Books

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ALL OUR FAMILIES:

Disability Lineage and the Future of Kinship

 

Release Date: March 22, 2022, Beacon Press

 

A provocation to reclaim our disability lineage in order to profoundly reimagine the possibilities for our relationship to disability, kinship, and care.

Disability is often described as a tragedy, a crisis, or an aberration, though one in five people worldwide have a disability. Why is this common human experience rendered exceptional?  In All Our Families, disability studies scholar Jennifer Natalya Fink argues that this originates in our families. When we cut a disabled member out of the family story, disability remains a trauma as opposed to a shared and ordinary experience. This makes disability and its diagnosis traumatic and exceptional.

Weaving together stories of members of her own family with sociohistorical research, Fink illustrates how the eradication of disabled people from family narratives is rooted in racist, misogynistic, and antisemitic sorting systems inherited from Nazis. By examining the rhetoric of genetic testing, she shows that a fear of disability begins before a child is even born and that a fear of disability is, fundamentally, a fear of care. Fink analyzes our  racist and sexist care systems, exposing their inequities as a source of stigmatizing ableism.

Inspired by queer and critical race theory, Fink calls for a lineage of disability: a reclamation of disability as a history, a culture, and an identity. Such a lineage offers a means of seeing disability in the context of a collective sense of belonging, as cause for celebration, and a call for a radical reimagining of care work and kinship. All Our Families challenges us to re-lineate disability within the family as a means of repair toward a more inclusive and flexible structure of care and community.

"In All Our Families, Fink uses her formidable intellect to examine a topic close to her justice-oriented heart: disability. Prioritizing the work of disabled activists, she shows how everyone suffers when we erase disabled people from our families and our society. With exacting humanity, Fink demonstrates how our family lines can reflect and perpetuate ableist systems and offers ways to create a truer and more just lineage." 

—Jessica Slice, author of This Is How We Play

"Jennifer Natalya Fink’s All Our Families is a magisterial crip-queer reimagining of our disabled pasts and futures. It is the most thorough and engaging consideration of disability lineage and disability kinship available. Grounded in cutting-edge crip thought on disability justice and care work, All Our Families provides a definitive mapping of transformative modes of disability relationality and solidarity."

—Robert McRuer, author of Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability

“Jennifer Natalya Fink synthesizes decades of disability scholarship while weaving in her multifaceted family story to present a powerful and moving message: Disability is part of every family history, and if we start reclaiming this lineage, we have the opportunity to transform our families and communities. Accessible, incisive, and compelling, All Our Families is an important and timely contribution.”

—Riva Lehrer, artist and author of Golem Girl: A Memoir

“Fink melds an accessible extended family narrative with a complex and wide-ranging survey of how ableism—intersecting with notions of race, class, gender, the family, the state, and purity—functions to otherize, dehumanize, and hide or erase disabled people. All Our Families offers a deep, reflective, and urgent call to enact a care ethic and also to reframe our identities, lineages, and relationships around notions of disabled kinship.”

—Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys

Bhopal Dance

March 2018, FC2/University of Alabama Press

Winner of the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize

Forward by Mary Caponegro

Bhopal Dance is an imaginative, erotic rethinking of Bhopal’s disaster—and our own. 

 

On the night of December 2nd, as 1984 drew to its Reaganomic close, an explosion at an American-owned factory in Bhopal, India, released untold amounts of toxic gas on uncounted numbers of people, creating the largest environmental disaster on record. Bhopal remains emblematic of all the many quickly forgotten disasters that followed, and of the permanent state of globalized disaster in which we now dwell. What does it mean when corporations instead of states control not only the means to create environmental disasters, but also the tools to bury them? How does one revolt against these unelected entities? How do our most private desires get shaped by this stateless horror? With its incendiary, lyrical prose, and unforgettable characters, Bhopal Dance explores these questions.

Cordelia, an owlish woman with a ménage of lovers, leads a revolutionary political movement catalyzed by the Bhopal disaster, only to end up imprisoned with only a toilet to talk to. Cordelia is a remarkable bird in her own right: her ‘owlishness’ is a feathery conceit deployed in both the book’s form and content, a way of exploring queer possibilities for altering the terms of one’s imprisonment. For setting corporatized corporeality alight. Ablaze. Pets and punk rock, dentists and dyslexia, Shakespeare and salsa: in Bhopal Dance, they all dance together.

"No one anywhere on the planet can arrange language, history, memory, and the bodies of women in more intense and intimate orchestration than Jennifer Natalya Fink does in Bhopal Dance. Between desire and cultural inscription arise bodies that refuse to be bound by the rules and laws set out for them. Let the novel be undone by bodysong and language meat."

—LIDIA YUKNAVITCH, author of The Book of Joan

"This new novel continues Jennifer Natalya Fink’s raucous narrative style, a style both ecstatic and cutting. She and about five to nine other Bad White Girls have evolved a literary method of attack on Americans (like themselves, double irony) who can’t quite shuck the dream of something good that will cure their shock at being here. They try revolution and it backfires and lands them in jail, where freedom gurgles in the mouth of a toilet bowl. This book takes the conundrum to an explosive level. The pages burn with sex and toxic car-time, Union Carbide and ruined Bhopal. No reconciliations offered."

