Synopses & Reviews
When Kelly Cogswell plunged into New Yorkandrsquo;s East Village in 1992, she had just come out. An exandndash;Southern Baptist born in Kentucky, she was camping in an Avenue B loft, scribbling poems, and playing in an underground band, trying to figure out her next move. A couple of months later she was consumed by the Lesbian Avengers, instigating direct action campaigns, battling cops on Fifth Avenue, mobilizing 20,000 dykes for a march on Washington, D.C., and eating fireandmdash;literallyandmdash;in front of the White House.
At once streetwise and wistful, Eating Fire is a witty and urgent coming-of-age memoir spanning two decades, from the Culture War of the early 1990s to the War on Terror. Cogswellandrsquo;s story is an engaging blend of picaresque adventure, how-to activist handbook, and rigorous inquiry into questions of identity, resistance, and citizenship. It is also a compelling, personal recollection of friendships and fallings-out and of finding true loveandmdash;several times over. After the Lesbian Avengers imploded, Cogswell describes how she became a pioneering citizen journalist, cofounding the Gully online magazine with the groundbreaking goal of offering andldquo;queer views on everything.andrdquo;
The first in-depth account of the influential Lesbian Avengers, Eating Fire reveals the groupandrsquo;s relationship to the queer art and activist scene in early andrsquo;90s New York and establishes the media-savvy Avengers as an important precursor to groups such as Occupy Wall Street and La Barbe, in France. A rare insiderandrsquo;s look at the process and perils of street activism, Kelly Cogswellandrsquo;s memoir is an uncompromising and ultimately empowering story of creative resistance against hatred and injustice.
andquot;To have a volume about lesbian activism that focuses on the most effective, most publicized and controversial group, the Lesbian Avengers, is almost too good to be true. Eating Fire is an intimate activist handbook that offers a generous andlsquo;usandrsquo; and we can happily enter the space of it from so many angles.andquot;and#160;andmdash;Eileen Myles, author of Inferno (A Poet's Novel)
andquot;Activist histories of social movements are rare yet essential to understanding how social change actually happens. Stories of lesbian activism are even harder to find. This unique, evocative, and fascinating memoir tells both a personal and a community story of creativity, political commitment, grief, and the love that motivates it all.andquot;and#160;andmdash;Urvashi Vaid, author of Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics
andquot;This free wheeling memoir of lesbian activism andmdash;alternately funny and raucous, meditative and reflectiveandmdash;is a document of a specific time and place. But it is also a marvelous, timeless tale of wit, survival, determination, and ultimately facing history. Veering between Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dyke
and Rebel Without a Pause
, Cogswellandrsquo;s memoir of the Lesbian Avengers is incisive, politically astute, and a much needed addition to LGBT history.andquot;and#160;andmdash;Michael Bronski, Harvard University
andquot;Although the Lesbian Avengers have been defunct since 1995, Cogswellandrsquo;s idealistic objective in the fight for civil rights is still relevant: to make lesbians visible, change society, and most importantly, change lesbians, who will come to see the public space as theirs.andquot; andmdash;Kirkus Reviews
andquot;Gay City News columnist Cogswellandrsquo;s memoir (as much a cultural as personal history) is a needed addition to this focus [on queer activism from the early 1990s], highlighting the understudied path of the international force, the Lesbian Avengers. Fast-paced and reminiscent of New Narrative, thereandrsquo;s a lot of instructive joy to be found with a mixture of performance and protest fueling the prose. . . this memoir shines as surely as its history needs telling.andquot; andmdash;Publishers Weekly
andquot;Eating Fire is a sometimes entertaining, sometimes painful read. It recounts an important chapter in queer history along with some useful principles of direct action.andquot; andmdash;Gay City News
andquot;Eating Fire is a reminder, an homage, a call to rally, and a plea to this generation of queer women. While this story is tenacious in some moments and vulnerable in others, it is always triumphant. Inspiring and absolutely heroic. This story belongs to us all.andquot; andmdash;Lambda Literary
andquot;Reading Cogswellandrsquo;s account is also to read an object study in not only the exciting birth and life of such groups, but also the flipside, which is their painful decline and fall. [Her] book most powerfully reminds you of the necessary mess of activism.andquot; andmdash;The Daily Beast
andquot;An energetic and outspoken memoir.andquot; andmdash;Booklist
andquot;She waxes nostalgic for the radicalism of the era, and like many of her contemporaries, laments the gay rights movementandrsquo;s embrace of conservative mainstream ideals. Cogswell says sheandrsquo;s andlsquo;burned outandrsquo; on activism, but her book is filled with longing for the sound of protest and the taste of fire.andquot; andmdash;Huffington Post
andquot;Cogswellandrsquo;s nonlinear, adrenaline-fueled narrative captures the energy behind the Avengersandrsquo; creative and media-savvy actions.andquot; andmdash;Bitch
About the Author
Kelly Cogswell is an independent journalist and blogger. She has been recognized by the New York Press Association for her regular column in New Yorkandrsquo;s Gay City News and is a recipient of a Joan Hellerandndash;Diane Bernard Fellowship for her project documenting the Lesbian Avengers.
Table of Contents
I. Activist Honeymoon
II. Enemies Within
III. A Laboratory of Identity
IV. Vivas to Those Who Have Failed