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The Lesbian Edition
Volume 2 Number 2
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Daughters of an Emerald Dusk
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The stunning conclusion to Katherine V. Forrest's Daughters trilogy is the most electrifying,
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Dear Lesbian Edition Subscribers,
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P.S. We were also sorry to learn, as we went to press, of Andrea Dworkin’s death. While Dworkin, like perhaps the pope and Ronald Reagan, had both admirers and detractors, it’s been a bit sad to see the same media that fawned over both of them when they died, take potshots at Dworkin on the occasion of her death.
Here’s a link to an early obituary:
And a memorial site:
And a link to essays by Dworkin and her partner, John Stoltenberg, on Dworkin as a lesbian and John on living with Dworkin:
Book of the Month
in the U.S., Jeanette Winterson’s long awaited Lighthousekeeping is (with
all due respect to Virginia Woolf) as elegant a love story as any woman has
ever penned to another. Of course Winterson’s mind never moves on only one track,
so here we have stories within stories within stories: the townsfolk dispose
of recently orphaned Silver by apprenticing the bastard child to old Pew, the
lighthouse keeper who, as the years pass, tells Silver stories – of the town,
the people, the building of the lighthouse – stories that fill in for the lack
of other parenting, but eventually apprentices, even this one, must go out into
the world and write their own lives out of the narratives they know. Ah! A girl’s
coming of age tale? Well, yes perhaps, with faint echoes of To the Lighthouse,
a little Darwin, a little Robert Louis Stevenson, some Tristan and Isolde, a
parrot or two, and a Greek island – it would be all too much in lesser hands
than Winterson’s. Women who loved her earlier books more than her later novels
may find this one a good place to reenter the lyrical, surreal, complex vision
of Jeanette Winterson. $23, Harcourt.
Bridgforth’s love conjure/blues is a performance novel – a tale told in
the voices of a dozen or more butch bulldykes, pretty ladies, sissy boys, and
various gender-bending folk as they sort out their lives and loves, survive the
legacy of racism, and generally tell one another what they need to know to get
on.... It’s not as accessible as poet/performance artist Bridgforth’s Bull-Jean
Stories, but her mix of fierce strong women, life-sized emotion, and her portrayals
of proud women’s lives make it well worth a stretch. It’s a great book to read
aloud with friends and perfect for date night. Want to come over Friday night
and read some love conjure/blues? $14 paper, 92 pages, RedBone Press.
And check out RedBone’s other recent publication: Nothin’ Ugly
Fly: Poems by Marvin K. White. $14.
After publisher Lisa C. Moore’s apartment burned down a couple of
years ago RedBone Press (Does Your Mama Know and The Bull-Jean Stories)
went on hiatus while she reassembled everything it takes to run an excellent
publishing company. What a gift to have RedBone publishing again! Lisa is also
the primary organizer for the Fire & Ink Conference. Interview with Sharon
Read what BTWOF said about the Fire & Ink Conference in the Booking
Your Travel section of our last issue.
Learn more about Fire & Ink: http://www.fireandink.org/index.html.
makes a book a lesbian book? What makes a book edgy? What makes a book contemporary?
Maggie Dubris’ Skels was nominated in the Lesbian Fiction category of the
Lammys. I hadn’t reviewed it for BTWOF, so I went back to take another look. Lesbian
content? Just about zip – unless you count that the drag queen keeps telling our
heroine’s (straight) roommate (and the drummer in his band, until he fires her),
that, if he were a lesbian, he’d date her. Hmmm.... Contemporary? Well, it’s set
in 1979 – and reads to me much more as a dyke’s adventure of the era, the heyday
of women first breaking down barriers and getting jobs as ambulance drivers, 911-paramedics,
cops, et al., except that there aren’t any lesbian characters. Edgy? Well, that’s
easier. Any ride on the seamy, seedy side of town seems to qualify, and this is
an excellent tale of getting bounced around the Hell’s Kitchen, Harlem, and morgue
assignments of NYC’s emergency response bureaucracy, of days – and more often
nights – rescuing NYC’s indigent, of being dead broke and trying to hold it together,
and of too-many and not-enough. Best of all, Skels resolves into something
of a mystery when frustrated-writer/medic Orlie realizes that the cop she broke
rules to rescue is, one-by-one, knocking off the rest of the men and women she
spends the rest of her time trying to save. It’s a juicy page-turner as she resolves
poetry, hunches, and a lot of foul play into a plot to save that one last targeted
guy. I guess the ex-boyfriend’s hangout was essential to the plot, but I kept
wondering where all the lesbians from this era were. Maybe they weren’t out yet?
Maybe Orlie is going to be a lesbian as soon as she gets all this other stuff
settled? Or maybe there’s a community consensus that any really gutsy,
barrier-breaking woman driven by a fierce sense of moral justice is a lesbian?
Don’t get me wrong – it’s an excellent book if you like edgy books or compelling
mysteries, I’m just not sure what makes it lesbian fiction. $14.95, Soft Skull
Of Kids and Moms and Moms Day
Card by Rigoberto Gonzalez, illustrated by Cecilia Concepcion Alvarez.
