Biographical writing

Contents

Introduction

Project ideas

  1. Childhood in Michigan.
  2. Life on the road.
  3. Relationship with Tyria Moore.
  4. Murders.
  5. Media Circus.
  6. Prison Days.
  • Childhood trauma
  • Hitchhiking hooking
  • Relationships / Sexuality

Sources

  • Long Story
  • Short Story

Reading

  • Survivors who kill
  • Sexual Politics
  • Co-authored Autobiographies

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I have a passion for nonfiction writing and researching, sometimes I go overboard researching because I enjoy it so much, at the moment I’m on sexual assault, domestic violence and childhood trauma.

I’d like to write creative nonfiction on Aileen Wuornos younger years, of surviving her brutal childhood, she lived such a traumatised life, her coping mechanism was to face the world head on.

The main source I’d like to work from are Aileen Wuornos prison letters, I’ve churned a stack of letters into a timeline of memories, that I’d like to include as quotes.

There are so many interesting quirks about Aileen’s character that I enjoy. The way she likes patterns and is constantly dreaming about her place in time, how the past connects to the future, there are also darker realities like her use of fantasy as a defence mechanism, and alcoholic escapism in her death drive.

There are a few simple recurring ideas throughout the letters; I imagine this has to do with her being on death row. When someone is motionless, simply reciting stories at the end of their life with no agency to think about how they could plan to go about situations differently, it is somewhat calming and freeing, because the anxiety is diminished, you can transcend the emotion of a situation. But at the same time I was left feeling like her character had no recourse to learn anymore, so I had to scrap a timeline based on personal growth or movement.

So  I can see the project going in 2 directions

1. Create narrative nonfiction to fill in the gaps of an unfinished autobiography, attempting to combine autobiography with biography, walking a fine line between nonfiction and real person/historical fiction.

In this scenario I’d stick to a strict timeline and probably release it as a zine series, the first being her childhood in Michigan. 2. Life on the road. 3. Relationship with Tyria Moore. 4. Murders. 5. Media Circus. 6. Prison Days.

or

2. Commentary on behaviour in terms of social and cultural factors; her experiments with community, the symbolic and visceral challenges she posed to the dominant culture and 2nd wave feminism.

Split into three topics:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Hitchhiking hooking
  • Relationships / Sexuality

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Childhood trauma

(click image to expand + zoom in)

childhood trauma

Hitchhiking hooking

Sex Work – click to download

  • Standards
  • She works hard for the money
  • Hooking as a way to get warm and showered
  • ‘I loved taken you there and getting some with that hooker money I made.’
  • ‘75¢ an hour. . . to 50 bucks for sex. And that did it for the slavery job’
  • Brothers attempt to buy her off the road
  • the discreetness of hitchhiking hooking
  • the beach – natural looking hooking
  • Cop stories
  • Transcript of interview with Nick Broomfield
  • ‘Even though I became a pro in being a prostitute . . . I still believed on the Road anyway’
  • ‘I’m guilty of shedding there blood. Unwillingly. But then they are to. For being crooked and forcing a human life to run scared. And do such to survive. hook’
  • good girl gone bad
  • Commenting on current news

Relationships / Sexuality

(click to expand + zoom in)

Relationships

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Sources

Long Story

Unfinished Autobiography of Aileen Wuornos

Dear Dawn, Aileen Wuornos in her own words

Life and Death of a serial killer and The Selling of a Serial Killer; Directed by Nick Broomfield & Joan Churchill, Produced by Jo Human, Written by Nick Broomfield

Lethal Intent

Self Defense, or death of some salesmen by Carson Kreitzer

The Aileen Wuornos Opera!

Short Story

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Reading

Survivors who kill

0 emma humThe Map of My Life: The Story of Emma Humphreys

This book is the story of a woman who survived the most horrific childhood to become a feminist icon who literally changed the law in favour of abused women who kill violent men. Prostituted aged 12 after years of enduring her stepfather’s violence, she kills her pimp and serves 10 years for his murder. Eventually freed with the help of women’s activists, she helped change the attitude of a nation. Told through her own writings, discovered after her death, and the words of feminist friends and campaigners, this book is a must for all those concerned with the epidemic of child abuse and violence towardswomen.

