Sarah Schulman

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Sarah Schulman
Sarah schulman.jpg
Born Sarah Miriam Schulman
(1958-07-28) July 28, 1958 (age 58)
New York City, United States
Occupation Novelist, historian, playwright, activist
Nationality American

Sarah Miriam Schulman (born 1958) is an American novelist, playwright, historian and lesbian rights activist.[1]

Schulman is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at College of Staten Island (CSI) and a Fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Schulman was born on July 28, 1958 in New York City. She attended Hunter College High School. Schulman attended the University of Chicago from 1976 to 1978 but did not graduate. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Empire State College.[3]

Literary career[edit]

Her first novel, The Sophie Horowitz Story was published in 1984, followed by Girls, Visions and Everything (1986) and After Delores, which was published by E. P. Dutton in 1988 and received a rave review in the New York Times,[4] was translated into eight languages,[5] and was awarded an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award in 1989.[6] This was followed by People in Trouble, the first novel about AIDS activism (1990).[7] Empathy (1992) is an experimental novel about lesbian existence.[8] Her next novel, Rat Bohemia (1995) received a full page rave review in the New York Times from Edmund White,[9] and was named one of the 100 best LGBT books by the Publishing Triangle.[10] Shimmer (1998) is set in New York City during the McCarthy era and features a black male protagonist and a white lesbian protagonist.[11] My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During The Reagan/Bush Years (Routledge, 1995) is a collection of journalism that begins before Reagan's election in 1980 and provides ongoing coverage of the AIDS crisis.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] The Child, a controversial novel about a sexual relationship between a forty-year-old man and a fifteen-year-old boy, was published by Carroll and Graf[15] and republished by Arsenal Pulp Press.[16] Arsenal also published an anniversary critical edition of Empathy with articles by Kevin Killian and John Weir in 2007, followed by a new edition of Rat Bohemia in spring 2008, with a cover by Nan Goldin,[17] And a 25th anniversary edition of After Delores in 2013.[18]

In 2009, Arsenal Pulp published her ninth novel, The Mere Future,[19] a futuristic dystopia about a New York City in which the only remaining career is marketing.[20] The paperback appeared in 2011 and Audible issued the audio book in 2014. Also in 2009, The New Press published Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences,[21] which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.[22] In September 2013, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, was published by the University of California Press.[23] Israel/Palestine and the Queer International was published by Duke University Press in 2012.[24] With these she received her ninth and tenth Lambda literary award nominations.

Schulman was named one of Publisher Weekly's 60 Most Underrated Writers. 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. She has been awarded a Guggenheim in Playwrighting, a Fulbright in Judaic Studies, the Kessler Award for Sustained Contribution to LGBT Studies, three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships (Fiction and Playwrighting), and a number of other awards.

Her new novel, The Cosmopolitans, set in Greenwich Village in 1958, was published by The Feminist Press in March 2016 to rave reviews. Kirkus, in a starred review, called it "a modern classic."

Her new nonfiction book, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in October 2016.


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)[25] and participated in an early direct action protest in which she and five others (called The Women's Liberation Zap Action Brigade, see zap (action)) 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.

In 1987, Schulman and filmmaker Jim Hubbard founded the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival, now called MIX and in its twenty-ninth year.

In 1992, Schulman and five others co-founded the Lesbian Avengers, a direct action organization.[26] 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.[27]

She spent five years working with the Irish 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. 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 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.[28]

In 2009, Schulman declined an invitation to Tel Aviv University in support of Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. 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. The conference proceedings will be published by Duke University Press in 2015. 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, 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.


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.[29] 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,[30] 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 2001, Schulman won a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwrighting.[31]

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. 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.

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. The film's international premiere was in Ramallah, Palestine. 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.

In 2017 a film adaptation of Schulman's 1984 novel, The Sophie Horowitz Story. Translated to a German context, will be shot in Berlin, set in the Baader-Meinhof era. The film will feature Guinevere Turner, who also starred in The Owls.

Published works[edit]


  • The Cosmopolitans (2016)
  • The Mere Future (2009)
  • The Child (2007)
  • Shimmer (1998)
  • Rat Bohemia (1995) - traduzido para o português (Boêmia dos Ratos)
  • Empathy (1992)
  • People in Trouble (1990)
  • After Delores (1988)
  • Girls, Visions and Everything (1986)
  • The Sophie Horowitz Story (1984)
  • Collected Early Novels of Sarah Schulman (1998)


  • Conflict is not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair" (2016)
  • 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)


  • Enemies, A Love Story (adapted from Isaac Bashevis Singer) (2007)
  • Manic Flight Reaction (2005)
  • Carson McCullers (2002) (publicado por Playscritpts Inc., 2006)
  • Mercy (2009) published in a shared volume with Robert Gluck by Belladonna

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 10 Lambda Literary Award Nominations


  1. ^ Schulman, Sarah (July 1995), "Gay marketeers - gay journalism", The Progressive, retrieved 2007-09-03 .
  2. ^ "Sarah Schulman and Terry Castle: a reading from The Cosmopolitans and a conversation". San Francisco State University. 7 April 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  3. ^ a b College of Staten Island. "Sarah Schulman bio". Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Friedman, Kinky (1998-05-15), "She Considered Boys for about 5 Minutes", The New York Times, retrieved 2007-09-02 
  5. ^ "After Delores" (PDF). Lambda Literary. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  6. ^ "Stonewall Book Awards", American Library Association, retrieved 2007-09-02 
  7. ^ "Who's Afraid of Sarah Schulman?". The New York Times. 23 October 2005. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  8. ^ "Empathy". Goodreads. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  9. ^ "A Witness to Her Time". The New York Times. 28 January 1996. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "the 100 best lesbian and gay novels". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  11. ^ "Shimmer". Kirkus. 15 August 1998. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  12. ^ "My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years". Amazon. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  13. ^ Thomas, June (2005-11-23), "Sarah Schulman: The lesbian writer Rent ripped off", Slate, retrieved 2007-09-02 .
  14. ^ Green, Jesse (October 25, 2005). "Sarah Schulman softens her image". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  15. ^ "The Child". Goodreads. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  16. ^ "The Child". Amazon. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  17. ^ "Biographies". ACT UP Oral History Project. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  18. ^ "I Was Burning". Slate. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  19. ^ "The Mere Future". Goodreads. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  20. ^ "The Mere Future". Arsenal Pulp Press. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  21. ^ "Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences". Amazon. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  22. ^ "22nd Annual Lambda Literary Awards". Lambda Literary. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  23. ^ "The Gentrification of the Mind". University of California Press. September 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  24. ^ "Israel⁄Palestine and the Queer International". Duke University Press. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  25. ^ Cvetkovich, Ann (2003), An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures, Duke University Press, p. 175, ISBN 0-8223-3088-1 
  26. ^ 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 
  27. ^ Schulman, Sarah (1994), My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During The Reagan/Bush Years, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90852-3 
  28. ^ Kerr, Ted (2008-09-11), "United In Anger: The History of The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power", Vue Weekly 
  29. ^ "Biographies", ACT UP Oral History Project, retrieved 2007-09-02 
  30. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2005-06-02), "Playwrights Horizons Will Stage Musical Grey Gardens, With Two Broadway Divas Among the Ruins", Playbill  .
  31. ^ "2001 Foundation Program Areas: U.S. and Canadian Fellows", Guggenheim Fellowship, 2001, archived from the original on July 1, 2007, retrieved 2007-09-02 .

External links[edit]