Tag Archives: Jan Guenther Braun

Queering Mennonite Literature: Archiving, Activism, and the Search for Community

I am excited to announce that my book Queering Mennonite Literature: Archives, Activism, and the Search for Community has just been released by Penn State University Press!

Though the terms “queer” and “Mennonite” rarely come into theoretical or cultural contact, over the last several decades writers and scholars in the United States and Canada have built a body of queer Mennonite literature that shifts these identities into conversation. I bring this growing genre into a critical focus, bridging the gaps between queer theory, literary criticism, and Mennonite literature.

My analysis focuses on recent Mennonite-authored literary texts that espouse queer theoretical principles, including work by Christina Penner, Wes Funk, Jan Guenther Braun, Jessica Penner, Stephen Beachy, Corey Redekop, Casey Plett, Miriam Suzanne, and Sofia Samatar. Their books argue for the existence of a “queer Mennonite” identity on the basis of shared values: a commitment to social justice, a rejection of binaries, the importance of creative approaches to conflict resolution, and the practice of mutual aid, especially in resisting oppression. The book encourages those engaging with both Mennonite studies and queer studies to explore the opportunity for conversation and overlap between the two fields.

By arguing for engagement between these two identities and highlighting the aspects of Mennonitism that are inherently “queer,” the book gives much-needed attention to an emerging subfield of Mennonite literature. It makes a new and important intervention into the fields of queer theory, literary studies, Mennonite studies, and religious studies.

You can find Queering Mennonite Literature on the Penn State University Press web site at this URL: http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-27-108245-5.html. You can get 30% off by using the code NR18. Please ask your local libraries, whether institutional or public, to order a copy.

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Somewhere Else by Jan Guenther Braun

I just finished reading Jan Guenther Braun’s 2008 novel Somewhere Else. Although the prose is a bit uneven in the first half of the book, reading it was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had with literature. I felt physically uneasy while reading most of the book, which speaks to just how much it affected me (a good thing). I am still at a point where I am recovering from the reading experience, and thus don’t have much to say about the novel here other than that I strongly recommend it. It’s about a Mennonite teenager from Saskatchewan who leaves home because her family rejects her for being a lesbian and tries to find herself sexually and spiritually. I first got into Mennonite literature because it gave me narratives that helped me to understand myself and helped me realize that I needed to leave the Church rather than forcing myself to conform to its various oppressions, and after a long period of not reading Mennonite literature it is again reflecting myself back at me via the narratives of other queer Mennos.

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Books Acquired Recently

Braun, Jan Guenther. Somewhere Else. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring,  2008.

A friend who knows that I like Stephen Beachy recommended this to me; apparently it’s another Mennonite novel dealing with queer issues. I will read it as soon as I have time, hopefully by the end of the week.

Califia, Pat. Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Cleis, 2000.

I’ve been reading as much as I can about BDSM lately for an essay I’m working on, and Califia’s work has attained “classic” status in the field, which is why I bought this book. I’ve already begun reading it, and while some of it is dated, it still has some very relevant ideas. The dated stuff is interesting, too, and even encouraging in a way because it shows how much progress has been made in the past decade in the area of LGBT rights and sexual freedom in general.

Both of these books were bought via amazon.com, but both came from bookstores from outside of the U.S., which is worth noting. The Califia came from the U.K. (I forget where exactly, because I already threw away the packing slip and packaging), and the Braun came from Russell Books in Victoria, British Columbia. Hurray for independent bookstores, even if they are forced to rely on amazon to sell their wares.

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