Glave, Thomas 1964-
GLAVE, Thomas 1964-
PERSONAL: Born 1964, in Bronx, NY. Education: Bowdoin College (honors graduate), 1993; Brown University, M.F.A., 1998.
CAREER: Writer and educator. State University of New York, Binghamton University, assistant professor of English, 2000—. Has taught at Brown University, Naropa State University, Cleveland State University, and the University of Virginia.
MEMBER: Fulbright Association, Southern Poverty Law Center, Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), Gay Men of African Descent, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (City University of New York), Artists Advisory Committee (New York Foundation for the Arts).
AWARDS, HONORS: James Michener Scholar, Caribbean Writers' Institute, University of Miami, 1993; Leo Maitland fellow in fiction, Millay Colony for the Arts, 1994; Fiction fellow, Bronx Council on the Arts, 1994; National Endowment for the Arts/Travel Grants Funds for Artists fellow, 1995; Writing fellow, Djerassi Resident Artists' Program, 1995; Creative nonfiction fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts, 1995; Fiction fellow, Fine Arts Center in Provincetown, 1995-96; James Assatly Prize in Fiction, Brown University, 1997; O. Henry Award for fiction, for short story "The Final Inning," 1997; Fulbright scholar, 1998-99; fiction fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts, 2000-01; Lambda Book Report, Book of Note selection, 2000.
Whose Song? and Other Stories, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 2000.
Contributor of fiction to periodicals, including Kenyon Review, Callaloo, James White Review, and Evergreen Chronicles. Glave's fiction has appeared in anthologies, including Men on Men 6: Best New Gay Fiction, Penguin (New York, NY), 1996; Best American Gay Fiction, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1998; and Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967-Present, edited by Gloria Naylor, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1996.
Contributor of nonfiction to publications, including Jamaica Daily Observer, Jamaica Sunday Herald, Gay Community News, and Massachusetts Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Thomas Glave is a writer and educator whose work, represented in his short-story collection Whose Song? and Other Stories, has garnered multiple prizes and considerable critical attention. Noted as only the second black gay author to win the O. Henry Award (the first was James Baldwin), Glave "is an extraordinary stylist whose rare insight, boundless courage, and fierce imagination make these stories [in Whose Song?] resound long after you turn the last page," wrote Kara Bolonik in the Voice Literary Supplement.
Born in 1964 in a largely Caribbean and African-American neighborhood in the Bronx, New York, Glave grew up there and in Jamaica. The child of Jamaican expatriates, his early years were spent in Kingston, Jamaica, and Baychester, New York, Bolonik wrote. Immersed in a culture of expressive storytelling and surrounded by family and neighbors with keenly developed verbal skills, Glave became interested in writing and storytelling at an early age. "I first began writing when I was about four or five years old," Glave said in an interview on the Nubian Chronicles Web site.
Glave attended Catholic and private schools in New York City, then studied English and Latin American studies at Bowdoin College, graduating in 1993. He went on to earn an M.F.A. in fiction from Brown University in 1998. After graduating from Brown University, Glave spent a year in Jamaica as a Fulbright scholar, studying Jamaican and Caribbean intellectual and literary history and traditions, he said in the Nubian Chronicles interview. Since 2000, he has been a professor at the State University of New York, Binghamton University, teaching English and Africana studies.
Whose Song? is a collection that "examines what it means to be a black man and to be gay, and Glave's prose navigates the fragments of identity without offering easy answers," wrote Amy Sickels in Gay & Lesbian Review. Scenes of intense violence are juxtaposed with lyrical prose, as in the collection's title story—a young lesbian is gang-raped by three teenagers, but she still thinks tender, even sensual thoughts about her female lover during the act. Ironically, one of the rapists is himself resisting his own homosexual past. "The story moves with rhythms of both gospel and rap, in a prose style layered with images that both seduce and startle," Sickels observed.
"Final Inning," Glave's O. Henry award-winning story, examines the death of a gay man and its effects on the people left behind. Though the dead man was openly and proudly gay in life, his family steadfastly refuses to acknowledge or even mention that critical part of his identity. Gay and lesbian mourners at the funeral are seated in back pews, out of sight. When one of the mourners confronts the family for their hypocrisy and lack of respect for the dead man's life, the truth is finally spoken and perceptions, relationships, and lives are changed. The story is based on an actual event, Glave noted in an interview on the Blacklight Online Web site.
Glave's own experiences as a gay black man are important to his work, though his own family is very accepting of his homosexuality, he said in the Black-light Online interview. He came out when he was twenty-two years old, and is a founding member of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG). His sexual orientation has been more controversial in Jamaica, where he maintains dual citizenship. However, he has not avoided controversy there; when an antihomosexual dance song became popular, he composed an essay condemning Jamaican attitudes toward gays. The essay appeared in two Kingston newspapers, and though it sparked some outrage, "The fact that they printed it at all is positive," Glave remarked in the Blacklight Online interview. "I don't think it was printed to cause scandal. It was printed to engender sympathy."
In his fiction, "Glave's compassion for his characters does not protect them from the world's horrors," Sickels observed. "The Place" details the rape and torture of a prisoner, while "The Pit" addresses the brutality of a world "where children are murdered and mothers are raped in front of their sons," Sickels wrote. In "The Commitment," the main character is forced by his father at gunpoint to abandon his relationship with another man. In contrast, "Their Story" describes the development of a nurturing and tender relationship between two older men whose wives had recently died.
"Unlike many current experimental writers, Glave's work is not inaccessible or aloof, but creates an intimate bridge with the reader," Sickels commented. Reviewers Marilyn Fleming and Kelly Ellis, writing in Black Issues Book Review, found that "Thomas Glave's gifts as a poet are clearly evident in this collection." Although reviewer Jeff DeRoche, writing on The Stranger Web site, found the story "Whose Song?" to be "repulsive," he remarked that "all the stories in Thomas Glave's collection are gorgeous, layered, deeply conflicted, and just shy of important. Let it be known that Glave is a stormy, luminous writer worthy of being heard." T. R. Salvadori, writing in Library Journal, observed that while the brutality and subject matter make Whose Song? sometimes difficult to read, "Glave has a lot to say, and it's too important not to listen."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, August 14, 2001, profile of Thomas Glave, p. 89.
Black Issues Book Review, November, 2000, Marilyn Fleming and Kelly Ellis, review of Whose Song? and Other Stories, p. 49.
Gay & Lesbian Review, March, 2001, Amy Sickels, "No Shield for the Endangered," review of Whose Song?, p. 35.
Lambda Book Report, January, 2001, review of WhoseSong?, p. 30.
Library Journal, November 1, 2000, T. R. Salvadori, review of Whose Song?, p. 140.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, Richard Murphy, review of Whose Song?, p. 160.
Blacklight Online,http://www.blacklightonline.com/ (September 17, 2002), Sidney Brinkley, interview with Thomas Glave.
Nubian Chronicles,http://www.nubianchronicles.com/ (September 17, 2002), interview with Thomas Glave.
QBR: The Black Book Review Online,http://www.qbr.com/ (September 17, 2002), Normal Riley, "Thomas Glave: His Song," interview with Thomas Glave.
Voice Literary Supplement,http://www.villagevoice.com/ (June, 2002), "Writers on the Verge," profile of Thomas Glave.*