Wednesday, August 22, 2007

For Anna

Please join us in remembering Anna's life. If you knew Anna personally, we hope that you will take the time to tell us your favorite memories of her. If you knew Anna's work, whether creative or academic, we hope that you will tell us what you liked about it. And if you are otherwise associated with Anna, in whatever way, we hope that you will share with us why you have come to this site.

Please click the comments button below to post or view previous posts.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember Anna- there with other friends, sitting cross-legged on the floor in my house one Christmas many years ago back in England. It's a happy memory. What can I say -an amazing woman.

Jeanne Hall said...

The last email Anna sent me:

Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2007 09:28:35 -0700
To: Jeanne Hall and Karen Watts
From: Anna Livia
Subject: Re: Are you coming to Jeanne and Karen's GARDEN PARTY?

Hi girls

But the answer is a very sad 'no'--we can't come. I am working and since I don't have any classes at UC this semester I have to really pay attention to my other little jobs.

so so so sorry

It was absoulely lovely to see you


need any French translations?

need any college advice?

love

Anna

Jeanne Hall said...

It is too hard, remembering Anna. How can she be gone? I saw her last month, the first time since her fiftieth birthday party which was popluated with lots of 8-year-olds and their moms. A scavenger hunt ensued as did elaborate rules for opening fifty packages inside one big box. (Not for her, for the kids and friends.)

But last month was another time. The beach in Berkeley. Is there is such a thing? It was Alameda or something on the oakland side looking at the city and the bay bridge through the clouds. Too hot. The kids were playing with kayaks that sunk quickly. They were the blow-up kind in need of repair. We sat on the sand eating sandwiches.

Let's play 3 adjectives, says Anna. What's an adjective? asks Asher. It's a word that describes another word. Like, he's a strong boy. Strong is an adjective.

A handsome boy, I said. Handsome is and adjective.

How about, he ran quickly? laughs Asher. But I think he knew the answer.

You say 3 adjectives to describe someone else. Everyone gets a turn. Like, 3 adjectives to describe Patti. You go first.

I dont know her, I protest.

And so on. To describe Anna I came up with brilliant, literate, fun. She laughed at literate, well yes I am not illiterate. I meant erudite. I think, I think.

Three adjectives to describe Anna. Everyone has a turn.

maya said...

I have been struggling to put in words how I feel at the moment, partly because the shock of the news is still present, partly because I had the utmost respect for Anna-Livia and don't want to admit to myself that she is gone. She was the first professor I ever had at Berkeley and she quickly became one of my favorites. Besides the fact that she was a linguist like I aspire to be, I felt connected to her in many other ways. She always knew what I was up to and asked about my many projects each time she saw me. She was always enthusiastic to write a recommendation for me and made sure she knew as much about me as possible. What I thank her the most for, however, is the confidence she afforded me when she ask me to teach one of her classes once. Honored to be given such a responsibility, I felt she was always preparing me to be the best student and the best teacher I could be. I was looking forward to working with her over the next couple of years as part of my Q.E committee. I feel profound sadness to know that she will no longer be by my side encouraging me. If only I had had the opportunity to know her better. My only consolation is that she will always be in my heart, and thus, she will be remembered.

howie_guy said...

I took French 1 with Prof. Brawn. She was so lovely and made everyone in our class feel special and more importantly...she made French magical with her spirit and talent.

I will always remember the great educator Prof. Brawn was and more importantly, remember the beautiful person who lit up French 1 each day...we will miss you.

Pat said...

Sure, I'll play 3 adjectives with Anna-Livia.

Anna-Livia: vivacious, engaged, sympathetic.

Oh yes, and a fourth: missed.

Pat Maughan, UC Berkeley

kathy wood said...

anna livia is love, love, love.

Jeremiah said...

I first met Anna-Livia in the French 3 course she taught at UC Berkeley. I was enrolled in her French 102 and French 35 classes this summer. Even after we received the news that she had passed away, it was all so hard to believe. Earlier this year, she had been scanning her class roster for the upcoming summer session and recognized my name even though it had been a semester since I'd last seen her. I didn't consider myself to be a particularly memorable student but she spotted me walking the hallways of Dwinelle and stopped to say hello, asking if I was prepared to take on both classes for the summer. She was amazing and made every day of class entertaining and memorable.

Louise Sylvester said...

I only knew Anna Livia through her work. Her ideas were brilliant and always accessible. Her writing helped me to find a way in to my own. I'm sure that this is true for many, many people.

Mary said...

I was looking forward to hanging out with Anna while I'm here in Berkeley on sabbatical. I'm still just stunned that she's not here. When we were in grad school together we'd go to Skates on the marina and she'd drink Zinfandel and I'd be appalled. Maybe I'll go have a glass of Zin in her honor this weekend.

Today what I'm remembering most fondly about Anna is her flair for men's wear. She could sport a fedora like nobody else.

redkitty said...

I remember Anna from feminist publishing. I ran the tiny radical feminist press, HerBooks and she ran the larger British radical feminist press, Onlywoman. I was too shy to talk to her. I was in my early twenties and thought of her as much older (hah!). Loved her short stories and got to publish one of them in my anthology Unleashing Feminism: Critiquing Lesbian Sadomasochism in the Gay Nineties. Her story was called "Look on the Bright Side" and was of course witty and funny.

Alicia said...

Although I was just an acquaintance to Anna, I too was so very shocked and sad to read about her passing. I first came to know her through the first book she wrote, "Relatively Norma", which I picked up in a gay bookstore in Santa Barbara my second year of college, 1984. I love that book so much, and if you haven't read it you must! It will have you laughing and perhaps if you know her better than I, you'll see her in it. That book, and another of my favorites "Incidents Involving Mirth" show so much of Anna's wonderful way with words and a sense of humor that is delightful and insightful.

Another way I knew Anna was through an interview I did for her on KALX radio in Berkeley in the late 1980's when she was passing through the area reading at local Women's bookstores. I was thrilled and nervous, as I held her in such high esteem--the first author I ever spoke to in person!

The last time I saw her was at Habitot in 1993, a place in Berkeley for kids--she with her two children and me with my first daughter. I didn't recognize her, but she did me and we spoke for a few minutes. That's the way I'll remember her--sweet and friendly, playing "grocery shopping" with her children.

Anonymous said...

I knew Ann Livia, briefly but I felt quite well, through the Mellon Institute summer program at UC. Later, she showed interest in the engineering communication course I teach at UC and we emailed a lot. And I saw her a few times on the Berkeley streets. That is, she was an acquaintance, but one of my favorite ones. So sharp, charming--and reachable. My heart sank when I got the news.

John Welsh

Anonymous said...

I was really upset when I heard the bad news about Anna Livia. But the news about this blog is nice. Anna and her work (academic and otherwise) deserve this kind of honor. It will be of great importance for those who are not familiar with her work about gender and language and for those who admire her papers and ideas. Although in Brazil her literary work is not easily available, her important work in linguistics has some prominence, specially after the wave of trangender and language studies. Her book, Pronoun Envy, and the many articles she wrote about grammatical gender in transgender literature are an excellent source of inspiration and guidance for those interested in Gender and Language studies (see, for example, Disloyal to masculinity, published in Queerly Phrased, a book edited with Kira Hall). And, fortunately, her work has become more and more international. I and Cristiane Schanck are currently working on a translation into Portuguese of the text "It's a girl": bringing performativity back to linguistics" to be published in a book edited by Ana Ostermann and Beatriz Fontana in Brazil, where the field of language and gender is blossoming. I'll make sure to include a note informing the readers about this blog. And I do hope that translation might help Brazilian researchers more aware of Anna Livia’s brilliant ideas.

Rodrigo Borba

Anonymous said...

Like everyone, I am shocked to here of the news. We all know it, Anna Livia was lovely, fun, intelligent, cultured, an unusual, charming person. I too took her "History of French language" class during my graduate studies in Berkeley in 2002. As soon as she found out I was Irish, she told me her name came from Finnegans wake. No better book: wonderful, multilayered, multilingual, intriguing, always inquisitive... Another time she caught me in the corridor, introduced me to Asher and Emma who had just come in for a visit and said to them: "Now this is Shane, he's Irish, and Irish people sing songs, so he's going to sing a song for you now." Which I did, in the corridor of the French department, in hushed tones... I have talked about her teaching and stories to my students, my friends, my family. I'll miss her with everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the photo introducing the blog and I'm weeping -- What a huge loss is the inexplicable absence of Anna Livia.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for information on Anna Livia works to give to a student when I found this site. I can't believe it! What a loss to the world. When I was a grad student, Anna came and spoke at my institution, and I helped out by chauffering her from her hotel to events. I also went to dinner with her. She was such a delightful person, not to mention that her work was fascinating. I remember her speaking so warmly about her kids and her home in California. What a loving mom! She didn't have to be so nice to us grad students. Goodness knows most visiting scholars weren't. I'm sorry to hear she's gone.

