2023 Spring Literary Festival welcomes author Barrie Jean Borich on March 29-30
Borich is the author of four books of lyric memoir and the recipient of the American Library Association Stonewall Book Award, the Lambda Literary Award, an IPPY (the Independent Publisher Book Award) Gold Medal in Creative Nonfiction, a Foreward INDIE Book of the Year Bronze, The Florida Review Editor’s Prize in the Essay, and the Crab Orchard Review Literary Nonfiction Prize.
Three of these honors were showered on Borich’s third book, Body Geographic (University of Nebraska Press/American Lives Series, 2013), which a Kirkus starred review called “poetic, complex, and innovative”—“a stunningly original memoir that explores a woman’s connection to the real and imagined Midwestern landscapes that have defined her life.” A self-described “boho-femme-lesbian-creative-nonfiction-writer” who grew up on the industrial South Side of Chicago, Borich sees Body Geographic as a “quirky attempt at counter-mapping my American body against ‘the true and accurate atlas’ any woman of my place and generation was supposed to follow.”
Her 1999 memoir, My Lesbian Husband: Landscapes of a Marriage (Graywolf Press) is regarded as a queer classic. Describing Borich’s second book in a Lambda Literary essay, Julie Enszer says, “My Lesbian Husband situates lesbian relationships in a complicated, messy world of long-term intimacy. While the title heralds lesbianism as its center, the book explores broader, human questions about relationships . . . [centering] attention at the margin to illuminate a whole.”
Of her own work, Borich says, “I don’t write to argue or to narrate so much as to listen, illuminate, and wander.” She enjoys the capaciousness and queerness of creative nonfiction, a genre she sees as “attentive to form but difficult to classify, with quirky yet intentionally designed exteriors, slippery rules, a mutating understanding of identity, a commitment to getting past the b------- and making unexpected connections, and a grounding in an unmasked, yet lyric, voice.”
Borich’s most recent book, Apocalypse, Darling (Ohio State University Press: Mad Creek Books/Machete Series in Literary Nonfiction, 2018) is a lyric narrative that critics say “soars and seems to live as a new form altogether.” PopMatters calls it “poetry, a meditation on life as ‘the other,’ creative non-fiction, and abstract art.”
Paul Lisicky, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, agrees: "Apocalypse, Darling refuses easy categories. It is a book about growing up in Chicago’s little-known industrial suburbs, it is a book about whiteness, a book of relationships, a book of ruin. It is both love letter and song of warning.... Through form, Borich implies that nothing is separate, everyone is included, implicated, active, doomed, simultaneous. And if that’s the way it is, what kind of world do we want?"
For Borich, formal innovation is not merely an aesthetic imperative but a sociopolitical one. “Nostalgia is for funerals and inventive change is the only way forward,” she writes in a craft essay invoking a "queer literary aesthetic:"
Writing as resistance to the notion that the ways we were (silent, stratified, ostracized, victimized, hidden) could possibly be better than the way we are now (still some of these things, some of the time, but not always, and not everywhere) and the ways we might become (always remaking, redefining, becoming more just and creatively fluid)....
Queerness as a literary perspective, as well as a joyful way of living, came about as an antidote to oppression and hatred, but also because a people who were different in body and affections from the mainstream started talking to each other, and loving each other, and forming communities out of which they made homes, services, and art with one another.
Borich is a professor in the English Department and MFA/MA in Writing and Publishing Program, and Director of the LGBTQ Studies minor, at DePaul University in Chicago, where she edits Slag Glass City, a journal of the urban essay arts.
Borich’s work has appeared in Ecotone, The Seneca Review, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, TriQuarterly, Passages North, The Washington Post, The Rumpus, and other literary journals and has been anthologized in Critical Creative Writing; Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women; and After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays.
Spring 2023 Literary Festival Schedule
Wednesday, March 29
7:30 p.m. Barrie Jean Borich lecture
8:30 p.m. Denise Duhamel reading
Thursday, March 30
10 a.m.: Megan Giddings lecture
11 a.m.: Denise Duhamel lecture
5 p.m.: Barrie Jean Borich reading
6 p.m.: Megan Giddings reading