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Reading Out Loud! Queer Writers at Mills

Jana Rogers

Students and faculty, fans and admirers alike, gathered in the
Mills Hall living room on Wednesday, Oct. 27, to hear writers read
from their texts.

The campus queer alliance Mouthing Off! sponsored “Reading
Out Loud! A Night of Queer Authors at Mills College,” with
four female authors, including a Mills alumna.

Gay marriage advocate Davina Kotulski, back in California after
a recent cross-country tour with Marriage Equality California, read
pieces from her book, Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay
Marriage, and her contribution to I Do, I Don’t: Queers on
Marriage, edited by Greg Wharton and Ian Philips.

Kotulski, who’s San Francisco marriage was recently
invalidated by the courts, started the night by showing two jars of
candy: one contained 1,138 candy hearts, representing the federal
rights of marriage, the other empty to represent the rights gays
and lesbians receive in 46 states.

Her readings offered both a dramatic and humorous approach to
evoke the personal stories of gays and lesbians lacking partnership

She read from “Lincoln’s Birthday,” a piece
about Feb. 13. For five years, Kotulski and her lesbian partner had
sought a marriage license on that day, feeling the historical
significance of Lincoln’s work for equal rights.

She spoke of the irony that either her or her partner, attorney
Molly McKay, could walk outside, grab a stranger off the street and
get married, while the committed couple was denied a license every
year before this one.

“Being gay is like playing a broken Ms. PacMan,” she
read from another chapter. No matter how many times you’ve
eaten all the dots you keep going back to the [first] level with
the cherries.”

Bett Williams read from her creative non-fiction book,
“The Wrestling Party.”

Her true stories read like a novel, touching on the angst from
both sides of teen/adult relationships.

Opening with “I used to be a stalker chick,”
Williams evoked the familiar passions of a teenage girl in love. As
she grew “from stalker to stalked” she learned
“being loved obsessively…can be downright

At 15 she was involved with a 27-year-old, and at 30 she was
seeing a 17-year-old, and everything in between has made for some
great and passionate stories. Her experiences have been the basis
for contributions to Out magazine, and

The liveliest reading came from Lambda Literary Award nominee
and Mills alumna Daphne Gottlieb, who received her MFA in 2001

It was obvious that Gottlieb, who said she knows her pieces are
done “when they mesh and sound right,” incorporates
performance as a piece of her writing. Her readings conveyed the
emotions they described.

Only occasionally referring to the book clutched in her hand,
the heavily tattooed and dreadlocked slam poet performed pieces
from two of her collections, including “Slut” from her
latest collection Final Girl about the girl in the horror movies,
“you know the one: she’s there, she’s naked,
she’s dead,” and “feminine protection” from
Why Things Burn.

Her performance drew laughter at times and stunned silence
during others, like the emotional piece that drew largely from the
real letters between two young lesbians, 12 and 14, the younger of
whom was murdered by a group of girls including the older
girl’s 15-year-old ex-girlfriend.

A self-described “text DJ,” Gottlieb wrote one of
the pieces she read while assisting for Tom Strychacz in the survey
of American literature class. Disturbed by Puritan poet Anne
Bradstreet’s relationship with God, she used three columns to
compare Bradstreet’s lines to domestic abuse in women, and a
study training dogs to stay in open cages through shock treatment.
Gottlieb twitched and shook as she read the poem.

Michelle Tea read parts of an unfinished novel she’s
working on, “a family piece” coming of age story about
a young lesbian. The story touches on high school life, drugs and
sex, and didn’t sound rough like works in progress sometimes

The best suggestion for future writers, from everyone, was to
just keep writing about whatever. Gottlieb also said finding
similar works and looking at their publishers is also a good