Deborah said...

I miss Anna. I always assumed she would be here, as a friend, and as a loving parent to Emma and Asher. I got to witness Anna's attachment and dedication to her children in the first days and years of their lives. My daughter and I spent the day with Anna, Emma and Asher not long ago at the Antioch Water Park. She was full of life. Anna worked remarkably and unfailingly hard to be the best parent she could be to Emma and Asher. I grieve for the immeasurable loss of their Mama. I simply cannot believe that Anna will not get to see her children as they grow. I know that her love will continue to nurture and guide them.
Deborah

Laura Calkins said...

I 'Googled' Anna Livia last week - I wanted to contact her for the first time since 1991, thinking she would be happy for me about a new academic job I landed. She and I met at a house party in west London in the late summer of 1990. She was at the center of a wide group of accomplished friends and lit-wit lesbians in London; I had lived there for years but had remained mostly solitary. She picked me out in that crowded nightime London backyard hung with Chinese lanterns. She put me at ease and seemed intent on winkling me out of my shell -- her attention immediately made me feel intelligent, worthy, alive. I was completing a doctorate in London then and moving to the States for a faculty job; she was moving at the same time to Berkeley to start her own doctoral studies. Our first rendezvous thereafter was at the South Bank; it seemed like we barely touched the ground walking to Piccadilly. We stood at a busstop for ages, and then grabbed the top front seats on a double decker bus, riding for what seemed like an eternity to get to her flat in Notting Hill. She was so sure of herself, of her ambition to study linguistics, of her female power. I was none of those things. Once in the US, we trekked back and forth between Berkeley and Atlanta for several months, the luxury of seeing each other taking precedence over the sad state of our finances -- a brilliant graduate student and an impecunious assistant professor. She wrote me wonderfully idiosyncratic letters over those months: she immedidately fell in love with Berkeley, she said, and with the communities of women she found there. I spent only a handful of golden days with her, scattered across our time in London, Atlanta, and Berkeley; but no number of days would have been enough. One evening she read me her earliest translations of Natalie Barney: she was already deeply engrossed in that project and so certain about Barney's enduring significance. But one day in early 1991, she sat with me in my car, held my hand, and told me that it would be best for us both to let each other go, to move on. Although I vehemently disagreed, I never was able to feel any anger toward her - instead I quite selfishly missed her terribly, for a number of years afterward. She had that effect: her absence was felt as greatly as her presence. She was wise, tender, and acutely funny. Now, knowing she is gone, I miss her all over again, but I treasure her letters and my memories of her.

Anonymous said...

Anna Livia has been one of my favorite writers for years. I am shocked and saddened to hear of her death.

Anonymous said...

I met Anna at the East Coast Lesbian Festival many years ago, I believe. I remember feeling sad that she could not make a living by writing novels full-time. At the time when I met her, I believe she had just made the decision to go back to school. She was an inspiration to me as a beginning lesbian-feminist playwright. I currently do a weekly "Lesbian HIstory" segment on a show called Lesbian Radio on WMPG, Portland, Maine. On Sept. 27, I will devote the segment to Anna and her work. It streams live, EST, 1:30PM -3PM from www.wmpg.com. Any information about her death would be appreciated...carolyn@carolyngage.com

Caro Clarke said...

Just saw her obituary in the Guardian (UK). A sad surprise. I worked with Anna at Onlywomen Press in 1987/88, just as she was finishing and publishing 'Bulldozer Rising'. We lost touch after she moved to the USA, but I kept note of her later books and was delighted that she had found a new life she clearly loved. Smart, funny, and no-nonsense is how I remember her. I always hoped we'd see each other again, perhaps just for coffee, on a visit to California. My thoughts are with her family and friends.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Anna. It is with great sadness that I read of your death in today's Guardian. Memories from 30 years ago come flooding back: Stamford Hill; Grunwicks; Circusact;sharing food poisoning on the Paris metro;leaving a note saying 'eg elska thig';travelling by train from Avignon to Bologna; a kiss on the cheek in Malet St;after all these years you are still the same Anna in your picture and all these postings bear witness to your enduring wit, intelligence, good humour and ability to engage with people. We all remember you with love.

Megan Ellis said...

So very sad to hear this news. I met Anna in London in 1979 through our mutual friend Michael. Then I moved to Paris and my flat became a pit stop on her frequent commute between London and Avignon that year. Back in London we worked on the London Women's Liberation Newsletter, a weekly process of typing, gestetnering, collating, stapling, folding, labelling and posting; too many verbs and often too few women. The work involved is incomprehensible to those who do not pre-date the internet. But Anna did the work because she understood the importance of sustaining that extraordinary network of women scattered all over London. She engaged fully in those heady days of the early (mid?)2nd wave, days of optimism and fury. She marched for what mattered in pink womyn-made boots with rainbow laces bought at Camden market (I had purple ones - they were very comfortable). And she wrote, was driven to write novels, a mysterious art. I felt privileged to read "Relatively Norma" in draft. I enjoyed her dry and wry wit. I enjoyed the mischevious sparkle in her eye. I respected her edge and I admired her courage.
Anna and I lost touch in the mid-90s. And I feel that loss a great deal today.

Judith said...

It's good to read all these contributions. Anna and I were friends - very close at times, less close other times - for about 25 years. I hadn't been in touch with her for a few years when she died, but I never thought I wouldn't be again. After I heard of her death, I re-read all the letters she sent me over the years; so full of her: clever, funny, quirky, delighting in word-plays. I'm so sorry for her children, her partner, her family and all her loving, bereaved friends, colleagues and students.

Anonymous said...

I was introduced to Anna Livia through Incidents Involving Warmth a book that has stayed with me since I was 18. I met Anna in person at a party at U of I, and I am so glad I got a chance to tell her how much I liked 80% of her work.( we had a good deal of fun arguing over that last 20%!) Today I read of her passing and weep silently here in my cubicle. When I get home I will hold my 4 year old twins close to me, and when they get older and ask which authors had the most impact on my early years. Anna's name will be among the top 5. My deepest sympathy to her family and friends. What a remarkable life.

Anonymous said...

I signed up for French Linguistics for the sole reason that it fit my schedule. Anna Livia transformed that class into one of the most interesting French classes I took at Cal. The next semester I took another linguistics class with her - not because it fit my schedule, but because Anna Livia made linguistics sound like the most exciting subject on earth.
It has been 4 years now since I graduated, and I still tell people that the most interesting French classes I ever took at Cal were the two linguistics classes taught by Anna Livia.
What an amazing professor and a great woman.

Anonymous said...

I hope Anna's recent manuscript goes on to be published, as I cannot imagine a greater gift for my children than a book written for them by Anna Livia. My sympathies for such a devastating loss to her family.

M.E. Collins

Trista said...

I first met Anna in the French department at University College London in 1975. We became friends in our second year and very close during our subsequent year in France, when we were 300 miles apart, but wrote to each other constantly (letters!) and visited often. We were both employed as untrained language assistants in schools and it was obvious then that Anna was a natural teacher. Her classes were entertaining and conscientiously prepared and she had the pupils in her tough suburban school eating out of her hand. Over the next couple of years we lived in the same shared houses in South London and spent most of our time together, including three weeks of a rather chilly June in the Lake District, she revising her first novel and I breaking the back of my PhD thesis. Characteristically, she chose to work in the room with the 3-bar electric heater, while I had the more romantic, but considerably more demanding coal fire. The times were emotionally stormy - we were very young and intense about all kinds of things that seem a little insane now, ranging from which categories of people were most oppressed to the comparative weight of our bicycle frames. Those storms took her away from our house, first round the corner and then further and further, eventually to the US. I bumped into her by chance in the street in central London shortly before she left – must have been 1990. By then our lives had become very different (she was wearing a suit and had a job in computing, I was on my bike, cycling home to feed my new baby) and we didn’t communicate very well. But our relationship had been too important for me to let it go at that and when, a few years later, I took an academic job and had very slow but free access to the internet, I spent a while trying to track her down. In the end I succeeded. Our subsequent contact was sporadic but friendly. I last saw her briefly at our local dance school, where my children take classes and which happens to be run by Anna’s aunt, uncle and cousin. I think it was shortly after the birth of her twins and of my third daughter, so about 8 years ago. Her hair was greying and she had a California tan, but otherwise seemed remarkably unchanged by the years. When her cousin told me that she had died it really knocked the stuffing out of me. Although our complicity was long gone, my friendship with Anna remains one of the closest of my life and still has its part in my identity. I still have friends – not to mention a partner – who knew her well and we still talk about her. She was not the kind of person you forget. From the posts here it seems that her move to the US brought her the real home she was looking for, and it’s good to think of her happy, busy and fulfilled, with plenty of people to love her. I am still stunned and greatly saddened to think that she is dead when she should have been getting ready to celebrate her 52nd birthday this November, with many, many more happy and productive years to come.

Anonymous said...

From Margaret Cowley;
How sad, a sister has left us. I knew Anna from London and the days when the Womens movement gathered so many strong and exciting women together. She was one of those wonderful and creative women.

Edwige said...

Anna,
After reading of your passing in the SF Chronicle,I wanted to say goodbye.
En souvenirs des joies et des peines partagees!
Edwige

Karen Rachels said...

I knew Anna over the last two years of her life through my close friend, Patti, Anna's partner. Anna was always clearly so talented and so smart and wanted the very best for her children. These two years were marked by a lot of stress but Anna kept on pushing through the difficulties. I was lucky enough to be on the beach with Anna and everyone that day Jeanne described. Anna had a mild knee injury from stepping on a waterlily at Antioch Water Park, and she was not very mobile. The usually highly energetic mom was forced to sit. That day was special for me: It was the last time I saw Anna and it was a time when Anna was clearly happy. That image of her sitting with Patti and three of her favorite people she rarely saw (Jeanne, Karen and Kira), enjoying them so much and feeling so at ease -- how wonderful to be left with that picture in my mind. Still so hard to believe she is not here.

Anonymous said...

My son went to preschool with Emma and Asher, so I knew Anna Livia as a fellow parent. I'm shocked and saddened to hear the news and my heart aches for the children.

Carley said...

I shared a house with Anna in London in the late 1970s-early 80s, and although I lost contact with her when I returned to Australia in 1984 and had therefore not seen her for 23 years (!) I was very shocked and upset to hear about her death. She was so lively and had such intellectual energy that it is hard to imagine her not being out there writing, thinking and interacting. As a young, then amateur editor I commented on an early draft of "Relatively Norma" for her and was delighted that she acknowledged me when it was printed. With typical humour she wrote in the copy she gave me, which is still somewhat dog-eared on my bookshelf, "Dear Carley, thanks for writing it for me, love Anna". I followed her subsequent writings and saw how she matured as a writer, while still retaining that freshness, insight and wit that "Norma" introduced. I also remember the time when we were both in Australia, she to visit her mother and me on a holiday home from London. I was feeling pretty dislocated and stressed about the various emotions that being home was stirring up (my father had died while I was away) and it was such a comfort to see familiar Anna, with half-inch long bleached blond hair and an uncharacteristic suntan, amid all the strangeness. I think that at the time I didn't really appreciate her unique qualities as much as I should have, too young and stupid, but I am glad to read that she found plenty of moments of happiness in her career and personal life. That I feel so affected by her death after all this time shows what an impact she had.

Louise Ansell said...

Anna was my best friend at school in South London in the early 1970s. Her family had just moved to London from Africa and she was so much more interesting, individual and intelligent than anyone else. I was privileged to enjoy her friendship and her zest for life for several very formative years. Through her I also met the first love of my life, her brother Danny. Although I lost contact with Anna many years ago, I have often thought of her. She was an extraordinary force and a very special person.

David said...

As a grad student at Berkeley, I had the good fortune of studying with Anna Livia over the past couple of years. Her work with language was rigorous and engaging and always creative. I am grateful to her for showing me how imaginative a linguist can be.

Anonymous said...

I got to know Anna when I was a graduate student at Berkeley. We both did our Ph. D. with Suzanne Fleischman and Anna finished one year before me. I especially remember the seminar on “Women and French Language” we both took with Suzanne. It was the first time Suzanne taught this class and the only students taking it were Anna, Fabienne Baider and I. I was young right then, full of certainty, based mostly on inexperience while Anna was full of conviction based mostly on her already rich life. I recall many heated but really interesting discussions on women, men and language and how after them Anna would smile gently and still be so kind to me. I wish she’d known that I have now come to understand so much better many of the things we spoke about and how I have come to share many of her views and feelings. My last memory of her was a dinner at Suzanne’s with Fabienne in December 1998, I think. Anna spoke about expecting the twins and she was so happy and calmly confident. We had a very nice dinner recalling our Ph. D. years with Suzanne as our professor. Tragically Suzanne passed away in 2000, as she was fifty and now I have just learned about Anna leaving us. Both of them were extraordinary women, inspiring individual and insightful scholars and they left us too early. I hope that by sharing memories but also emulating them in our lives we can be true to them. I send my sympathy to Anna loved ones.
Sophie Marnette

ruth said...

