Sarah Schulman

Sarah Schulman
Sarah Schulman
Born July 28, 1958 (1958-07-28) (age 53)
New York City, United States
Occupation novelist, historian, playwright
Nationality American

Sarah Miriam Schulman (born 1958 in New York City) is an American novelist, historian and playwright. An early chronicler of the AIDS crisis, she wrote on AIDS and social issues, publishing in The Village Voice in the early 1980s,[citation needed] and writing the first piece on AIDS and the homeless, which appeared in The Nation.[citation needed] She is openly a lesbian.[1]




Sarah Schulman is the author of fifteen published or soon to be published works: nine novels, four nonfiction books, and a play.

Schulman's early novels were set in the artistic, bohemian, lesbian subculture of the Lower East Side of Manhattan.[citation needed] Books such as The Sophie Horowitz Story and Girls, Visions and Everything were published by small presses.[citation needed] After Delores was published by E. P. Dutton in 1988, and received a favorable review in The New York Times,[2] was translated into eight languages, and was awarded an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award in 1989.[3]

Schulman's subsequent novel, 1990's People in Trouble described the lives of AIDS activists.[citation needed] In 1992, Empathy was released, an experimental novel about lesbian existence. The 1995 novel Rat Bohemia was listed as one of the 100 best lesbian and gay novels by The Publishing Triangle.[citation needed] Her 1998 historical novel Shimmer was set in New York City during the McCarthy era and features a black male protagonist and a white lesbian protagonist.

An early nonfiction book was My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During The Reagan/Bush Years (Routledge, 1995) - a collection of journalism that begins before Reagan's election in 1980 and provides on-going coverage as the AIDS crisis began, includes some information about the early days of the AIDS crisis, which Schulman covered for a range of newspapers and magazines.

In her 1998 book Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America, which also won the Stonewall Book Award, Schulman shows that significant plot elements of the successful 1996 musical Rent were lifted from her 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.[4] However, both parties agree that Larson used her "settings, themes, characters, plot, and ideas" but that these are not copyrightable. Though a separate plagiarism charge brought by Rent's dramaturge was settled out of court, Schulman never sued, but critiqued in Stagestruck the way the musical depicted AIDS and gay people.[5]

In 1999 she completed her 8th novel, The Child, which was published by Carroll & Graf in 2007. One week after the novel appeared, Carroll & Graf was purchased by Perseus Books, and the imprint was folded.[6] The paperback edition of The Child was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in fall 2008 and nominated for the Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle Fiction Prize.[citation needed]

An anniversary critical edition of Empathy, with articles by Kevin Killian and John Weir, was published by Arsenal Pulp in 2007, followed by a new edition of Rat Bohemia in spring 2008, with a cover by Nan Goldin.[7]

In fall 2009, Arsenal Pulp published her ninth novel, The Mere Future, a futuristic dystopia about a New York City in which the only remaining career is marketing. The paperback appeared in Fall 2011.

That same month, The New Press published Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, which received widespread praise and appreciation and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. The paperback will appear in May 2012.

Her 15th book, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, was published by the University of California Press in February 2012.

A new nonfiction book Israel/Palestine and the Queer International will be published by Duke University Press in Fall 2012.

A novel, The Cosmopolitans, set in New York in 1958 is forthcoming.


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 CARASA (Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse)[8] and participated in a notorious act of early direct action, where she and five others (called The Women's Liberation Zap Action Brigade) disrupted an anti-abortion hearing in Congress that was being broadcast on live TV.[citation needed]

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

Also in 1987, Schulman joined ACT UP, and was an active member for five years. She participated in many small and key actions, including "Seize Control of the FDA", "Stop the Church", and "Storm the NIH", and participated in the founding of Housing Works. She was arrested during "The Day of Desperation" when ACT UP occupied Grand Central Station protesting the First Gulf War "Money for AIDS, Not for War."

In 1992, Schulman and five others co-founded the Lesbian Avengers, a direct action organization.[9] On her 1992 book tour for Empathy, Schulman visited gay bookstores in the South to start chapters. The organization's high points included sending groups of young organizers to Maine and Idaho to assist local fights against anti-gay ballot initiatives that were being funded by national right-wing organizations.[10] They also organized the first Dyke March, which is now an international tradition.[citation needed]

From the late 1980s through the early 1990s, Schulman was a principal organizer for the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization's efforts to march in the New York Saint Patrick's Day Parade. She was arrested five times, but never convicted. The organization collapsed, and to this day, Irish Gays and Lesbians are not allowed to march in the parade under their own banner.