Antonio loves words and he loves his mother and her partner Leslie. But when
the other kids start making comments that Leslie looks like a guy when she comes
to pick him up after school, he just tries to get her to leave quickly. But
then there’s the question of who and what to put on the Mother’s Day cards they’re
making in school... In Antonio’s Card, Antonio comes to grips with his
feelings and his commitment to his family. Hopefully the next book will also
give kids some ideas about how to deal with the harassment from other kids,
too. Bilingual with text in English and Spanish. $19.95 hardcover, Children’s
Book Press. Publication date is April, but it should be in stores now.
This is Children’s Book Press’ first book with specifically
gay/lesbian content, but the Press has a long and wonderful history of doing bilingual,
multicultural picture books for kids and young readers. They’re wonderfully colorful
and dynamically illustrated books. I’m especially fond of their titles by Gloria
Anzaldua: Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del otro lado and Prietita
and the Ghost Woman/Prietita y la llorona.
Another new book for the
read-to and young-reader sets: Mom and Mum
Are Getting Married! When Rosie’s two moms decide to get married, Rosie hopes
for a big, fancy wedding and wants to be a flower girl – not exactly the scenario
her moms had in mind. But family is about compromise and everyone – including
Rosie’s grandparents and little brother as well as Rosie have their own special
places on the joyful day. Written by Ken Setterington, illustrated by Alice Priestley.
$11.95 hardcover, Second Story Press.
Coloring Books for Large and Small
Coloring books never go out of fashion – especially when they smash gender-
and sex-role stereotypes. And who could resist Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls
Will Be...? Great for coloring but also a great book to read aloud to early
grades to start discussions. It features girls who decide for themselves what
girls can be, grandfathers knitting, dads cleaning, aunts fixing tractors, moms
who don’t do dishes anymore, and bits of strategic advice: “Don’t let gender box
you in” (illustrated by a fort made of boxes with “Boys Only” crossed out). The
grand finale: “When we all get together, there isn’t anything we can’t be.” I
especially liked that it features kids who change their own worlds, rather than
depending on adults to get around to it. Created by Jacinta Bunnell (Girls Are
Not Chicks coloring book) and Irit Reinheimer with pages by 20 artists whose
illustrations work marvelously well together. 44 pages with a few stories, real-life
experiences, and questions to think about. $9.95, Soft Skull Press. Check out
Rapunzel in Girls Are Not Chicks: “This time, she had some power tools,
duct tape, a Tina Turner album, and a bus pass.” $5.95.
Look for pages from both books at:
And for New Moms (and Dads)
Traditional baby’s-first-year books are obnoxiously heterosexist so Two Lives
Publishing created a baby journal for LGBT families to track the milestones
of their child's first year. In Welcome to Our Family: A Baby Journal for
LGBT Families the parents, when coupled, are same-sex, the families are
multiracial, yellow replaces the traditional pink and blue book covers, and,
perhaps best of all, from the baby’s perspective, the cover is padded – perfect
for teething. And the illustrations that portray all those family/baby traditions
– first haircut, favorite read-aloud book, family trip to the beach, baby’s
first holiday – also feature diverse parents and kids... Written by Sally Lindsay,
illustrated by Laura Shepard. $24.95 hardcover.
Two Lives Publishing focuses on creating books
for children in alternative families.
See some pages here:
More about Two Lives:
Moms for Grown-Up Kids
In The Milk
of Human Kindness, edited by the popular Lori L. Lake, lesbian writers use
both fiction and memoir to address that delicate relationship between mothers
and their dyke daughters. I found the nonfiction essays to be the most moving,
including essays by Ellen Hart, Katherine V. Forrest, J.M. Redmann, and Therese
Szymanski – or perhaps mystery writers are uniquely qualified to plumb mother-daughter
relationships? But romance and adventure writers Karin Kallmaker and Radclyffe
also weigh in with insightful memoirs. But sometimes the invented mothers offer
more hope? Consider the cheeky advice-giving stand-in mom from the long-time
not-heard-from Caro Clarke, the author of The Wolf Ticket (one of my
five favorite lesbian novels the year it was published). And perhaps fiction
is the best medium for the complex family drama of aging parents offered by
Lori Lake, the quintessential closeted family visit described by Julia Watts,
or Jennifer Fulton's certainly-not-legal daughter-mother collusion. In any case,
it’s a fine collection that addresses a wide variety of experiences. It’s a
fine and generous follow-up to Lake’s short story collection Stepping Out
($13.95, Regal Crest). $18.95, 250 pages, Regal Crest Enterprises.
And if you’re looking for a Mom’s Day gift for your mother, consider In
the River Sweet by Patricia Henley, a wonderful novel about a woman walking through a midlife
crisis, who, in learning to face her own demons, also finds a better way to relate
to her lesbian daughter and her partner. There are some great Dad scenes, too,
which also make it a good Dad’s Day present. Here’s BTWOF's original review. $14,
The Collective Perspective
Leaving Home, Becoming Home: Girls and Women Write About the Search for
Self, edited by Linda Bryant and Asha Khalia, was published as part of Charis
Bookstore’s (Atlanta) 30th anniversary celebration. It features work by members
of Charis’ High School Women
Writers Group side by side with contributions from older writers, many of
whom also met and worked with the young writers group. Contributors include Emily
Saliers, Alix Olson, Jennifer Baumgardner, Amy Richards, asha bandele, Pearl Cleage,
Rosemary Daniell, Merril Mushroom, bell hooks, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Alice Walker,
Shay Youngblood and others. All of the essays address some aspect of finding one’s
self and making a home of one's own in the world. The younger women’s contributions
shine as brightly as their mentors and address issues of identity, sexuality,
gender, race, coming of age in difficult times, and more. Every young writer should
have such a group. Failing that, this collection makes an excellent gift for any
young woman completing a school year or embarking on any other journey to find
herself. $14.95, Inner Light Publishing.
