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A poetic memoir about coming-of-age in the AIDS era, and its effects on life and art.

"She is a writer for the future, in that she defies genre." Hilton Als

"Pamela Sneed's Funeral Diva charts the 'grieving patterns' informing a life with unflinching honesty and clarity. This notable achievement, traveling from youth to adulthood, is a harrowing account of how Sneed transforms violence and pain into an artist's life." — Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric

In this collection of personal essays and poetry, acclaimed poet and performer Pamela Sneed details her coming of age in New York City during the late 1980s. Funeral Diva captures the impact of AIDS on Black Queer life, and highlights the enduring bonds between the living, the dying, and the dead. Sneed’s poems not only converse with lovers past and present, but also with her literary forebears—like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde—whose aesthetic and thematic investments she renews for a contemporary American landscape.

Offering critical focus on matters from police brutality to LGBTQ+ rights, Funeral Diva confronts today's most pressing issues with acerbic wit and audacity. The collection closes with Sneed's reflections on the two pandemics of her time, AIDS and COVID-19, and the disproportionate impact of each on African American communities.


"Riveting, personal, open-hearted, risky and wise. This is Pamela Sneed at the top of her gifts, firmly grounding her history into our history, enriching both, acknowledging all the legacies and losses, influences gold and ash." — Sarah Schulman, author of Conflict Is Not Abuse

"Reminiscent of Audre Lorde’s Zami, Pamela Sneed’s memoir is, in itself, a healing balm, affirming in its truths and honesty. I cannot remember ever reading a book that illustrates the impact of the AIDS epidemic on our community more poignantly than Funeral Diva." — Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Patsy


Poet, professor, and performer, Pamela Sneed is the author of Sweet Dreams, Kong, and Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom than Slavery. She was a Visiting Critic at Yale, a Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and is online faculty at Chicago’s School of the Art Institute teaching Human Rights and Writing Art. Her work is widely anthologized and appears in Nikki Giovanni’s, The 100 Best African American Poems.

She has performed at the Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Poetry Project, NYU and Pratt Universities, Smack Mellon Gallery, The High Line, Performa, Danspace, The Bessies, Performance Space, Joe’s Pub, The Public Theater, SMFA, and BRIC.


  • Item Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • UNSPSC: 55101500
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • ISBN-13: 9780872868113
  • ISBN-10: 0872868117
  • Product Dimensions: 5.25 x 0.75 x 8 inches
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers (October 27, 2020)
  • Language: English
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