Vanessa is a queer feminist Jewitch writer, editor, and photographer currently based in New York. She’s the community editor at Autostraddle and an MFA creative non-fiction candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. She writes about queer friendship, home, nature, and the body and her work has been published at Autostraddle, Nylon, Shape, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram; when she’s not online she’s probably cooking, hiking, reading, or talking about astrology. She really misses Portland – yes, even the rain.
Here’s Quick Temper with Vanessa Friedman-
Why do you write?
I write, selfishly, because I love it. The rush of putting words together on a page that might resonate with another human heart gets me high. Everyone has a story – many stories – to tell, and I hope that when I tell my stories, it might inspire other people to get vulnerable and tell their stories. I write for my queer community, and I write to make space for other voices, too.
Who do you hope reads your work?
Is it conceited to say “everyone”?
I mean, I hope confused queer girls who haven’t figured out they’re queer yet read it, I hope fat kids who aren’t sure if they’re allowed to feel beautiful read it, I hope anyone who has ever felt sad or alone or lost or like nobody could ever possibly love them just the way they are reads it. That’s who I write for – my fellow queers, my fellow fatties, my fellow angry bitchy tired femmes. If only those people read my words, that would be enough.
But! Would it be great if a lot of the people who cause my anger read my work and maybe changed their ways? Yeah, of course. Andrea Gibson has this poem, “Blue Blanket,” which is about rape and sexual violence, and it concludes like this: “Tonight / she’s not asking / what you’re gonna tell your daughter / she’s asking what / you’re going to teach / your son.” I think about that a lot when I think about who I hope reads my work.
Where does the anger in your work come from? How does it manifest?
I write about queer community and friendship, which is to say my life and the lives of my friends and family and lovers, and my anger comes from living in a world that is still trying to harm so many of us, sometimes in obvious ways and sometimes in really insidious ways. I’m a fat queer Jewish feminist – it would be weird if I wasn’t angry.
I think sometimes my anger actually manifests as love – I am so furious about the way society has erased the stories that are meaningful to me and my community, and I combat it by writing love letter after love letter after love letter about us, for us. I’m writing love stories because it’s the only way I know how to handle being so angry.
Angry book recommendations for angry readers?
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. Black Wave by Michelle Tea. Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden. Mean by Myriam Gurba. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Zami, A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. When We Were Outlaws, A Memoir of Love and Revolution by Jeanne Córdova. The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. I could go on and on but I’ll stop there!
I wouldn’t characterize any of these books as only angry – they each have so many layers, so many themes, and ultimately so much love in their spines – but these are (some) of the works that have inspired me to hold my anger the way that I do. I think they will inspire you, too.