The myth is that lesbians almost always stay friends with our ex’s. And the
fact is that we do so at much higher rates than heterosexuals (something that,
hopefully, legalizing lesbian relationships, with the attendant polarization generated by divorces and divorce lawyers, won’t change). But it turns out that we stay friends
with less frequency than our mythology suggests. When editors Jacqueline S. Weinstock
and Esther D. Rothblum (Lesbian Friendships: For Ourselves and Each Other),
sent out the call for contributions for Lesbian Ex-Lovers: The Really Long-Term
Relationships, they were hoping for more research studies than they received,
but this collection’s focus on personal experience serves the general reader well.
Memoir, journal excerpts, essays, poetry, and cartoons describe the good, the
bad, and the occasionally ugly of our wide variety of relationships with ex’s.
Some describe wonderful support, some the high cost of losing – or maintaining
– connections with ex’s, and others consider the impact of good (and bad) relationships
on our communities and our communities’ impact on our relationships. Some stories
are competently told, a few are lyrical, but all bring insight. The final section
reviews the few lesbian-specific ex-lover studies and considers how research
done on heterosexual relationships does or doesn’t apply to lesbian relationships.
It’s an interesting and insightful read for any lesbian with an ex-lover – or
many – under her belt. And a good reminder that our post-breakup relationships
will vary as much as our relationships did. $19.95 paper, Harrington Park Press.
Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards’ definition of an activist is “as close
as your mirror.” In Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism veteran
activists Baumgardner and Richards (Manifesta) insist that “activism
can be an organic, pleasurable, satisfying part of your daily life” and then share
their considerable experience and insight about how women young and old can generate
change in a way that’s both meaningful and satisfying. What a relief from the
deadening “write a letter, donate, volunteer” cliché that leaves women passive
agents in someone else’s vision. Real world examples, thoughtful commentary, and
a host of resources make it a dream tool for teaching activist skills to new circles of women. A perfect birthday, holiday, bat mitzvah gift for any young
woman – and great rejuvenator for older, slightly burned-out types, too.
Think of it as an Our Bodies Ourselves for activism. $14, Farrar, Straus
Gay and Lesbian Rights Organizing: Community-Based Strategies is a reprint
of a special issue of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services. Aimed
more at experienced organizers than Grassroots and much more academically
oriented, it features case-studies of grassroots organizing campaigns, coalition
building, and community building for GLBT youth, as well as strategizing for the
future, GLBT think tanks, health and social service needs, transgender organizing,
GLBT-oriented congregations, and GLBT organizing in Mexico City. Edited by Yolanda
C. Padilla, PhD. $24.95, Haworth Press.
Also on the academic side, Governing NOW: Grassroots Activism in the National
Organization for Women considers the organization’s 35 year history and finds
that “the most representative and participatory voluntary association may also
be among the least politically powerful and the least well equipped to increase
civic engagement or political participation more generally.” OK, we already knew
that – but Maryanne Barakso’s careful study tells why that’s so, where and how
the passionate organization got stuck, and how the organizing principles do and
don’t work. NOW boasts 500,000 members and 500 chapters. $18.95, Cornell University
More Resources for Change
Nicole Raeburn’s Changing Corporate America from Inside Out looks at
the mobilization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual employee networks in a hundred
Fortune 1000 companies, at their successes at winning domestic partner benefits,
at the strategies that have been most effective, and at the characteristics of
companies most willing to adopt egalitarian policies for their GLB employees as
well as the impact of larger social and political changes on corporations’ openness
to gay-inclusive policies. $22.95 paper, University of Minnesota Press.
In Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market, Katherine Sender
foregoes the “Are we a movement or are we a market” debate to look at how the
“gay market” emerged, at how it works, and at its cultural consequences. She contends
that the gay community is a social construction – an imagined community formed
by both political activism and a commercially supported media. She argues that
mainstream “gay” marketing has been both formative in the construction of the
GLBT community and identity and that it has played an important role in increasing
GLBT visibility. While the bulk of the “gay” advertising dollar addresses gay
men, Sender addresses the (lack of) attention to lesbian markets throughout the
book and in one (short!) chapter. Published in the Between Men – Between Women
LGB Studies series. $35 cloth, Columbia University Press.
The Long Arc of Justice: Lesbian and Gay Marriage, Equality, and Rights
by Richard Mohr looks to be a great addition to the literature of rights. Here
he makes a case for legal and social acceptance, applies widely held ethical
principles to same-sex marriage, AIDS, and gays in the military, and relates
the struggle for gay rights and acceptance to mainstream American society, history,
and political life. $22.95 cloth, Columbia University Press.
City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia 1945-1972
by Marc Stein looks at gay and lesbian life in Philadelphia from the post-war
days through the early 70s. Highlights include some of the country’s first gay-rights
demonstrations, Daughters of Bilitis, early gay liberation, radicalesbiana, women’s
liberation, and interactions with and influences of other revolutionary and social
justice organizations. $22.95 paper, Temple University Press.