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selfdefense-lg.jpgSelf Defense, or death of some salesmen by Carson Kreitzer

*Read Sample Script*

Seven white men have been found dead along I-95 in Florida. A prostitute is arrested and charged with their murders. The police say she’s a serial killer. She claims seven separate acts of self-defense. Inspired by the true story of Aileen Wuornos, Self Defense, or death of some salesmen is a whirlwind seven acts in 95 minutes. The play is fast and furious, shocking and funny, and at its center, a portrait of a very complicated human being. She is complex, charismatic, dangerous, damaged, full of love and anger; above all else, she is alive. An investigation of capital punishment, destitution, violence against (and by) women, and whether a prostitute is considered a person under our justice system, Self Defense gives a long, hard look at an America most of us don’t want to admit exists.

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Dear Dawn: Aileen Wuornos in Her Own Words

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51eep3ppboL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_Lethal Intent

On November 30, 1989, in a lonely place off Florida’s Interstate 95, 51-year-old Richard Mallory shuddered under the impact of four .22-caliber slugs being pumped into him by a naked, hard-faced blonde hooker. While he suffered a slow, agonizing death, she stripped him of his valuables and drove his Cadillac back to the motel where her lesbian lover was waiting. In 1990, her killing spree kicked into high gear, with three men slain in as many weeks. Of the six of her seven male victims whose bodies were found, some were nude; all had been shot dead and robbed. In January, 1991, pawnshop records led to the arrest of Aileen Carol Wuornos, 34, aka ‘Lee’, an abusive, alcoholic man-hater with a murderous hairtrigger temper. Wuornos began prostituting herself at age 12 for cigarettes and beer. At 15 she bore an illegitimate child, at 16 she took to the highways as a hitchhiking hooker. In 1986, with a lengthy rap sheet and prison term under her belt, she entered into a relationship with Tyria Moore, 24. Tired of turning $20 tricks, Wuornos decided to rob her customers of everything they had – including their lives. Her arrest and trial prompted a worldwide media frenzy. Ultimately Wuornos received six separate death sentences. Here is the definitive account of a killer who confounded the profiling experts, forever changing their concepts of the crimes of which a woman is capable.

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Aileen_Life_and_Death_of_a_Serial_KillerLife and Death of a serial killer and The Selling of a Serial Killer; Directed by Nick Broomfield & Joan Churchill, Produced by Jo Human, Written by Nick Broomfield

I think this anger developed inside her. And she was working as a prostitute. I think she had a lot of awful encounters on the roads. And I think this anger just spilled out from inside her. And finally exploded. Into incredible violence. That was her way of surviving. I think Aileen 5163AFA1FPL._SY445_really believed that she had killed in self-defense. I think someone who’s deeply psychotic can’t really tell the difference between something that is life threatening and something that is a minor disagreement, that you could say something that she didn’t agree with. She would get into a screaming black temper about it. And I think that’s what had caused these things to happen. And at the same time, when she wasn’t in those extreme moods, there was an incredible humanity to her.

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wuornos.jpgSex, Death, and the Double Standard

In the article, Chesler maintains that Wuornos’s death sentences have everything to do with her fighting back as a prostitute in society, and deconstructs the ways in which misogyny has guaranteed Wuornos’s execution.

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AILEEN WUORNOS: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL by Christine Rogers

Women are overwhelmingly the victims of violence, but violent women are also narrated via the ‘victim’ discourse. The most socially acceptable for women, this discourse presents a unique challenge for feminists. Second-wave feminists politicised the violence done by men to women, arguing violence was not individual but social. They made problematic the link between violence and masculinity and helped lift the veil of silence that had kept domestic physical and sexual abuse off the political agenda (Brush, 2005; Brownmiller, 1975). They also questioned motive.

Anger had long been seen as a comprehensible motive for men killing but female anger was, as it continues to be, problematic. The challenge of how to exculpate women killing abusive husbands or partners was partially resolved by ‘Battered Wife Syndrome’. This discourse has reduced or suspended sentences for women, and public narratives about female victim-hood have become widespread (Pearson, 1997).

However the syndrome casts women as helpless and childlike. What can be seen as legitimate responses to situations are dismissed, and female defendants are seen to respond rather than take control. Women remain stereotyped as passive, helpless and irrational – all ‘acceptable’ female traits (Filetti, 2001; Comack & Brickey, 2007; Pearson, 1997). Indeed, the ‘victim’ discourse threatens to undo what we might wish to claim for the murdering women; her agency. Violent women themselves resist being cast solely as victims and claim agency and control over some, if not all, parts of their lives (Comack and Brickey, 2007; Heimer and Kruttschnitt, 2006). It may be more helpful to recognise that women are fundamentally disadvantaged under the patriarchy, but within these limits, choices can be, and are, made.

Court presents the violent woman with a last chance to reassert her ‘femaleness’. The psychological and social function of a trial is to re-establish order and to make the public feel that chaos is under control (Ballinger, 1996). If the violent woman can persuade the media, judge and jury that she is ‘victim’, then her subsequent treatment will reflect this much more acceptable discourse. The direct correlation between how closely a woman conforms to gender stereotypes, and her subsequent sentencing has been well documented (Chan, 2001; Hart, 1994; Filetti, 2001, Ballinger, 1996).

However, as Wuornos illustrates, women who remain unrepentant and claim their agency are severely punished

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The Trouble with Aileen Wuornos, Feminism’s “First Serial Killer”

Lesbian prostitute Aileen Wuornos was popularly termed “America’s first female serial killer.” Between 1989 and 1990, she killed six men, later testifying they had raped or attempted to rape her. By analyzing media coverage of Wuornos’ story, I argue that Wuornos’ incommensurability with available stories of women who kill illustrates the need to expand the rhetorical resources that make female violence and victimage intelligible. After demonstrating that Wuornos’ gender transgressions were disciplined into intelligible terms by understandings of criminality as an already spatial and gendered category, I conclude by discussing the “trouble” Wuornos poses to feminist and queer cultural politics.

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The ‘Monster’ in all of Us: When Victims Become Perpetrators by Abbe Smith

Fifth, there is simply the matter of a woman intentionally committing acts of violence. Aileen Wuornos killed a lot of men ‘one at a time, deliberately, and without much remorse. This is hard for feminists and victims’ rights advocates to comprehend. Wuornos has done something that women just do not do; women are not supposed to act like that.

It is a frightening prospect: women erupting in violence instead of enduring violence. For some reason it is easier to identify with being a victim than it is to contemplate being a perpetrator. We do not want to identify with Wuornos. It should not be so difficult to reconcile feelings for victims and feelings for perpetrators in view of what we know about the cycle of violence.

Why can feminists, battered women’s advocates, sexual assault victims’ advocates, and criminal defense lawyers not feel outrage at the offense but still muster some compassion for the offender? Why is it so hard to feel for both the abused and the accused?

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Predatory Prostitute

As an artist and queer sex worker, my community is at the very core of how and what I create. Critiquing the hegemonic through a self-reflective narrative, my work accepts and affirm my community’s humanity. The film, Predatory Prostitute is rooted in the compelling relationships sex workers have, both directly and indirectly, to the legacy of Aileen Wuornos. Demonized as a inverted prostitute serial killer or pitied as an child/animal-minded victim, her portrait hangs heavy.

The term “predatory prostitute” was coined by John Tanner the Florida state attorney who prosecuted Aileen Wuornos in 1992. A lesbian prostitute sentenced to death six times for seven murders, though she claimed self-defense. The media, the court, and the public condemned Wuornos with vigor. Told how dare she kill in the name of her own life. She refused to be a victim, and it was for that she had to die. In the film, I have used found footage to invert the common narratives around Aileen, creating an alternative framework by which we can view her actions and ourselves.

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An Awkward Silence Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System by Maryanne Pearce

Although rare, sex workers do occasionally kill or injure clients, generally due to disputes over payment or because the victim assaulted the sex worker. In Canada, “[b]etween 1991 and 1995, 18 prostitutes were implicated in the deaths of 10 clients, 1 pimp and 5 others.” The fear of sex workers victimizing clients became heightened after the case of Aileen Wuornos, known as the Florida Freeway Hooker, who murdered seven men in 1989. A study by U.S. researchers suggests that “[s]erial perpetrators may be as common in client homicide as in prostitute homicide. Thirty-seven percent (13/35) of client victims in the media sample were killed by serial perpetrators, and 15% (4/26) of perpetrators of client homicide had multiple victims.”

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Sexual Politics

ruptureRupture by Clementine Morrigan

Rupture is a collection of poetry, creative non-fiction, photography and visual art.“Rupture bravely captures the emotions of trauma, pleasure and recovery. This series of poems, divided into six parts, takes the reader through the author’s experiences of sexual violence, discovering her sense of self and relationships, and how she has started her journey toward healing. Although some of the poems are extremely difficult to read, Morrigan’s work serves as a way for others who are dealing with similar experiences to begin to articulate some of their own pain. In ‘divine responsibility’, Morrigan writes “self love is a divine responsibility / because the goddess Herself / makes no mistakes.” The juxtaposition of the empowerment expressed in some of the poems and the hurt in others underscores the nuanced struggle of living with a painful history.” —Shameless Magazine

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more than who fuck 2This is about more than who we fuck (and who we don’t) #2 REAL

We said before that this zine was born partly out of our desire for more writing to be out there about the place of personal relationships in the struggle (against authority, oppression, domination, and all the bullshit). I think the same holds true this time around. We’re still fighting against all the things we’ve been taught about relationships, and we’re still figuring out hot to have radically different kinds of relationships than those we were taught to desire, and still figuring out how to bring politics into our relationships and relationships into our politics, and this zine is just a few people writing about that fight.

Please email us with thoughts, comments, etc.
morethanfckng@gmail.com

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how our histories ofi am no hero, and neither are you thoughts on how our histories of abuse inflect our anarchist practice

Contributions made in response to the prompt “How have our histories of abuse inflected our anarchist practice?”

-may be triggering.

-anonymous; keep it secret, keep it safe!

-title & quotes from Delete Me, I’m So Ugly.

-not imposed–print as booklet.

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dangerous spacesDANGEROUS SPACES: Violent Resistance, Self-Defense, and Insurrectional Struggle Against Gender

A collection of communiques and theory surrounding issues of women’s and queer violence, self-defense, and revenge.

Untorelli Press untorelli (at) riseup.net untorellipress.noblogs.org

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Untitled.pngCis s.c.u.m. manifesto one page zine including poster

Cis s.c.u.m. manifesto is a new take on the scum manifesto by Valerie solanas. Through the perspective of a vil cis hetero we explore the transphobia in solanas’ work. (It’s also quite funny as its a little self mocking).

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index.jpgThe prostitution papers; A candid dialogue

Kate Millett’s intimate exploration of women who sell their bodies to men. Here, in their own words, are the true stories of women who live in a nether world where sex is strictly business, a world where anything goes (for a price) and nothing counts — a world most women have only heard of and very few could understand… until now.

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TiqqunTheses on the Terrible Community published by Untorelli Press

tiqqun

Everyone knows the terrible communities, having spent time in them or being within them still because they are always stronger than the others. And because of that one always stays, in part – and parts at the same time. Family, school, work, and prison are the classic faces of this form of contemporary hell. But they are less interesting as they belong to an old form of market evolution and only presently survive. On the contrary, there are the terrible communities which struggle against the existing state of things that are at one and the same time attractive and better than “this world.” And at the same time their way of being closer to the truth – and therefore to joy – moves them away from freedom more than anything else.

The question we must answer in a final manner is of a more ethical than political nature because the classic political forms and their categories fit us like our childhood clothing. The question is to know if we prefer the possibility of an unknown danger to the certainty of a present pain. That is to say if we want to continue to live and speak in agreement (dissident perhaps, but always in agreement) with what has been done so far – and thus with the terrible communities – or, if we want to question that small portion of our desire that the culture has not already infested in its mess, to try – in the name of an original happiness – a different path.