I knew Anna only slightly but am the publisher of her two books of fiction that were published in the U.S., Incidents Involving Mirth and Minimax. I would like to be in touch with her partner about the books. And would like to offer, to anyone who knew and loved Anna, that I'd be glad to sell the books at unit cost plus postage which is $5 for one, $7 for both. Feel free to email me: ruth@eighthmountain.com. I think the last time I saw Anna was in the late 80s in London. She was all that everyone has said, devilishly witty, brilliant, and kind. Ruth Gundle

Anonymous said...

From : Avalon Brawn
Dear Anna was my aunty...i miss her and am sad i didnt get to see her as often. I live in Australia and the whole family is devestated about this loss. As we know Anna was a great French lecturer in America and published many great books. To all her friends and their comments thank you, i showed my mum (her sister) and she was so happy at all the lovely comments. Aunty Anna was a loving person and great mum, i hope to soon meet Asher and Emma. Love always Anna your niece Avalon x x x

Louisa Brawn said...

When she would visit us we would walk along the posh streets and pick the houses we wanted to live in. I only wish i had seen her more often.

love u anna xo
ur niece Louisa

Anonymous said...

This is a very very delayed after the event - but I knew Anna a short time before the first novel - when she was on holiday in Australia visiting her mother - a very long time ago - she was someone very special - I was very saddened to hear of her passing - however hearing about her legacy of children and her books and her students and friends - I am sure that she has left something that will live on with us for the rest of our lives

Anonymous said...

I think of you often Anna. Still can't quite believe that you're gone from this world. So strange to have no explanation. It hasn't been so long, but so sudden and definite. Poof!
You are missed.

Liz Morrish said...

A Tribute to the Life and Work of Anna Livia

Offered by Liz Morrish on February 15th 2008
Lavender Languages and Linguistics XV
American University, Washington, DC


It was with enormous shock that we heard of Anna’s death on August 6th. She died unexpectedly at the age of just 51, a death all the more tragic because she has left two young children, and at a time when she had found new happiness.

She has left a remarkable body of work. She has been a pioneer in more than one area and her writing establishes a linking thread that runs all the way from lesbian feminist science fiction to queer theory. Anna Livia produced significant, enduring writing from 1980 until her death. We remember her participation at this conference. Anna’s papers were brilliant and insightful. They were fortified by a wide range of knowledge and life experience and, as we all remember, sharp humour. Even in the formality of a conference paper, Anna was very, very funny.

I have been able to gain an appreciation of Anna’s early work prior to academia from her own writing in the 1980’s and from writing about her. She was clearly a major figure in lesbian feminist circles in London at that time, working for OnlyWomen Press. Her politics at the time were radical and separatist. Let me quote from an article in New Internationalist from August 1985:
“It took a while to realise the reason why I could not, and no longer wanted to be close or passionate with men went back to this oppression business. It took more than a while – it took someone else saying that, exactly that, clearly: ‘If you believe that patriarchy is the root of all oppression, that all men benefit from it and maintain it – they are therefore to be seen as the enemy”.

Ultimately Anna found this position unsustainable and her intellectual journey took her quite a distance from it. But even in 1995 in her classic essay, “I ought to throw a Buick at you”, she can’t quite resist quoting Valerie Solanas’s 1968 SCUM Manifesto…in fact she’s so fond of it she quotes it twice – once in English and once in Italian. But then she adds this qualification: “In the late eighties and early nineties, feminist rage has quietened, become scholarly”.

In fact her political position had become informed by her scholarship. No less committed to feminist or lesbian concerns, no less opposed to patriarchy – far from it. But her academic work had become grounded in evidence, statements were verified, hypotheses nuanced. She was leaving essentialism behind, as her contact with queer theory led her to complicate her analysis of gender, sexuality, butch and femme.

