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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

Honorable Mention, 2018 Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award
Winner, Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship from CCCC, 2018
Winner, Advancement of Knowledge Award from CCCC, 2018
Winner, Outstanding Book Award from the Conference on Community Writing, 2017

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.


"To say that this work is timely would be an understatement; the examination of Queers of Color literacies is long overdue and particularly poignant in the current political climate. Fashioning Lives does not fill the gap as much as exposes the gap in literacy, rhetoric, and composition studies as well as lay out a framework with which other scholars may investigate Queers of Color Literacies beyond those found within LGBT communities. Additionally, he captures narratives of Black LGBTQ people whose narratives may be otherwise lost to continued erasure of Black and Queer individuals. Fashioning Lives is a wake-up call to scholars of literacy, rhetoric, and composition, particularly those involved in community engagement and public rhetoric, asking that we take notice of the literacies that have been taken for granted, specifically those in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect. Readers are challenged to see the ways Black LGBTQ people interact with literacy despite the numerous ways in which it is continually being denied them even today. " — Megan M. Opperman, Reflections

"Through inquiry into Black queer literacy practices, Eric Darnell Pritchard thoughtfully and compellingly queers more monolithic understandings of literacy, challenging the fields of literacy, composition, and rhetoric for their inattention to Black queer literacy while arguing for the ways in which these literacy practices might expand understandings of literacy itself."Adam Hubrig, Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society

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

"The prologue introduces the reader to the book’s style of using stories as theory and elevating the personal to the political and scholarly realm. This is achieved when Pritchard traces his own literacy development from a young age to a graduate student examining Black Queer art in a university museum. His stories are presented to the reader as a way to ground others’ stories while also laying bare Pritchard’s own subject position. These moves are not surprising considering Pritchard’s use of feminist theory throughout the book, but it is still refreshing to have an author so vividly position himself. This is an act of love that links Pritchard to his research participants and his readers; he is not taking others’ stories without giving his own story in return."--Galvin P. Johnson, The Ohio State University