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John R. Gordon

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John R Gordon (born 1964) is a white gay writer[1] and resident of Shepherds Bush, London, England, whose work - novels, plays, screenplays and biography - centers black characters and explores the complex, subtle and troubling intersections of race, sexuality and class. With Rikki Beadle-Blair he founded and runs queer-of-colour-centric indie press Team Angelica. Although he was a "white person from a white suburb", according to Gordon, in the 1980s he became deeply interested in black cultural figures such as James Baldwin, Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon, and they have influenced his work ever since.[1]

John R Gordon
JohnR.Gordon.jpg
Born1964 (age 54–55)
Portsmouth, England
ResidenceShepherds Bush, London, England
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter, playwright, publisher, artist, art designer

Early workEdit

Between 1993 and 2001 Gordon published three ground-breaking novels of black gay British life, Black Butterflies, Skin Deep, and Warriors & Outlaws, (the first two with Gay Men's Press, the third with Millivres/Prowler). In 1995 he directed his play Wheels of Steel, about a closeted young thug paralysed in a joyriding accident and his flamboyant male nurse, at the Gate Theatre, London. It starred Rikki Beadle-Blair and Karl Collins, who went on to play each other's estranged husbands in Beadle-Blair's Channel 4 series Metrosexuality. He wrote a 1999 sitcom pilot The Melting Pot about a macho black British man (Felix Dexter) coming to terms with his long-lost Jamaican brother's homosexuality. Although it never made it beyond Channel 4's Sitcom Festival to television, the Independent praised it for offering innovative characters and situations.[2] It also starred Terry Alderton.

Noah's ArcEdit

Gordon script-edited two seasons of Patrik-Ian Polk's television show Noah's Arc (2005-6) for the US cable channel Logo. He wrote two episodes of the second season,(Desperado and Under Pressure), and across 2007 co-storylined (with Polk and Q. Allan Brocka) the spin-off feature-film, subsequently co-writing the screenplay with Polk. The film, Noah's Arc: Jumping The Broom, was given a limited release in six American cities, where it played to sold-out houses at the end of October 2008 and recouped $500,000 in ticket sales alone. The "Jumping The Broom" script that Gordon and Polk wrote was nominated for an NAACP Image Award,[3] as was the film itself in the Best Independent Feature category. In April 2009 the film won the GLAAD Best (limited release) Feature Film.

Souljah (short film)Edit

His 10-minute short film Souljah[4] - about a gay African former child soldier (B3/Angelica Entertainments 2007), and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair - premiered at the London Film Festival on 30 October 2007. In July 2008 Souljah won the award for Best Short Film at the Rushes Soho Shorts festival.[5] April 2009 it won Best International Short at the Toronto Reelworld Film Festival. It was directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair for Team Angelica Productions and produced by Beadle-Blair, Gordon and Carleen Beadle.

As publisherEdit

In 2011, with Rikki Beadle-Blair he established the radical queer-of-colour-focused imprint Team Angelica Publishing.[1] Its first book was Beadle-Blair's What I Learned Today. In 2013 they published the well-received and groundbreaking short-story collection Fairytales for Lost Children by gay Somali author Diriye Osman.[6] On 8 October 2014 Fairytales for Lost Children won the Polari First Book Prize.[7] In 2015 they published Roz Kaveney's novel, Tiny Pieces of Skull, which went on to win the 2016 Best Trans Fiction Lambda Literary Award.[8] In November 2017 they published the first ever gay African memoir, Lives of Great Men by Chike Frankie Edozien. It was favourably reviewed in the London Financial Times[9] and won the Best Gay Memoir/Non Fiction Lambda Literary Award in 2018.[10] It went on to be republished by Jacana Books in South Africa, in July 2018. In February 2018 they published Sista!, an anthology of writings by same gender loving women of African/Caribbean descent with a UK connection, edited by Gordon, Beadle-Blair and UK Black Pride co-founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, it included writers such as Yrsa Daley-Ward and was shortlisted for a 2019 Lambda Literary Award.

Black and Gay in the UK: an anthologyEdit

Published on 20 October 2014, Black and Gay in the UK was co-edited with Rikki Beadle-Blair. Its 352 pages of poems, memoirs, fictional stories and essays exploring the lives of black gay men with some connection to the United Kingdom includes writers, artists and activists such as Leee John, Travis Alabanza, Dean Atta, Adam Lowe, David McAlmont, Bisi Alimi, black British photographer Robert Taylor, Topher Campbell and Jide Macaulay.

Other workEdit

In 2009 he co-wrote the screenplay for the short film Manali Cream (dir. Navdeep Kandola). In summer 2009 his one-act play Afro-Pik - a play about Black Man Hair, featuring Fisayo Akintunde was premiered at the Central School of Speech and Drama summer school. In summer 2010 his short play Work! premiered at Theatre503 as part of Golden Delilah's production, "7:1 Beyond Control".

Gordon was art designer on the feature films Fit, KickOff, Bashment, and the hour-long film Free, (2014) (all Team Angelica productions).

2012–017 Gordon and Beadle-Blair co-mentored Angelic Tales at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, a lengthy development project for new writers culminating in two week-long seasons of staged readings on the theatre's main stage. Several of the plays they developed, such as Somalia Seaton's Crowning Glory (2013), Lynette Linton's Step (2013) and Alexis Gregory's Slap (2018) have gone on to full productions and/or tours. In 2017 he dramaturged Linton's exploration of mixed race British identity, Lightie, which played to sold-out audiences at the Arcola Theatre; the playtext was published by Team Angelica, as was the playtext of Slap.

