Sarah Schulman

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Sarah Schulman
Sarah Schulman
Sarah Schulman
Born (1958-07-28) July 28, 1958 (age 60)
New York City, United States
OccupationNovelist, Historian, Playwright, Screenwriter, Journalist, Activist

Sarah Miriam Schulman (born July 28, 1958) is an American novelist, playwright, nonfiction writer, screenwriter and AIDS historian. She is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at College of Staten Island (CSI) and a Fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities.

Early life and education[edit]

Schulman was born on July 28, 1958 in New York City. She attended Hunter College High School,[1] and attended the University of Chicago from 1976 to 1978 but did not graduate.[citation needed] She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Empire State College.[2]

Literary career[edit]

Schulman's third novel, After Delores, received a positive review in the New York Times,[3] was translated into eight languages,[4] and was awarded an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award in 1989.[5] Her novel Rat Bohemia (1995) received a full page rave review in the New York Times from Edmund White,[6] and was named one of the 100 best LGBT books by the Publishing Triangle.[7]

Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America (1998), which won the Stonewall Book Award, argues that significant plot elements of the successful 1996 musical Rent were lifted from People in Trouble. The heterosexual plot of Rent is based on the opera La Bohème, while the gay plot is similar to the plot of Schulman's novel.[8] Schulman never sued, but analyzed in Stagestruck the way the musical depicted AIDS and gay people, in contrast to work made by those communities that same year.[9]

In 2009, The New Press published Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences,[10] which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.[11] In September 2013, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, was published by the University of California Press.[12] Slate called The Gentrification of the Mind one of the 10 Best Most Unknown Books and GalleyCat called it one of the Best Unrecognized Books of the year. It was also nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Israel/Palestine and the Queer International was published by Duke University Press in 2012, and was nominated for a Lambda Literary award.[13]

Schulman was named one of Publisher Weekly's 60 Most Underrated Writers.[citation needed]

Her tenth novel The Cosmopolitans, set in Greenwich Village in 1958, was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best American novels of 2016. That same year she published the nonfiction book Conflict Is Not Abuse, which went into 5 editions in its first year and was awarded the Publishing Triangle Award for best nonfiction in 2016.

Her 19th book, the novel Maggie Terry, will be published in September 2018 by The Feminist Press. The book is influenced by her 19 years of teaching at CUNY Staten Island and her experience working with students who are police officers, or from NYPD families.


Schulman's activism began in her childhood when she protested the Vietnam War with her mother.[14] Later, Schulman was active in the Women's Union while a student at the University of Chicago from 1976-1978. From 1979-1982, Schulman was a member of The Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse (CARASA)[15] and participated in an early direct action protest in which she and five others (called The Women's Liberation Zap Action Brigade) disrupted an anti-abortion hearing in Congress. She joined ACT UP, The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, in 1987, She was arrested when ACT UP occupied Grand Central Station protesting the First Gulf War.[citation needed]

In 1987, Schulman and filmmaker Jim Hubbard co-founded the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival, now called MIX and in its thirtieth.[16]

In 1992, Schulman and five others co-founded the Lesbian Avengers, a direct action organization.[17] On her 1992 book tour for Empathy, Schulman visited gay bookstores in the South to start chapters. The organization's high points included founding The Dyke March, and sending groups of young organizers to Maine and Idaho to assist local fights against anti-gay ballot initiatives.[18]

at NIH in 2007

She spent five years working with the Irish American Lesbian and Gay Organization in their attempt to march, as openly gay people, in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, see Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual Group of Boston.[citation needed] She was arrested each of those years, but never convicted. The group was unsuccessful in their efforts and disbanded without having marched.

