At YDS, writer Thomas Glave discusses Words to Our Now

By Eraina Davis ’10 M.A.R.

The celebrated Jamaican writer and social justice activist Thomas Glave visited Yale Divinity School on Dec. 4 and delivered a talk focused on his award-winning collection of essays Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent.  Glave came to YDS at the invitation of Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Emilie Townes, who asked him to speak in connection with her Metaphors of Evil class.

In Words to Our Now, Glave draws on his experiences as a politically committed, gay Jamaican American to condemn the prejudices, hatreds, and inhumanities that he believes persist in the United States and elsewhere as both official policy and social reality.  His essays seek to expose what he contends are the hypocrisies and contradictions of liberal multiculturalism, offering instead a politics of heterogeneity in which difference informs the theory and practice of democracy.

At his YDS talk, Glave said he was uncertain about the quality of his non-fiction as he considered publishing Words to Our Now (2007, University of Minnesota Press).  However, Glave explained that he felt compelled to publish the volume in response to the prejudices and social injustices that continue to have a presence around the globe, particularly with respect to the lesbian and gay community.

In Words to Our Now, Glave writes, “As a black male who is also gay, I and my brothers and our black lesbian sisters are considered ‘disposables’ throughout the world, throughout time past and present, in our own black communities and in white ones. This is clearly the case in Jamaica and most other Caribbean nations, and it is certainly true in the supposedly more ‘progressive’ United States.

“What will the force of this virulent hatred mean for our futures, and who will decide once again which of us is disposable? And: will we stand together when the time comes for us to face that machine-gun fire? All of us? Beyond our prejudices?”

In response to a question about the vivid depiction of atrocities in his fiction, Glave noted that many such scenes actually have their roots in real life events that he has witnessed.

Glave, who grew up in Jamaica and the Bronx, is one of the founders of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexual, and Gays (J-FLAG).  Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent won a 2005 Lambda Literary Award and was nominated for a 2006 Publishing Triangle Gay Men's Nonfiction Award.  His book Whose Song? And Other Stories (2001, City Light Publishers) was nominated by the American Library Association for "Best Gay/Lesbian Book of the Year" award and by the Quality Paperback Book Club as Violet Quill/Best New Gay/Lesbian Fiction Award.

Glave is currently a professor in the Department of English at the State University of New York in Binghamton.