Sarah Schulman

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Sarah Schulman
Sarah Schulman
Sarah Schulman
Born (1958-07-28) July 28, 1958 (age 64)
New York City, New York, United States
  • Novelist
  • historian
  • playwright
  • screenwriter
  • journalist
  • activist

Sarah Miriam Schulman (born July 28, 1958) is an American novelist, playwright, nonfiction writer, screenwriter, gay activist,[1] 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. She is a recipient of the Bill Whitehead Award and the Lambda Literary Award.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Schulman was born on July 28, 1958 in New York City. She attended Hunter College High School,[4] and attended the University of Chicago from 1976 to 1978 but did not graduate.[5] She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, New York.[6]

Literary career[edit]

Schulman published her first novel, The Sophie Horowitz Story, in 1984, which was followed by Girls, Visions and Everything in 1986 — which is considered important among lesbian subcultures.[7][8]

Schulman's third novel, After Delores, received a positive review in The New York Times,[9] was translated into eight languages,[10] and was awarded an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award in 1989.[11] Empathy, a highly experimental work, appeared in 1992. Her novel Rat Bohemia (1995) received a full-page rave review in The New York Times from Edmund White,[12] and was named one of the 100 best LGBT books by The Publishing Triangle.[13]

Subsequent novels included Shimmer, The Child, and The Mere Future. The Cosmopolitans was named one of the best American novels of 2016 by Publishers Weekly.[14] In 2018, she published Maggie Terry, a return to and comment on the lesbian detective novel, addressing the emotions of life under President Donald Trump.[15]

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 her 1990 novel, 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.[16] 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.[17]

In 2009, The New Press published Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences,[18] which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.[19] In September 2013, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, was published by the University of California Press.[20] 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.[citation needed] 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.[21] Her 2016 book Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair was published by Arsenal Pulp Press, was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, won a Judy Grahn Award by the Publishing Triangle, and was widely discussed and read.

Schulman was named one of Publishers Weekly's 60 Most Underrated Writers.[22]

In 2018, the second edition of her 1994 collection My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years was issued including new material by Urvashi Vaid, Stephen Thrasher, and Alison Bechdel.

Let the Record Show: A Political History of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power New York (ACT UP, New York 1987–1993) was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2021, and was a finalist for both the 2019 and 2020 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for Works-In-Progress[23][24] and for the 2022 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. It won a special award from the Publishing Triangle, won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction, and was awarded a prize by The National Organization of LGBT Journalists. It was a New York Times Notable Book of 2021. Cleveland Review of Books said it combines "acute political and social analysis with in-depth portraits of human beings."[25]


Schulman's activism began in her childhood when she protested the Vietnam War with her mother.[26] Later, Schulman was active in the Women's Union while being a student at the University of Chicago from 1976 to 1978. From 1979 to 1982, Schulman was a member of The Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse (CARASA)[27] 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 was an active member of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power from 1987 to 1992, attending actions at the FDA, NIH, Stop the Church, and was arrested when ACT UP occupied Grand Central Station protesting the First Gulf War.[28]

In 1987, Schulman and filmmaker Jim Hubbard co-founded the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival, now called MIX NYC and is currently in its thirty-third year.[29]

In 1992, Schulman and five other women co-founded the Lesbian Avengers, a direct action organization.[30] 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 first Dyke March during the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, and sending groups of young organizers to Maine and Idaho to assist local fights against anti-gay ballot initiatives.[31]

Since 2001, Schulman and Jim Hubbard have been creating the ACT UP Oral History Project, interviewing 188 surviving members of ACT UP over 18 years. They produced a feature documentary, United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, which premiered at the Museum of Modern Art Gallery in the fall of 2010.[32] Harvard purchased the archive for their collection, while maintaining free access, and the funds were used to produce United in Anger.[33]

In 2009, Schulman declined an invitation to Tel Aviv University in support of Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.[26] She is on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace and is faculty advisor to Students for Justice in Palestine at the College of Staten Island. She is also on the board of RAIA (Researching the American/Israeli Alliance).[citation needed] In 2011, she published an Op-ed in The New York Times on Pinkwashing, a term coined earlier by Ali Abunimah to describe how the Israeli government uses LGBT rights in its public relations.[34][35]

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.[36]

