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Kathy Acker was born in New York City by the name of Karen Alexander. His parents were Donald and Claire Lehman. There are some doubts about the year of his birth, 1947; the United States Library of Congress records his birth in 1948, while most of the obituaries indicate that he was born in 1944. Claire Lehman’s pregnancy was not planned and Donald abandoned her before Kathy was born. His mother remarried immediately and formed a relationship that, years later, Kathy would describe as a marriage without passion with a useless man; it is his stepfather Albert Alexander who registers her with his last name. Kathy Acker was raised in her stepfather’s house, on the then prosperous Upper East Side of New York City. The relationship that Kathy maintained with her dominant mother was plagued with hostility and anxiety until her adulthood, as Acker felt unwanted and unloved. Although her birth name was Karen, her family and friends called her Kathy.
In 1966 he married Robert Acker and changed his surname from Lehman to Acker. Its first publication was in the mid 70’s as part of the flourishing underground literary scene of New York. Like many other young artists and writers of the era who were struggling to maintain their careers, Kathy worked as a stripper. It is during this job that he met and heard the stories of other women, women very different from those he had known in his life, these stories significantly influenced the literary work that Acker would produce at the time. In the decade of the 70’s he moved several times between San Francisco, San Diego and New York. After his divorce from Robert Acker, he remarried, after seven years of relationship, with the composer and experimental musician Peter Gordon. Then he maintained relations with the theorist, editor and critic Sylvère Lotringer and later with the filmmaker and theorist Peter Wollen. In 1996 Kathy left San Francisco to move to London with writer and music critic Charles Shaar Murray. He married twice and, although most of his relationships were with men, he was openly bisexual. In 1979 he won the Pushcart Prize with his story “New York City in 1979”. He lived in London in the early 80’s, where he wrote much of his most renowned literary work. In the late 80’s he returned to the United States and worked, around six years at the San Francisco Art Institute as an assistant professor, and as visiting professor at different universities, among which the University of Idaho, the University of California at San Diego, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the California Institute of the Arts and Roanoke College. In 1996, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to undergo a double mastectomy. In January 1997 he wrote about his disbelief in traditional medicine in the article entitled The Gift of Illness originally published in the Guardian newspaper; In his text, Acker explains how he became disenchanted with the passivity of the patient being in Western medicine after undergoing an unsuccessful surgery that left her feeling physically mutilated and emotionally weakened and, why, as a patient, she began to seek help and advice from nutritionists, acupuncturists, healers and Chinese herbalists, feeling more interest in the ideology and affirmations provided by alternative medicine. Acker was attracted to the idea of being more than just an object of knowledge for Western medicine, in alternative medicine the patient could become a seer, a researcher of wisdom and, in this sense, the disease became a teacher and the sick in a student of this one. After a year and a half of undergoing different alternative medicine practices in England and the United States, Kathy Acker died at an alternative cancer clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. He died in room 101, a detail that did not go unnoticed by his friend Alan Moore, who said: “There is nothing that this woman did not become a literary reference.”
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