‘Once Upon a Twin’

Deaf gay writer to discuss growing up in Ironwood

“Once Upon a Twin” is the focus of the U.P. Notable Book Club’s Sept. 8 author event held via Zoom. The book was written by Raymond Luczak. (Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association)

MARQUETTE — Mark Sept. 8 on your calendar if you want to learn more about growing up in Ironwood.

The U.P. Notable Book Club’s next author event will feature Raymond Luczak’s “Once Upon a Twin” at 7 p.m. that day via Zoom. The Crystal Falls Community District Library, in partnership with the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association, has scheduled author events with winners of the U.P. Notable Book List.

The 21st event with Luczak will center around his book, which the UPPAA called a “poignant retelling of growing up in Ironwood, Michigan in a family of nine as the only deaf person.”

The events are open to all U.P. residents free of charge. Contact Evelyn Gathu in advance at egathu@crystalfallslibrary.org 906-875-3344. The UPPAA recommends participant borrow a copy from a local library or purchase from a local bookseller in advance to fully enjoy the event.

UPPAA said Luczak is perhaps best known for his books, films and plays.

Raised in Ironwood, he was number seven in a family of nine children and lost much of his hearing due to double pneumonia at the age of 8 months.

After high school graduation, Luczak went on to Gallaudet University, in Washington, D.C., where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. in English, graduating magna cum laude. He learned American sign language and became involved with the deaf community, and won numerous scholarships in recognition of his writing, including the Ritz-Paris Hemingway Scholarship.

He took various writing courses at other schools in the area, which culminated in winning a place in the Jenny McKean Moore Fiction Workshop at the George Washington University.

In 1988, he moved to New York City. His play, “Snooty,” won first place in the New York Deaf Theater’s 1990 Samuel Edwards Deaf Playwrights Competition, and his essay, “Notes of a Deaf Gay Writer,” won acceptance as a cover story for Christopher Street magazine.

Soon after Alyson Publications, asked him to edit “Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader,” which, after its appearance in June 1993, eventually garnered two Lambda Literary Award finalist nominations for Best Lesbian and Gay Anthology, and Best Small Press Book.

In 2005, he relocated to Minneapolis where he continues to write, edit and publish.

Local author Deborah K. Frontiera wrote a review of “Once Upon a Twin” in the U.P. Book Review.

The introductory poem the book titled “9 months” sets the theme.

“The poet’s mother had a miscarriage,” Frontiera wrote. “But, she then discovered she was still pregnant, and when Raymond was delivered seven months later, at full term, the possibility that he had a twin becomes quite real. Looking back on all this as an adult, Luczak imagines what life might have been like had that twin lived.”

Luczak focused on “9 months” in a YouTube video.

“Research indicates a indicates a twin in the womb could miscarry, leaving behind its other half overlooked,” Luczak said, using sign language.

David Cummer voiced the words, which were subtitled.

In the 1960s, technology hadn’t existed to detect such a tiny baby, Luczak said.

“Up and down Oak Street where I once roamed, the trees are mostly gone but the shadow of my other half still runs a mean yellow stripe right through the road of my life,” he said.

One section includes poetic versions of what the poet’s childhood was like — “a very difficult one since he is deaf and fairly early in his life realizes he is also gay,” Frontiera wrote. Another section lets readers know in “Own Voice” things we might never even consider about the life of a deaf child: hiding his huge body hearing aids — which were strapped to his chest — and seeing people obviously whispering about him and not knowing what was being said.

“Emotion runs deep in the poems as memories reveal a deaf boy simply trying to find his place in a hearing world,” Frontiera said. “We feel what he goes through daily in ‘the tiniest snakes,’ as the wires of his body hearing aid inside his shirt move down his chest. The words run down the page in the shape of the wires.

“Other stream-of-consciousness poems bring out what Luczak saw as hypocrisy in the church, the smoke of rising incense the symbol of many bad memories like resentment of not being allowed to use sign language while being laughed at over his ‘gravely speech.'”

Frontiera said the final poem, “double helix kyrie,” is especially challenging.

“One can read it three different ways: plain print alone, italics alone or running across both as the words intertwine, run back and forth, in and out, symbolic of DNA structure,” she said. “It’s a grand finale to be contemplated over and over for its many different meanings and messages.”

More information about the U.P. Notable Book list, U.P. Book Review and UPPAA can be found on www.UPNotable.com

The UPPAA was established in 1998 to support authors and publishers who live in or write about the U.P. The UPPAA is a Michigan nonprofit association with more than 100 members, many of whose books are featured on the organization’s website at www.uppaa.org. UPPAA welcomes membership and participation from anyone with a U.P. connection who is interested in writing.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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