does” LBQ in a specific place,” according to AARP.  In her book Brown-Saracino, Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston University, argues “We like to think of ourselves as possessing an essential self, a core identity that is who we really are, regardless of where we live, work, or play. But places actually make us much more than we might think.”

   Sarah Perry will discuss her book After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, a Daughter’s Search. Perry was 12 years old when she woke up to the horrifying sounds of her mother being stabbed to death in the kitchen of their home in Bridgton, Maine. It took 12 more years for the police to find and prosecute the killer, after which Perry embarked on her own journey to understand her mother and reclaim their story. In After the Eclipse, Perry pens a deeply loving and impactful account of her beautiful, young mother’s life beyond her violent final hour, and she digs into the disturbing social biases that are at the root of the epidemic of gender-based violence.

Two other authors will be speaking about their books which revolve around the subject of family caregiving, another issue that AARP is concerned with. “They are sad, insightful, clever books,’ said Jane Margesson AARP Maine Communication Director. said. In the state of Maine alone 1 in 6 women are caregivers, according to AARP and there are an estimated 178,000 caregivers in Maine.

George Hodgman, author of Bettyville: A Memoir, will also be speaking at the event. When Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself in a head-on collision with his mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will he lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over. He can’t bring himself to force her from the home they both treasure – the place where his father’s voice lingers, the scene of shared jokes, skirmishes, and a rarely acknowledged conflict: Betty, who speaks her mind but cannot quite reveal her heart, has never really accepted that her son is gay. As Bettyville’s two unforgettable characters try to bring their different worlds together, Hodgman reveals the challenges of Betty’s life and his own struggle for self-respect.

Marusya Bociurkiw, author of Food Was Her Country: The Memoir of a Queer Daughter will discuss her book about the story of a Catholic immigrant mother, a godless bohemian daughter, and their tempestuous culinary relationship. From accounts of 1970’s macrobiotic potlucks to a dangerous road trip in search of lunch, the book is funny, dark, and tender in turn. When Bociurkiw’s Ukraine-born mother, a devotee of The Food Channel and a consummate cook, 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. The book concludes with a daughter’s journey of grieving and reconciliation, uncovering the truth of her relationship with her mother only after her death.

The festival is a free event and will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Hannaford Hall in the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St. in Portland. Parking is free in the adjacent garage. Registration is required. To register online visit http://aarp.cvent.com/outspoken. To register by phone call 1-877-926-8300 on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern.