A Connoisseur of Wanderlust

Big Trips: More Good Gay Travel Writing by Raphael Kadushin

Big Trips: More Good Gay Travel Writing by Raphael Kadushin

Raphael Kadushin of Madison’s own UW Press has edited a wonderful new collection of gay travel writing, Big Trips: More Good Gay Travel Writing. Released by UW Press, the volume collects some of the very best of the genre. Mr. Kadushin granted Our Lives an interview to discuss his book and the work of UW Press to bring LGBT literature to bookshelves.

What was your vision for this collection?

I wanted to offer an exciting world trip for people who love to travel. I’m really happy at just the range of places visited; from Egypt to Morocco, Paris, Prague, Sicily, Provincetown, San Francisco, Yorkshire, the Greek islands, northern Spain, rural France and Mexico. I also wanted to reclaim the classic travel narrative, the kind that tells a story and evokes a real sense of place. The contributors, among our best writers writing today, definitely did that.

You state that gays may be natural travel writers by virtue of being outsiders. Could you explain this idea?

Well growing up gay still—even today—means that even your hometown is a slightly foreign, unforgiving country. And that in turn means every queer kid becomes a patient ethnographer who has to read his culture closely and decode the most subtle social signs, like a seasoned traveler, if he is going to stay safe. Most gay men and women are really born travelers, and adept ones.

Why have you included fiction in this collection?

Because so much travel writing is really a form of fiction; you don’t know much about a place after a week or two so you’re always projecting your own fictions onto a place when you travel.

The anthology is divided into two sections, “Going Out” and “Coming Back.” Could you explain your vision for this structure?

Travel writing tends to fall into two natural camps. The Going Out pieces focus on the great sense of wanderlust and adventure that young, fresh travelers feel when they fling themselves out into the world. And the Coming Back stories focus on the need for stability, some sense of home, that the seasoned traveler feels.

Are there a couple of pieces in particular on which you would like to comment? I really like them all.

Edmund White’s story, about an American writer living in Paris, romantically involved with both a Frenchman and another American ex-pat, is a beautiful double-decker travel story that winds up in Morocco. Duncan Fallowell’s piece about a British man’s flirtation with a Sicilian waiter is very funny and sensual. And Mack Friedman’s story about a boy traveling with the ashes of his mom, returning to Mexico, where they vacationed together, is heart-breaking.

Raphael, as the senior acquisitions editor for UW Press, you’ve been breaking new ground in the field of LGBT literature. Of which of these works are you most proud of having brought to publication?

There are so many it’s hard to single out any one. But I’m proud that so many of them have been so visible and made such a national and even global impact. Gad Beck’s An Underground Life was one of the first memoirs of a gay Jew in Nazi Germany. Will Fellows’ Farm Boys is a ground-breaking oral history of gay men growing up on Midwestern farms. Leslea Newman’s A Letter to Harvey Milk is a very timely homage to Milk. Rigoberto Gonzalez’s Butterfly Boy, one of the best memoirs by a gay Chicano man, won an American Book Award last year. It goes on and on, fortunately.