While employed as a university professor Schulman continued to teach and mentor writers through a number of community based initiatives including the Lambda Literary Foundation, Queer Artists Mentorship, An independent workshop for trans women writers sponsored by Topside Press, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a number of workshops run out of her apartment before the onset of Covid. She curates First Mondays at Performance Space New York: Free Readings Of New Works In Progress, held on the first Monday of each month.[37]

In 2017, she joined the advisory board of Claudia Rankine's Racial Imaginary Institute.[38]


From 1979 to 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, P.S. 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.[39] Schulman was admitted into the Sundance Theater Lab in 2001 with the play Carson McCullers, based on the life of the 20th century writer. 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,[40] 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.[41] It later had a New York reading at the New York Theatre Workshop, directed by Jo Bonney.

In 2018, her play Between Covers was included in the New Stages Festival at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, her play Roe Versus Wade had a reading at the New York Theatre Workshop and she was commissioned by BMG and The Manchester Factory to write the book for The Snow Queen, a theatrical work highlighting the music of Marianne Faithfull.[42]

In the summer of 2022 her play THE LADY HAMLET had its world premiere at The Provincetown Theater directed by David Drake and opened to universally ecstatic reviews. The cast was: Jennifer Van Dyck, Kate Levy, Anne Stott, Laura Scribner, Jon Shuman, Peter Toto.


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.[43] The film had its world premiere at the 60th 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.[44]

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 on February 16, 2012.[45] The film's international premiere was in Ramallah, Palestine.[citation needed] It won Best Documentary at both MIX Milan and ReelQ in Pittsburgh.[45]

Schulman played filmmaker Shirley Clarke to Jack Waters' Jason Holliday in Stephen Winter's response to Clarke's 1967 documentary 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.[46]

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)[47]
  • After Delores (1988)
  • Girls, Visions and Everything (1986)
  • The Sophie Horowitz Story (1984)



  • Published:
    • Mercy (2009) (published in a shared volume with Robert Glück by Belladonna)
    • Carson McCullers (2003) (published by Playscripts Inc., 2006)
  • Produced:


Honors and awards[edit]

2022 The Ann Snitow Prize

  • 2022 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, Finalist, for Let the Record Show[58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baker, Peter C (September 21, 2017). "An Out-of-Print Novel about Gay Activism with a Trump Stand-In as Its Villain". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  2. ^ "The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  3. ^ "2022 Winners". Lambda Literary. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  4. ^ "Hunter College High School Alumnae/i Association". Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Stein, Mary (July 7, 2017). "Sarah Schulman 1958-Today". Womens Activism NYC. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  6. ^ a b College of Staten Island. "Sarah Schulman bio". Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  7. ^ Ivanchikova, Alla (2006). "Freedom, Feminity, Danger: The Paradoxes of a Lesbian Flaneur in Sarah Schulman's Girls, Visions and Everything" (PDF). AMERICAN@. Vol. IV, no. 1. United States. p. 6. ISSN 1695-7814. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  8. ^ Dybska, Aneta. "Gentrification and Lesbian Subcultures in Sarah Schulman's Girls, Visions and Everything" (PDF). American Studies Association. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  9. ^ Friedman, Kinky (1998-05-15), "She Considered Boys for about 5 Minutes", The New York Times, retrieved 2007-09-02
  10. ^ "After Delores" (PDF). Lambda Literary. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Stonewall Book Awards", American Library Association, retrieved 2007-09-02
  12. ^ "A Witness to Her Time". The New York Times. 28 January 1996. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  13. ^ "the 100 best lesbian and gay novels". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  14. ^ "The Cosmopolitans". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  15. ^ "Maggie Terry". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  16. ^ Thomas, June (2005-11-23), "Sarah Schulman: The lesbian writer Rent ripped off", Slate, retrieved 2007-09-02.
  17. ^ Green, Jesse (October 25, 2005). "Sarah Schulman softens her image". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
  18. ^ Schulman, Sarah (2009). Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences. ISBN 978-1595584809.
  19. ^ "22nd Annual Lambda Literary Awards". Lambda Literary. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  20. ^ The Gentrification of the Mind. University of California Press. September 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  21. ^ "Israel⁄Palestine and the Queer International". Duke University Press. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Two Award-Winning LGBT Writers Visit Antioch University Los Angeles". Culver City Times. 2016-02-18. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  23. ^ a b "Sarah Schulman". Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  24. ^ "Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation announce 2020 J. Anthony Lukas Prizes shortlist". Nieman. Harvard University. 2020-02-25. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  25. ^ "The Absolute Necessity of Direct Action: On Sarah Schulman's "Let the Record Show"". Cleveland Review of Books. Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ Cvetkovich, Ann (2003), An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures, Dyke University Press, p. 175, ISBN 0-8223-3088-1
  28. ^ America, P. E. N. (2017-06-19). "The PEN Ten with Sarah Schulman". PEN America. Retrieved 2019-04-12.
  29. ^ "Sarah Schulman | | CSI CUNY Website". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ Schulman, Sarah (1994), My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During The Reagan/Bush Years, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90852-3
  32. ^ Gabby (2012-07-09). ""United in Anger" Shares History of ACT UP Through Original Footage". Autostraddle. Retrieved 2021-03-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. ^ Hubbard, Jim (October 20, 2014). "United in Anger: A History of ACT UP". Harvard Film Archive. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  34. ^ Tziallas, Evangelos (2015). "The new 'Porn Wars': representing gay male sexuality in the Middle East". Psychology & Sexuality. 6 (1): 93–110. doi:10.1080/19419899.2014.983741. S2CID 145381763.
  35. ^ Ritchie, Jason (2015). "Pinkwashing, Homonationalism, and Israel-Palestine: The Conceits of Queer Theory and the Politics of the Ordinary: Pinkwashing, Homonationalism, and Israel-Palestine". Antipode. 47 (3): 616–634. doi:10.1111/anti.12100.
  36. ^ Schulman, Sarah (July 1995), "Gay marketeers - gay journalism", The Progressive, archived from the original on 2016-01-10, retrieved 2007-09-03.
  37. ^ BWW News Desk. "Performance Space New York Presents First Mondays: Readings Of New Works In Progress". Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  38. ^ a b "Sarah Schulman Receives 2018 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement". CSI Today. April 4, 2018. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  39. ^ "Biographies", ACT UP Oral History Project, retrieved 2007-09-02
  40. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2005-06-02), "Playwrights Horizons Will Stage Musical Grey Gardens, With Two Broadway Divas Among the Ruins", Playbill.
  41. ^ Kenneth, Jones (February 2, 2007). "Wilma Theater Brings Nobel Laureate's Enemies, A Love Story to Stage". Playbill. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  42. ^ Sycamore, Mattilda B.; Schulman, Sarah (2019-01-02). "The Future Is Coming, That's a Fact: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore and Sarah Schulman in Conversation". The Millions. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  43. ^ Dunye, Cheryl (2010-02-12), The Owls (Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller), Deak Evgenikos, Guinevere Turner, V. S. Brodie, Lisa Gornick, Parliament Film Collective, retrieved 2021-03-07
  44. ^ "Mommy is Coming". MUBI. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  45. ^ a b "United in Anger Homepage". Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  46. ^ "MoMa Presents: Stephen Winter's Jason and Shirley". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  47. ^ "Who's Afraid of Sarah Schulman?". The New York Times. 23 October 2005. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  48. ^ Stahl, Aviva (9 May 2017). "Trust in Instinct". The New Inquiry.
  49. ^ "2001 Foundation Program Areas: U.S. and Canadian Fellows", Guggenheim Fellowship, 2001, archived from the original on July 1, 2007, retrieved 2007-09-02.
  50. ^ a b c d e f "Sarah Schulman". Arsenal Pulp Press. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  51. ^ "U.S. Fulbright Online". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  52. ^ a b "New York Foundation for the Arts". Archived from the original on 2018-05-28. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  53. ^ "The Annual Kessler Award". CLAGS Center for LGBTQ Studies. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  54. ^ a b "Sarah Schulman-Distinguished Professor". College of Staten Island - The City University of New York. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  55. ^ "Sarah Schulman". English Department. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  56. ^ "Sarah Schulman". Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  57. ^ "Stonewall Book Awards List". Round Tables. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  58. ^ "Announcing the 2022 PEN America Literary Awards Finalists". PEN America. 2022-01-26. Retrieved 2022-02-01.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]