Episode 71: Joe Vallese, Editor of It Came from the Closet

The personal essay collection about horror films and queerness you didn’t know you needed (but now you do).

When Joe Vallese conceived of an essay collection about horror movies and queerness five years ago, he figured there must already be one out there. Turns out, there wasn’t! So, Joe set about coralling a chorus of queer voices to write about their personal experiences through the lens of horror movies.

Joe tells us about the process of putting together the analogy It Came from the Closet from conception, to getting the proposal accepted by The Feminist Press, to reading and compiling the essays. Naturally, the conversation is peppered with our own shared love of horror movies (and Joe and Corinne’s shared adoration of Tori Amos).

That’s queerness, right? It’s campy, and it’s dead serious. It’s fabulous and artistic, and it’s emotional. So, if you’re looking for a collection of funny as essays about queerness and horror, you’re not going to quite find them. Though there are moments of humor in many of the essays, this is serious memoir, all in the language of horror movies.

—Joe Vallese

Guest Bio

Joe Vallese is co editor of the anthology What’s Your Exit? A Literary Detour Through New Jersey. His creative and pop culture writing appears in Bomb, VICE, Backstage, PopMatters, Southeast Review, North American Review, Narrative Northeast, VIA: Voices in Italian-Americana, among others. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee and a notable in Best American Essays for his essay “Blood, Brothers.” He is currently clinical associate professor in the Expository Writing Program at New York University, and previously served as site director and faculty for the Bard Prison Initiative. Joe holds an MFA New York University, and MAT and BA degrees from Bard College.

It Came from the Closet Book Summary

Through the lens of horror—from Halloween to Hereditary—queer and trans writers consider the films that deepened, amplified, and illuminated their own experiences. Horror movies hold a complicated space in the hearts of the queer community: historically misogynist, and often homo- and transphobic, the genre has also been inadvertently feminist and open to subversive readings. Common tropes—such as the circumspect and resilient “final girl,” body possession, costumed villains, secret identities, and things that lurk in the closet—spark moments of eerie familiarity and affective connection. Still, viewers often remain tasked with reading themselves into beloved films, seeking out characters and set pieces that speak to, mirror, and parallel the unique ways queerness encounters the world.

It Came from the Closet features twenty-five essays by writers speaking to this relationship, through connections both empowering and oppressive. From Carmen Maria Machado on Jennifer’s Body, Jude Ellison S. Doyle on In My Skin, Addie Tsai on Dead Ringers, and many more, these conversations convey the rich reciprocity between queerness and horror.

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