The Western Alienation Merit Badge

Every summer, I take it upon myself to read some gay history fiction while enjoying seasonal downtime. Last summer it was The Well of Loneliness; this summer, to my delight, it is a Calgary story. The Western Alienation Merit Badge is the first novel from author Nancy Jo Cullen, a former Calgarian, and recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. It has been gathering plaudits and praise.

Western Alienation Merit Badge

Our Summer Read for 2019

The book chronicles the staggering trials of the Murray family during the 1982 oil recession in Calgary. A death in the family, unplanned pregnancy and a coming-out story test family bonds against a backdrop of economic precariousness – a lot of drama, which Cullen deftly weaves with a poetic touch. My favourite aspect of the book is its use of non-linear time. The plot ricochets through the decades and only slowly reveals the larger tapestry of the Murray family’s sadness and regrets.

The Western Alienation Merit Badge has some eerie resonances to the Calgary of today. An economic slump mixed with anti-Trudeau rhetoric and general Calgarian embitterment makes one think distressingly about the cyclical nature of our city. After all, was it not that legendary 1980s recession that brought us the bumper sticker: “Please God, let there be another oil boom. We promise not to piss it away this time.”

The book also takes us to a period where gay identity was generally disparaged. In the early 80s, coming out was fraught with rejection, and new support groups like the Lesbian Infomation Line were saving lives.

It is fun to read a smart book where Calgary is given a starring role. The locations, the atmosphere, and the dialogue are all achingly familiar. Plus there is a queer protagonist at the heart of it – fans of Calgary gay history could not ask for anything more!

Tangentially, “Oh The Fun We Had” is the theme of this year’s Historic Calgary Week, which starts today. History buffs have a bursting smorgasbord of programming to feast on.

The Calgary Gay History Project will be part of Historic Calgary week again in 2019. In collaboration with the Calgary Public Library, we are hosting a lecture titled: Among friends: the history of LGBTQ2+ recreation and sport in Calgary. Join us on Saturday, August 3rd from 1:00 – 2:00 PM at the Memorial Park Library. There is a post-lecture screening at 2:30 PM of Outliers: Calgary’s Queer History (the Directors Cut) in partnership with the Calgary Queer Arts Society.

We hope to see you out and happy summer reading!

{KA}

Flying high & the final ROAR

We are proud that our award-winning short film, Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story has been seen at 36,000 feet on Air Canada flights recently. If you have not seen it: here is a link.

The Calgarian is a new podcast, produced by freelance journalist Taylor Lambert, featuring in-depth interviews with notable, creative and interesting people in Calgary.  Last month, Kevin Allen and the Calgary Gay History Project were featured (episode #7). It was a wide-ranging discussion from politics to book publishing to chicken-crossing-the-road jokes.

Kevin on the Calgarian

Kevin Allen in-studio at the new Central Library with Taylor Lambert, for The Calgarian Podcast

Finally, it is the last week of ROAR at the Lougheed House. Their queer programming has been exceptional, and the current Outliers exhibit, curated by the Calgary Queer Arts Society is a must-see if you are interested in gay history. Sunday, June 9th is Outliers’ final day.

Lougheed_FacebooklPost_1

Eleven weeks of Queer Programming at Lougheed House ends June 9th.

After a busy May, full of Calgary Gay History events, we are having a quiet June. Look for new gay history posts in July. Enjoy these long days while we have them!

{KA}

Marking May 14th

You are warmly invited to attend our event Decriminalization at 50 at the Central Library, Tuesday, May 14, at 6 PM. We are bringing together local historians, artists, and gay elders to speak to this day in history when 50 years ago Bill C-150 was passed in the House of Commons.

Decrim at 50 New

Meeting in the BMO room (level 0) from 6:00-7:30 PM.

This anniversary has spawned a new loonie, a new film, a national touring exhibition, and a backlash movement called anti-69, which argues that the 1969 decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada is a myth. On Tuesday, we will explore the tenor of this debate as well as recount the life of Calgarian, Everett Klippert, whose court case was central to this legislation.

Decrim 50 Civic Tavern

Civic Tavern is at 213 12 Ave. SW. Film Screening at 9:00 PM.

After the library, we are decamping to Civic Tavern at 8:30 PM, for refreshments, conversation, and a film screening of Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story, our award-winning short film about the man, who spent much of the 1960s in jail, because of his sexual orientation.

Please join us!

{KA}