Read “Pictures and Parades”

Given that June is Pride Month, Accenti Magazine asked if they could publish my essay, “Pictures and Parades,” about a series of photographs taken by me or my friends at Montreal’s Pride parade over the years (the first image I write about is below).

Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, I worked for Divers/Cité, the organization responsible for producing Montreal’s LGBTQ Pride Celebrations at the time (here’s a super clip of some of the interviews I did). Landing that job was life changing for me in the same way that Pride parades were also transformative. I used to buy upwards of a dozen rolls of film to capture the week(back when we didn’t have smart phones or digital cameras). Sifting through the physical copies over the years, they all tend to blend one into the other, but in some of the images there are the invisible moments of my then young queer life.

The essay appears in last year’s Here and Now: An Anthology of Queer
Italian-Canadian Writing
(along with “The Sun in Our Bodies,” a short story I wrote that inspired part of The Family Way). But you can read “Pictures and Parades” by clicking here.

Queer & Italian in Montreal

On Thursday, July 21, I’ll be hosting a special event at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Montreal called “Queer and Italian in Montreal.” An official part of this year’s Fierté Montreal Pride, this event will be a festive celebration of queer Italian-Canadian life and culture in the city

The idea for this event came after I learned that the 2021 “Italian Montreal” exhibit at the Pointe-à-Callière Museum (which set out to shine “a spotlight on the daily lives of Montréal’s earliest Italian immigrants and on the ways in which the community has evolved over the past century) neglected to include any information about the contributions made by LGBTQ Italians. Most notable was the omission of the work of writer Steve Galluccio, whose year 2000 play Mambo Italiano made an enormous impact in the city and put a spotlight on the love lives of Montreal’s gay Italian-Canadians.

Well, we hope to correct that oversight with this event.

Joining me and Steve on stage will be Gaspare Borsellino (president of the Gruppo Italiano Gay e Lesbico di Montreal, a social club for LGBTQ folks of Italian origin that played a significant role in queer cultural life in Montreal in the 1990s) and Vee DG (writer, photographer and co-founder of CIAO – Canadian Italians Against Oppression). Together, we will talk about the past, present and future of queer Italian-Canadian culture in the city.

As part of the event, we will also be screening Creative Spaces: Queer and Italian Canadian (Licia Canton, 2021), a short documentary that explores the intersections of queerness, creativity and culture with three Italian-Canadian writers living in Montreal. Featured in the documentary are Domenico A. Beneventi, Liana Cusmano, Steve Galluccio, and yours truly.

“Queer and Italian in Montreal” is free and takes place on Thursday, July 21, 2022, from 7 PM to 9 PM at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Montreal (1200 ave du Docteur-Penfield). Click here to reserve your place.

Big thanks go out to Sandro Cappelli and his team at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Montreal, as well as Fierté Montreal Pride, and Accenti magazine. I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support.

Hope to see you there.

F.G. Bressani Literary Prize

Just over a month ago, The Family Way was shortlisted for the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize—an award that goes to a book written by an Italian-Canadian author. This is the first nomination I’ve received for either of my books, and it feels wonderful to finally be recognized by one’s peers this way.

Literary prizes are anxiety-provoking. If a writer tells you that they pay them no mind, they’re probably lying. We all get swept up in award season. If you have a book out, your antennae go up as you enter the fall. Then, the shortlists come at you fast and hard, one after the other: The Giller, the GG, the Writer’s Trust, Canada Reads. In Quebec, we also have the QWF Literary Awards and the Grand Prix du livre de Montréal. And when you are LGBTQ, you also have the Lambdas and Publishing Triangle to look forward to every summer. So, for about 12 months you’re on your toes.

After Pluto received no nominations back in 2014, I told myself I wasn’t going to pay attention this year. I didn’t want to be as disappointed as I was time, missing out on prizes I thought I had an actual shot at. Well, I failed at that completely. Even though I had removed certain dates in my calendar and unfollowed various social media accounts, I still felt a sense of anticipation. It’s a strange thing to put a book out into the world and wait with bated breath to see how people respond. I wish I could say I’m above it all, but I’m not. Wrapping up your expectations (or your dreams, more likely) in accolades can be dangerous. It can play with your confidence and make you feel like an imposter and a fraud. Sometimes, that’s how I feel.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my books. And I know how random awards are. For years, I administered the CBC Literary Prizes and chaired dozens of juries. It was something to be a fly on the wall and listen as legendary writers debated the merits of different works of literature. Sometimes great stories ended up off shortlists because jurors had to negotiate and compromise. And the writers of those works will never know how close they came to being feted. Juries can be fickle, and decisions political. Another set of jurors would choose a completely different shortlist. So, what’s the point in getting caught up with the idea of “best” when there’s no such thing?

Still, I do know what winning or even being nominated for a prize can bring. In the case of the CBC Literary Awards, it often brought the interest of agents and further publication. Being able to include that you were shortlisted for a prize can get your next text bumped to the top of the submission pile. And having your book nominated for even the most modest of prizes can mean things like invitations to festivals, more reviews and interviews, offers of translation, additional sales and, of course, new readers.

I don’t know what, if anything, being nominated for the Bressani will bring to my career. I don’t know how competitive the competition was, or if I even have shot at winning. Still, whatever the outcome, I mean it when I say—I am just happy to be nominated.