2 min

You only live twice

Co-authored memoir speaks to life as a trans person and a brush with death from AIDS

Chase Joynt’s recent memoir is co-authored by experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom. Credit: Courtesy The Word On The Street

Since 1990, The Word On The Street Toronto Book & Magazine Festival has been engaging audiences through its ground-breaking programming. The festival promotes Canadian authors, is an advocate for literacy through free workshops, author appearances and presentations, and boasts the largest outdoor marketplace of books and magazines in the country.

The festival has celebrated LGBT authors and artists since its inception by introducing their work to a broader community of publishers and readers. This year’s festival is no exception and features an impressive roster of authors and activists, including Tim McCaskell, Zoe Whittall, Vivek Shraya and trans filmmaker, academic and author Chase Joynt.

Joynt’s recently published memoir You Only Live Twice is co-authored by renowned experimental filmmaker, Mike Hoolboom. The book defies traditional narrative structure and challenges conventional notions of the memoir genre by virtue of being co-authored. The artists bond over the works of late French filmmaker Chris Marker and use their impressions as a platform to discuss both Joynt’s experience with being trans, and Hoolboom’s brush with death from AIDS.

You Only Live Twice began as a political project while Joynt was completing his dissertation. The book was borne out of a series of letters and stories between Joynt and Hoolboom.

“Mike and I had long been in conversation  about our various movie projects, sharing feedback and a general sense of encouragement around what were, at that time, relatively solo journeys,” Joynt recalls.

“I was in the middle of writing my dissertation when I proposed that Mike and I write something about our shared relationship to first-person form as a political project. While the work never made it into my PhD, the writing sparked an ongoing letter-writing exchange between us around shared themes,” Joynt says.  

Those letters became You Only Live Twice.

“Our initial process was amorphous and unwieldy,” Joynt notes. “Only when we had amassed a sizeable collection of letters and stories did we start thinking about narrative arc and shape. Sometimes the task was obvious, ‘I just wrote a story about my dad, maybe you should write something about your dad?’ And other times it was obscure, ‘How can we create a journey between us that is structured, yet steadfastly non-linear?’”

While neither of the authors experiences being trans and HIV-positive simultaneously, there is an intersection of both realities in the LGBT community, Joynt points out. “Those intersecting experiences produce overlapping racialized, classed and gendered realities.”

In the context of the project, Joynt says his and Hoolboom’s affinity is found not in any process of identification, but in a “shared investment in aesthetics.”  Among the questions that interested them included exploring what it  might look like to create and sustain connection outside the boundaries of identity, and how making art  could enable such  experimentation.  

Joynt will be speaking at The Word On The Street’s Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent alongside Ann YK Choi on a panel moderated by Grace O’Connell called Starting Over. He says he looks forward to sharing the stage with so many challenging and influential writers.

“The Word On The Street is such an incredible chance to share time and space with so many powerful writers. My friends Zoe Whittall and Vivek Shraya are also presenting new work, and I love any opportunity to stand in the back of a room and clap loudly like an embarrassing dad at a flute concert.”