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Professor's book wins award

Thomas Glave’s newest book, Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent, recently received the Lambda Literary Foundation’s annual award for nonfiction.

The awards, launched in 1989, celebrate achievements in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature. Glave’s book, published last year by the University of Minnesota Press, was one of 100 finalists in 20 categories.

Glave, 41, an assistant professor of English, has received an O. Henry Award for his fiction and was a Fulbright scholar. He grew up in the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica. He holds a master’s in fine arts from Brown University and divides his time between Binghamton and New York City.

The book is a collection of 17 essays, nine of which were published previously. Glave sees the work as a “direct political conversation with events in the world right now.” He touches on topics ranging from Abu Ghraib to the divide that separates gay and straight friends.

One piece is visually quite fragmented; in another, Glave writes about himself in the third person. “I was thinking a lot about experimenting with form,” he said.

That made the project both fun and challenging for him, he said, in just the way he tries to work with his students. “They are quite inventive and you have to find ways to push harder,” he said. One piece in the book came from a writing exercise like one he has used in class. In it, Glave imagines a morning in the life of a suicide bomber’s mother. He said he struggled with how to write about terrorism in a humanist way and ended up forcing himself to write in his office on campus.

“That essay was a saving grace,” he said. “Once I did that, I knew I could do the rest of it.”

In the end, Glave enjoyed the project so much that he plans to do another book of essays.

Glave says his influences come from cultures as different as India, Cameroon, Jamaica and the Czech Republic. “Everybody has a different way of telling stories,” he notes.

Finding out that accomplished writers all have different approaches is one of the things that gave him the freedom to do things his own way, he said. “I tell students, ‘Read as widely as you can. You have to be a reader before you can be a writer.’” Glave, a somewhat shy person with an easy smile, said people are often surprised to find that he can be cheerful because his book takes on such serious issues.

“In many ways this book is about hope,” he said. “The act of writing is about faith and hope.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08