Debut author Vanda brings to you the hidden-in-plain-sight lives of gay men and lesbians in 1940s New York.
It’s 1941 and Alice Huffman, “Al,” comes from the potato fields of Long Island with her childhood friends to make it on the Broadway stage, only to find she has no talent. On the kids’ first day in New York City, they meet Maxwell P. Hartwell, III , a failed nightclub owner and former Broadway producer, who, according to Al, looks a little like Clark Gable. He invites them to a nightclub where Al hears Juliana, the glamorous, perpetually-on-the-brink-of stardom singer, for the first time. Al is immediately drawn to her. Max arranges for the two women to meet. Juliana and Max introduce Al into a world she never knew existed, one in which men wear frilly bathrobes and grass skirts and women wear suits and ties.
This novel is the first of a series of novels about the same characters living through successive decades of LGBT history.
I stood in Juliana’s line again. But this time I was mad. That’s why I hadn’t gone to her show. I thought seeing her show would soften me up and I didn’t want to be softened up. I wanted to be mad. A few girls in front of me giggled with their dates. When Juliana came to the door wearing a green dress with a pleated skirt gathered around the middle, all set to sign autographs, I jumped out of line. “Juliana. I gotta talk to you.”
“Do you?” she grinned. “Sorry, folks, but I seem to have a command performance.”
People laughed as they left the line, but I didn’t care. I had something to do and I was gonna do it. I marched into Juliana’s dressing room. “How could you do that to me?”
“What?” she asked.
“You kissed me.”
“You didn’t like it?”
“That’s beside the point. I’m a kid. Eighteen. And you’re, you’re… “Twenty-four.”
“Oh, damn, now I asked you your age and you’re not sposed to ask a woman her age.”
“Not where I come from. And I’m also not sposed to curse, but ’cause of you I just did.”
“You seem to have a lot of rules to follow.”
“No, I don’t! I left Hope House so I wouldn’t have rules. I don’t follow anybody’s rules anymore. But I said damn a minute ago so you see what you’re doing to me?”
“No.” She sat down at her vanity. “Tell me.”
“Well, you got me feeling things and what am I gonna do?”
“About what you did.”
“I don’t know. Do you want to come to my place and talk about it?” “No. You’re gonna…”
“I’m not going to do anything to you that you don’t want me to do.” She stood, pulling on her mink. “Shall we?”
As a playwright Vanda has received numerous honors, among them an Edward Albee Fellowship. Her play, Vile Affections, published by Original Works was a finalist for a National Lambda Award. Her play, Patient HM, which later became The Forgetting Curve, won the Pride Stage and Screen’s Women’s Playwriting Award and another play, Why’d Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe, won Celebration Theater’s (where Naked Boys Singing originated) Best New LGBT Play. Vile Affections played at the New York International Fringe Festival to sell-out audiences and was published by Original Works in 2008. The Forgetting Curve was produced in Boston in September 2014 and the producer has plans to bring it to New York.
Vanda’s non-fiction story, Jack, was published in Prairie Schooner in Summer 2011 and another non-fiction piece, Roger: Lost Between Philosophies, which appears in Pentimento was selected by New Millennium Writings for Honorable Mention from a submission pool of 1,300. Other short prose pieces have been or will be published in Sinister Wisdom, The Outrider Review and The Grub Street On-Line Journal.