Gordon was script consultant and associate producer on Patrik-Ian Polk's feature film Blackbird (2014) – a Tall Skinny Black Boy/Hicks Media co-production, written by Rikki Beadle-Blair and Polk, adapted from Larry Duplechan's novel of that name, and starring Mo'Nique and Isiah Washington.

On 28 April 2014 Gordon's short HIV-themed comedy play, Yemi and Femi go da Chemist, was premiered at Team Angelica's Boom! event as part of the AmBush at London's highly respected Bush theatre, to an enthusiastic response from the sold-out audience. He and Beadle-Blair co-dramaturged the event, which showcased thirty-eight writers over two nights. The text of the play was included in the Team Angelica anthology, Black and Gay in the UK.

On 3 November 2015 a theatrical version of Faggamuffin, directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair and starring Nathan Clough, Marlon Kameka and Savannah Rae, was presented at the Bush Theatre as part of the Gay Buddies Week.

Faggamuffin (novel)Edit

His fourth novel Faggamuffin was published in 2012. It is about a gay Jamaican reggae producer - Cutty, a character who first appeared in The Melting Pot - on the run from the authorities.[1]

Souljah (novel)Edit

On 22 September 2014 Gordon's sixth novel, Souljah, was published by Team Angelica. It's an extrapolation of characters and situations first presented in the award-winning short film of the same name. It was favourably reviewed by ka-os.blogspot.com: "this is a story that deserves everyone's attention. Souljah is truly breathtaking, in scale, and in ambition. I cried like a baby at times, and as events rapidly escalated in the novel's final act, I just couldn't put it down"[11] and in the Huffington Post: "...a novel that defies categorization. It's a mashup of the immigrant saga, a chilling gangster thriller, a state-of-the-nation novel, a coming-of-age story and an intimate family portrait with a harrowing war crime at its heart. The fact that Gordon never once drops the ball makes Souljah a sprawling, visually arresting masterpiece." [12] On 4 March 2015 it was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award.[13]

Yemi & Femi's Fun Night Out: a graphic novellaEdit

Published in September 2015, Yemi & Femi's Fun Night Out is a 42-page black-and-white graphic novella about Yemi and Femi, two gay British-Nigerian club-kids, Femi's boyfriend Mixtape, and their adventures one night after being thrown out of a nightclub. The graphic novella explores issues around HIV, safe sex, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and sero-discordancy in a comical way, in street-level language and urban slang. Gordon received an Arts Council grant to make copies available free to gay urban young people and sexual health charities.

Drapetomania, or the Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers (novel)Edit

Published in May 2018, Drapetomania is a 500-page novel set in the American South. Ten years in the writing, it is an epic tale of black freedom, uprising, and a radical representation of romantic love between black men in slavery times. Patrik-Ian Polk has called it 'an all-out masterpiece'; Michael Eric Dyson has haled it as 'a dazzling work of imagination'; and Audre Lorde biographer Alexis De Veaux described it as 'a riveting, masterful work'. It was favourably reviewed in the London Financial Times, which said it was 'a damning indictment of America’s racist history... often deeply moving and gripping'.[14] On April 25th 2019 it won the Publishing Triangle's prestigious Ferro-Grumley Award[15] for best LGBTQ fiction.

Published worksEdit

  • Black Butterflies (GMP 1993), winner of a New London Writer's Award in 1994
  • Skin Deep (GMP 1997)
  • 'Immigrant' (short story) in New Century, New Writing (ed. P P Hartnett, Millivres-Prowler 2000)
  • Warriors & Outlaws (Millivres/Prowler 2001).
  • My Life In Porn: The Bobby Blake Story (Perseus Books 2008, cowritten with Bobby Blake)
  • Faggamuffin (Team Angelica Publishing, January 2012)
  • Colour Scheme (Team Angelica Publishing, January 2013)
  • Souljah (Team Angelica Publishing, September 2014), nominated for a Lambda Literary Award 2015
  • Black and Gay in the UK: an anthology (Team Angelica Publishing, October 2014) (co-editor, with Rikki Beadle-Blair, and contributor)
  • Yemi & Femi's Fun Night Out: a graphic novella (Team Angelica Publishing, September 2015)
  • 'The Parasite That Grew Bigger Than The Animal' (short story) in Speak My Language (ed. Torsten Hojer, Robinson Books, Nov 2015)
  • Drapetomania, or the Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers (Team Angelica Publishing, May 2018), winner Ferro-Grumley Award 2019

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Hazelann Williams, "The plight of a ‘faggamuffin’", The Voice, 03/02/2012, http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/plight-%E2%80%98faggamuffin%E2%80%99
  2. ^ James Rampton, "Comedy: Situation vacant", The Independent, 7 July 1999, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/comedy-situation-vacant-1104780.html
  3. ^ "Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture". The Crisis. November–December 2005. p. 24. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  4. ^ "Souljah", British Council website, http://film.britishcouncil.org/souljah
  5. ^ "Rushes Soho Shorts Winners 2008".
  6. ^ Bernardine Evaristo, 14 Oct 2013, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-review-fairytales-for-lost-children-by-diriye-osman-8879604.html
  7. ^ http://www.thebookseller.com/news/osman-wins-polari-first-book-prize
  8. ^ http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/06/07/28th-annual-lammy-award-winners-announced/
  9. ^ Diana Evans, 22 December 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/e4c73d44-e1ac-11e7-a0d4-0944c5f49e46
  10. ^ https://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/06/05/lambda-literary-award/
  11. ^ http://ka-os.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/souljah.html
  12. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diriye-osman/the-life-of-a-gay-former-child-soldier_b_5908906.html
  13. ^ http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/03/04/the-27th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists/
  14. ^ https://www.ft.com/content/0e6cacfc-5cf9-11e8-ab47-8fd33f423c09
  15. ^ http://www.publishingtriangle.org/