Those into Bibles may want to check out Good as New, a new translation
of the New Testament that bills itself as “Women- gay-, and sinner-friendly” and uses “partner” instead of husband or wife, etc..., to increase its
relevance for gay readers. Translated/updated by retired Baptist minister John Henson, with a
foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Published in the UK
by O Books, £13.99.
Eva Sweeney’s Queers on Wheels, subtitled, “The essential guide for
the physically disabled GLBTQ community” is just that. Spiral bound for easy reading,
it covers hiring GLBTQ-friendly aides, maintaining personal yet professional relationships
with aides, adapting sex to your body, adapting sex toys, sex with lovers, and
assisted masturbation. $10, 31 useful pages. Illustrated by Teresa Tunaley. Queers
on Wheels, 1235 Charles St., Pasadena, CA 91103; 629.578.0140.
More info at: http://www.queersonwheels.com/.
Reclaiming Self, edited by Leslie M. Tutty and Carolyn Goard, offers
issues and resources for women abused by intimate partners and includes a lengthy
(well, lengthy in the context of this slim, 140 page volume) section on responding
to lesbian relationship violence. The third book in the Hurting and Healing Series
on intimate violence, it will be of more interest to care providers and academics
than women in crisis. $14.95, Fernwood Publishing.
A Few More Walks on the Academic Side
Lesbians, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis: The Second Wave, edited by Judith
M. Glassgold and Suzanne Lasenza, “examines recent changes in psychoanalysis that
have opened the door for new perspectives on same-sex desire. Authors from a variety
of disciplines and theoretical orientations combine feminism with psychoanalytic
and postmodern theories to celebrate diversity in gender and sexual experience.
Lesbian-affirmative writings address transference and countertransference, gender
subjectivities, privilege and racism, therapist homophobia, and violence in lesbian
relationships.” $19.95 paper, Harrington Park Press.
Same-Sex Cultures and Sexualities: An anthropological reader edited
by Jennifer Roberson. Readings from four subfields of anthropology:
cultural, biological, linguistic, and archaeological, “demonstrate the centrality
of the complicated relationship of sex, gender, and sexuality to theories of human
behaviors and practices... This landmark collection moves beyond other lesbian
and gay studies readers by presenting a broader view of the significance of studying
same-sex cultures and sexualities and presenting the lives of a range of individuals
across cultural and temporal domains,” says the cover. $29.95 paper, Blackwell.
Gay Religion edited by Scott Thumma and Edward R. Gray offers “a straightforward
presentation of the spiritual lives, practices, and expressions of LGBT people.
New and established scholars explore the range of gay religious expression in
denominations, sects, and other recognized religious institutions. The contributors
ask what these religious innovations mean to the continually evolving religious
environment of North America.” $28.95 paper, Rowman & Littlefield.
A New Journal
Journal of GLBT Family Studies: innovations in theory,
research, and practice, a peer-reviewed academic journal, addresses
family issues of both family-of-origin and families formed in adulthood, as well
as gender roles, adoption issues, work issues, couple and relationship issues,
same-sex marriage, sexual identity, et al. Edited by Jerry J. Bigner, PhD. Haworth/Harrington Park Press. More info at http://www.haworthpress.com/web/GLBTF/.
Friday Night Reads
Bestselling lesbian romance writer Jennifer Fulton is back and writing and
publishing like mad. Her Moon Island series (Passion Bay and Saving
Grace) is now available from Yellow Rose Books, both books in expanded
“author’s cut” editions, as well as the third volume The Sacred Shore,
another goes-down-easy romance – centering on Moon Island. Romance, adventure,
lesbians contemplating the errors of relationships past, anthropologists in ethical
conflicts, ecological consciousness, biological clocks, the odd homophobic family
and cousins who need a hand. Fulton wraps it all up seamlessly. For readers who’ve
been waiting for the next installment – well, it was worth the wait – but it’s
also fine to plunge into the middle of the series and start with Sacred Shore.
The fourth volume in the series, A Guarded Heart, will be published
in May. $15.95, Yellow Rose Books.
Fulton also writes mysteries as Rose Beecham. Look for the next book in her
Jude Devine series, Grave Silence, from Bold Strokes Press at the end of
this year and Sleep of Reason in 2006.
More info on her web site: http://www.jenniferfulton.com.
Even when Karin Kallmaker tries to whip up some bit of frothy dessert – as
in Sugar – she still spins out a sweet – but not saccharine – story. Our
dessert chef, “Sugar,” has just launched her own independent dessert catering
company in the heart of Seattle’s competitive foodie-industry when her house goes
up in flames. But crisis can bring opportunity – for growth, for romance, and
for finding one’s own, truest self. But what – or rather who – does Sugar really
want? That’s the dilemma in the drama – but what I really want to know, at the
end of the book, is how they’re going to communicate. Maybe that’s the next novel?
In Love Speaks Her Name, Laura DeHart Young (Forever, Love on the Line) takes us to Alaska’s
Denali wilderness to test the limits of friendships, co-worker loyalty, and the
good intentions in a relationship, all while supporting a
friend with cancer. And then there's this small matter of international espionage. Sometimes life – and commitments – aren’t as clear cut
as they seem. $12.95, Bella.
