Tulchinsky, Karen X.
TULCHINSKY, Karen X.
PERSONAL: Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; daughter of Jack (a businessman) and Marion (a homemaker; maiden name, Jacobson) Tully; companion of Terrie Hamazaki, 1995. Ethnicity: "Jewish-Russian." Education: Banff School of Fine Arts, 1981; York University, B.F.A., 1982; Canadian Film Center, received degree. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Raincoast Books, 9050 Shaughnessy St., Vancouver, British Columbia V6P 6E5, Canada.
CAREER: Freelance author and editor. Has taught creative writing at the Kootenay School of Writing, Langara College, Stonewall Writers Retreat, and elsewhere; producer of short films and videos, including Straight in the Face, A Sign, and Love Inside; writer for television drama series Keys Cut Here, CTV, and researcher for television program Weird Homes, Weird Weddings, Yaletown Entertainment. Has also been an extra in three films.
MEMBER: Writers Union of Canada, Federation of British Columbia Writers, Praxis Center for Screenwriters.
AWARDS, HONORS: Van City Book Prize, 1996, for In Her Nature; Love Ruins Everything was named a top ten book of 1998 by Bay Area Reporter; finalist for Lambda Literary Award, for To Be Continued; American Library Association Literary Award shortlist, for Love Ruins Everything; British Columbia Arts Council Fiction Writer's grant; British Columbia Film Professional Development grant; finalist, Chesterfield Writers Film Project; Praxis Screenwriting Competition shortlist.
In Her Nature (short fiction), Women's Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Love Ruins Everything (novel), Press Gang Publishers (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.
Love and Other Ruins (novel; sequel to Love Ruins Everything), Polestar (Berkeley, CA, and San Diego, CA), 2002.
The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky (novel), Polestar (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2003.
Writer and director of short video Contractions of the Heart, Canadian Film Centre; author of scripts for Love Ruins Everything, based on her book, and of Sticks and Stones and One Thousand Cranes. Contributor of books reviews and articles to periodicals, including Vancouver Sun, Quill & Quire, Lambda Book Report, Girlfriends, Curve, and DIVA. Love Ruins Everything has been translated into German.
(With James C. Johnstone) Queer View Mirror, Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1995.
(With Rosamund Elwin) Tangled Sheets: Stories and Poems of Lesbian Lust, Women's Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
(With James C. Johnstone) Queer View Mirror 2: Lesbian and Gay Short Fiction, Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1997.
Friday the Rabbi Wore Lace: Jewish Lesbian Erotica, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 1998.
(With Michele Karlsberg) To Be Continued . . . , Firebrand Books (Ithaca, NY), 1998.
Hot & Bothered: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire, Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.
(With Michele Karlsberg) To Be Continued: Take Two, Firebrand Books (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
Hot and Bothered 2: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire, Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1999.
Hot and Bothered 3: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire, Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2001.
Hot and Bothered 4: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire, Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A screenplay version of The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky.
SIDELIGHTS: Karen X. Tulchinsky writes from the unique perspective of a Canadian lesbian Jew. Often praised for her characterizations, especially in such novels as Love Ruins Everything and its sequel, Love and Other Ruins, Tulchinsky has also written short stories and has edited or coedited numerous collections of lesbian erotica. The daughter of Jewish immigrants who changed their name to Tully when they came to Canada, Tulchinsky changed her surname back to the original to reassert her ethnic identity. But not only did she have to deal with the identity crisis of being Jewish in a predominantly Christian landscape, she also had to deal with her family's reaction to her sexual preferences as a lesbian. Describing her background of growing up gay and Jewish in Toronto, she told Mordecai Richler in a Saturday Night article: "I was raised to become a nice Jewish girl who would grow up to marry a nice Jewish boy, preferably a doctor. Imagine my parents' surprise when I came out as a lesbian and they watched helplessly as year after year I became more and more butch, and their hopes and dreams for their second daughter fizzled and died. (Well, I didn't marry one, but I look like a nice Jewish boy. My parents' consolation prize)." Both the Jewish and the lesbian perspective are underrepresented in literature, Tulchinsky feels, a lapse that she has tried to address in her fiction, her editing, and in the short films and videos she has more recently been writing and producing in Canada.