Since 2001, Schulman and Jim Hubbard have been creating the ACT UP Oral History Project, and produced a feature documentary, United in Anger: A History of ACT UP which has been shown all over the world including The Museum of Modern Art, Hot Docs, Beirut, Abu Dhabi, Ramallah, Bombay, Brazil, Japan, and Russia (immediately after the imposition of anti-gay laws). To date they have conducted 187 long form interviews with surviving members of ACT UP New York. Helen Molesworth, former curator of the Harvard Art Museum, created a show at the university's Carpenter Center, featuring the Oral Project's interviews with panels and displays of AIDS Arts activism, which opened in October 2009 and moved to New York's White Columns Gallery in the fall of 2010. Harvard purchased the archive for their collection, while maintaining free access, and the funds were used to produce United in Anger.[19]

In 2009, Schulman declined an invitation to Tel Aviv University in support of Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.[14] She organized a US Tour of leaders of the queer Palestinian Movement, the first LGBT delegation to Palestine, and the Homonationalism and Pinkwashing conference at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York.[citation needed] She is on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace and is Faculty Advisor for Students for Justice in Palestine at the College of Staten Island.

Schulman was US Coordinator of the campaign to free Tarek Loubani and John Greyson from prison in Cairo. Working with Tim McCaskell, Stephen Andrews, Justin Podur, Cecilia Greyson, Mohammed Loubani, Naomi Klein and Dan Malloy in Canada, Matias Viegener in Los Angeles and Ian Iqbal Rashid in Britain, and with thousands of volunteers around the world, the campaign was able to rescue the Canadian prisoners in 50 days, an extraordinarily rapid release time for international political prisoners.[20]

In 2017, she joined the advisory board of Claudia Rankine's Racial Imaginary Institute.


From 1979-1994 she had 15 plays produced in the context of the avant garde "Downtown Arts Movement" based in New York City's East Village. Venues included The University of the Streets, PS 122, La Mama, King Tut Wah-Wah Hut, The Pyramid Club, 8BC, Franklin Furnace, The Kitchen, Ela Troyano and Uzi Parness' Club Chandelier, Here, the Performing Garage, and others.[21] Schulman was admitted into the Sundance Theater Lab in 2001 with the play Carson McCullers. The workshop starred Angelina Phillips and Bill Camp and was directed by Craig Lucas. The play had its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in 2002,[22] directed by Marion McClinton and starring Jenny Bacon. Carson McCullers has been published by Playscripts Inc. This was followed by a commission from South Coast Repertory for which she wrote two plays: Made in Korea, based on the memoirs of Mi Ok Bruining, and Mercy. Both plays were presented in several readings and workshops.

In 2005, Tim Sanford, artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, produced Manic Flight Reaction. Director Trip Cullman developed the work at New York Stage and Film, and it opened at Playwrights that winter, starring Deirdre O'Connell with Molly Price, Jessica Collins, Austin Lysy, Michael Esper and Angel Desai.

Schulman secured the rights to write an adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Enemies, a Love Story, which premiered at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia in 2007, directed by Jiri Ziska. It later had a New York reading at New York Theater Workshop, directed by Jo Bonney.


In fall 2009, Schulman and Cheryl Dunye wrote the screenplay for Dunye's film The Owls, starring Guinevere Turner, Lisa Gornick, Cheryl Dunye, and V.S. Brodie.[citation needed] The film had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in January 2010. She and Dunye then wrote an X-rated film Mommy Is Coming, which was produced in Germany by Jürgen Brüning and selected for the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.[citation needed]

She is co-producer with Jim Hubbard of his feature-length documentary UNITED IN ANGER: A History of ACT UP which premiered at the Museum of Modern Art on the opening night of Documentary Fortnight.[citation needed] The film's international premiere was in Ramallah, Palestine.[citation needed]

Schulman played filmmaker Shirley Clarke to Jack Waters' Jason Holliday in Stephen Winter's response to Clarke's 1967 Portrait of Jason, Jason and Shirley which premiered at BAMcinemaFest in June 2015 and played for a week at The Museum of Modern Art in October, 2015.[citation needed]

Published works[edit]


  • "Maggie Terry" (2018)
  • The Cosmopolitans (2016)
  • The Mere Future (2009)
  • The Child (2007)
  • Shimmer (1998)
  • Collected Early Novels of Sarah Schulman (1998)
  • Rat Bohemia (1995) - translated into Portuguese (Boêmia dos Ratos)
  • Empathy (1992)
  • People in Trouble (1990)[23]
  • After Delores (1988)
  • Girls, Visions and Everything (1986)
  • The Sophie Horowitz Story (1984)


