Congratulations to 2023 University of Michigan Press Book Award Winner Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes!

By: Danielle Coty-Fattal | Date: September 14, 2023 | Tags: University of Michigan Press Book Award, UMP Book Award
Text 2023 University of Michigan Press Book Award Winner with the book cover of Translocas

The University of Michigan Press is excited to announce that the 2023 University of Michigan Press Book Award has been awarded to Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes for his book Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance!

In explaining the decision for the award, Charles Watkinson, Associate University Librarian for Publishing and Director of the University of Michigan Press wrote, “Professor La Fountain-Stokes's study of drag and transgender performance and activism in Puerto Rico and its diaspora is exceptional. La Fountain-Stokes is a drag performer himself and brings autobiographical insights to this ethnography of performers who help us rethink how gender as a construct is powerfully interconnected with other aspects of identity, including race, class, and national identity. While the focus is on the Puerto Rican community, the book informs our larger understanding of the representation of transgenderism and is a vital work for understanding why a commitment to supporting drag performance queens - rather than attempting to cancel drag queens' public presence - must be an essential act for any of us who believe in freedom of expression and identity." The book will be honored at the annual University of Michigan Faculty Awards dinner.


About the Book:

Translocas focuses on drag and transgender performance and activism in Puerto Rico and its diaspora. Arguing for its political potential, Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes explores the social and cultural disruptions caused by Latin American and Latinx “locas” (effeminate men, drag queens, transgender performers, and unruly women) and the various forms of violence to which queer individuals in Puerto Rico and the U.S. are subjected. This interdisciplinary, auto-ethnographic, queer-of-color performance studies book explores the lives and work of contemporary performers and activists including Sylvia Rivera, Nina Flowers, Freddie Mercado, Javier Cardona, Jorge Merced, Erika Lopez, Holly Woodlawn, Monica Beverly Hillz, Lady Catiria, and Barbra Herr; television programs such as RuPaul’s Drag Race; films such as Paris Is Burning, The Salt Mines, and Mala Mala; and literary works by authors such as Mayra Santos-Febres and Manuel Ramos Otero. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, a drag performer himself, demonstrates how each destabilizes (and sometimes reifies) dominant notions of gender and sexuality through drag and their embodied transgender expression. These performances provide a means to explore and critique issues of race, class, poverty, national identity, and migratory displacement while they posit a relationship between audiences and performers that has a ritual-like, communal dimension. The book also analyzes the murders of Jorge Steven López Mercado and Kevin Fret in Puerto Rico, and invites readers to challenge, question, and expand their knowledge about queer life, drag, trans performance, and Puerto Rican identity in the Caribbean and the diaspora. The author also pays careful attention to transgender experience, highlighting how trans activists and performers mold their bodies, promote social change, and create community in a context that oscillates between glamour and abjection.

About the Author:

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is Professor of American Culture, Romance Languages and Literatures, and Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan.

About the University of Michigan Press Book Award:

In 1965, President Harlan Hatcher announced the establishment of an annual University of Michigan Press Book Award. The award is presented to a member of the teaching and research staff (including emeritus members) of the University of Michigan whose book, published by the University of Michigan Press, has added the greatest distinction to the Press List. The cash value of the award is $1,500, and is apart from any royalties that may be earned. The selection is made from books published within a span of two calendar years. This year’s award was selected from books published between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022. Judges for the award are members of the Executive Committee of the University Press, the faculty board which controls the imprint of the Press. More information about previous award winners can be found here.