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I Sing to Use the Waiting

a collection of essays by
Zachary Pace

$ 12.72 $ 16.95
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I Sing to Use the Waiting, by Zachary Pace (Two Dollar Radio, 2024)

I Sing to Use the Waiting: A Collection of Essays about the Women Singers Who've Made Me Who I Am is a vital and affecting reflection on how popular culture can shape personal identity.

With remarkable grace, candor, and a poet’s ear for prose, Zachary Pace recounts the women singers—from Cat Power to Madonna, Kim Gordon to Rihanna—who shaped them as a young person coming-of-age in rural New York, first discovering their own queer voice.

Structured like a mixtape, Pace juxtaposes their coming out with the music that informed them along the way. They recount how listening to themselves sing along as a child to a Disney theme song they recorded on a boom box in 1995, was when they first realized there was an effeminate inflection to their voice. As childhood friendships splinter, Pace discusses the relationship between Whitney Houston and Robyn Crawford. Cat Power’s song “My Daddy Was a Musician” spurs a discussion of Pace’s own musician father, and their gradual estrangement.

Resonant and compelling, I Sing to Use the Waiting is a deeply personal rumination on how queer stories are abundant yet often suppressed, and how music may act as a comforting balm carrying us through difficult periods and decisions.

Read an excerpt:
presents: “Colors of the Wind,” an excerpt from Zachary Pace's I Sing to Use the Waiting.

Further reading:
LitHub presents: "Zachary Pace on the Push and Pull of Working in Publishing as a Writer" (Jan. 23, 2024)


—Monday, Apr 1, 2024 @ 7:30 pm: The Miss Manhattan Non-Fiction Reading
(Niagara in the East Village: 112 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009)
Join Zachary Pace and fellow nonfiction writers for a evening of reading!

—Tuesday, Apr 3, 2024 @ 8 pm: Two Dollar Radio Headquarters
(1124 Parsons Ave, Columbus, OH 43206):

—Saturday, Apr 6, 2024: Mission Creek Festival

(Iowa City, Iowa)
Zachary Pace author event!

—Thursday, Apr 11, 2024 @ 7 pm: Book Suey
(10345 Joseph Campau Ave, Hamtramck, MI 48212 ):


"Meticulously researched and thrillingly individual... Part of what makes Pace’s book so refreshing is that the author is uninterested in finding, or inventing, breadcrumb trails that point to an artist’s sexuality, or assembling an alternative taxonomy of LGBTQ+ anthems. Rather, queerness is a kaleidoscopic filter that can destabilize familiar narratives about the artists you love, find hidden nuances, or empower your wildest takes. It’s a bold stance to say that all sound is queer; In I Sing to Use the Waiting, Pace says you may just have to listen closely."
—Owen Myers, Pitchfork
REVIEW: "Zachary Pace’s New Book Offers a New Way to Look at Queer Music"

"Zachary Pace’s I Sing to Use the Waiting: A Collection of Essays About the Women Singers Who’ve Made Me Who I Am has the propulsive charm of a well-crafted playlist—a form so suited to mapping its maker’s passions and preoccupations, shames and joys. Whether considering their own gender and sexuality, the social and economic strictures within which we live, or what psychoanalytic theory can teach us about the cinematic performances of Whitney Houston and Cher, Pace writes with a poet’s attunement to language and an archivist’s love of the deep cut. By turns personal, critical, and dazzlingly ekphrastic, this debut introduces a mind worth tuning into."
—Jameson Fitzpatrick, BOMB
INTERVIEW: "Zachary Pace by Jameson Fitzpatrick: The writer on the resonance of music and crafting identity through song" (Feb 1, 2024)

"A stunning testament to the effects music (and musicians) have on our lives."
—David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
AUTHOR PLAYLISTS: Zachary Pace’s playlist for their essay collection I Sing to Use the Waiting (Jan. 23, 2024)

