Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 88

Excerpt from*

"Survival is the Least of My Desires"

by Dorothy Allison

I tell people that I write mean stories, and I do-stories that tell the truth that I know and only the part I know, because I don’t know that much. I know about being queer in this decade, about the grief inherent in losing so many friends, so many memories, so many members of our precious remade families. I have no aunts left to tell me stores, and three-quarters of young gay men that I worked with and learned to love when I first began to write are gone, along with far too many of the lesbians.

AIDS and cancer have run through my community-not metaphors, but death in wholesale numbers. Sections of my life have disappeared with the ones we have lost, and I feel a great pressure to write the stories that would somehow preserve those times, those people, my friends: John Fox, Mary Helen Mautner, Allen Barnett, Geoff Maines, Vito Russo, Cynthia Slater, George Stambolian, and too many more to list in anything less than a massive memorial. Just my personal friends who have died, the list is too long. How can I not write mean stories? I don’t have that child’s easy hope for better times that fueled so much of my early stories. I have fallen in love with the hard side, with the women and men made tough by life and loss, who nonetheless have never lost their determined love for their own kind. If I am not mean enough to honor them, then I have no right to the stories.

I need you to write mean stories. I need you to honor our dead, to help them survive. More than ten years ago, I wrote a poem about a lesbian who died in Boston, a death I read about in the paper and knew immediately could have been my own. The death of a woman who “might not have been known to be a lesbian” but who, as I read her poem in public, I learned more and more about until I was certain that not only her death, but her life, could have been my own, and that very likely she, too, would have wanted the mean story of her life told. I made a mean piece of hope out of telling about her,

*This excerpt appears as part of "Survival is the Least of My Desires"in Skin, avalable on Amazon Kindle

Keynote address at OutWrite 1992, the lesbian and gay writers conference

*”The Fisherman’s Daughter” in Dancing at the Edge of the World (Grove Press: New York, 1989)

*The Women Who Hate Me (Firebrand Books: Ithaca, New York, 1991)