Tulchinsky's first novel, Love Ruins Everything, was termed "earnest and gutsy" by reviewer Sharon Abron Drache in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The story features Nomi Rabinovitch, a lesbian Jew originally born in Toronto who is living and working illegally in San Francisco. She stays with her lover, Sapphire, until Sapphire falls in love with and leaves Nomi for a "burly buzzcut man." Nomi mopes, rants, and suffers from heartbreak until a family disruption is provided—Nomi's mother, Faygie, is getting married. Going back to Toronto for the wedding, Nomi reunites with many family characters. Toronto Star critic Judith Fitzgerald called the novel a "tragicomic tale," noting that Tulchinsky combines "a lush and light-hearted romance" with "a searing blow-by-blow of the gruesome devastation [of] AIDS" in the life of the family.
According to a Publishers Weekly critic, the novel is infused with a comic edge, as well, through Tulchinsky's in-depth and entertaining look at some of Nomi's diverse relatives. Against the backdrop of a lively Jewish family affair the reader is introduced to relatives such as Nomi's brothers, Josh and Izzy; Bubbi, Faygie's future mother-in-law, who hears only what she wants to hear and complains loudly of the upcoming marriage; Uncle Solly, who spends time in and out of jail and belongs to the Jewish Mafia; and Henry, Nomi's gay cousin. Henry and his activist partner Albert are convinced that the U.S. government has introduced the AIDS virus as a biological weapon and is helping to spread it. Through Albert and Henry, Nomi also meets and falls in love with Julie Sakamoto, who is also involved in efforts to expose the suspected U.S. government plot. While the Publishers Weekly reviewer found the governmental intrigue aspect of the plot slightly disruptive and "too neatly resolved" for a comic love story such as this, the reviewer called the story "spirited" and the heroine likable and "original." Drache concluded in the Globe and Mail that "Tulchinsky not only writes well, she has something important to say."
Nomi and Henry return in the sequel to Love Ruins Everything titled Love and Other Ruins. The story picks up where the first novel left off, though it is not necessary to have read the first installment to understand what is going on in the second book. Nomi is working as a waitress in a San Francisco lesbian bar, getting over her first love, and trying to work out a long-distance relationship with Julie, who still lives in Toronto. Meanwhile, Henry continues his mission with his friends to expose the government plot they believe is conspiring to spread AIDS among homosexuals. But while critics enjoyed the story line of the novel, what mainly impressed them were Tulchinsky's talents for dialogue and characterization. The author "has a superb ear for dialogue," stated Martha E. Stone in Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, adding that she especially enjoyed the Jewish characters of the older generation: "These Borscht Belt characters are perhaps a little too broad, but they're charming in their cluelessness." While noting that there are many humorous moments in Love and Other Ruins, Booklist critic Whitney Scott added that Tulchinsky "opts less for guffaws than poignant sighs this time" but that her portrayals of Nomi, Henry and the supporting cast leave readers "eager for more." Her descriptions of lovers, friends and family "has a way of making it all seem so familiar and comfortable and just plain wonderful," concluded Joy Parks in Herizons.
Tulchinsky's more ambitious novel The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky is a multigenerational saga about a Toronto Jewish family that begins in the 1930s. The author was inspired to write the story after hearing about the Christie Pits park riot of 1933 in which Jews and Nazi-sympathizing Protestants clashed during a baseball game one hot summer afternoon. Though nobody was killed in the ensuing violence, many were hurt, and Tulchinsky thought that this moment in history would be a good jumping-off point for her tale. In her fictionalized version, several members of the Lapinsky family get involved in the melee, and the youngest member, five-year-old Izzy, is hurt so badly that he suffers brain damage. The author then follows the tales of Izzy's brothers, parents, and other family who are wracked by guilt over failing to protect young Izzy. Sonny gets his frustrations out of his system by becoming a professional boxer, though his chosen career path puts him in conflict with his parents. Meanwhile, brother Lenny goes off to war and becomes a hero, while the brothers' father, Yacov, struggles to open his own business. The tension in the troubled family is punctuated by the author's descriptions of boxing and battlefield scenes.
