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Yale GALA Book Club Reading Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor

Join us for Andrea Lawlor's LAMBDA-finalist debut novel and cult classic: Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (2017). "In these irreverent pages, a shapeshifter gets a crash course in gender and sexuality" Oprah. Set in the 1990s.

Thursday, September 15, 2022  (moved dates due to summer vacation schedules)

8:00-9:30 pm ET (Eastern Time); 5 pm Pacific Time

Via Zoom link.  Please RSVP for the Zoom link.  (Same as last month, if you attended before)

[We send book announcements to everyone who indicates an interest in the Book Club] - if you aren't receiving these emails please send your details. 

1. Andrea Lawlor's novel Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (2019) - 349 pages.  

It's 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul's also got a secret: he's a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Paul transforms his body and his gender at will as he crossed the country––a journey and adventure through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure.

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a riotous, razor-sharp bildungsroman whose hero/ine wends his/her way through a world gutted by loss, pulsing with music, and opening into an array of intimacy and connections. 

Originally published by Rescue Press in 2017, Lawlor’s LAMBDA-finalist debut novel quickly became a cult classic. Now reissued and on its way to full-fledged classic status, the book follows Paul Polydoris, queer studies major and bartender at the only gay club in a university town, through the landscape of the 1990s. From identity politics and Queer Nation to Riot Grrrl and zines, Lawlor, Fence fiction editor, hits all the right cultural notes, and Paul is an unforgettable character, slippery in the vein of Woolf’s Orlando as he shapeshifts, travels, and finally winds up his odyssey in San Francisco.  (With time in NYC and places in between). 

2. About Lawlor: Andrea Lawlor
 teaches writing at Mount Holyoke College and edits fiction for Fence. They live in western Massachusetts. Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is their first novel.

3. Where to find the book: 

Besides your library (including inter-library loan), and retailers (e.g., Kindle edition $4.99 [direct link] or use the free Kindle app on any device; book is available from all booksellers in every format), it may be available for a FREE brief e-book loan (may be a waiting period) at OpenLibrary [direct link for Forster – may include both e-book and audiobook versions] 

Book excerpt at LitHub:

Book excerpt at The Brooklyn Rail


4. *OPTIONAL RESOURCES* for Andrea Lawlor here: 

Video Interview with author Andrea Lawlor discussing the book:

Guardian interview with Lawlor:

LOTS of interviews from Lawlor's website:

NY Times interview.  (Free to read)

Non-Binary Wiki entry Andrea Lawlor:

1-hour Video interview with Lawlor at Earwolf

Mt Holyoke Professor Page

Publisher website:


5. Reviews

"Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is playful, sexy, smart, and like nothing else I—or you—have ever read before."
Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

“Restless, muscular, and playful…. A tight satisfying masterpiece.”
Eileen Myles, author of Evolution

“Fast-paced and cheeky…a touchingly sweet-hearted and deeply cool book.”
Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave

"I love this book in all it's ecstasy, wit, and hilarity....As rare as it is contagious."
—Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

“Joyous and ever-changing, whip-smart and brilliantly perverse, 
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is quite simply one of the most exciting—and one of the most fun—novels of the decade.” 
—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

"Mixes pop culture, gender theory, and smut, but [Lawlor’s] greatest achievement is that Paul is no mere symbol but a vibrantly yearning being.
The New Yorker

"One of the most buzzed-about books from last year gets a reissue. In these irreverent pages, a shapeshifter gets a crash course in gender and sexuality by inhabiting both sides of the binary and arriving precisely somewhere in the middle. Book jacket blurbs are seldom something to go on, but in this case...just look."
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Bends genre as well as gender....Difficult to quote in a family newspaper.”
The New York Times

“A fantasy spin an all-too-pertinent issues of gender and sex.”
—Harper’s Bazaar

"If anyone has ever endeavored to reclaim the canonical—specifically Ovid and Gertrude Stein—not to queer it, but to genderqueer it, it is Lawlor."
—The Paris Review

"With lashings of sex, music and clothes, it is filthy, sharp and clever. What’s not to like?"
—Hanif Kureishi

"Endlessly inventive....Magic."
—Kaitlyn Greenidge, Lenny Letter

“Intoxicatingly rousing…. A timelessly contemporary exposé of an antihero with a heart made of fire.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Groundbreaking…. A fresh novel that elevates questions of sexual identity and intimacy." 
Kirkus (starred review)

"I'm loving 
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl....It’s pulling at my little queer midwestern heartstrings." 
Danez Smith, The Guardian

–> ** INVITE ** ANY YALE ALUMNI to our Andrea Lawlor discussion on August 25



NOTE: Our informal group doesn’t have any set “curriculum;” we discuss the books that members nominate and that we all vote for… but ongoing themes, connected to LGBTQ+ experience – sometimes including Yale – do emerge. At discussions, each of us can bring up ANY points we want. We welcome the widest range of opinions, in a lively collegial atmosphere – Boola Boola Redux! 


