Anne Balay's SEMI QUEER
Join us for a reading and discussion of Anne Balay's SEMI QUEER: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers!
Long-haul trucking is linked to almost every industry in America, yet somehow the working-class drivers behind big rigs remain largely hidden from public view. Gritty, inspiring, and often devastating oral histories of gay, transsexual, and minority truck drivers allow award-winning author Anne Balay to shed new light on the harsh realities of truckers' lives behind the wheel. A licensed commercial truck driver herself, Balay discovers that, for people routinely subjected to prejudice, hatred, and violence in their hometowns and in the job market, trucking can provide an opportunity for safety, welcome isolation, and a chance to be themselves--even as the low-wage work is fraught with tightening regulations, constant surveillance, danger, and exploitation. The narratives of minority and queer truckers underscore the working-class struggle to earn a living while preserving one's safety, dignity, and selfhood.
Through the voices of drivers who spend eleven- to fourteen-hour days hauling America's commodities in treacherous weather and across mountain passes, Semi Queer allows truckers from marginalized communities to speak for themselves, revealing stark differences between the trucking industry's crushing labor practices and the perseverance of its most at-risk workers.
Praise for Semi Queer
"Anne Balay has done it again! Like Steel Closets, Semi-Queer offers an ethnographically rich, historically grounded investigation of working-class sexuality, gender, and race in the contemporary United States. Trucking, like steel production, is an industry undergoing profound restructuring, and the stories Balay tells of people already marginalized by their bodies and identities finding ways to navigate these emerging conditions of everyday life are a revelation."
--Susan Stryker, University of Arizona
"A powerfully compelling ethnography of trans, gay, and black truck drivers and the complex world they inhabit. Anne Balay paints a vivid picture of the everyday lives of working-class queer and black people, highlighting their astute analyses of their own lives. Semi Queer is a must-read indeed!"
--Marlon M. Bailey, author of Butch Queens Up in Pumps
Anne Balay graduated with a PhD from the University of Chicago, after which she promptly became a car mechanic. Though in subsequent years she returned to academia as a professor both at the University of Illinois and Indiana University Northwest, she never lost her interest in blue collar work environments. Dr. Balay moved to Gary, Indiana to teach, and was immidiately interested in the steel industry of the region. Her coworker and mentor, Jimbo Lane, suggested that she would be perfectly suited to meeting with and writing about the LGBT workers within the mill community, and Steel Closets was born. Anne then attended commercial truck driving school, got her CDL, and drove over the road. Oral histories of truck drivers she did in 2015/16 have led to her new book Semi Queer. Anne is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College.
She has two children, who are beaming lights of joy.