If you've never had the pleasure of having a lengthy conversation with S Bear Bergman, his latest book, Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter, is the next best thing."My optimistic book title is like my optimistic life," he writes, "in which I want and believe and hope that I will be able to live and die bound together with my family, my family by blood or marriage or wine or glitter, indiscriminately."
Beginning with the story of how his husband got pregnant, Bergman's tales of life in a trans polyamorous household are consistently eye-opening yet always easy to relate to, and it's possible that readers will adore his son Stanley, "part boy, part girl, all dragon," as much as his dads and siblings and grandparents and "spuncles" and "sparkles" do.
This sprawling look at family features charming vignettes at home, harrowing tales of discrimination, sexy odes to butches and diesel femmes, heartbreaking stories of family illness and disappointments, and generous tributes to friends, dogs, tattoos and the Jewish faith.
While working on the book, Bergman sent one chapter in particular, "Dear Parents," to a number of fellow parents, both queer and straight, and says he was gratified by their enthusiastic response.
"I was really grateful for that," he says. "It sort of speaks to one of my most core beliefs about writing: that if I write authentically and honestly about my own specific emotional truths, whatever they are, people will connect to it even if their specifics are different, because the truth will feel familiar."
But while it's one thing for a writer to bare his soul on paper, what about this collection's extended family of lovers, children, parents, tricks and friends? Not all of Bergman's stories are happy ones.
"I vetted some things, yes," he says. "Luckily, all my close people have been on this ride with me for a while, and they pretty much know that this is part of the deal and are fine with it. I try to be fair and kind with people, so I think I've built up some trust with them over time. And, you know, I have fabulous friends who are very patient with me and my endless externalizing."
How endless? Well, Bergman is already taking these stories to the stage as he brings his new performance piece, Machatunim, to the Wolfond Centre this Wednesday night, Oct 9. Billed as "a suite of stories about making queer Jewish family," Machatunim combines four of Bergman's stories here with a bit of newer material into a show celebrating families original, chosen or "a hearty blend."
"There's lots in it for everyone, I would say, but I wanted to make a piece of work that queer and trans people could bring their parents to, if they wanted that. A few of the shows have had two or even three generations of the same family attending, and that has been amazing for me. I had one family at a show that was two lesbian moms, their two children (11 and 14-ish) and one of the mom's parents. Their comment after the show was that it was one of the only things they'd ever been to that really felt like it was for all of them. Me and baseball games. I'll take it!"
Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter
Arsenal Pulp Press, $18.95
Available at Glad Day Bookshop and other fine bookstores
Machatunim: A Suite of Stories About Making Queer Jewish Family
Wed, Oct 9, 7:30pm
The Wolfond Centre, 36 Harbord St