Purdue University Graduate School

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A Beautiful Place to Grow Up

posted on 2022-04-26, 17:51 authored by Audrey Renee HollisAudrey Renee Hollis

My novel is a multigenerational queer narrative, one which seeks to illuminate erased and hidden queer history from the 1920s to the 1970s. Through Prohibition and war, through scientific advances and cultural setbacks, three generations of women strive tofind happiness while avoiding the encompassing grasp of America’s growing total institutions -the jail, the asylum, the military. Narrated by the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, the novel focuses half-lifes, ghosts, trauma, and what lingers after the destruction of queer families in favor of nuclear ones.

As a queer writer, I’m interested in history, archival silences, and erasure. I believe that a historical framing which insists on writing a narrative of linear social progression erases vital and vibrant queer and trans communities and struggles throughout history. Furthermore, this narrative is often used to justify abuses in our present time, under the guise even these abuses are better than the oppressive past. Research shows this is not true, thatmany places and times had bubbles of freedom, utopian spaces built in opposition to societal pressures.

As many of these spaces were built outside the law, it is impossible to talk about queer and trans  history  without  talking  about  total  institutions.  Queer  historical  fiction  must  engage  with police and prison abolition, the abuses of the asylum, and government censorship such as the Hayes Code or the chilling effects of the loyalty oaths. In this context, there is much to learn about the strategies  queer  and  trans  people  used  to  fight,  evade,  and  survive  within  or  against  these institutions.

As  a  writer  whose  background  rests  in  speculative  fiction,  I’m  interested  in  using speculative elements such as ghosts and nuclear waste to speak about the trauma that remains from the last 100 years of American oppression. I want to examine what and who is left behind as laws and  norms  change -in  an  age  of  scientific  advancement,  what  happens  to  the  prisoners,  the institutionalized,  the  queer  and  trans  people  whosevery  being  has  oscillated  between  legal  and illegal with each decade. 

I see my work in conversation with Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club, a novel about  a  queer  Chinese-American  girl  who  discovers  a  lesbian  bar,  set  during  the  Red  Scare. Additionally, I’m in conversation with the work of Jordy Rosenberg, specifically Confessions of the  Fox, a speculative historical fiction novel about a trans folk hero in 1600s England. I’m interested  in  works  of  historical  fiction  which  challenge  popular  andretrogressive  views  of  the past with the hard, beautiful, subversive, and real lived experiences of queer and trans people


Degree Type

  • Master of Fine Arts


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Sharon Solwitz

Additional Committee Member 2

Brian Leung

Additional Committee Member 3

Kaveh Akbar

Additional Committee Member 4

Paige Lewis

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