Kathy Acker (born April 18, 1947 in Manhattan and died November 30, 1997 in Tijuana, Mexico) was an American sex-positive feminist writer. After supporting herself as a stripper, Acker's first work appeared in print as part of the burgeoning New York literary underground of the mid-1970s. She remained on the margins of the literary establishment, only being published by small presses until the mid-1980s, thus earning herself the epithet of literary terrorist. 1984 saw her first British publication, a novel called Blood and Guts in High School. From here on Acker produced a considerable body of novels, almost all still in print with Grove Press. She wrote pieces for a number of magazines and anthologies, and also had notable pieces printed in issues of RE/Search and Rapid Eye. Towards the end of her life she had a measure of success in the conventional press--the Guardian newspaper published several of her articles, including an interview with the Spice Girls, which she submitted just a few months before her death.
Acker's formative influences were American poets and writers (the Black Mountain poets, especially Jackson Mac Low, William S. Burroughs), and the Fluxus movement, as well as literary theory, especially Gilles Deleuze. In her work, she combined plagiarism, cut-up techniques, pornography, autobiography, persona and personal essay to confound expectations of what fiction should be. She acknowledged language's performative function in drawing attention to the instability of female identity in male narrative and literary history (Don Quixote), created parallelism in characters and autobiographical personas and experimented with pronouns, upsetting conventional syntax. In In Memoriam to Identity, she draws attention to popular analyses of Rimbaud's life and The Sound and the Fury, constructing or revealing social and literary identity. Though she was known in the literary world for creating a whole new style of feminist prose and for her transgressive fiction, she was also a punk and feminist icon for her devoted portrayals of subcultures, strong-willed women, and violence.
In April 1996 Kathy Acker was diagnosed with breast cancer, and began to undergo treatment. In January 1997 she wrote about her loss of faith in conventional medicine in a Guardian article, "The Gift of Disease." In the article she explains that after unsuccessful surgery, which left her feeling physically mutilated and emotionally debilitated, she rejected the passivity of the patient in the medical mainstream and began to seek out the advice of nutritionists, acupuncturists, psychic healers, and Chinese herbalists. What appeals to her is that instead of being an object of knowledge, as in Western medicine, the patient becomes a seer, a seeker of wisdom. Illness becomes the teacher and the patient is the student. After pursuing several forms of alternative medicine in England and the United States, Acker died a year and a half later from complications of breast cancer in an alternative cancer clinic in Tijuana, Mexico