"This stunning essay collection explores sound, gender, queerness, survival, and the shaping of identity through voice and pop culture. Blending reportage, cultural criticism, and personal narrative, this beautiful, intimate debut is definitely the best 2024 book I’ve read so far." 
—Rachel León, Chicago Review of Books
"Most Anticipated Books of January"

" 'Tell each other how We sang/To Keep the Dark away,' ends the Emily Dickinson poem from which Pace gets the title of this collection, which explores gender, sexuality and liberation." 
—Shreya Chattopadhyay, The New York Times

"Paperback Row: 6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week"
I Sing to Use the Waiting by Zachary Pace in the New York Times digital

"In I Sing to Use the Waiting, Zachary Pace writes about how women singers shaped their coming-of-age and discovering their queerness. Throughout the collection, the writer explores a variety of topics, including an essay about how Disney’s Pocahontas reinforces racist, misogynistic, and homophobic views."
—Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
INTERVIEW & EXCERPT: “Colors of the Wind,” an excerpt from Zachary Pace's I Sing to Use the Waiting. (Jan. 23, 2024)

"The essays each center on a singer (or group of singers) who were influential, and Pace’s style is smart and analytical, while still being vulnerable and personal. The essay collection as a whole forms a mosaic of Zachary as an individual along with the 1980s-2000s so familiar to many of us."
—Lara Lillibridge, Hippocampus Magazine
INTERVIEW: "Zachary Pace, Author of I Sing to Use the Waiting"

"It is music that enabled Pace to find comfort in their identity, and it is their writing about music that provides readers an entryway into their world. As they say in their strong, affirming poetic voice, 'Language isn’t a virus, language is a remedy.' Through their words in I Sing To Use The Waiting, Pace allows us to step into their world for a brief moment of time and heal with them."
—Edward Banchs, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
REVIEW: I Sing to Use the Waiting

"Zachary Pace is, at heart, a fan. Their writing is from a perspective of a lifelong obsessive, of someone who has listened, thought about, and loved longer than you have. That obsessiveness, as well as Pace’s instinct to attempt explanation, is what makes their work so strange and surprising. Pace digs deeper, into the literal shape of soundwaves, into their personal history, and into the recordings themselves, plotting concept next to idea next to emotion and seeing what we can draw from them."
—Tiffany Babb, The Rumpus
INTERVIEW: "Listen Repetitively: A Conversation with Zachary Pace" (Jan. 22, 2024)

"Pace fuses memoir and criticism (my favorite combination) to explore the emotional and cultural impacts of women singers across time, from Cat Power and Rihanna to Kim Gordon and Whitney Houston. A queer coming-of-age story that centers the power of music and the legacies of women artists."
—Sophia M. Stewart, The Millions
"Most Anticipated: Great Winter 2024 Preview"

"In these intimate and thoughtful essays, Pace offers a personal queer history, an inquiry into human expressivity, and a meditation on the formative influence of popular culture. Beginning with an exploration of the author’s own 'queer voice'—and the way social norms encode gender into certain vocal sounds—the collection considers nearly a dozen female performers and how they affected Pace’s worldview, self-conception, and artistic sensibility. Pace approaches his subjects with a mix of memoir, reportage, and critical theory, including Madonna’s engagement with Jewish Kabbalah, Rihanna’s personal and musical 'multiplicity,' and even the Pocahontas character from the eponymous Disney film, whose song 'Colors of the Wind' enthralled a ten-year-old Pace."
—Jen DeGregorio, Poets & Writers
INTERVIEW: "Ten Questions for Zachary Pace"

I Sing to Use the Waiting by Zachary Pace is featured in Bookshop.org's "100 most anticipated books of 2024":
"New year, new books to get excited about. From literary fiction to compelling essays, heart-pounding romance to heart-breaking poetry, these are the 100 books we’re looking forward to this year."
—Bookshop, "100 most anticipated books of 2024"
Bookshop on Instagram I Sing to Use the Waiting a 2024 top 100 most anticipated