This text was conceived as a contribution to that other voyage.

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Co-authored Autobiographies

AutobiographyOfMalcolmX

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted between 1963 and Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination. The Autobiography is a spiritual conversion narrative that outlines Malcolm X’s philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. After the leader was killed, Haley wrote the book’s epilogue. He described their collaborative process and the events at the end of Malcolm X’s life.

While Malcolm X and scholars contemporary to the book’s publication regarded Haley as the book’s ghostwriter, modern scholars tend to regard him as an essential collaborator. They say he intentionally muted his authorial voice to create the effect of Malcolm X speaking directly to readers. Haley influenced some of Malcolm X’s literary choices. For example, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam during the period when he was working on the book with Haley. Rather than rewriting earlier chapters as a polemic against the Nation which Malcolm X had rejected, Haley persuaded him to favor a style of “suspense and drama.” According to Manning Marable, “Haley was particularly worried about what he viewed as Malcolm X’s anti-Semitism” and he rewrote material to eliminate it.

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008_robert_crumb_theredlistKafka by R. Crumb

Crumb sought out his creative kin in another realm of art, traversing the boundaries of life and death to embark on a series of posthumous “collaborations” with some of literature’s most revered irreverents.

But his greatest, most grimly glorious contribution to the literary canon came with the 2007 release of Kafka(public library) — a succinct and illuminating biography by David Zane Mairowitz, covering everything from Kafka’s troubled relationship with his emotionally abusive father to his fear of women to his lifelong love affair with his own death to the cultural misunderstandings in which the term “Kafkaesque” is mired.

The book focuses on the biographical details of Kafka’s life, interspersed with illustrated vignettes from his writing. The author relates Kafka’s personality and various incidents in his life to the composition of his stories. For example, Kafka’s complicated relationship with his family is linked to stories where the main character is an animal – notably The Metamorphosis whose protagonist, Gregor Samsa, awakens to find himself transformed into a giant bug, and becomes a burden on his family.

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indexAn Ordinary Man – the autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina

Zoellner co-author of An Ordinary Man, the autobiography of Rwanda hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina that was the basis for the film Hotel Rwanda.

 

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the-veiled-woman-of-achillThe veiled woman of Achill

As I immersed myself in researching this island story I was faced with the decision of what genre to adopt. I could have opted for a strict historical account with each of my sources carefully recorded in footnotes, and I had rich material to work with: my great granduncle’s notebooks; national folklore material about the dramatic Achill events; court case records; newspaper accounts of the time. Indeed, my first strategy was to go this route as I painstakingly reviewed and numbered each item of relevant information. Along the way I published articles in historical journals on slices of my research.

However, I knew in my bones that this was not the style I wanted to adopt for my eventual book.I then tried the historical fiction approach, taking the bones of my story and weaving a fictional structure about the events. This was a useful exercise in that it released my imagination to immerse myself in the fierce emotions and passions evoked in Ireland and beyond by the savage happenings in north Achill. In particular, it allowed me to get inside the heads of the main protagonists, Agnes MacDonnell and James Lynchehaun, and freed me from the discipline of sticking rigidly to the factual events. I completed a draft of my book as historical fiction but still I was not happy. While I had got inside the heads of my protagonists, I was reluctant to present this compelling story in a fiction format. I wanted to stay close to the facts of what happened while also giving the narrative a dramatic structure. And so I opted for the narrative nonfiction approach.

Narrative Nonfiction: Making Facts Dance, Patricia Byrne

One of the questions I faced in adopting the narrative nonfiction route was that of the balance between staying true to the facts of the case while attempting to dramatise the narrative. I decided to let the reader know at the start what my approach was by setting out my rules: the book describes actual historical events; there are no fictional characters in the account; direct speech is taken directly, or adapted from, contemporary historical accounts; individual scenes are dramatised using setting, gesture, and imagined internal thoughts of the characters; detailed research source notes are provided. It was important for me that my reader understood the parameters within which I was writing.