What could be wittier than writer R. Eric Thomas chatting with advice columnist John Paul Brammer?

Our recommendations for what’s up and what’s on, beginning Sep. 9

Happy Pumpkin Spice Season, my favourite cinnamons, nutmegs, and allspices (especially the allspices, va-va-voom). We sail forward into what is technically the late summer—and also my birthday month and the Toronto International Film Fest (TIFF)—and into the shimmering promise of sweater weather. My sweatpants are at the shop being embellished with bugle-bead racing stripes as I type, the better to fast-walk and keep up with all the cultural news, sports and weather racing toward me at a blinding pace. Like Lucy on the chocolate assembly line, I am selecting only the best for you.

R. Eric Thomas and John Paul Brammer in conversation

r eric thomas hed shot
Check out R. Eric Thomas in a conversation about his new paperback release.

I didn’t quite go into mourning when R. Eric Thomas stopped writing a weekly column for ELLE magazine, but I do miss it, having gobbled his book of essays Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America in a weekend (though, of course, we do still have his ghostletter to nosh on). Meanwhile, I also ate every bite of John Paul Brammer’s ¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons. So news of this amuse-bouche (which is really more like a buffet, I just wanted to rhyme) is very exciting: the two smarty pantses will be in conversation for Thomas’s paperback launch on Monday, Sep. 13 at 7 p.m. EDT.

(Re)Weaving with Two-Spirits

San Fran’s CounterPulse Festival hosts a screening of work by Dr. Jennifer Lisa Vest.

The CounterPulse Festival of Bay-area artists is kicking off in the San Francisco Bay Area, and among the incredibly delicious-looking in-person offerings is nestled a jewel: a screening of Dr. Jennifer Lisa Vest’s (​​Re)Counting (Wo)Man, on Saturday, Sep. 18, at 6 p.m. EDT, co-presented by Weaving Spirits Festival of Two-Spirit Performance. (Re)Counting (Wo)Man packs a lot into a single performance: Dr. Vest’s reflections on indigeneity, sexuality, queerness, history, ancestral traditions, anti-Black racism and strategies of survival, discussed and contextualized with other members of the Two-Spirit artistic community (including my absolute favourite queen, Landa Lakes, whose Drag Queen Story Hours are legendary). 


Silk Chiffon” by MUNA

There’s something for everyone in this video by queer powerhouse MUNA, including a poppy, dyke-y bop about longing and anxiety (very gay) and a music video that’s a note-for-note homage to But I’m a Cheerleader. “Silk Chiffon was released on Phoebe Bridgers’ label, Saddest Factory Records, and Bridgers joins as the most stentorian conversion therapy counsellor ever, with a verse or two. While conversion therapy is actual torture and no joke at all, it’s also our queer birthright to satirize the ways we’ve been injured; et voilà! If you’re ready for outdoor concerts, this homo hotbed is on tour and hitting a number of venues with solid COVID-19 policies.

Beyond The Pleasure Principle, an exhibition in chapters by Mickalene Thomas

screen print of Michelle Obama by Mickalene Thomas
An image of former first lady Michelle Obama by artist Mickalene Thomas.

In exciting art news, Black queer American artist Mickalene Thomas is opening a progressive exhibition this week that spans four international capitals, beginning in New York City and continuing to London, Paris and Hong Kong, called Beyond The Pleasure Principle. There’s a book, as well as artist talks. It’s incredibly exciting, and the art is all about glamorizing, embellishing and otherwise illuminating the look, shape, identity, aesthetic and lives of Black women, which—I think we can all agree—is deeply necessary work. Thomas makes it all easy to look at, and also easy to fall into, if you’re inclined to reflect beyond the glamour and into the colours, the patterns and the textures of her art and the lives it reflects.

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

The amazing Ryka Aoki—poet, novelist, astronomy enthusiast, martial artist, musician and general-duty fabulous person—has a new book out, Light From Uncommon Stars (Tor Books), and she’s on a virtual book tour! Her five stops include a workshop for Asian-American writers with our fab friends at Cafe Con Libros, a Brooklyn-based and woman-of-colour-owned bookshop. But the first is with Sarah Gailey on Tuesday, Sep. 28 at 10:30 p.m. EDT. Light From Uncommon Stars is a sweet, wild, absolutely magic queer-and-trans love epic. I was already a pretty big fan of Ryka’s but also: damn, this book is good.

Johnny Abush Collection at the ArQuives

For Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, or literally the Head of the Year), there’s a deep dive, available through the ArQuives, into the collections of activist, archivist and artist Johnny Abush, tracing the history of queer and Jewish engagement in Toronto and beyond. While I don’t feel willing to discuss the fact that the early 1990s were 30 entire human years ago, it’s simultaneously cheering and tiring to see the very familiar questions, debates and entertainments that Abush and friends were organizing around then. If only I could wind back time and join them at the 1991 Seder for AIDS at Holy Blossom Temple, and read the Haggadah (if anyone has a copy of it, please let a bear know).

In Memoriam: Michael K. Williams

A lot, and I mean a lot, of the Black LGBTQ+ people I know were watching actor Michael K. Williams being Black, gay and tender (also homicidal, but still tender) as Omar Little back when Tarell Alvin McCraney was still at school (Yale, but still), and who count it among their formative experiences. Primetime television show The Wire (if you haven’t watched it yet, all five seasons are on HBO Max/Crave and it is wildly good) was Williams’ first major TV role and he gave it his whole entire heart. Williams passed on Sep. 6 at the age of 54, leaving a wave of reminiscences about how kind, dedicated, thoughtful and gifted he was, and how generous as an actor and as a person. May his memory be for a blessing, and may it light the pathways of justice. 

That’s the lot for me, my little cider doughnuts—except, of course, there are always more things crossing my desk at off times or odd moments, so by all means follow me on the Tweeters to see what else I’m excited about or writing about. (Right now, that, includes two interviews with amazing queer creators this year at TIFF and also, possibly, some slivers of my own new-book news). Until we meet again, may your pages and apples be crisp, your masks and cookies be soft and your interviews with gender studies luminaries be uncensored. As always, if you’re making something new and queer, email info@xtramagazine.com or DM me on Twitter with your news—I love to hear from you.

S Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman is a writer, educator and advice columnist. His ninth book, Special Topics In Being A Human, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in the fall of 2021.

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