Today, our blog guest is Emanuel Xavier, a colleague of ours here at Penguin Random House who works in Special Markets Sales. Outside of work, he’s a dynamo novelist, poet, performer, and activist. Below he clues us into how to support LBGT writing and publishing during Pride Month and beyond.
Lucy Silag: At Penguin Random House, you are the chair of the LGBT Network. What does the PRH LGBT Network do?
Emanuel Xavier: Random House participated in the It Gets Better campaign, and we realized the time was right for us to launch an LGBT group. We created the group to provide a supportive environment to all employees who share the common idea of nurturing workplace diversity and also increase awareness of LGBT authors and books within the community. We wanted to highlight the fact that our company publishes many LGBT books, as well as do more for the LGBT literary community. We have since taken part in The Rainbow Book Fair, sponsored the Lambda Literary Awards, marched in the NYC Pride March and raised thousands for GMHC by participating in the AIDS Walk New York. We also host in-house author events and social mixers and display our LGBT titles in the lobby for National Coming Out Day. It’s important for publishing companies like ours to visibly support LGBT literature.
LS: How would you define the genre of your own writing? Where would we find it in a bookstore?
EX: Ideally, except for the novel, my books should be in the Poetry section. But, if you do find them in a bookstore, they are usually in the LGBT section. However, they could also go in the Latino/a section.
LS: Tell us more about one of your publishers, Rebel Satori Press. How did they become your publisher and why was it the right fit?
EX: I met Sven Davisson, the publisher, in New Orleans during a Saints & Sinners Literary Festival. My publisher at the time, suspect thoughts press, was going out-of-business. Sven was more into spiritual and new age titles but was looking to expand. I was putting together a new poetry collection which would become If Jesus Were Gay & other poems. So it seemed like a natural fit. I didn’t bother looking into the possibility of other publishers because Sven knew my work and I appreciated the fact he was genuinely interested. I liked the idea of working with an independent publisher and the opportunity to grow together.
LS: You’ve been a big part of the spoken word scene in NYC for a long time. How did that involvement start?
EX: I was introduced to spoken word poetry on a date to the Nuyorican Poets Café in the Lower East Side. I fell in love with what I experienced. Unfortunately for my date, that was all I fell in love with. He took me there because he knew I had started writing a few poems and had no idea how serious I was about becoming a poet. I suppose it was inconceivable being that I had been a club kid and former hustler. I went on the win the first slam poetry competition I ever entered. At the time, slam poetry appealed more to lovers of hip hop and rap but I had no problem going up on stage and being openly gay. I took it all the way to Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry on HBO and only once did I have a competitor that lost to me at a slam refer to me as a “faggot.” No one ever heard of him again.
LS: What are some ways that writers can learn more about GLBT lit? (orgs to join, events to go to, publications to subscribe to)
EX: The Lambda Literary Foundation has done so much for the community throughout the years. I remember when I was new to the LGBT literary scene and my only novel, Christ Like, was a finalist in a smaller category for a Lambda Literary Award. It meant so much to me to even been acknowledged. They continue to provide necessary information, writers retreats, and awards to celebrate the community. The San Diego Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation is a new and exciting forum for LGBT writers of color. I’ve participated in the annual Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and met many wonderful LGBT writers and book lovers. I met my current publisher there so it was definitely a life-changing opportunity for me. The Rainbow Book Fair in New York is also a wonderful opportunity to meet others in the LGBT literary community.
LS: How can publishing industry people do more to spotlight GLBT voices?
EX: I think a lot of LGBT authors still find themselves pigeon-holed. The publishing industry needs to think outside of the box and position these titles outside of a niche market. The world is changing. Family dynamics are changing. Quickly. More LGBT titles should be pitched to traditionally mainstream booksellers to reflect this diversity.
LS: As a reader of GLBT lit, what do you recommend?
EX: I would recommend book lovers to consider any LGBT title, whether it’s a popular author like Augusten Burroughs or an independent small press poetry collection or even a Batwoman comic book. There are so many wonderful stories out there that happen to be LGBT-related and, even if it’s just adding one LGBT title to your reading queue, it’s worth exploring the great diversity in literature. Check out this catalog of LGBT-related books that Random House just put together for ideas about what to read next.
About Emanuel Xavier