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ISBN: 978-0-9981348-9-5
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The First Church of What’s Happening

Publication Date: September 2017


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. The First Church of What’s Happening was originally published by Nomadic.

Miah Jeffra examines our new and rapidly changing public life by questioning a few fundamentals—perception, memory, identity, violence, love—in all their complexity, and in their relationship to one other. The First Church of What’s Happening is a love letter to humanity and its resilience, even as it wades through divisive politics, social media and technological disassociation.


Miah Jeffra does not use his imagination to protect himself or to protect us. Instead, he gives us stories of reckless tenderness and anger and sorrow and lust—that overflow with images of wonder and desire. How wonderful!
— Robert Glück

Miah Jeffra writes somewhere between a scream and a growl, in short energetic essays that queer the language in exciting ways. In a letter to the late Keith Haring, Jeffra writes ‘I want to feel like a bandit, a punk, a renegade.’ And indeed he takes us on an outlaw’s journey, provocateur and picador; flaunt and flirt. Here is a writer who grabs the reader by the balls in all the ways one hopes to be testicularly taken.
D.A. Powell

Through these dexterously choreographed essays, Miah Jeffra perfects a grim exuberance that comes to suggest a new optimism. He writes: ‘We made the Titanic, we made the Hindenburg, we made the Challenger Shuttle. We made Fukushima. We make love.’ Certainly, the blood kinship of love and disaster-each here driven by human ambition for more self-animates this passage. But what deepens it is the breadth of Jeffra’s ‘we.’ There is generosity here despite our capacities for self-righteousness, predation, and social inequity. I leave The First Church of What’s Happening believing that what Jeffra evangelizes is resilience as a necessity, not a virtue.
Douglas Kearney

A gem of an essay collection, shot through with humor, anger, and a deep, deep love—for men, for humanity, for language. In lush, risk-taking prose, Jeffra explores what it means to be queer, alive, and struggling in high-tech, low-empathy America. He takes the pulse of the now and quickens it with this sparkling debut.
Janet Sarbanes

Both tough and tender, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and other times direly serious, Miah Jeffra flips the script in these essays on art, danger, seduction and sexuality. Moving between critical, narrative, lyrical modes Jeffra illuminates and entertains. I loved this book.
Kazim Ali

Vision is a tricky enterprise. So writes Miah Jeffra in his sparkling new collection. In these lyrical essays Jeffra’s quick eye catches what we often glide by, slide by, forget to notice, ignore. In these true to life, truer than life stories he shifts our focus from the obvious, the flash, the façade, to the subtle, background, underground, under skin tales where truer, deeper meaning resides. Luminous moments that often get less fanfare shine forth, rendered by a narrator who doesn’t always shout look at me, me, me, but instead look at us, us, us. All of us; the fragile, the fallible, the lovely, the strange. This book not only expands our visual field but our intellectual, emotional and imaginative fields as well. Go see.
Toni Mirosevich

About the Author

Miah Jeffra

Miah Jeffra is author of four books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently The Violence Almanac (finalist for several awards, including the Grace Paley, Robert C Jones and St. Lawrence Book Prizes) and American Gospel, winner of the Clark-Gross Award. Work can be seen in StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, The North American Review, storySouth, DIAGRAM, jubilat and many others. Miah is co-founder of Whiting Award-winning queer and trans literary collaborative, Foglifter Press, and teaches writing and decolonial studies at Sonoma State University.

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