Friday, February 22, 2019

Darius Bost's "Evidence of Being"

Darius Bost is assistant professor of ethnic studies in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation at the University of Utah. He applied thePage 99 Test” to his new book, Evidence of Being: The Black Gay Cultural Renaissance and the Politics of Violence, and reported the following:
Page ninety-nine of Evidence of Being explores the significance of my analysis of black gay writer, translator, and scholar Melvin Dixon’s diaries to the field of black queer studies. Dixon died of AIDS in 1992, and his unpublished diaries offer one of the only accounts of gay men of color’s experiences of AIDS amid a plethora of accounts centered on white gay men. More broadly, the diaries provide one of the most extensive historical accounts of black gay life in the 1970s and 80s. By centering the experiences of black gay men like Dixon, my book contextualizes AIDS within a broader field of racialized and sexualized violence that has rendered black men more vulnerable to the virus since its appearance in 1981. But this chapter also seeks to challenge theories of the AIDS diary as predominantly occupied with what it feels like to be dying. Dixon’s diaries, conversely, represent his efforts to move towards life—to make some sense of his relationship to categories like race, sexuality, and (human) being, categories which he never properly inhabited, but which converged in his negotiation of everyday life. Because Dixon was conscious of how race, gender, and sexuality structure whose lives are remembered and whose histories are archived, he was preoccupied with life writing (and other forms of creative writing) as a way of leaving an archival trace of his life for future (black queer) readers. And though his diaries end abruptly, marking his sudden death from AIDS, I theorize the blank pages of the diary as offering the possibility for imagining black queer futures beyond the racial and sexual violence that ended Dixon’s life prematurely and that structures the ongoing epidemic of AIDS in black gay communities. In sum, Dixon’s diaries, like the other literary and cultural works I examine in the book, offer evidence of black gay being that is not tethered to the death-dealing epistemes that continue to mark black gay life for civic and corporeal death. Instead, the diary as a literary form is future-oriented, imagining more utopian political possibilities for black gay life beyond a death-bound horizon.
Learn more about Evidence of Being at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue