Set against a backdrop of 1950s New York, this experimental novel follows an ensemble cast of all-singing, all-dancing butch dykes and Yiddish anarchists through eternal Friday nights, around the table, and at the bar.
In one of many bars, Frankie Gold sings while Sammy Silver plays piano after a day job at the anarchist newspaper. The Butch Piano Players Union meets in the corner next to the jukebox. Laur smokes on the back steps, sweaty thigh to thigh with Vic. Frankie's childhood sweetheart, Lily, turns up at yet another bar to see a second Sammy play every Friday night. And before all that, there's always dinner at Marg's. Fabulated out of oral histories, anthologies, as well as the fiction of the butch-femme bar scene and Yiddish anarchist tradition, Greasepaint is a rollicking whirlwind of music and politics--the currents of community embodied and held inside the bar.
"Greasepaint stages a butch past that feels like it should be a future; and a version of New York that should be a galaxy. What’s more, the novel lends itself to playing ‘pick your favourite character’ with your gay friends like it were a boy band; and yet, it sings better. Levene is a talent to reckon with." -Isabel Waidner, author of Corey Fah Does Social Mobility
“New York finally has its Nightwood – or more Nightchrome, a dazzling, finger-snapping hymn to bar butches in black jeans and leather jackets with anarchist newsletters tucked in their back pockets. Greasepaint will WOW you with its catchy attunement to the complex popping rhythms of performing our rainbowed genders in a world that sees in monochrome, singing the songs we make ours by how we say ‘baby,’ to our own selves keeping kosher even when we’ve had to leave. If you’ve ever longed to eat a pink, pink Reuben while critiquing Gershwin’s racial appropriations, with Greasepaint, baby, you’re home” -So Mayer, author of Truth & Dare
"Reading Greasepaint is like entering an old school dyke bar: the dark swirl of conversation, jokes, sass, anarchists, communists, butches and more butches. Turns of phrase have a sexy glint and a little strut. “Harry made the girls melt like tears into a pillow.” And what about Vic? She’s so butch the steak is hard to swallow. This isn’t a sentimental book. The oppression is severe. One character reflects, maybe she’s dead and this is hell, though sometimes it feels like heaven. I’m left with a sexy glee and sheer vitality blasted from the past. It’s absolutely refreshing." -Camille Roy, author or Honey Mine
Hannah Levene lives in Norfolk, UK. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Roehampton University, focusing on the composition of new butch literature. Greasepaint is her debut novel.
Ariel Goldberg is a writer, curator, and educator. They are a proud member of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Eliot Duncan's debut novel Ponyboy (Norton and Footnote) came out in June and is the first book with a trans protagonist to be nominated for the National Book Award. He's a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop where he was a Truman Capote fellow. He loves you in every tense.
Naomi Extra is a poet, writer, scholar, and cartoonist. In both her creative and scholarly work, she explores the themes of agency and pleasure in the lives of black women and girls. You can find her work in places like the Boston Review, Zora, the New Yorker, The Lily, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at Rutgers University, Newark.
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