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Books Musings

Death and Literature

I’m surrounded by ghosts.

It feels a bit hyperbolic, but also it’s been on my mind lately. I’ve been reading A Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman, and it’s been hitting hard. I’m only a generation or two after the trauma of the 1980s, and as I learn more about my city’s queer past the more respect and sorrow I have.

I still don’t feel I understand what it was like. I am unsure if it’s even possible for me to feel that way, honestly. I am trying, though. I read literature by queer authors who have lived through it, and do my best to unpack my reservations about the generational divides like I have in the past.

It lurks in my mind, though. I sit on a train and watch the subway stations fly by, and wonder who sat in this seat before. I get dinner with a lover in a Village diner, and feel the presence of queer lovers who have gone before in that space. And are gone now.

There’s a meme that’s been going around about over what could have been if that prior generation had not almost all been wiped out. If our queer ancestors were not massacred, what changes could have been made on society? What mentorship could have happening to my generation? What would it have been like, to not have the psychic scars that we are barely aware of?

I’m surrounded by ghosts of the nameless dead, people like me who don’t have anyone to remember who they were and who they loved. I wish I knew you.