Yale GALA LGBTQ+ Book Club is a series of lively Zoom discussions of LGBTQ+ contemporary and classic novels, non-fiction, plays, and poetry. All alumni are welcome, of all orientations, genders, races, and points of view. We meet the third Thursday of every month at 8 pm ET via Zoom. 


To register, please email with the subject line, “Yale GALA LGBTQ+ Book Club: Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl. 

More Info: 



We are NOT limited to the below recommendations but see what you think of these diverse titles. Nominate any LGBTQ+ book that interests you, contemporary or classic, whether a work of FICTION (novel, story collection), NON-FICTION (history, biography, memoir, essay collection), PLAY (or musical), or POETRY; there doesn’t need to be a Yale connection. Mention your choice, at a discussion, and I’ll add it to the following list for future group emails. We periodically, live at the beginning of discussions, take nominations and then vote as a group.

For our UPCOMING OPEN DATES (‘Third Thursdays’) – in the next couple of months, we need to select books for: September XX, October YY and November ZZ.  
If you’re looking for some ideas, here are major LGBTQ+ book ‘best lists’ and award winners (Lambda Literary, Publishing Triangle, Stonewall Awards, more). NEW!  BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) LGBTQ+ literature with links to external BIPOC sites. You’re not limited to those websites. PLEASE NOTE: new titles take a few months to become widely available in libraries. Here are members’ recommendations.


  • AMAN recommends: (FICTION) Delicious Foods by James Hannaham;  Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu;  The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.;  The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer.  (NON-FICTION) Becoming a Man: The Story of a Transition by P Carl;  Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  • ANN recommends: The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village memoir by Samuel R. Delany
  • BRUCE recommends: Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin;  The Gallery by John Horne Burns (1947); Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns by David Margolick
  • CHIP recommends: Poetry of Emily Dickinson (list of Dickinson’s most openly lesbian poems)
  • JIM recommends: The Bell by Iris Murdoch;  The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde;  Julian [last ‘pagan’ Roman emperor] by Gore Vidal;  Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts by James M. Saslow (includes hundreds of art photos; winner of two Lambda Literary Awards) – THANKS to Prof. Saslow, Pictures and Passions is briefly FREE to download complete (use the basic “Download PDF” link; 59 MB).
  • MARY ANNE recommends: The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
  • TASH recommends: Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
  • CAROLYN recommends: Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl b Andrea Lawlor and XX by Carolina Robertis
  • What would YOU – including new members – like our group to discuss? Nominate ANY LGBTQ+ book that interests you! I’ll add your recommendations here.




  • May and June 2022: Maurice, by EM Forster (1913 - published 1971)
  • April 2022: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
  • March 2022: Ain't I a Woman, by bell hooks
  • February 2022 – Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Stephen Sondheim’s “Musical Thriller”
  • January 2022 – Song in a Weary Throat, Pauli Murray’s memoir. (Movie available)
  • December 2021 – Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s novel
  • November 2021 – Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart’s novel
  • October 2021 – Fa**ots, Larry Kramer’s satirical first novel
  • September 2021 – The Sparsholt Affair, Alan Hollinghurst’s novel
  • August 2021 – The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith’s thriller novel
  • July 2021 – Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, Paul Monette’s memoir
  • June 2021 – Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo’s novel
  • May 2021 – The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez’s play, inspired by E.M. Forster’s novel Howards End
  • April 2021 – The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne’s novel
  • March 2021 – Native Country of the Heart, a Memoir, by Cherríe Moraga
  • February 2021 – Leaves of Grass (1855 first version), Walt Whitman’s poetry
  • January 2021 – The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller’s novel
  • December 2020 – Call Me by Your Name, André Aciman’s novel [no meetings in October or November]
  • September 2020 – The Gods of Tango, Carolina de Robertis’s novel [no meeting in August]
  • July 2020 – Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo Okparanta’s novel
  • June 2020 (our first discussion) – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde’s autobiographical novel (“biomythography”)


 More info:

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