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Fashioning Lives

Fashioning Lives

Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy

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Eric Darnell Pritchard


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About the Book

Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy analyzes the life stories of sixty Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people along with archival documents, literature, and film. Author Eric Darnell Pritchard provides a theoretical framework for studying the literacy work of Black LGBTQ people, who do not fit into the traditional categories imposed on their language practices and identities. Examining the myriad ways literacy is used to inflict harm, Pritchard discusses how these harmful events prompt Black LGBTQ people to ensure their own survival by repurposing literacy through literacy performances fueled by accountability to self and communal love towards social and political change, a process the author calls “restorative literacies.” Pritchard highlights restorative literacies in literacy institutions (e.g., libraries, schools), historical records repositories, religious and spiritual spaces, parties, community events, activist organizations, and digital spheres. This trailblazing study draws connections between race and queerness in literacy, composition, and rhetoric and provides the basis for a sustainable dialogue on their intersections in the discipline.


Eric Darnell Pritchard is an assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His article “For Colored Kids Who Committed Suicide, Our Outrage Isn’t Enough: Queer Youth of Color, Bullying, and the Discursive Limits of Identity and Safety” in Harvard Educational Review won the 2014 CCCC Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship.


Fashioning Lives brings to visibility and critical attention thought-provoking literacy histories of African Americans who identify as LGBTQ and underscores literacy as a tool for surveillance and censorship but also for salvation and restoration. Pritchard’s work challenges us to recognize and understand the nature, ways, and means of ‘restorative literacies’ in the work that we do.”—Jacqueline Jones Royster, coauthor, Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies
“Pritchard shows that the stakes of literacy touch on the matter of how we read alongside and against discourses of race, gender, class, and sexuality. This is a needed book.”—Roderick A. Ferguson, author, The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference
“A game changer for the fields of composition, rhetoric, and literacy studies, this bold and original research examines how African American LGBTQ people navigate and use literacy in ways that take into account the fullness of their lives. Fashioning Lives will surely shape scholarship for years to come.”—Gwendolyn D. Pough, professor of women’s and gender studies at Syracuse University and author of Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere

“Drawing from cutting-edge theory and rigorous research, Fashioning Lives forces us to wrestle with the complexities, contours, and contradictions of Black queer identity within the context of literacy engagement and everyday life. Rather than merely contributing another case to the current body of literacy scholarship, Eric Darnell Pritchard’s work stretches the conceptual and theoretical boundaries of the field itself. Full of beautiful writing and original insights, this text is a welcome contribution to Black studies, Queer studies, and literacy, composition, and rhetorical studies.”—Marc Lamont Hill, distinguished professor of Africana studies at Morehouse College, correspondent for BET News, host of VH1 Live, and author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond