I’m the author of three books dealing with the intersections of Armenian American identity and queerness–a novel, a memoir, and a poetry/performance collection, all published with independent presses. Read more below.
The Fear of Large and Small Nations
Honored as a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, this story of Armenian diasporic-homeland relations will be published by Nauset Press on May 9, 2023. Get it now at Bookshop, and support me and local independent bookstores:
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In The Fear of Large and Small Nations, feminist writer and teacher Natalee—aka Na—seeks to reclaim her cultural roots in Armenia only to be confronted with the many contradictions of being a diasporan. When she falls for a charismatic younger man and returns with him to New York City, Na becomes trapped in an abusive web of codependency, bound by intergenerational trauma, political ideals, and, above all, love. Written in gripping short stories interspersed with intimate journal entries and blog posts, the fragmented narrative reveals what is lost in the tightrope passage between cultures ravaged by violence and colonialism—and what is gained when Na seizes control of her story, pulsating in its many shades and realities, daring to be witnessed.
Me as her again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter
Aunt Lute Books, 2008
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In this memoir, Nancy Agabian tells stories of growing pains, family tensions, and buried pasts. In a narrative that braids together different times and places and shifts between comic and dramatic registers, Agabian tells us how, as a child, she learns to juggle roles in response to competing pressures to fit in as an American while maintaining her Armenian heritage. At home, she struggles with her grandmother’s old ideologies, arguments between her parents, and heated discussions about race and sexuality. In her twenties, Agabian moves to Hollywood and becomes a performance artist and begins to discover herself sexually, dating both men and women. After hiding her autobiographical shows from her relatives, she finally decides to confront her family history and takes a trip to Turkey with her artist aunt, during which she finds she must reckon with painful family histories involving displacement and genocide.
Nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Nonfiction
Shortlisted for a William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
…a moving story of self-realization and discovery, a process bound up in the liberating act of relating one’s history and the history of one’s family.
–Ryan Call, New Pages, http://www.newpages.com/item/3186-me-as-heragain
What’s so refreshing about Agabian’s prose is her marvelously open, daring, and honest inquiry into the self. Our “enfant terrible” — she has yet again managed to capture us with her quirky, brilliant stories.
— Shushan Avagyan, Girk-anvernagir
My favorite song from Nancy Agabian’s improbably vivid “Guitar Boy” punk rock period a decade ago was the genius anthem “I Don’t Want to be a Victim Anymore.” Though as she noted at the time, when you’re a mousily timid, family-mired, Armenian bisexual artist, not tending toward victimhood isn’t all that easy. But you know what? By the end of this splendidly engrossing memory chronicle, she’s pulled it off. She’s no victim. What she is is funny, smart, generous and wise. And she’s my hero.
—Lawrence Weschler, National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences
Me as her again sample: Prologue and Chapter 1
Princess Freak: Poetry and Performance Texts
Beyond Baroque Books, 2000
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Princess Freak documents through poetry and prose texts the coming-of-age of a shy, funny, bisexual Armenian-American woman who flees the small town of Walpole, Massachusetts to tell the stories of her family. Agabian’s paternal grandmother was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in 1915, and much of the work in the book carries the impact of this devastating event.
Nancy pays close attention to what most of us overlook–in her hands the ordinary explodes into beauty and complexity.
— Holly Hughes, Performance Artist; author and co-editor of O Solo Homo: The New Queer Performance