Since 2001, Sarah and Jim Hubbard have been creating the ACT UP Oral History Project and are now producing a feature documentary, United in Anger: The History of ACT UP.[11]

In recognition of her contributions to her communities, Schulman was made a Revson Fellow for the Future of New York City at Columbia University and received a Stonewall Award for Contributions Improving the Lives of Lesbians and Gays in the United States.[citation needed] In 2009 Schulman was awarded the Kessler Prize for sustained contribution to LGBT Studies, given by CLAGS: The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University Graduate Center. Previous awardees include Judith Butler, Adrienne Rich and Monique Wittig. In 2009 she was also appointed to the Advisory Council of the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights and Social Movements.

In 2010, Schulman declined an invitation to Tel Aviv University in recognition of the requests of Israeli and Palestinian academics to support "boycott/divestment/sanctions" and instead went on a solidarity visit. She spoke in alternative venues in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Haifa, and was able to talk to Israeli and Palestinian LGBT audiences who oppose the occupation. On this trip she met leaders of two Palestinian Queer organizations: Aswat and alQaws, and organized a six city tour of the US for them, which took place February 1–20, 2011 featuring Haneen Maikay of alQaws: For Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, Ghadir of Aswat:Palestinian Lesbian Women and Sami from Palestinian Queers for Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions. In Spring, 2011 Sarah appeared on Laura Flanders GRIT TV with Omar Barghouti of Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in which he called for full LGBT rights in Palestinian society. She is currently organizing the first US LGBT delegation to Palestine for Winter 2012, the lead delegates are Dr Tim McCarthy of the Harvard Kennedy School and Dr Jasbir Puar of Rutgers University.


Off-Off-Broadway and the Downtown Arts Movement 1979-1994

Schulman has pursued an active career in the theater. 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. Collaborators included Robin Epstein and Dorothy Cantwell of More Fire! Productions, Jennifer Monson, Zeena Parkins, Scott Heron, Jennifer Miller, John Bernd, Susan Seizer, Mark Owen, Maggie Moore, Holiday Reinhorn, Melinda Wade, Bina Sharif, and Mark Ameen. 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.[12]

Off-Broadway and regional theater 1994-present

For two years Craig Lucas and Schulman developed a play version of The Child. It had many readings and workshops, but artistic directors objected to the content and the point of view, and the play was never produced.

She 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,[13] directed by Marion McClinton, starring Jenny Bacon with Rick Stear, Michi Barall, Leland Gantt, Barbara Eda-Young, Tim Hopper, Rosalyn Coleman. 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. Mercy had three readings with the actress Jessica Hecht at Rattlestick (directed by Michael Mayer), The Vineyard (directed by Jo Bonney) and at Women's Expressive Theater, and one reading at Michael Imperioli's Studio Dante with Elisabeth Marvel. It had a workshop in March 2009 with Jessica Hecht and Patrick Breen, directed by Rebecca Taichman and produced by Sasha Eden and Victoria Pettibone. Made in Korea had a workshop at the Cleveland Playhouse, directed by Seth Gordon, and a reading at New York Theater Workshop, directed by Leigh Silverman.

In 2001 Schulman won a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwrighting.[14] Through the efforts of actress Roberta Maxwell, Schulman won a commission from the La Jolla Playhouse to do the play The Burning Deck. By the time the Playhouse was ready to develop a workshop of the play, Maxwell was no longer available, and Diane Venora performed 28 public workshop performances in the summer of 2003. In 2009, the play had a reading at Primary Stages with Jennifer Van Dyke, Keith Randolph Smith, Miriam Schor, and Jesse Pennington. It has not yet received a world premiere.

In 2003, her play Conjugation had readings at Playwrights Horizons and Rattlestick theater, both directed by Michael Greif, the director of Rent. The play has not yet been produced.[citation needed]

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.

In collaboration with lyricist Michael Korie and composer Anthony Davis, Schulman has been developing her novel Shimmer for the musical stage. This project has been on-going for eight years. With significant support from the MacDowell Colony, the trio have been able to prepare full book/lyrics and score, and recorded a demo of six songs.

