Lucy Sante's latest book, I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition, has been widely lauded since its February release, and Beaconites will soon have an opportunity to hear from the Whiting Award-winning author in-person.

Sante will appear at the main stage of the Towne Crier in Beacon on Thursday, June 20 at 7PM as part of a special off-shoot event of the Beacon LitFest. She will be joined by artist and activist Richard Eagan.

Sante, a longtime Kingston resident and retired Bard professor, built a career excavating overlooked or ignored territory. Her first book Low Life explored the seedier history of New York City in rich detail and with such immediacy that it became an instant classic.

"It's led to a permanent confusion between time and space." -Lucy Sante

Her interest in pulling the past into the present may be rooted in childhood, which she spent traveling between Belgium and the U.S.

"It's led to a permanent confusion between time and space. There was a 30-year gap in culture and technology between Europe and America at that time," she said. "It was like going back and forth in time. I always had the reassurance of knowing that the past was there on the other side of the ocean."

Her two most recent works, Nineteen Reservoirs and I Heard Her Call My Name, also mine subject matter hidden in plain sight and wrestle with history, albeit in very different modes. Nineteen Reservoirs, released in paperback in May of 2024, delves into the history of the New York City water system and Catskill region's reluctant and even adversarial role in its evolution.

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I Heard Her Call My Name recounts her decision at age 66 to transition to female. She was prepared to take her desire to be a woman with her to the grave until her "egg cracked"--a metaphor she returns to through the book--upon seeing her image rendered through a gender-swapping filter in a photo app.

" gave me a full-face portrait of a Hudson Valley woman in midlife: strong, healthy, clean-living. ... She was me. When I saw her I felt something liquefy in the core of my body," Sante wrote.

The present day narrative is interwoven with her personal history from a childhood with one foot in Europe and the other in New Jersey; her young adulthood as a denizen of the Lower East Side of the '70s and '80s; and the beginnings of a literary career that would see her become one of the most astute writers of her generation.

Her first book to bear the name Lucy Sante, though, would be Nineteen Reservoirs.

Nineteen Reservoirs Traces NYC Water System's Impact on the Catskills

Nineteen Reservoirs by Lucy Sante
The Experiment
"That was the motivating thing: the pathos but also the mystery of it, the fact that under those waters once lay five to seven villages." -Lucy Sante

The idea of writing about the upstate reservoirs feeding New York City germinated when Sante began living part-time in the Catskills nearly 30 years ago and had the Pepacton Reservoir nearly in her backyard.

The Pepacton was a later addition to the New York City water system, having been built in the 1950s.

By the time Sante arrived, the residents of Delaware County were only a generation removed or had themselves experienced the displacement and destruction of communities brought by the project. The pain was still present, and the history fascinated Sante.

"It never occurred to me the idea of uprooting villages. But of course it's been done in many places and many times," Sante said. "That was the motivating thing: the pathos but also the mystery of it, the fact that under those waters once lay five to seven villages depending on where you were."

READ MORE: Wait, Are New York’s Catskill Mountains Not Really Mountains?

Sante has a knack for teasing out specific details that make a seemingly specialized local history interest riveting.

Consider the Ashokan Reservoir and its frequent appearances in your social media feed around sunset.

Now consider that 2,413 graves, including a Lenni Lenape burial ground, were moved at the expense of $42 a grave by their descendants, Sante writes.

It's not something you're likely to forget once you learn of it.

'It Was All Waiting to Burst'

I Heard Her Call My Name
Penguin Press

The Hudson Valley is at the center of Nineteen Reservoirs, but its impact also felt in Sante's deeply personal memoir. She credits the influence of Gen Z and students at Bard with helping her see that a gender transition was possible for her.

"I was at Bard from 1999 to 2023. It was somewhere around the second decade of the 21st Century that I started seeing the wave coming, the gender revolution in ones and twos and then fives and sixes," Sante said.

READ MORE: Catskills Played a Unique Role in New York LGBTQ History

She describes one particular Bard student, a transwoman named Leor, as helping her gain confidence. More importantly, though, Sante said the friendship she formed with Leor granted her permission to not lose the rough edges and disdain for santimony at the core of her personality.

I Heard Her Call My Name was written at a feverish pace and completed within two months.

"Writing the book was a total liberation," Sante said "It was all waiting to burst. I'd already done all the thinking."

From Stonewall to today: 50+ years of modern LGBTQ+ history

From Stonewall to the 2022 midterm elections, Stacker takes a look back at over 50 years of significant moments in the LGBTQ+ community in the United States and around the world.

Gallery Credit: Keri Wiginton & Lauren Liebhaber

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