—FANNY HOWE, author of The Needle's Eye: Passing through Youth

"Youth, bad romance, intellectual idealism and the very big question of how to respond to the bigger nightmares we face on earth--Jennifer Natalya Fink gets deep into the muck of it, with sly humor and fierce intelligence, a conscience, a soul, and a gift for exploding what we think it is to tell a story."

—MICHELLE TEA, author of Black Wave

The Mikvah Queen

Rebel Satori Press, 2010

Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the Dana Award for the Novel

Semifinalist, Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

In the anti-everything hippie culture of early ‘80s Ithaca, New York, what rituals can a girl borrow, steal, or invent to make sense of puberty? Jane Schwartz, a lonely, Talmud-quoting, disco-worshipping eleven- year-old girl, builds a mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) in the porta-sauna of her middle-aged neighbor, Charlene Walkeson, in hopes of saving Charlene from the ravages of cancer. Will Jane also save her fierce, fragile self? 

The first time I ever heard about how hard it was to be a left-handed person I whirled around and began to sympathetically imagine the difficulties of phone booths and toll booths and doors all of it, the world, arranged for the comfort of righties. If anyone had next explained to me that part of what was so uncomfortable about being female was exactly the same—not just the machinery of the world but its dictionaries and handbooks, the bibles and schools—then I would have known why maneuvering it all in this car, my body was so inexplicably hard. With dazzling humor and devastating weirdness and skill The Mikvah Queen is one of the first books I would hand to a girl in the new world where we begin to tell it all and even celebrate the excess of females and their perversities and beauties the way everything generally likes to celebrate men. Jennifer Natalya Fink s book is excitingly odd and gross and disgustingly new. It's so good to go this far with a thought and a world as if it were your own. I think Jonathan Lethem, I think Phillip Roth and then I think no, she went past. She's shooting by the discomfort in them. I feel welcomed in The Mikvah Queen like a human for a change. Is this sci-fi? Females imagine and laugh? Their bodies are real and slipping into a bath they ask why. This compulsively readable book wants to know. —EILEEN MYLES

I find the characters in The Mikvah Queen haunting, and so vividly and movingly drawn. Their dilemmas are so clear, and their connection filled, symbolically, with such potential. —REBECCA WALKER

The Mikvah Queen is an intense meditation on the female body its contamination and purification, and who gets to control those concepts but at heart it s also a story of compelling friendship between a girl and a woman, a coming-of-age Jew and a facing-death WASP, as each meets the challenges of change. —MICHAEL LOWENTHAL

Thirteen Fugues

Dark Coast Press, 2011

 

Tanya Irene Schwartz narrates her hilarious and conflicting desires through the mosical and psychological structure of the fugue. Jewish law, world records, 9/11, Barbies, Viagra, sex, and sisters: these are the surprising sites of Tanya's transformation from girl to woman. These short, intertwined stories explore religion, sex, and school, capturing the cadences and rhythms that mark our journey from adolescence to adulthood.  Tanya's vivid, humorous voice grants us a rare but strangely familiar view of what happens when we almost touch the divine.

"Thirteen Fugues is a lush, perverse enchantment, a creepy-pretty suburban fairy tale, all commonplace innocence and surreal hints and twists. Like peeking through a neighbor's basement window, you can't turn away from what you spy."

—MICHELLE TEA 

"Jennifer Natalya Fink's collection sparkles with radiant precision yet shifts and twists under inspection like some bejeweled quantum entanglement."

—D. TRAVERS SCOTT

V

She Devil Press, 2007

V is based on a story the author's Brazilian-Jewish grandmother tells, a story aimed at explaining why she left Sao Paulo, Brazil, shortly after World War II. Like most family myths, the story changes every time she tells it; however, it always involves a monkey, a gun, a hat, a man, and, implicitly, a girl: the author's grandmother. In the grandmother's rendition, sometimes the monkey shoots the hat off the man; other times, the man shoots the hat off the monkey.

"An intricate and moving work: elegantly conceived, irresistibly written, informed on every page by wit, charm and intelligence." —CAROLE MASO

"A peculiar—and peculiarly moving—novel." —STEVE ALMOND

"With lyrical prose, vivid imagery, and brilliantly drawn characters, Jennifer Natalya Fink takes the reader on an unforgettable journey." —ROXANNE DUNBAR ORTIZ


 

Burn

Suspect Thoughts Press, 2005

Crafted with echoes of the Adam and Eve myth, set amidst the sexual and political repression of the 1950s, Burn revisits familiar narratives of McCarthyism, Jewish socialism, and pedophilia, but is told from the rarely heard perspective of a menopausal immigrant woman. 

 
"Burn is without a doubt the best first novel I have read in a long, long time."

—REBECCA BROWN

"Fink's amazing writing suspends the reader in a seamless erotic tragedy...deserves to be recognized as a literary classic." —PATRICK CALIFIA

Performing Hybridity

Co-edited with May Joseph
​University of Minnesota Press, 1998

Amid the modern-day complexities of migration and exile, immigration and repatriation, notions of stable national identity give way to ideas about cultural "hybridity". The authors represented in this volume use different forms of performative writing to question this process, to ask how the production of new political identities destabilizes ideas about gender, sexuality, and the nation in the public sphere.

Contributors use forms such as the essay, poem, photography, and case study to examine historically specific cases in which the notion of hybridity recasts our ideas of identity and performance: the struggle for Aboriginal land rights in Australia; Bahian carnival; the creolization and pidginization of language in the Caribbean world; queer videos; and others.