For Immediate Release—Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Mary E. McCrank
Media Relations Officer
GENESEO, N.Y.—Black British novelist, playwright and non fiction writer Valerie Mason-John, who also goes by the moniker "Queenie," will perform at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, in Sturges Auditorium at the State University of New York at Geneseo.
Mason-John has worked as a writer throughout her professional career. She began as an international correspondent, covering stories such as the Australian Aboriginal land rights issue to interviews with Sinn Fein prisoners in Mugulberry Prison in Northern Ireland.
Retrained in mime and physical theater, Mason-John began writing and performing for the stage. Achieving several box office successes, she performed throughout London including the renowned Young Vic Theater. She served as the artistic director of the London Mardi Gras Arts Festival; was the last promoter of the biggest women-only nightclub at the notorious Fridge in London; and took over the Lesbian Alternative Beauty Contest, making it a national event in 1999. Also a performance poet and TV personality, Mason-John also won a Windrush Achievement Award for her contribution to the black British community and was named by the national media as one of Britain's Black Gay Icons and most adventurous performers.
Mason-John's debut novel, "Borrowed Body," won first prize in the Mind Book of the Year 2006. The prestigious award, presented by the mental health charity Mind and now in its 25th year, celebrates writing that furthers public understanding of mental or emotional distress in all its forms.
Geneseo students in Associate Professor of English Maria Lima's "Black British Literature and Culture" class are reading Mason-John's novel and will meet with the writer while she visits the campus.
In the 2005 "Borrowed Body," Mason-John blends magic realism with fictional memoir. The novel's protagonist, Pauline, is a young black girl growing up in white foster homes and orphanages who is later reclaimed by her African-born mother, who wants to reinvent her into a dutiful African child. In the book, Pauline is faced with some of the painful memories of African slavery, hundreds of years ago. Past lives, spirits and imaginary friends are all woven into this feisty account.
Mason-John lived with a white foster mother until she was 4, when she was placed in Bernardo's Orphanage, which is featured in the novel. Raised by a Polish housefather and an English housemother, at 14 she began living on the streets. Her book is frightfully realistic about growing up "in care" and being a "colored" child in the system. The issues it touches on will speak to anyone who remembers their own childhood and the pains of growing up.
She also is the author of "Detox Your Heart," a self-help book exploring ways of working with anger, fear and hatred; and "Brown Girl in the Ring," a collection of prose, poetry, monologues and a play which illustrates some of her experiences from the mid-'80s to the early '90s living in London. Mason-John also is author of "Making Black Waves" and "Talking Black," the first two books to document the lives of African/Caribbean/Asian lesbian culture in Britain.
A Buddhist meditator, Mason-John also is a trainer in anger management, conflict resolution and self-development. She was also part of a team of trainers who designed an anger management program for schools in England.
Mason-John's performance is sponsored by the Geneseo Pride Alliance and is partly funded by Poets & Writers [New York State Council on the Arts] and the college's English department.
The Geneseo Pride Alliance will offer and participate in other events throughout April as part of a nationwide celebration of gay pride on college and university campuses. On April 13, the organization will hold a Drag Ball featuring performances by three drag queens and a drag king from 9 p.m. to midnight in the Knight Spot. Advance tickets are $5 and go on sale April 9 in the MacVittie College Union. Tickets at the door will be $6.
On April 18, the 11th Annual National Day of Silence, Pride Alliance members will attend the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley's ceremony at its youth center in Rochester.
For more about Mason-John's visit, call Irene Belyakov, faculty advisor of the Pride Alliance, at (585) 245-5241 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Mason-John's work, go to: http://www.valeriemason-john.co.uk.