So Queer and So Caribbean

Moderated by Julio Capó Jr., FIU associate professor of history and deputy director of The Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab. Presented in English. In the Caribbean, LGBTQ individuals live in fear […]

So Queer and So Caribbean

Authors:Julio Capó Jr., Achy Obejas, Kacen Callender, Shani Mootoo

Moderated by Julio Capó Jr., FIU associate professor of history and deputy director of The Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab.

Presented in English.

In the Caribbean, LGBTQ individuals live in fear of being ostracized at a minimum and physically assaulted – or even murdered – at worst. This panel celebrates the contributions of LGBTQ writers with roots in Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad, and Saint Thomas who are unapologetic for their queerness and whose writing challenges Caribbean homophobia.

The author of the PEN/Faulkner nominated The Tower of the Antilles as well as other titles, Achy Obejas frequently writes on sexuality and nationality, and has received a USA Ford Fellowship and an NEA, among other awards, for her creative work. Shani Mootoo’s Polar Vortex is a seductive and tension-filled novel about Priya and Alex, a lesbian couple  who attempt to escape the secrets of their pasts. Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender’s King of the Rising is the searing conclusion to an unflinching and powerful Caribbean-inspired fantasy series about colonialism, resilience and defiance.

Sponsored by

and in partnership with

Julio Capó Jr.

Dr. Julio Capó, Jr. is a transnational historian whose research and teaching interests include modern U.S. history, especially the United States’s relationship to the Caribbean and Latin America. He addresses how gender and sexuality have historically intersected with constructions of ethnicity, race, class, nation, age, and ability. He teaches introductory and specialized courses on all these subjects, as well as courses on public history.

Capó’s research and teaching interests extend to his commitment to civic engagement and public-facing work. He curated “Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities,” which won the 2019 Museum Excellent Award from the Florida Association of Museums, for HistoryMiami Museum. He worked as a broadcast news writer and producer and, more recently, his work appears in mainstream publications, including The Washington Post, Time, The Miami Herald, El Nuveo Día (Puerto Rico), and The Abusable Past. He was a commentator for BackStory with the American History Guys (Podcast) and the PBS/Miami Herald documentary The Day It Snowed in Miami. He also works with the National Park Service and contributed to efforts to promote and identify historic LGBTQ sites, including writing a theme study chapter on Miami. The Organization of American Historians recently named him a Distinguished Lecturer.

Dr. Capó’s first book, Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940 (UNC Press, 2017), highlights how transnational forces—including (im)migration, trade, and tourism—to and from the Caribbean shaped Miami’s queer past. The book has received six awards and honors, including the Charles S. Sydnor Award from the Southern Historical Association for the best book written on Southern history. His work has also appeared in the Journal of American History, Radical History Review, Diplomatic History, Journal of Urban History, Journal of American Ethnic History, Modern American History, GLQ, H-Net, American Studies, and several edited volumes.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships and he has held several prominent posts. The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History awarded him the Audre Lorde Prize (2018, for “Sexual Connections”), the Immigration and Ethnic History Society awarded him the Carlton C. Qualey Award (2011, for “Queering Mariel”), the Urban History Association awarded him the Best Dissertation Award (2011), and UMass Amherst awarded him the College Outstanding Teaching Award (2016). He was Visiting Scholar at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre (2017), a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University (2011-12), and serves as the co-chair of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History and on the Editorial Board for the Journal of American History.

Achy Obejas

Achy Obejas is the author of various books, including the novel Days of Awe and the best-selling poetry chapbook This Is What Happened in Our Other Life. She is the editor of Akashic’s crime-fiction anthology Havana Noir, the author of Ruins, and the translator (into Spanish) for Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Kacen Callender

Kacen Callender is originally from Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. They are the author of the young adult novel This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story and the middle grade novel Hurricane Child. Felix Love, the title character in Kacen Callender’s Felix Ever After (Balzer + Bray) has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a revenge plan. But he didn’t expect it would land him in a quasi–love triangle and a journey of questioning and self-discovery that would help redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself. In a starred review Publishers Weekly praised it as a “top-notch depiction of a messy, complicated, romantic young artist navigating the bumpy road to self-love and self-determination …”

Shani Mootoo

Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland, grew up in Trinidad, and lives in Canada. She writes fiction and poetry, and is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited locally and internationally. Mootoo’s novels include Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, Valmiki’s Daughter, He Drown She in the Sea, and Cereus Blooms at Night. Shani Mootoo ‘s Polar Vortex (Akashic Books) is a novel about Priya and Alex, a lesbian couple who left the big city to relocate to a countryside community. It seemed like a good way to leave their past behind –and then there’s running away from awkward histories. Priya has a secret–a long-standing, on-again, off-again relationship with a man, Prakash. She has she never told Alex about him. When Priya invites Prakash to visit, Alex is not pleased, and soon all three have to face the consequences of their choices. The Globe an Mail called Polar Vortex “an unsettling novel about how secrets always come back to get us – especially the secrets we’ve managed to keep from ourselves.”

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