Shared Winds, from debut novelist Kenna White, offers another kind of
adventure – two women reaching for their career dreams: Lan Harding needs to rebuild
her beloved marina after a tornado does its damnedest to destroy it; Emma Bishop
needs to prove to her father that she’s got what it takes to take over the family
construction business when he retires. Sometimes going it alone isn’t the only
alternative for independent women – and sometimes it isn’t the answer at all.
Newcomer Kenna White offers a good look at the importance of community – a form
of love that turns out to be as important as romance in the part-Cherokee marina
owner’s life. $12.95, Bella.
The ever-prolific Radclyffe publishes cliff-hanging adventure/romances faster
than we can read them:
Cameron Roberts and Blair Powell are back in Honor Guards, the latest
in her Honor series about the feisty, independent daughter of the president and
the Secret Agent sworn to protect her. Of course, being lovers makes everything
more complicated. Look for the pair in Paris, hanging out on the Left Bank – until
an international plot threatens their lives, their love, and national security...
$18.99 paper, Bold Strokes.
Justice in the Shadows is the latest in her Justice series. In this
installment, Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye takes on a pornography ring and traitor
in her own department with the help of her lover, Dr. Catherine Rawlings; JT Sloan,
a cybersleuth committed to revenge; a young officer with an unforeseen talent
for undercover work; and a prostitute who develops an unexpected passion for cops...
$18.99 paper, BookEnds Press.
The Crime Scene
It's March 3 and there's six inches of fresh snow on the ground on Cape Cod
where we've had a record 91 inches this winter! I'm
a little crazy from cabin fever, and I'm having trouble making it clear when the
main characters in these books, strong women though they may be, are not lesbians.
I always identify the lesbian-themed mysteries, and I hope the reader will assume
that, when I don't mention lesbian content, the book does not have any.
By Nan Cinnater
Thanks to the Publishing Triangle's Notable Lesbian Books list (see BTWOF
#12), I just discovered The Dead, by Ingrid Black ($23.95, St. Martin’s),
a superior serial killer thriller set in Dublin. Our heroine is an FBI agent turned
true crime writer known simply as Saxon (in the tradition of great one-named and
unnamed fictional detectives). Saxon is involved in a lesbian affair with chief
superintendent of police Grace Fitzgerald when a serial killer who disappeared
years ago apparently resurfaces. Having thoroughly researched the suspect, Saxon
is the only one who realizes that this must be a copycat. British critics were
wowed when The Dead was published there last year.
The Kookaburra Gambit ($13.95, Alyson, April) is the latest in Claire
McNab's bonzer (that's Aussie for excellent) new series featuring lesbian Kylie
Kendall. Australian Kylie inherited half of her late father's L.A. detective agency
in The Wombat Strategy (see BTWOF
#6), and now she has a case of her very own. Hunky twins Alf and Chicka Hartnidge
are bringing their hit children's TV series to the U.S., and someone is using
the opportunity to smuggle opals inside their trademark line of stuffed toys.
McNab has a wicked sense of humor, which she unleashes here on Australian stereotypes
and Hollywood pretensions alike, resulting in another fast-paced, eminently enjoyable
romp – and that's fair dinkum.
Meanwhile, McNab has not been neglecting her long-standing, bestselling series
about sexy Australian top cop Carol Ashton. In Fall Guy ($12.95, Bella
Books) Detective Inspector Ashton investigates the death of a wealthy practical
joker who died while sky diving. In addition, Bella Books has brought back McNab's
non-mystery, Under the Southern Cross ($12.95).
In Lauren Sanders' With or Without You, baby dyke Lillian Ginger Speck
is in jail for murdering the object of her obsession, soap opera star Brooke Harrison.
More an edgy, literary novel with murder than a mystery, this is the second foray
outside the box for Sanders, who won a Lamdba Literary Award for her first novel,
Kamikaze Lust (both $14.95, Akashic Books).
Strong Latina heroines are hard to come by in any genre so I was happy to find
out about Most Wanted by Michele Martinez ($23.95, Morrow) featuring
a (heterosexual) Latina DA working to solve a brutal, high-profile murder in
New York. However, two new suspense/adventure novels by Yxta Maya Murray look
even more intriguing. In The Queen Jade ($23.95, Rayo), California bookseller
Lola Sanchez must rescue her archaeologist mother who disappeared in the jungles
of Guatamala on a quest for the ultimate jade artifact. In The Conquest ($12.95,
Rayo), a Latina rare book restorer becomes convinced that the supposedly fictional
story of Helen, a sixteenth-century Aztec woman captured by Cortes, is really
true. Helen's manuscript tells of her many female lovers and of her plot to
assassinate Cortes, the Pope, and the Holy Roman Emperor!
Leslie Silbert's The Intelligencer ($14.00, Washington Square) is another
historical mystery that depends upon a centuries-old manuscript. Silbert follows
two stories – that of Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan playwright and "intelligencer"
or spy in the service of the Queen, and that of contemporary grad student turned
private eye Kate Morgan, who is consulted by a London financier about a sixteenth-century
manuscript written in code. No lesbian content, but nevertheless the right stuff
for feminist book lovers.
