I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well


I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well


Essays | James Allen Hall | April 1, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9963167-7-4
158 pgs

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* Winner of the 2016 Essay Collection Competition, Se­lected by Chris Kraus *
* Winner of the 2018 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Prose Nonfiction *

“The first instinct will be to call James Allen Hall’s I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well brave. Resist this temptation. Brave feels dismissive of the honest, brutal work in these nine lyric essays. Brave doesn’t adequately touch the self-awareness and beauty Hall writes with as he depicts what it means and feels like to grow up queer in Florida in the 1980s… It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s challenged me this much to find the right adjectives to describe it.”
—Michael Levan, American Microreviews

Praise for I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well

“Growing up queer in Florida in the 1980s, James Allen Hall’s life has taken him to places that high culture rarely treads … In these essays, Hall lives alongside, and empathically lives through, his family’s meth addiction, and mental illnesses … and considers his own penchants for less than happy, equal sex with an agility, depth, and lightness that is blissfully inconclusive. I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well is a tragic, funny, graceful book.”
—Chris Kraus

“Hall’s work lays bare all manner of vulnerability, not to confess or shock, but to reckon into language the nearly unsayable. And who exactly is at the center of this drive toward the light? A witness, an unrelenting seeker, a survivor, someone who’s earned the right to judge but who withholds that too-easy gesture in favor of a clearer sight and the hard won belief that while we are bound together by so many complex tethers … we are especially linked by compassion, a force abundantly evident in this moving collection.” 
—Lia Purpura

“‘What I am should be extinguished,’ writes James Allen Hall about his queerness, which despite a journey through youth troubled with violence and homophobia, manages to exist and persist. Yet the personal essays in I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well are more than expressions of pain, they are testaments to perseverance shaped by the acceptance of a flawed self, love for a complicated family and an unflappable wit.”
—Rigoberto González

James Allen Hall is also the author of a book of poems, Now You're the Enemy, which won awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He teaches at Wash­ington College on Maryland's Eastern Shore and divides his time between Chestertown and Baltimore

Selected Reviews

Queen Mob’s Tea House

Colorado Review

American Microreviews

More Information

Interview with The Rumpus

Excerpts in Bennington Review

James at Washington College