Author Returns Home to Share Her Love Story… and Teach Others to Share Theirs
Weeks after the release of her new book, Amelia Possanza will visit City of Asylum to explore the question of what it's like to be gay in 2023.
Author Amelia Possanza is returning to her hometown of Pittsburgh this week to share her story and help others in the queer community do the same.
In her debut book, “Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir In Archives,” Possanza uncovers the stories of seven historical lesbians who all experienced a grand love story. She retells and reimagines their memories, which were long buried in dusty records and silent libraries, and weaves them into a vibrant tapestry of queer life and love that spans the 20th century.
Now, less than a month after her book was released, she’s hosting a workshop at City of Asylum to share what she learned from her extensive research — the power of community support — and invite others to make their mark on the archives.
“In writing this book, I started out thinking a lot about romantic love,” Possanza says in a recent Zoom call from Brooklyn, New York. “But then, as the book went on, I was led in this other direction of things that were a lot about community love. I’m really excited to do this workshop because this book opened my eyes to the importance of community and showed me what communities can accomplish together in a really radical way.”
The workshop, titled “Archive Your (Queer) Life,” will be held on June 14 at 6 p.m. Tickets are free, but need to be reserved online before the program. Possanza says her goal for the night is to explore “the very big question of what it means to be queer in 2023” and create a time capsule to preserve Pittsburgh’s many answers to that question.
She said the first step in accomplishing that goal is to help her audience understand how we create archives everyday, as we take pictures, write in diaries and curate the perfect wardrobe, even if we are not aware of it.
“When people hear archives, they think libraries, scholarship, academia,” Possanza says. “But in day-to-day practice, [creating archives] can be really personal and romantic and creative.”
Each workshop participant is asked to bring pictures and other mementos, such as letters, newspaper clippings and ticket stubs, to the event. Guests will learn how to create their own digital archive documents in Canva, Google Docs and other platforms. Then, Possanza will invite everyone to share their stories with one another and combine their documents into one time capsule of lived queer experience.
Possanza says she hopes that participants will walk away from the workshop with an understanding of how to make record keeping a regular practice in life, a skill that she sees as crucial because every archive becomes a part of both what defines us now and how we will be remembered in the future.
In fact, the idea of being remembered and having your story shared is what initially pushed Possanza to write “Lesbian Love Story.”
“I think in my reading as a young person, there weren’t a lot of lesbian role models, and so I went out in search of them,” she says about the inspiration for the book.
But Possanza quickly learned that queer stories are difficult to find in the historical record. Because lesbian couples in the 20th century often didn’t have traditional wedding certificates, children to pass documents down to or the freedom to talk about their journeys openly, their lives were easily erased from history. Or, their stories were only preserved by the people who wanted to suppress them, such as police officers who archived arrest records.
While the 21st century has presented new opportunities for queer people to record their stories, mainly through the ease of taking and sharing pictures, Possanza says there are unique challenges to preserving memories now too.
She cites the climate of this “politically charged” year as one of the main obstacles, saying that hate speech, bans on drag shows, the restriction of health care and other attempts to prevent people from living their authentic lives will alter how queer people of this generation are remembered.
So, Possanza says it is just as important now as before to preserve the whole picture of queer experience.
“I’d love to say that we’re at this moment where queer people are in the mainstream and our stories are entering the mainstream,” she says. “But that’s not the only thing going on right now. There is a lot of other queer culture and resistance happening.”
You can learn more about Possanza’s book in an event called “Weaving the Threads of Lesbian Love with Amelia Possanza” on Tuesday, June 13 at 7 p.m. at City of Asylum. She will speak in a conversation mediated by Harrison Apple, the co-founder of the Pittsburgh Queer History Project, about how she discovered lesbian love stories in historical records and wrote new scenes into the women’s lives to reimagine “tender and intimate moments that people might not have had the freedom to record.”
Possanza says she’s happy to have this conversation and her workshop in Pittsburgh, a city that she sees as a “haven” for queer people that is experiencing new growth.
“For a long time, Pittsburgh was seen as a dying city,” she says. “But it’s experiencing a real renaissance, and I’m excited to come home and learn about people’s stories.”