"Pace chronicles their shifting musical tastes and how these artists, along with others, factored into significant moments in their life."
—Tobias Carroll, Inside Hook
"10 books you should be reading this January"

"Pace’s essays are a beautiful ode to how musicians can shape us. The collection is a must-read for any musicophile. Their passion reverberates on every page while exploring their life and the musicians they admire."
—Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
"12 noteworthy debut books to read this January"

"The essays in Pace’s collection detail their journey coming out as queer, influenced by their favorite women singers, including Whitney Houston, Cat Power, Madonna, and Rihanna."
—Michael Schaub, Orange County Register
"20 highly anticipated books coming in 2024"

"These essays span much more than women singers. They dive into sound, gender, queerness, the shaping of identity through voice and pop culture, and, yes, survival. The result is a collection with the vibe of a perfect mixtape. This compilation blends research, reportage, personal narrative, and cultural criticism, and each track offers something different and building off what came before... The collection resists easy classification—is it a memoir in essays or a collection of essays on pop culture? It’s neither, it’s both. The assemblage of this range of reportage, personal narrative, and cultural criticism, this hodgepodge of different forms, is itself queer. How beautiful for a book’s form to echo what’s at the heart of this collection: The intersection of pop culture, social issues, and personal experience make up Pace’s claiming of their voice. And in doing so, they’ve helped me claim mine."
—Rachel León, Split Lip Magazine
REVIEW: I Sing to Use the Waiting

"Pace’s beautiful prose and palpable passion make this soar..."
Publishers Weekly

—Ian Kirkland, Lambda Literary

"With so many great books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One offers the first lines of a dozen recently released books..."
Poets & Writers' "Page One" features I Sing to Use the Waiting: A Collection of Essays About the Women Singers Who’ve Made Me Who I Am
From the January/February 2024 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine

"With a title referencing the first line and title of an Emily Dickinson poem, this debut book is a memoiristic essay collection about the women and nonbinary musicians who have influenced Pace’s life... Pace relies on Freudian theories as a lens to view their own experiences as a queer person. They also employ an insightful, somewhat highbrow style of writing for subjects that are not always analyzed thoughtfully in the mainstream, such as Disney’s Pocahontas and Rihanna... Readers who enjoyed Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic and Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us are the perfect audience for this book."
—Heather Sheahan, Library Journal

"No higher praise have I for Zachary Pace and their yes once more delish collection of prose poems really about those songbirds that help give the queer soul their own voice. Covering national treasures including Cat Power, Whitney, Nina Simone, etc., it’s a compendium born of a true consciousness, one that is serious about and committed to articulating writing’s best and true subject: how we speak, and why."
Hilton Als, author of White Girls and 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Criticism

"I’ve been waiting a long time to read a book as soulful and precise, in its treatment of listening, as Zachary Pace’s tender account of an identity put back together through the powerful elixir of singing women. Pace, a lover of the overlooked, attends to the brocaded minutiae of triumphs, comebacks, travails. To enunciation and excess, Pace brings a curatively lucid eye and ear, each vignette invested with lyric care, and with a fastidious affection for the contours of a singer’s career. This impeccable book sends me back, with a renewed heart, to the songs Pace masterfully covers, with a delivery as splendid, as emotionally impressive, as the lauded originals."
Wayne Koestenbaum, poet, critic, novelist, artist, and performer

"Zachary Pace’s I Sing to Use the Waiting is an exhilarating mix, part memoir, part examination of queer identity, part investigation into corporate heteronormativity and the internalized homophobia it produces in children and others who are still growing into who they are—and so much more, all of it approached via the lenses of the singers (and their lives) whom Pace encountered at pivotal moments in their own growing up. In considering a recording made by Nina Simone, for example, Pace comes to understand voice itself as a form of queerness, straddling registers, enacting a fluidity that refuses binary thinking; other singers—Fiona Apple, Mariah Carey, Joanna Newsom—become a source of actual vocabulary 'for interpreting the world'; and in a discussion of Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth, Pace considers lyrics and music as entryways to the sublime, as a way 'to remember the demise that is my only destiny, relieved I’ve eluded it for now.' At one point, Pace says of Rihanna’s career that it 'enacts a singularly liberating experience of identity expression.' I’d say the same for I Sing to Use the Waiting, a beautifully provocative, smart, and tender book indeed."
Carl Phillips, 2023 Pulitzer Prize winning author of Then the War: And Selected Poems (2022)

