Donna Minkowitz, a Lambda Literary Award and GLAAD Media Award winner, has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an out lesbian journalist. It was Minkowitz' who first reported on Brandon Teena, a transman who was murdered in Lincoln Nebraska when his friends realized that he had been born a biological female. Minkowitz's story about Teena in the Village Voice inspired the acclaimed biopic "Boys Don't Cry" (1999), in which Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her courageous portrayal of Teena.
At the time, little was known about the transgender community. Trans people were just beginning to ask for their place at the table, and many other LGBT people were not yet familiar with proper, respectful transgender vernacular.
"Transgender activists were upset with me," Minkowitz told SFGN via telephone from the home in New York where she lives with her wife. "I now understand why. I did not understand a lot about transgender people when I wrote that story, so I wrote a lot of things that were insensitive. I did a lot of misgendering. I wasn't sure whether to think of him as a transman or a lesbian. I'd like to apologize to the transgender community."
In addition to the Village Voice, Minkowitz's work has appeared in The Advocate, The Nation, Ms., and New York Magazine, among others.
Minkowitz is now promoting her magic infused memoir "Growing Up Golem: How I survived My Mother, Brooklyn and Some Really Weird Dates", which is written as though she were a Golem.
Golems are the clay figures which were built and brought to life centuries ago by Eastern European rabbis. The Golem legends are now part of Jewish folklore--the creatures were made in order to protect the Jewish people from those who wanted to harm them.
"I have always loved fantasy and science fiction," she said. "I think a memoir is a work of art about a person's life and not a history. A memoir should convey how a person feels about their life."
A big portion of the book deals with Minkowitz' relationship with her mom. "My mother had so much power over us," the author recalled. "She had emotional power and got us to do whatever she wanted. It was intense and scary to grow up with, but I loved her. There were many appealing things about her. She was political, a feminist and a Marxist. She raised us to be Marxists."
But there were problems which arose. "She told us that we were smart and better than everyone else," Minkowitz said. "This was not helpful to grow up with."
In "Growing Up Golem,” Minkowitz recalls her somewhat strange childhood, and her coming of age as a lesbian journalist at the Village Voice. She often reported on difficult topics, such as a piece which explored the emotions of Matthew Shepard's killers. Shepard's gay bashing and death at age 22 in 1998 drew national media attention and led to the signing of expanded anti-hate crimes legislation, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009.
"People don't want to think about the emotions of the killers," Minkowitz said. "I didn't want to excuse the killers. I wanted to explore how we can raise people not to beat and kill people they're threatened by."
"Growing Up Golem" touches upon many intense topics, including physical abuse. The author feels that wrapping these issues in a quasi-fantasy context makes her story more palatable for readers. "It's easier for the readers to put down their barriers when there's a fantasy coating," Minkowitz said. "It makes it easier for the reader to run away with it."
Minkowitz, who wants to branch out and write in the science fiction genre, was thrilled when noted sci-fi author Terry Bisson contributed Golem's cover blurb. She'll no doubt be beaming proudly as she promotes the book.