Virtual Memories Show 323:
Hugh Ryan

“I come to these stories in part because I’m trying to find myself.”

Let’s celebrate Pride Month with a conversation with Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History! We talk about Brooklyn’s untold queer history and how it reflects the story of Brooklyn itself, the challenge of relating 19th century views of sexuality’s spectrum to a modern audience, and why his history began with Walt Whitman and ended a few years before Stonewall. We also get into the toughest part of his research, the best story that didn’t make it into the book, the commercial challenge of pitching a popular queer history, the accidental scoops he made by being the first person to explore this history, and how he wrote such long hours he broke his wrist. Oh, yeah, and he cringes over Naomi Wolf’s demolition and we share a laugh over his great story of the Coney Island impresario who threw a male beauty pageant in 1929 but had no idea what was in store. Give it a listen! And go buy When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History!

“One of the things I learned was how intimately connected queer history is with the history of prisons and policing in America.”

“I can’t write fiction because I have no imagination whatsoever. Everything has to have happened for me to write about it.”

“Having studied theory helped me understand what I was seeing, but having 20 years away from theory was more helpful for writing.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Hugh Ryan is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn. He is the Founder of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, and sits on the boards of QED: A Journal in LGBTQ Worldmaking, and the Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Buzzfeed, the LA Review of Books, Out, and many other venues. He is the author of When Brooklyn Was Queer, and is the recipient of the 2016-2017 Martin Duberman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a 2017 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature, and a 2018 residency at The Watermill Center. He is on Twitter as hugh_ryan and on Patreon.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Ryan’s office on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of me & Mr. Ryan by me. It’s on my instagram. Solo/flannel photo by Jia Oak Baker.

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