A critic for the Toronto Star particularly found Tulchinsky's recounting of the battle at Dieppe beach to be a "powerful scene." The novel ends with the family members slowly coming to terms with what happened to Izzy, and the author readdresses the tragic moment at Christie Pitts. It was this part that the Toronto Star reviewer felt "jar[red] the narrative flow"; however, the critic praised Tulchinsky for avoiding any preachy moments about racial or religious prejudice. "It's a novel," the writer concluded, "and a good one, a lovingly written, sweeping drama that is all the more surprising because its twenty-something, Vancouver author is better known for her modern fiction and racy gay porn." "Though rooted in a specific community," said another Toronto Star contributor, "Tulchinsky's novel is about a universal phenomenon. The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky emerges as a study of the different attitudes of first- and second-generation immigrants—the father Yacov, intent on being inconspicuous, and his Canadian-born sons, who fight fiercely for their rights."
In addition to her fiction, Tulchinsky has edited numerous collections of homoerotic fiction. As with her portrayals of Jewish Canadians, the author feels that lesbian and erotic literature are legitimate genres that deserve publication, and she makes no apologies for helping to publish such stories. "I think lesbians are still starved for sexual imagery reflecting our lives," she declared in a Lambda Book Report interview. "Even with the progress we've made with gay and lesbian characters appearing on prime-time television, in our day-to-day lives we are still bombarded with representations of heterosexual sexuality. I think we need to see reflections of our lives and our sexuality in fiction. It's healing. It's fun. It's entertaining. No matter what else is going on in the world, sex is popular."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1999, Whitney Scott, review of To Be Continued: Take Two, p. 1787; April 15, 2003, Whitney Scott, review of Love and Other Ruins, p. 1451.
Canadian Book Reviewer Annual, 1995, Britta Santowski, review of In Her Nature, p. 202.
Curve, October, 2003, Rachel Pepper, "Mapping the Source," p. 44.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, May-June, 2003, Martha E. Stone, "Tale and True from Canada," p. 43.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 21, 1998, Sharon Abron Drache, review of Love Ruins Everything.
Herizons, summer, 2000, review of Hot and Bothered 2: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire, pp. 37-38; fall, 2002, Danette Dooley, review of Hot and Bothered 3: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire, p. 46; spring, 2003, Joy Parks, review of Love and Other Ruins.
Lambda Book Report, October, 1997, Simon Jordan, review of Queer View Mirror 2: Lesbian and Gay Short Fiction, p. 13; August, 1998, Jyl Lynn Felman, review of Hot and Bothered: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire; December, 1998, Paula Martinac, review of To Be Continued. . . , p. 29; February, 2000, Katherine Gleason, review of Hot and Bothered 2, p. 24.
Lesbian Review of Books, winter, 1999-2000, review of To Be Continued: Take Two; winter, 2000-2001, Donna Allegra, "Tickling Your Fance."
Library Journal, January, 1999, Ina Rimpau, review of To Be Continued. . . , p. 162.
Publishers Weekly, October 30, 1995, Maria Simson, "Forecasts: Paperbacks," p. 57; February 2, 1998, review of Love Ruins Everything, p. 82; October 19, 1998, review of To Be Continued. . . , p. 57.
Saturday Night, October, 1999, Mordecai Richler, "The Oy of Sex," p. 41.
Toronto Star, March 21, 1998, Judith Fitzgerald, review of Love Ruins Everything; August 16, 2003, "Novel Marks Bleak Anniversary of Christie Pits Riot," p. H11; November 9, 2003, "Family Drama in Old Toronto," p. D14.
Karen X. Tulchinsky Home Page,http://www.karenxtulchinsky.com (May 17, 2004).*