"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature writer Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on the memoir Close to the Knives, by David Wojnarowicz.
In the early '90s, everyone was dying—that's how it felt, it felt like everyone was dying. We were the first generation of queers to grow up knowing that desire meant AIDS meant death, and so it made sense that when we got away from the other death—the one that meant marriage, house in the suburbs, a lifetime of brutality, both interior and exterior, and call this success or keep trying, keep trying for more brutality—it made sense that everyone was dying, because we had only known death.
Queer heroes were dykes, or they were dying—some of the dykes were dying too, but not as fast, unless it was suicide or a cancer they hadn't mentioned, cancer like childhood sometimes you can't say it. So when I found David Wojnarowicz, he was already dead; I didn't find him, I found his words.