  • Conflict is not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair (2016)[24]
  • Israel/Palestine and the Queer International (2012)
  • The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination (2012)
  • Ties that Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences (2009)
  • Stagetruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America (1998)
  • My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years (1994) second edition (2018)


  • Published:
    • Mercy (2009) published in a shared volume with Robert Gluck by Belladonna
    • Carson McCullers (2003) (published by Playscritpts Inc., 2006)
  • Produced:
    • Enemies, A Love Story (adapted from Isaac Bashevis Singer) (Wilma Theater, 2007)
    • Carson McCullers (Playwrights Horizons, 2005)
    • Manic Flight Reaction (Playwrights Horizons, 2005)


  • "Jason and Shirley" (directed by Steven Winter, 2015)
  • "United In Anger: A History of ACT UP (co-producer, directed by Jim Hubbard, 2012)
  • "Mommy Is Coming" (directed by Cheryl Dunye, 2011)
  • "The Owls" (directed by Cheryl Dunye, 2009)

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Hunter College High School Alumnae/i Association". Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b College of Staten Island. "Sarah Schulman bio". Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  3. ^ Friedman, Kinky (1998-05-15), "She Considered Boys for about 5 Minutes", The New York Times, retrieved 2007-09-02
  4. ^ "After Delores" (PDF). Lambda Literary. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Stonewall Book Awards", American Library Association, retrieved 2007-09-02
  6. ^ "A Witness to Her Time". The New York Times. 28 January 1996. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  7. ^ "the 100 best lesbian and gay novels". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  8. ^ Thomas, June (2005-11-23), "Sarah Schulman: The lesbian writer Rent ripped off", Slate, retrieved 2007-09-02.
  9. ^ Green, Jesse (October 25, 2005). "Sarah Schulman softens her image". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
  10. ^ "Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences". Amazon. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  11. ^ "22nd Annual Lambda Literary Awards". Lambda Literary. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  12. ^ "The Gentrification of the Mind". University of California Press. September 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Israel⁄Palestine and the Queer International". Duke University Press. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  14. ^ a b Livingstone, Josephine (2016-03-29). "Sarah Schulman: 'I don't do the one long, slow idea. I do a hundred ideas'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  15. ^ Cvetkovich, Ann (2003), An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures, Duke University Press, p. 175, ISBN 0-8223-3088-1
  16. ^ "Sarah Schulman | | CSI CUNY Website". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  17. ^ Hengen, Shannon Eileen (1998), Performing Gender and Comedy: Theories, Texts and Contexts, Studies in Humor and Gender, Williston, VT: Gordon and Breach, p. 134, ISBN 90-5699-540-5, OCLC 40254126
  18. ^ Schulman, Sarah (1994), My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During The Reagan/Bush Years, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90852-3
  19. ^ Kerr, Ted (2008-09-11), "United In Anger: The History of The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power", Vue Weekly[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Schulman, Sarah (July 1995), "Gay marketeers - gay journalism", The Progressive, retrieved 2007-09-03.
  21. ^ "Biographies", ACT UP Oral History Project, retrieved 2007-09-02
  22. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2005-06-02), "Playwrights Horizons Will Stage Musical Grey Gardens, With Two Broadway Divas Among the Ruins", Playbill |access-date= requires |url= (help).
  23. ^ "Who's Afraid of Sarah Schulman?". The New York Times. 23 October 2005. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  24. ^ Stahl, Aviva (9 May 2017). "Trust in Instinct". The New Inquiry.
  25. ^ "2001 Foundation Program Areas: U.S. and Canadian Fellows", Guggenheim Fellowship, 2001, archived from the original on July 1, 2007, retrieved 2007-09-02.
  26. ^ "U.S. Fulbright Online". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  27. ^ a b "New York Foundation for the Arts". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  28. ^ "Sarah Schulman". English Department. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  29. ^ admin (2009-09-09). "Stonewall Book Awards List". Round Tables. Retrieved 2018-02-26.

External links[edit]