"Zachary Pace takes listening & fanhood to a teeming level of worship which is exactly what it is. Beautiful precise quirky bodily cerebral listening to female vocalists and writing about it. I’m so in awe of what I get when I read this dedicated performance of that. I think Kim (Gordon) should hear, Chan (Marshall) should hear. The chapter on the Kabbalah (and Madonna) was so astonishing. God should hear too: this miraculous and fun and deeply cool book that’s really about sound and our relationship to it, gendered, historic, mortal and true."
Eileen Myles, poet, novelist and art journalist

“What makes up the soundtrack of our lives? In this smart, captivating collection of essays, Zachary Pace brings us theirs—an eclectic, fascinating, often groundbreaking group of frontwomen whose words and voices have defined not only the larger culture, but also who the author is and who they might yet be. The essays in I Sing to Use the Waiting deftly move from informative to deeply personal and back again, breaking down songs and words and voices that cannot be contained, that exist inside a world that is both mystifying and oppressive. If you’ve ever played a song or album so many times your neighbors complained; if you’ve ever obsessively analyzed playlists of shows near and far; if you’ve ever found a voice, a lyric, a harmony saving your life: this one’s for you.”
Lynn Melnick, author of I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton

"What draws us to the sound of another person’s voice? What magnetizes others to our own? I Sing to Use the Waiting is not only a thrilling homage to a group of majestic women, but an exploration into the nature of voice itself—that queer and primal animal signature. Zachary Pace writes with electric intensity. A total joy.”
Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World

"I love music and I love women in music even more, so this collection of personal essays by Zachary Pace rang nearly all my bells. I love the way Pace connects these women to their own personal development and understanding of who they are. In thinking back, I realize how much women in music shaped me as well (Madonna, Kim, Kathleen, Courtney, Mariah, Janet). This collection also helped deepen my understanding of why women singers are so important to the queer community. I learned a lot, I remembered a lot, I thought a lot."
—Laurel Kane, White Whale Bookstore (Pittsburgh, PA)

"Madonna, Gloria Estefan, Cher, Rhianna. What do these female musical acts have in common? Their aura of superstardom that catapulted them into the stratosphere of queer divaness! Author Zachary Pace's essay collection pays tribute to the numerical female singers that shaped LGBTQ culture, influenced fans and music enthusiasts detailing the talent of their vocal resonance and unique sound to becoming unlikely icons for the rebels and outliers of society!"
—Gerard Villegas, Auntie's Books (Spokane, WA)


Zachary Pace, author of I Sing to Use the Waiting

Zachary Pace is a writer and editor who lives in New York City, whose first book is I Sing to Use the Waiting: A Collection of Essays About the Women Singers Who've Made Me Who I Am, and whose writing has been published in the Baffler, BOMB, Bookforum, Boston Review, Frieze magazine, Interview magazine, Literary Hub, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the PEN Poetry Series, the Yale Review, and elsewhere. More work can be found at zacharypace.com.

Visit the Zachary Pace author page.

Sneak Peek

Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from I Sing to Use the Waiting!
View I Sing to Use the Waiting sneak peek here

Sneak peek of I Sing to Use the Waiting by Zachary Pace


Cover design: Eric Obenauf.
Cover photo: Daniel Schludi on Unsplash.
Author photograph: Jared Buckhiester.

TERRITORY: U.S. & Canada
FORMAT: Paperback Original (1st printing, gatefold)
LIST PRICE: $16.95
PAGES: 190
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387424
DIGITAL ISBN: 9781953387431
RELEASE DATE: January 23, 2024
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"