For years now Nevada Barr has been delivering masterful mysteries with great
wilderness sequences and great action writing. In Hard Truth ($24.95, Putnam)
she also gives us a wonderful new character, a woman named Heath Jarrod, a former
rock climber now in a wheelchair. Sadly, although Barr brings a bit of refreshing
feminist perspective to the cliché, she resorts to that hackneyed plot device,
the psycho killer – at one point even admitting that her heroine, Park Ranger
Anna Pigeon, got most of what she "knows" about the psychology of serial
killers from novels and movies. Barr is too good a writer to put down; if it had
been anybody else, I would have thrown the book across the room. High Country, Barr's last novel, set in Yosemite, is now out in paperback($7.99, Berkley). For
more on Barr's other books, see BTWOF
Mother-daughter team P.J. Tracy burst on the scene a couple of years ago with
an outstanding thriller about the quirky gang at Monkeewrench, a computer gaming
company in Minneapolis. (For more on Monkeewrench, $6.99, Signet, see BTWOF
Their second novel, Live Bait ($7.50, Signet) which brought back some of
the same characters, will be out in paperback in April. (See BTWOF #7.)
In their third outing, Dead Run ($23.95, Putnam, April), the focus is on
our favorite female characters from the Monkeewrench crew, enigmatic Grace McBride
and woman-of-size Annie Belinsky, along with FBI agent Sharon Mueller. On their
way to a consulting job in Green Bay, the three women are stranded in a tiny northern
Wisconsin town that's completely dead – literally.
of spy fiction will be happy to discover that indeed M is female in real life
– and she bears some resemblance to Judy Dench! Author Stella Rimington was director
general of MI5 in the Nineties, and she has put her insider's knowledge to good
use in a new spy thriller, At Risk. Intelligence officer Liz Carlisle is
an espionage heroine for the twenty-first century, battling people-smugglers and
Islamic terrorists in Great Britain. Rimington's style is crisp and compelling
and her plotting, of course, extremely plausible. Good job, M! $24 cloth, Knopf.
Now in Paper:
An Intimate Ghost, by Ellen Hart ($13.95, Griffin). With a plot turning
on homophobia and teenage gun violence, this is one of the most ambitious in Hart's
consistently great series featuring lesbian restauranteur Jane Lawless and her
sidekick Cordelia Thorn.
The 37th Hour, by Jodi Compton ($6.99, Dell). Expert in missing persons
cases must search for her own husband.
Out, by Natsuo Kirino ($12.95, Vintage). Japanese feminist noir
about four women factory workers who conspire to cover up murder.
Deception, by Denise Mina ($13.95, Back Bay). The ultimate unreliable
narrator novel, by a Scottish master of psychological suspense, author of Garnethill
and Exile (both $14.00, Carroll & Graf).
Birth Marks, by Sarah Dunant ($12.00, Scribner). First in an odd but
interesting series featuring London private eye Hannah Wolfe, by the author of
the historical bestseller The Birth of Venus ($13.95, Random House). Also
available in the Hannah Wolfe series: Fatlands and Under My Skin
(both $12.00, Scribner).
Books To Watch Out For
Here are a couple dozen books from my to-read stacks:
A Thread of Grace, by Mary Doria Russell is high up on my list of fiction
treats. Her first two novels, The Sparrow and Children of God, used
science fiction to explore the impact of colonialism in general and the Jesuits
in particular on “new worlds.” (See BTWOF
#1). In Thread of Grace (“an extraordinarily complex historical novel”),
Russell uses fiction to look at the period between Mussolini’s fall and the end
of World War II when Italians, somehow, prevented 40,000 Jews from being sent
to the death camps – and at what makes ordinary people take extraordinary risks
to help others – and at what, in a culture makes that the norm, rather than the exception. Her novel-in-progress looks at the Cairo Agreement, how it evolved, and how it set the stage for the war(s) in the Middle East. $25.95, 448 pages,
You might have already known, but I just discovered that Leigh Richards is
a pseudonym for much-loved mystery writer Laurie King (think both the Kate Martinelli
and the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series). And so I missed her science fiction
debut, Califia's Daughters, a paperback original inspired by the
Califia myth about a small enclave of women in a post apocalypse future. The a-virus-killed-all-the-men
thing has been used before – but never in these hands. Spectra, 496 pages, $6.99.
Check out Laurie King on feminism, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale,
and the inspiration for Califia’s Daughers at:
And her website at:
The Curious Feminist: Searching for women in a new age of empire by
Cynthia Enloe (Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International
Politics). Enloe is one of feminism’s most lucid – and accessible – writers.
Here she looks at globalization and international politics through the lens of
the lives of women most affected by them and offers a perspective to balance the
daily madness being perpetuated by both our government and our economic system. “With
her logical, unadorned style, she makes the argument that the U.S. is a militarized
nation where "‘commander in chief’ is the essence of the U.S. presidency"
and "manipulations of manliness often shape foreign policy decision-making."
This preoccupation with asserting masculinity, she contends, plays a role not
only in U.S. foreign policy, but in economic strategies of American companies,”
says Publishers Weekly. In autobiographical essays she also reflects on
the gradual development of her own “feminist curiosity” and maps the everyday
obstacles placed on the path to feminist consciousness. $19.95, University of California
After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement by Cheryl
Clarke (Living as a Lesbian, Experimental Love: Poetry). The politics
and music of the sixties and early seventies have been the subject of scholarship
for many years, but here, finally, is a look at the black women writers of the
times: Gwendolyn Brooks, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez,
Jayne Cortez, Alice Walker, and others. Clarke looks at the ways these poets were turning away from
white, western society to create a new literacy of blackness, at their contributions
to the development of feminism and lesbian-feminism, and at the legacy they left
for others to build upon. $21.95 paper, Rutgers University Press.