Schulman received the rights, wrote an adaptation, and received a world premiere for her version of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Enemies, a Love Story, which premiered at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia in February 2007, directed by Jiri Ziska, starring Elisabeth Rich, Morgan Spector, with Laura Flanagan, Katie Brazda, Barbara Spiegel, Bob Ari, Tom Teti. It most recently had a New York reading at New York Theater Workshop, directed by Jo Bonney, with Michael Stuhlbarg, Jessica Hecht, Miriam Schor, Lisa Joyce, and Lynn Cohen.

She is currently working on two new plays: Choice, about the plaintiff and the attorney in the Roe v. Wade case, and The Lady Hamlet - a 1920s backstage comedy about two great female stage divas competing to play the role of Hamlet on Broadway.


In fall 2009, Sarah and Cheryl Dunye wrote the screenplay for Cheryl's film The Owls, starring Guenivere Turner, Lisa Gornick, Cheryl Dunye, and V.S. Brodie. The film had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Panorama in January 2010. She and Cheryl then wrote an X-rated film Mommy Is Coming, which was produced in Germany by Jurgen Bruning and selected for the 2012 Berlinale. Their 3rd feature, Adventures in the 419, about Nigerian email scammers in Amsterdam, was developed at the Tribeca Film Festival Lab and then optioned by the DehneLima company - a Dutch/German co-production.

She is producer, with Jim Hubbard of a feature length documentary UNITED IN ANGER: A History of ACT UP, to premiere in Winter 2012.

Her first novel, The Sophie Horowitz Story, has been optioned for film and is being developed by Claude Mangold for a Swiss/German production.


Schulman is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island and a Fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University.

Published works


  • 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)


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)


^ a: Published in June 1999,[15] The Publishing Triangle's list of the 100 best lesbian and gay novels was selected by a panel of 14 gay and lesbian writers, including Schulman, Barbara Smith, Dorothy Allison, David Bergman, M.E. Kerr, Lillian Faderman, Samuel Delany, Christopher Bram, Michael Bronski, Jaime Manrique, Anthony Heilbut, Mariana Romo-Carmona, John Loughery, and Jenifer Levin.[16]


  1. ^ Schulman, Sarah (July, 1995), "Gay marketeers - gay journalism", The Progressive,, retrieved 2007-09-03 .
  2. ^ Friedman, Kinky (1998-05-15), "She Considered Boys for about 5 Minutes", The New York Times,, retrieved 2007-09-02 
  3. ^ "Stonewall Book Awards", American Library Association,, retrieved 2007-09-02 
  4. ^ Thomas, June (2005-11-23), "Sarah Schulman: The lesbian writer Rent ripped off", Slate,, retrieved 2007-09-02 .
  5. ^ Green, Jesse (October 25, 2005). "Sarah Schulman softens her image". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  6. ^ Milliot, Jim (2007-05-10), "Perseus Folds Two Imprints, Sells Another", Publishers Weekly, [dead link]
  7. ^ Abbott, Charlotte (2007-06-19), "Sunny words" (– Scholar search), The Advocate,, retrieved 2007-09-02 [dead link][dead link].
  8. ^ Cvetkovich, Ann (2003), An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures, Duke University Press, p. 175, ISBN 0822330881 
  9. ^ Hengen, Shannon Eileen (1998), Performing Gender and Comedy: Theories, Texts and Contexts, Studies in Humor and Gender, Williston, VT: Gordon and Breach, pp. 134, ISBN 9056995405, OCLC 40254126 
  10. ^ Schulman, Sarah (1994), My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During The Reagan/Bush Years, Routledge, ISBN 0415908523 
  11. ^ Which will have its world premiere in Winter, 2012. To date they have conducted 128 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 a feature documentary on ACT UP.Kerr, Ted (2008-09-11), "United In Anger: The History of The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power", Vue Weekly, 
  12. ^ "Biographies", ACT UP Oral History Project,, retrieved 2007-09-02 
  13. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2005-06-02), "Playwrights Horizons Will Stage Musical Grey Gardens, With Two Broadway Divas Among the Ruins", Playbill .
  14. ^ "2001 Foundation Program Areas: U.S. and Canadian Fellows", Guggenheim Fellowship, 2001, archived from the original on July 1, 2007,, retrieved 2007-09-02 .
  15. ^ "The 100 Best Gay and Lesbian Books Ever!". PlanetOut. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  16. ^ "the 100 best lesbian and gay novels", The Publishing Triangle,, retrieved 2007-09-02 

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