A poetic memoir about coming-of-age in the AIDS era, and its effects on life and art.
"Sneed is an acclaimed reader of her own poetry, and the book has the feeling of live performance. . . . Its strength is in its abundance, its desire for language to stir body as well as mind."—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review
"She is a writer for the future, in that she defies genre."—Hilton Als
"This notable achievement, traveling from youth to adulthood, is a harrowing account of how Sneed transforms violence and pain into an artist's life."—Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric
In this collection of personal essays and poetry, acclaimed poet and performer Pamela Sneed details her coming of age in New York City during the late 1980s. Funeral Diva captures the impact of AIDS on Black Queer life, and highlights the enduring bonds between the living, the dying, and the dead. Sneed’s poems not only converse with lovers past and present, but also with her literary forebears—like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde—whose aesthetic and thematic investments she renews for a contemporary American landscape.
Offering critical focus on matters from police brutality to LGBTQ+ rights, Funeral Diva confronts today's most pressing issues with acerbic wit and audacity. The collection closes with Sneed's reflections on the two pandemics of her time, AIDS and COVID-19, and the disproportionate impact of each on African American communities.
"Riveting, personal, open-hearted, risky and wise."—Sarah Schulman, author of Conflict Is Not Abuse
" . . . a tour de force about the collision between a coalescing 1980s 'Black lesbian and gay literary and poetic movement' in New York and the onslaught of AIDS."—Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Pamela Sneed's Funeral Diva is deft, defiant, and devastating."—Tommy Pico, author of Feed
"Funeral Diva is urgent and necessary reading to live by. This is writing at its finest. Keep this book close to your heart and soul."—Karen Finley, author of Shock Treatment
"Reminiscent of Audre Lorde’s Zami, Pamela Sneed’s memoir is, in itself, a healing balm, affirming in its truths and honesty. I cannot remember ever reading a book that illustrates the impact of the AIDS epidemic on our community more poignantly than Funeral Diva."—Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Patsy
"Pamela Sneed takes enormous risks in this book. She tells the truth with fierce concentration and an abiding sense of purpose.”—Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
"Funeral Diva is the tome for our awakening and for our survival."—Erica Cardwell, writer, critic, and educator