In The Lonely Letters (Duke UP, 2020), A tells Moth: “Writing about and thinking with joy is what sustains me, daily. It nourishes me. I do not write about joy primarily because I always have it. I write about joy, Black joy, because I want to generate it, I want it to emerge, I want to participate in its constant unfolding.” But alongside joy, A admits to Moth, come loneliness, exclusion, and unfulfilled desire. The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world in which Ashon T. Crawley—writing as A—meditates on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the Black church, theology, mysticism, and love. Throughout his letters, A explores blackness and queerness in the musical and embodied experience of Blackpentecostal spaces and the potential for platonic and erotic connection in a world that conspires against blackqueer life. Both a rigorous study and a performance, The Lonely Letters gestures toward understanding the capacity for what we study to work on us, to transform us, and to change how we inhabit the world.
Ashon T. Crawley is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and African American Studies at the University of Virginia and author of Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility.
John Marszalek III is author of Coming Out of the Magnolia Closet: Same-Sex Couples in Mississippi (2020, University Press of Mississippi). He is clinical faculty of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Southern New Hampshire University.