But whatever restraints she employed in her academic argument, uncurbed imagination was central to Anna’s fiction work, as was the idea of transgressing gender boundaries. Her novel Bruised Fruit has, as a central character, someone truly androgynous. It is no accident then, given her love of languages, her feminism, her unorthodoxy, her gender queerying, that she should find herself introducing these paradoxes into linguistics. Her fictional challenges to the gender binary later re-emerged in her book Pronoun Envy as linguistic enquiry into the changing nature of grammatical and semantic gender in French and English; its use by lesbians, and a wider reflection on the use of the resources of language in subverting the hegemony of gender – for example, latterly on Lambda Moo where players may adopt personae with a range of genders, or none. She was always an activist, taking her knowledge and expertise and shifting our world view.

Anna brought a multi-disciplinary richness to her analysis of language. She was at once philosopher, postmodernist, modern linguist, translator, lesbian, feminist, literary analyst. This gave her the intellectual toolbox to take on received wisdom and some long-standing questions. In her 2004 commentary on Robin Lakoff’s Language and Woman’s Place she took issue with Lakoff’s notion of ‘speaking like a woman’, pointing out that such a statement overlooks the different contexts, cultures and meanings that the overlapping categories of class and race would necessitate. Characteristically, the critique is offered in the most generous and celebratory of terms; Anna and Robin were friends and Anna acknowledges the intellectual debt.

On another philosophical question in linguistics – that of linguistic determinism, she points out the belief of Foucault and Butler of the centrality of language to our perceptions and comprehension of categories. But where she stands on the issue of the postmodern turn in linguistics, we can not be sure. In some way she answers it in Queerly Phrased, co-edited with Kira Hall. This was a ground breaking book, published in 1997, and it charts a number of issues and connections both within and outside of linguistics, but taking us into new territory of the intersection of queer theory and linguistics. As she wrote with Kira Hall: “It is time to bring performativity back to its disciplinary origins”, offering the queer subject a new agency and subversion in their enactment of gender conventions.

But in another sense she is profoundly sceptical, seeing Butler’s approach as overly deterministic, a kind of neo-Whorfian inscription of subjectivity furnished from discourse. But then again, her own experiments with realising other genders linguistically underline the salience of language in constructing our own perceptions. Is that Whorfian, or a negation of Whorf’s determinism? Is language itself agentive? Were these questions ever fully resolved in her own mind ?

I wish Anna could be here today to answer that. But she is still part of our conversation. And as her pages are turned by the next generation of graduate students, they will perhaps imagine that the author of such a prolific body of work died as an accomplished and very old woman. Sadly, only the first is true. But she does live on in our memories. And she lives on in the ideas, the thoughts, the perspectives she has urged us to explore. We must now give thanks for the life and work of Anna Livia which will continue to be an influence for many years.

Anonymous said...

I've only just seen the obituary in the Guardian and being much the same age as Anna, was shocked that she had passed. I attended one of Anna's creative writing classes held in the Gay Centre in Cowcross Street, Farringdon, in London in the 1980s. She was an attentive, patient and kind teacher. At that time, she had a couple of books published, and was one of of a group of important women in the London Women's Liberation movement. Someone who made history rather than observing it. What can I say? A great loss.

Chelsea Chicago said...

I just googled Anna to see what she's up to, and looking for any new writings, and am so shocked to read of her passing over a year ago. I was introduced to Relatively Norma in my queer fiction writing class at City College in 1994, and snapped up every subsequent book. She spoke to our class and I was in love. Her writings inspired me, comforted me during some very dark periods in my life, and most of all, amused me. Her books hold the most prominent place on my shelves to this day. I will treasure them all the more so now. So grateful that she touched my life so briefly. A special woman has left the earth and we are the poorer for it.

Anonymous said...

I came across Anna Livia in a Vancouver book store called Little Sisters. I found Incidents Involving Warmth and Relatively Norma in the used book section.
I asked them at the store if they could get some more of her books in. When I googled Anna Livia I read of her death.
I liked her writing very much, she made me laugh and she had a brilliant mind.
I always look for her in the used book section I have found a few others and enjoy them very much.
Thanks Anna for your brilliance and the courage you had to share it with the world. RIP

Veronica said...

still missing you, dear anna...

Dr. Kathy Wood said...

it's one of those days...months later from not hearing your voice and i am as sad now as ever...so good to read words of love from so many you touched. the last thing we talked about after we hugged was having a cup of tea over the phone and catching up again. oh! i so so wish we could...me too veronica...still missing our dear friend.

Megan Ellis said...

Thinking of Anna on her birthday. Going through some old photos the other day I found one of her @1981 at Albion Road...

Michael Osborne said...