The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf edited by Louise
DeSalvo and Mitchell Leaska was originally published in 1985, but the Cleis Press
paperback publication is a great excuse to dip into them again – and it offers
a wonderful treat for those who have never read them. 500 letters detail their
love affair from its beginnings in 1922 until Woolf’s death in 1941. $16.95, 375
pages, Cleis Press.
Melymbrosia, Virginia Woolf’s long lost first novel. Uncovered
and recompiled by Woolf scholar Louise DeSalvo, it “concerns the emotional and
sexual awakening of a young Englishwoman traveling abroad... [and] bristles with
social commentary on homosexuality, the suffrage movement, and colonialism.” Friends
and colleagues warned Woolf that publishing such an outspoken novel could prove
disastrous to her fledgling career and she revised it and published it as The
Voyage Out. $16.95, 350 pages, Cleis Press.
Visa for Avalon – another rediscovered classic– this one a cautionary
tale about the creeping loss of liberty under an increasingly totalitarian government
and an increasingly homogenizing culture written by Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman),
published in 1965. Bryher and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) were partners from 1919 until
H.D.’s death in 1961. Introduced by Susan McCabe. "A stark reminder of all that
we stand to lose if we don’t protect our civil liberties. Thank you, Paris Press,
for bringing this long-neglected novel back into print. We need it today.” –Barbara
Ehrenreich. $15, Paris Press.
In February House, Sherill Tippins uncovers a mad experiment
in communal living. In 1940, as the world was degenerating into war, George
Davis, Auden (and his composer-friend Britten), Carson McCullers (who was beginning
Member of the Wedding and a lesbian crush that ended her marriage), Jane
Bowles, Paul Bowles, Gypsy Rose Lee (who was writing a novel as well as doing
burlesque), the activist siblings Erika, Klaus and Golo Mann, and more than a
few others wrote books, poetry, operas, smoked, drank, and pursued relationships
of all descriptions, kept a curfew (!), and made the rent. “Enlivened by primary
sources and a dishy story, [February House] masterfully recreates daily
life at the most fertile and improbable live-in salon of the twentieth century.”
$24 hardcover, 317 pages, Houghton Mifflin.
From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond is
descended from that proud feminist tradition of needing a book that doesn’t
exist, sending out a call for first-person stories, and creating an anthology
about the topic at hand. Morty Diamond wanted to read about gender
explorations that weren’t stuck in the traditional male/female dichotomies
presumed by most of the existing literature. All of the writers in From the Inside
Out were born female, came to realize how little they identified with that
gender, and explored – and often invented – other options including transgender,
genderqueer, third gender, and gender variant... Nominated for an ALA Stonewall
Award. $13.95, Manic D Press.
In a Queer Time & Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives,
Judith Halberstam’s essays on the significance of the transgender body, the mainstream
and alternative meanings of “masculinity,” lesbian drag king cultures, the media
frenzy surrounding Brandon Teena’s death, Boys Don’t Cry (and the absence
thereof for the equally brilliant By Hook or By Crook), the lesbian/queer
subcultures that launched musicians from Cris Williamson and Ferron to The Butchies
and The Backstreet Boys, and the ambiguous embodiment in the art of Del LaGrace,
Volcano, Jenny Saville, Eva Hesse, Shirin Neshat and others... $19 paper, NYU
The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Rights, by
science writer Deborah Rudacille, offers a journalist’s review of history and
perspective on the trans movement(s). The book features interviews with contemporary
FTMs and MTFs, and a look at the likely connection between DES and other estrogen-mimicking
hormones and non-conforming gender identities. $26, Pantheon/Random.
Lesbians in Sports and the Out of Doors
The Life of Helen Stephens: The Fulton Flash by Sharon Kinney Hanson. Helen Stephens went from being a Missouri farm girl to a record-setting
Olympic runner (100 meters in 11.4 seconds, Berlin 1936, a record that stood for
24 years) by the time she was 18 – and that was just the beginning. Excelling
as a runner, a discus thrower, and in the standing broad jump, she turned professional
in 1937 and played with the barnstorming All-American Red Heads Basketball Team,
playing men’s rules and men’s teams. The next year she started her own team, The
Helen Stephens Olympic Co-Eds, becoming the first woman to own and manage a basketball
team which toured before and after WW II.
Continually harassed for her athleticism, she generally gave back
as good as she got: When hecklers taunted her with Hey, tomgirl, where’s your
beard? she’d respond with her characteristic lip, Same place as yours –
you’re sittin’ on it! When harassed by a drunk for “masquerading like a woman,”
she decked him, and she and her girlfriend threw him out of the bar. When Look
magazine insinuated that she was a man, she sued and won. All while living actively
as a lesbian. Hanson conducted 70 interviews with Stephens between 1987 and her
death in 1994, and this biography promises Stephens' insights into Olympic boycotts,
gender-testing of female athletes, the women’s movement, gay rights and on running
in the Senior Olympics at 65. $29.50 hardcover, 262 pages, Southern Illinois University
When nature writer Catherine Reid (His Hands, His Tools, His Sex, His Dress:
Lesbian Writers on Their Fathers and Every Woman I've Ever Loved:
Lesbian Writers on Their Mothers) and her partner moved back to western Massachusetts
she re-discovered the coyotes that are moving into every suburb and city east
of the Mississippi. In Coyote Reid writes about coyotes, about the experience
of returning, after decades away, to the small town where she grew up, and the
uncertain reception both face. It promises to be “one of the most dramatic wildlife
stories of our times.” $18 cloth, Houghton Mifflin.
