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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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I Am, I Said

I have a phone interview tonight with Baltimore Gay Life for an upcoming article about GLBT writers in Maryland. I was a little reluctant at first to do it, because I don't believe my work should be branded as such, but any publicity is good publicity, especially when you've just published a novella (May-September) about a relationship between a young woman and a much-older one. It's heartening that, for the most part, maybe twenty years ago, when I came out of college, no one would be interested in such a novella, except maybe Alyson Publications and a few other gay presses. But now, May-September won first prize in the 2010 Open Awards hosted by Press 53, it's gotten some reviews, and I have an interview (with the lovely Paula Bomer) upcoming in Rain Taxi Review of Books.

But I find myself a little defensive, wanting to emphasize that the bulk of my work really isn't "gay," isn't anything, and just because I am a gay person, I don't want to be held to some standard regarding what I write. Although I'm sure I'm overreacting; those days, when you spoke for your community, like it or not, are gone. And I don't want or need to live my life in exclusively gay corridors—gay bars, gay softball clubs, gay festivals, gay authors. In fact, like me, I suspect the current generation of kids also has more in common with Lady Gaga than Holly Near (I added a Wiki link so you wouldn't have to Google her). Which I think is great, because when I came out in the 90s, it was like you had to go buy a freaking Indigo Girls album and forget how to dance (okay, I never knew how to dance).

I don't know what it was like in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s to be gay in America, and I'm thankful for the trailblazers before me who spoke out regarding our right to be treated like any other human being, who suffered a lot of physical and mental hurt just so they could go to work every day, hold their partner's hand in public, visit them in the hospital (and hopefully get married). I'm just not really interested in the culture of being gay, just as I'm not interested in being a trekkie or plastering my home and clothes with Ravens purple or dressing like a hipster and inflicting Vampire Weekend on everyone. Being gay is part of my identity, but so is the fact that I jog, or garden, or write, or eat potato chips with ketchup.

That said, I'm really looking forward to the interview. I'm as proud of the novella as anything I've ever done and am happy to get it any kind of attention. (It's hard to sell it because it's tucked away in an anthology, but I'm hoping it will be reprinted in a forthcoming collection of mine.)