Maybe I took that photo that Megan refers to - certainly some of the others that she has been looking through recently. I met Anna I guess in early 1977, one of of vibrant group of undergraduates in French at UCL, and later as one of the Cirkusact group trying its best in radical street theatre and entertaining children with inflatables - in retrospect a strange combination. Anna was the funniest woman that I had met - so sharp, so clever and so in tune with everything. Many of us were captivated by her and loved her. I have so many letters from her from France and Australia that seem a lifetime away, and she moved on to another life. I'm sad that I didn't see her in her last 20 years. An email had been waiting to be sent in my outbox for months to send, and there it remained when I heard that she had died. I wasn't sure enough if she would have wanted to hear from me.

Having read so many pieces by others who had seen her more recently, she seems to have retained the characteristics that I remembered and valued, and to be happy in her life. I am sorry that I didn't see her again, but glad that she led such a fulfilling life and contributed so much to other people's happiness.

Her friends and family have many good things to remember about Anna

Alison said...

So many have said what is in my heart - sadness and gratitude. I discovered Relatively Norma first, in a womens bookstore in NZ, and it reassured me that I could be both lesbian and playful (as funny as that sounds). I still have several of her books, 20 years and many moves later. I feel for those who knew her personally... it's been lovely reading others' comments.

cherie Gordon said...

I just learned of Anna Livia's death today, and I am shocked that she has been deceased for three years. I was looking forward to her translating more of Natalie Barney's works and other French lesbian writers. Anna helped bring Natalie Barney's writings to a modern audience, many whom have never heard of Barney.

Had I known Anna just lived 90 miles from Sacramento, I would have raced down the highway to Berkeley to talk to her about the women of the Left Bank in Paris.

I think Ana was in communication with my friend Gael Lang, who had created the Lavender Library and Archives in Sacramento because I came across a copy of Anna's translation, "A Perilous Advantage," in which she inscribed a copy to Gael. Without knowing Anna signed it, I passed it on to a friend, and I have been trying to get it back ever since I discovered the book was a signed autographed copy by the author. Gael, too, died young at the age of 52.

Anna will be sorely missed by the lesbian community. There is so much of Natalie Barney's writings that are in a library in Paris, in French and unpublished. With Anna gone, who will now translate Natalie?

Cherie Gordon

Anonymous said...

i am very late to the party. i found a copy of INCIDENTS INVOLVING WARMTH in a thrift store today & instantly gobbled down three delicious stories & then googled Anna Livia & discovered she has transcended this flesh. who, i want to know, is her reincarnation? surely like the Dalai Lama she'd determined who she was coming back as? i've never met such a natural WIT, such a lyrical, unforced talent.
if anyone knows, how the hell did she "die in her sleep" ?
all respect & condolences & mischief to those who love her still & are forced to do without her now.
erin blackwell

TL said...

Well I'll be damned
Here comes your ghost again


It's four years since Anna died. And though we emailed each other in the noughties, it's been three decades since I spoke to her. But still I think of questions I'd like to ask her. And still I wonder what she would make of this, or that, or this person or that person. Such an interesting and interested lady.

Megan Ellis said...

Oddly enough I rented a flat near Covent Garden for a few days, en route to celebrate the 70th of an eminent and formidable London lesbian activist (as she once was) and it is right opposite, overlooking, the old, the very old A Women's Place, and I find myself, assisted by a bottle of Spanish red wine in tears again. Of course Anna is not the only loss but she is a terrible loss. She was not terrible of course, well perhaps en enfant terrible, but she was formidable, and committed and could laugh and debate and be sincere in an honest but not annoying way. And I'm so sorry I can't just email her or ring her and tall her that AWP is right outside my window and does she remember that terrible meeting? and all that gestetnering, and all those marches, and taking back the night? And I know she did, even though she was far away from that. It was part of who we were. And I wish she were here to share a bottle of wine and talk about those times. Because I would love to hear her 58 or 59 year old self talk about those times and these times.

Anonymous said...

Its nice to hear such great memories of my mama. I wish I got to know her longer.

Lesley d said...

I'd no idea Anna was gone. I knew her at Waterford in 1968. She had a dry wit even then. I lost touch completely and had no idea of her later career as a writer like her mum who was our HouseMother. All the best to her children.

Anonymous said...

She loved you so much.

Anonymous said...

I still miss Anna and wish I could take another long evening stroll with her to talk about the kids growing up and everything else.