“Queer Aging in North American Fiction” by Linda Hess— Uniting Queer Studies and Aging

Hess, Linda. “Queer Aging in North American Fiction”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. Uniting Queer Studies with Aging Amos Lassen Linda Hess’ “Queer Aging in North American Fiction gives us a literary and cultural critical perspective of LGBTQ narratives and makes a huge contribution to debates about negotiating the cultural, sociological, political, and medical issue of aging. Hess explores representations of queer aging in North American fiction, giving us a look at what so many others missed within American culture. We have now reached a point in time when older LGBTQ persons have begun to gain visibility in gerontological studies and in the media. Hess provides “a critical perspective concerned with the ways in which the narratives and images we have at our disposal shape our realities.” Each chapter looks at a significant work of queer fiction, beginning with post-WWII novels and ending with film representations of the 2010s. As we explore narratives, we see both reflections and agents of broader cultural negotiations concerning queer sexuality and aging. Hess not only redresses queer aging’s history of invisibility, but she also reveals narratives of queer aging to be particularly good for casting new light on the ways in which growing older is seen, understood and conceptualized in North American culture. The book argues not only for the queerness of aging in a culture obsessed with youth but also for the unique experiences of queer-identified people undergoing the aging process. Included are works by Dorothy Baker, James Baldwin, Andrew Holleran, and Suzette Mayr and several examples from popular culture thus giving us “an intersectional account of aging that treats senescence as both struggle and opportunity.” Until this book, queer studies has shown a lack of interest in older adults.  Linda Hess’s important new book begins to remedy this lack.  Hess looks at the many older queer characters in fiction and helps us think our way not only to including old people in our queer visions but to “queer the normative constructions of aging.” This is a compelling critical study of the intersections of aging and queer identities. Moreover, it shows that narratives of queer aging give us a meaningful way to examine how growing old is seen and understood in North America.”

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