As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Book Review – Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives

King, Nia. Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives. CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2014. PDF.

Review by Shauna Osborn

Through her podcast “We Want the Airwaves,” Nia King documents artists who identify as QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) and are committed to art as a tool for political change. Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives collects 16 interviews from the podcast to highlight in print. The anthology covers quite a bit of territory without losing both the specificity of each collaborator’s tale or the larger picture of the realities of QTPOC community members. The stories capture a diverse range of voices such as performers Miss Persia and Daddie$ Pla$tik, performer and organizer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and authors Ryka Aoki and Janet Mock.

The thoughtfulness in the presentation of these artists’ interviews is quite apparent throughout the text. Each artist had the opportunity to represent their words and themselves as they see fit—spelling requests, pronoun usage, and self-labeling utilized within the pages.  This is not a small feat or something to overlook, as those of us who are marginalized artists know all to well. Just as Toi Scott recognized in the Foreword:

So often in the media, others tell our stories from their perspectives, taking liberties and making assumptions and omissions, many times without our knowledge or consent…For queer and trans people of color, art isn’t frivolous upper-class entertainment. Our writing, performances, and visual art are in keeping with the tradition of our predecessors who used stories to share knowledge, heal trauma, and envision liberation.

King’s work does everything it can to show clearly, without assumptions, and without omission these artists’ stories. Readers who are familiar with LBGTQ+ or QTPOC community activism will recognize the common elements of ostracizing and abuse that as youth these artist experience. Activists and artists will recognize the struggle of acquiring funding and resources for projects as well as just flat out paying the rent each month that features in many interviews. Marginalized folks will appreciate the discussions on how invasive dealing with the public, corporate employees, legal/federal representatives, and medical authorities can be as well as the strategies for making it through those evils in one piece. Necessary discussions of self-care, realistic body/health/mental expectations, and support systems appear often. The collection is a great resource for instructors, folks who work in the arts, activists, and QTPOC artists looking for connections to other artists out there hustling toward the revolution.    

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