Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 7:30pm
Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St. W.
Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy

In 2006, Laura Albert was exposed as the true author of the acclaimed bestsellers Sarah, and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, two purported autobiographical novels by an abused 12-year-old boy named JT LeRoy. What prompted a young woman named Savannah Knoop to don a disguise and pretend to be the non-existent LeRoy at public functions? At the launch of Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy (Seven Stories/PGC) Knoop will discuss her role in a media hoax that made international headlines with novelist and Quill & Quire Books for Young People editor Nathan Whitlock. After the interview, get down at “JT LeRoy’s Authentic Disco Party”, featuring a live set by DJ Jet. – A This Is Not A Reading Series event presented by Pages Books & Magazines, Seven Stories/PGC and EYE WEEKLY.

The JT LeRoy scandal is a story of our times. In January 2006, the New York Times unmasked Savannah Knoop as the face of the mysterious author JT LeRoy. A media frenzy ensued as JT’s fans, mentors, and readers came to terms with the fact that the gay-male-ex-truck-stop-prostitute-turned literary-wunderkind was really a girl from San Francisco, whose sister-in-law wrote the books.

Girl Boy Girl is the story of how Savannah Knoop led this bizarre double life for six years, trading a precarious existence as a college dropout for a life in which she was embraced by celebrities and artists—Carrie Fisher, Courtney Love, Mary Ellen Mark, Winona Ryder, Asia Argento, Sharon Olds, Gus Van Sant, Mike Pitt, Calvin Klein, and Shirley Manson, to name a few—and traveled the world. Telling her side of the story for the first time, Savannah reveals how being perceived as a boy gave her a sense of confidence and entitlement she never had before. Her love affair with Asia Argento is particularly wrenching, as they embark on an intimate relationship that causes more alienation than closeness.

As Savannah and Laura struggle over control of the JT character, Savannah realizes the limits of the game, and is relieved when it’s over. Girl Boy Girl chronicles how a young woman inadvertently finds herself through the adventure of being someone else.

Savannah Knoop began to lead a double life in 1999 at the age of eighteen, when her sister-in-law asked her to be the face of JT LeRoy, author of the internationally acclaimed novels Sarah and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. Their true identities were revealed in 2006. Knoop began designing clothing six years ago and formed a clothing company under the name of Tinc. She lives in San Francisco.

Nathan Whitlock was the winner of the inaugural Emerging Artist in Creative Writing Award and the Short Prose for Developing Writers Award, as well as runner-up for the Bronwyn Wallace Memorial Award. He is the Books for Young People editor of Quill & Quire magazine. His writing and reviews have appeared in The Toronto Star, Saturday Night, The Globe and Mail, Maisonneuve, Toro, Geist, and elsewhere. Last spring, Whitlock published his debut novel, A Week of This, to wide acclaim. He lives in Toronto.