Crossing Borders with LGBTQ Descendants of Holocaust Survivors Life Writing: History, Trauma, and the Queer Autobiographical
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This paper investigates the intersecting roles of sexuality, gender, race, and nationalism within the life writings of LGBTQ children of Holocaust survivors. While much work has examined intergenerational trauma within the writing of descendants of the Holocaust, only a few have acknowledged and interrogated the importance of sexuality within the lives and writings of these individuals. My paper utilizes queer theory to read and situate these authors’ works in new contexts. Drawing upon queer theoretical concepts of trauma (Ann Cvetkovich), history and temporality (Heather Love and Scott Bravmann), and reparative reading practices (Eve Sedgwick), I unpack some of the common and alternative themes of the pieces written by LGBTQ children of Holocaust survivors. Texts in this study include (but are not limited to): Lisa Kron’s Two and a Half Minute Ride (2001), Lev Raphael’s Dancing on Tisha B’av (1988), Journey and Arrivals (1996), and My Germany (2009), as well as Sarah Schulman’s Rat Bohemia (1995), People in Trouble (1990), and The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Generation (2012). My paper situates these works within larger narratives of (queer) history, trauma, and activism as these works traverse from the individual to the collective. Of particular note, this paper examines how trauma is present within the everyday lives of queer folk while simultaneously interacting with other traumatic events and their legacies. My paper investigates the everyday aspects of trauma as they are situated alongside and within homo- and hetero- normative life scripts. From Kron’s retelling of her sibling’s wedding to Raphael’s sexual encounters with uncircumcised Jewish men, to Schulman’s witnessing of lost cultures and counter publics, these texts bring together legacies of sexuality, gender, race, and nationality that are tied to larger traumatic events such as the Holocaust, homophobia, and the AIDS epidemic.