Nobody’s Baby rethinks concepts of “queer family” and “generation” using my personal experience as a guiding structure.
Queer intergenerational ties are generally framed in queer studies as outside biological relation. As a queer historian with lesbian mothers and a known sperm donor, I use my familial structure to complicate this notion. Simultaneously, the project puts pressure on the heteronormative presumptions of memory studies.
The three Parts of Nobody’s Baby are:
Part I: Queer Family (Post) Memory: Visual Art and The Archive at Home
Part II: “Nobody’s Baby:” Reimagining Oral History, Reproducing Archive
Part III: Queer Practice: Mediations on Oral History, Archives, and State Surveillance
This approach, of Parts with subheadings rather than chapters, grew out of my dissertation material, which moves back and forth between mediums of memory production and forms of queer relation. Each Part opens up questions of home, archive, affect, and temporality.
In Part I, I analyze a collection of Terezín art that hung in my donor/birthfather’s parent’s suburban home near Boston. Professional artists in the Nazi ghetto of Terezín, where my grandparents were imprisoned, produced these works, which hung in their back room where I spent significant time as a (queer) child and adult. How did these drawings transmit traumatic historical experience differently from US cultural forms of Holocaust commemoration? How was this transmission framed by the queer lineage of our connection?
In Part II, I analyze oral histories I conducted with fifteen lesbian and trans individuals who had children during the early 1980s in Boston. This Part chronicles a shift from radical lesbian mothers groups in the late 1970s to a more “right to parent” organizational model by the late 1980s. The oral histories offer a window into the dialogues and debates of meetings (such as the one described by the flyer below) and contextualize the “lesbian baby boom” within the social and political milieus of its early years (including a softball team called “Nobody’s Baby” and the onset of the AIDS epidemic). These interviews, between queer listener and queer teller, range in intimacy. Interviewees include my mothers, close acquaintances, and individuals I did not know.
Part III turns to non-biological connection within queer family. I explore collaborative archival research with Vicki Gabriner, a close friend of my mothers’ who helped raise me. Together we studied in the Atlanta Lesbian/Feminist Alliance’s archive. I interviewed Gabriner and other ALFA members in multiple settings tracing the history of ALFA. The organization began its grassroots lesbian archive in 1972, two years prior to the Lesbian Herstory Archive. When the ALFA closed in 1994, its large collection was acquired by Duke University. This study expands its archive to think through the implications of FBI surveillance present in ALFA history. This Part is primarily devoted to conceptualizing oral history as a queer practice.