Now Go Home: Wilderness, Belonging, and the Crosscut Saw by Ana Maria
Spagna. “With candor, wit, and hard-earned wisdom, Spagna reflects on the journey
that took her from a childhood in the suburbs of LA to a trail crew in the North
Cascades where she falls in love with a place and, unexpectedly, with a woman.
With days spent laboring as the only woman on a trail crew and evenings in a cabin
no larger than Thoreau’s she has world enough and time enough to wrestle with
the compromises and contradictions of making 'life in the woods'.” $17.95 paper,
Oregon State University Press.
And this one is way out of doors: The Mercury 13: The True Story
of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight by Martha Ackmann. In 1961,
just as NASA sent the first man into space, a group of women underwent secret
testing in hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. All crackerjack
pilots and patriots, some sacrificed jobs and marriages for a chance to participate
in the space program. $13.95, Random House.
Savage Summit: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2,
the World's Most Feared Mountain by Jennifer Jordan. The author mentions only
once that one of them climbed with her female partner, so read between some of
the lines in, what I’m told, is an interesting and readable story about the five
women who climbed the second highest mountain in the world, and all perished.
And Back in Inner Space:
Isabel Allende, Maya Angelou, Vivian Gornick, Germaine Greer, Susan Griffin,
Grace Paley, Alix Kates Shulman, Terry Tempest Williams and other contributors
in Breaking Free: Women of Spirit at Midlife and Beyond, edited by Marilyn
Sewell, grapple with what age and life have taught them, contemplate their experiences,
and reflect on where they have arrived. And discover not only what time has taken
– but also the gifts that come only with age and experience. Whew! And it also
reprints Baba Cooper’s “On Being a Rebellious Old Woman.” What a wealth of experience!
$16, Beacon Press.
But look for the other side of that story in Not My Mother’s Sister: Generational
Conflicts and Third-Wave Feminism in which Astrid Henry looks at the ways
younger feminists claim the movement as their own by distancing themselves from
the past and how that works – and doesn’t. “She also shows how 1970s lesbian feminism
is represented in ways that are remarkably similar to the puritanical portrait
of feminism offered by straight third-wavers.” $19.95 paper, Indiana University
The contributors to That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation,
edited by Matt Bernstein Sycamore, aka Mattilda, look askance at the gay mainstream’s
focus on civil rights and insist that assimilation simply isn’t enough. Here a
new generation of pissed-off queer visionaries of a variety of genders, along
with some early gay liberation rabble-rousers, counterculture demons, fringe artists,
renegade academics and other freaks, fruits, perverts and whores, offer their
visions for reframing, reclaiming, and reshaping the world. I’m particularly
enamored of diatribes Gay Shame posts on San Francisco telephone poles and am
glad to see some of these attitudes and visions in a format that will reach a
wider audience. $16.95, 300 pages, Soft Skull Press.
An interview with Mattilda on the intersection of “queer” and “politics”: http://www.sfbg.com/39/04/lit_interview_mattilda.html
Back in Print
The last two of Paula Christian’s pulp-era novels, The Other Side of Desire
(which includes the novel Amanda), are now back in print, thanks to
Kensington. Kensington started reprinting the Paula Christian novels two years
ago with Twilight Girls and Another Kind of Love. The title
novel starts with a restless but well-behaved suburban housewife, but you know
that won’t last. Amanda features a sophisticated, “straight” New Yorker who
writes lesbian novels under an assumed name, “but when young housewife and aspiring
novelist Amanda Richardson asks for help on her own novel and comes to stay for
10 days” with the experienced lesbian writer... Now there’s a familiar sounding tale... Christian was one of the
writers who fought to give her pulps positive endings. She died in 2002. $15.00,
Lesléa Newman’s short story collection, A Letter to Harvey Milk
from the Library of American Fiction series/Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin
Press. Nine wonderful tales of Jewish heritage and lesbian identity from the eighties,
including the much-anthologized title story. $17.95 paper, University of Wisconsin Presa.
Now in paperback
Name All the Animals: A Memoir by Alison Smith, $13, Scribner.
Fanny: A Fiction by Edmund White, $13.95, Ecco/HarperCollins.
White’s Victorian tale imagines Frances Trollop writing a memoir of her old
friend, radical feminist Frances Wright, decades after they jointly wrote and
published “Domestic Manners of the Americans,” about their travels through America
in the 1820s.
Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio,
$20, University of Chicago Press.
Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for
America by Jonathan Rauch, $12, Owl.
Long Life: Essays and Other Writings, Mary Oliver, $16, Da Capo/Perseus.
Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives by Anna Fels, $14,
© 2005 Books To Watch Out For
Graphics © Judy Horacek
Books To Watch Out For
PO Box 882554
San Francisco, CA 94188