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john
rechy

"But it should begin in El Paso, that journey through the cities of night. Should begin in El Paso, in Texas. And it begins in the Wind…”

Born Juan Francisco Rechy in south-central El Paso, Juan, better known as John Rechy, would become one of the city's most acclaimed writers. Novelist, essayist, and dramatist, Rechy would redefine queer literature, push sexual politics and influence a generation of LGBTQ+ writers and artists.

A child of Mexican immigrants, Rechy was the youngest of five children and grew up in south-central El Paso.  He began writing at age eight, and by eleven, he had started a 500-page opus on Marie Antionette called Time on Wings.  He would graduate from Texas Western College (now known as the University of Texas at El Paso) and later enlist in the US Army before earning an MFA from Columbia University. It was here in New York City where discovered hustling and the experiences filled his debut novel, City of Night

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Published in October of 1963, City of Night was  a controversial semi-autobiographical account of America’s teeming queer underbelly. Written in a time when homosexuality was illegal and deemed a mental illness by many psychiatrists, City of Night offered a frank look at queer desire and belonging through the eyes of a young hustler.  The book was met with mixed reviews, but became an international bestseller, making Rechy a literary celebrity and ‘sexual outlaw’.

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He would go on to write fourteen novels, three memoirs, and three plays. Bands like The Doors and Soft Cell would reference his work in their songs "LA Woman" and "Numbers," respectively. Director Gus Van Sant based his film My Own Private Idaho on City of Night. Rechy's work explored queer desire and identity through the N. American landscape while grounded in the intersectionality of the Borderland. 

John Rechy received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Pen USA West—the first time it was ever awarded to a novelist, and a Literary Lambda Award for his work  After the Blue Hour. He's been a writing professor at UCLA and USC where he has called Los Angeles home for most of his adult life. There, he was part of the Cooper’s Donut Riot in 1958, an uprising protesting LGBTQ+ harassment at the hands of law enforcement. Throughout his life, Rechy has questioned convention and remains one of El Paso’s most celebrated authors.

Works

Novels

  • City of Night (Grove Press, 1963)

  • Numbers (Grove Press, 1967)

  • This Day's Death (Grove Press, 1969)

  • The Vampires (Grove Press, 1971)

  • The Fourth Angel (Viking, 1972)

  • Rushes (Grove Press, 1979

  • Bodies and Souls (Carroll & Graf, 1983)

  • Marilyn's Daughter (Carroll & Graf, 1988)

  • The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez (Arcade, 1991)

  • Our Lady of Babylon (Arcade, 1996)

  • The Coming of the Night (Grove Press, 1999)

  • The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens (Grove Press, 2003)

  • After the Blue Hour (Grove Press, 2017)

  • Pablo! (Arte Público Press, 2018)

Non-fiction

  • The Sexual Outlaw (Grove Press, 1977)

  • Beneath the Skin (Carroll & Graf, 2004)

  • About My Life and the Kept Woman (Grove Press, 2008) (memoir)