Fellows, Will

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FELLOWS, Will

PERSONAL:

Born in Evansville, WI.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Milwaukee, WI. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Wisconsin Press, 1930 Monroe St., 3rd Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, educator, and nutritionist.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Lambda Literary Award finalist, 1997, for Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest.

WRITINGS:

Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1996, published with a new afterword, 1998.

A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men As Keepers of Culture, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2004.

ADAPTATIONS:

Farms Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest was adapted as an Off-Broadway play titled Farm Boys, 2004.

SIDELIGHTS:

Will Fellows is the author of the oral histories Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest and A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men As Keepers of Culture. Fellows, a gay man who grew up in rural Wisconsin, told an interviewer for the Madison Capital Times that he wrote Farm Boys to better understand his own experiences. "I didn't really set out to do this as some kind of educational project," Fellows stated. "I was just curious and wanted to collect stories and see a broader representation of men's lives." Fellows added, "I also now understand that some of the tension in me is the intersection between my Midwestern farm heritage and my gay male identity since leaving the farm. There are parts of both I value and parts of both I am repelled by. That's what propelled me early on to do this project."

For Farm Boys, Fellows conducted interviews with seventy-five gay men, ranging in age from twenty-four to eighty-four, all from farm backgrounds in the Midwest. Some three dozen of the interviews were edited by Fellows and appear in the work. "With varying measures of humor, pain, and directness," wrote Yvonne Zipter in the Lambda Book Report, "most of the men describe their lives on the farm, their early sexual experiences and sexual awakenings, and the ways in which growing up on a farm has shaped their lives as gay men." Several themes emerge, notably the pain of social isolation felt by rural gay men. According to Library Journal critic David W. Henderson, "The roughhewn quality of the narratives … creates an ambience that is often powerful and poignant, conveying the sadness of isolation and the strength of self-reliance."

A Passion to Preserve is an "exploration of the presence of gay men in historic preservation," stated Jim Van Buskirk in the Lambda Book Report. In the work, Fellows asserts that "gay men have evinced a talent for collecting, organizing, renovating, and restoring that goes beyond mere gender stereotype," stated Library Journal contributor Richard J. Violette. To illustrate his thesis, Fellows "uses a compelling collection of stories and first-person accounts from gay men across the country who have chronicled histories, preserved antiques, and renovated old structures, in some cases bringing whole neighborhoods back from the brink of destruction," wrote a contributor in the Advocate.

While researching A Passion to Preserve, Fellows discovered that the gay contribution to urban preservation is largely missing from the historical record, perhaps as an attempt to downplay the stereotype of gay men as caregivers. Fellows told Angelica Pence of the San Francisco Chronicle, "More important to me than looking at what gay men have done as keepers of cultures is eroding that mentality and helping gay men embrace it. It's the fear of that stigma of effeminacy that has really prevented gay men from understanding what they're really about and who they really are." In the Lambda Book Report, Van Buskirk remarked that A Passion to Preserve introduces readers to "the fascinating, and hitherto largely hidden, intersection of gay men's lives and preservation. Whether or not it is a generalizable characteristic, as Fellow seems to suggest, is immaterial. Merely considering the possibility introduces us to a passel of gay men passionate about the importance of preservation."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Advocate, October 29, 1996, Scott Heim, review of Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men From the Rural Midwest, pp. 72-74; July 6, 2004, John Caldwell, "Preservation-Minded," p. 36.

American Literary History, summer, 1999, Robert J. Corber, "Queer Regionalism," pp. 391-403.

Bay Windows (Boston, MA), June 3, 2004, J. S. Hall, "Remembrances of Things Past."

Capital Times (Madison, WI), September 26, 1996, "State Man's Book Details Rural Gay Life," section D, p. 1.

Chicago Tribune, November 24, 1996, Charles Wasserburg, "Gay Men, Urban and Rural from the City and the Country," p. 14.

Journal of Homosexuality, June, 1999, Larry R. Peterson, review of Farm Boys, pp. 147-149.

Lambda Book Report, September, 1996, Yvonne Zipter, review of Farm Boys, pp. 23-24; August-September, 2004, Jim Van Buskirk, "Angels of Restoration," pp. 17-18.

Library Journal, October 1, 1996, David W. Henderson, review of Farm Boys, p. 108; April 15, 2004, Richard J. Violette, review of A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men As Keepers of Culture, p. 106.

San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2004, Angelica Pence, "House Pride," section F, p. 1.*