Hannah Kent: ‘Accepting yourself as a queer person requires radical self-love’ – City Hub Sydney


HANNAH KENT. Picture: Facebook

By Christine Lai

Finding new ideas in ‘intuitive tugs’ while tackling questions about people from the historical past, Hannah Kent’s latest book Dedicationis a bizarre love story that explores longing and longing based on the migration of Old Lutherans from Hamburg to South Australia in the 19e Century.

Growing up, Kent turned to literature as a way to see herself. The first queer book she read was The well of loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. She prefaces that especially with historical fiction, in some ways, “we need these tales of shame because we don’t want to sugarcoat the past, which show the dangers of being queer and the sadness that comes with society you completely inhibits the freedom of your own sexuality and love.

The plebiscite on same-sex marriage changed the narrative plan of Dedication

Originally wanting to write about the power of female friendship among former Lutherans, the 2017 plebiscite saw the anger and sadness that resulted from receiving “horrible pamphlets in the letterbox” and made her realize that the the power she wielded as an author was nonetheless in the story.

This changed the narrative plan of Dedicationand Kent decided to write for those seeking validation and community.

Dedication was crafted out of a desire to celebrate queer love in a time when there was a lot of turmoil, and Kent takes the novel to a place that doesn’t revolve around shame or punishment.

A love story she wanted to see when she was younger

The main characters, Hanne and Thea, represent the kind of love story she wanted to see portrayed when she was younger. A love story where both characters are completely clear about the nature of their feelings, where “it’s mutual, and neither feels inherently ashamed of how they feel, nor ashamed of their community”.

She refers to Hanne’s relationship with the natural world as “synesthesia” and describes the deeper exploration of unconditional, shared love between two young women who come from a corner of the world dictated by the Church and the Church. ‘agriculture. Told in the first person, the novel never sees Thea in an objective light, but always through the lens of “Hanne’s complete devotion and adoration of her.”

For Kent, being gay is integral to who she is and where much of her compulsion for creativity stems from. Being queer freed her from the pressures and feelings of not belonging in her youth, into a space where she now comfortably embraces a lack of convention.

“Accepting yourself as a queer person requires radical self-love in some ways,” she says. Self-love can then “transform into other decisions and ways of approaching life, it’s a very open and wonderful way to live”.

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