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The Lesbian Edition
Volume 1 Number 5
The Lesbian Novel in
the White House
With the publication of
Bushwomen (reviewed below), Laura Flanders broke the story:
Lynne Cheney has a lesbian
novel in her closet.
Yes, that Lynne Cheney,
Mrs. Dick Vice President Cheney.
Originally published in
1981, Sisters was, in Flander’s words, “a breathy, gothic romance,
horribly written.... celebrating lesbian love and promot[ing] the value of
preventative devices – condoms – to women who want to remain free...all this
by Lynne Cheney, the culture warrior of the right.” (New York Daily News,
March 10.) And Penguin USA, which had originally published the book as a $2.50
mass market paperback under its NAL imprint, noticed that it still owned the
copyright and immediately announced a reprint.
Needless to say, jaws
In St. Louis, Left Bank
Books’ Kris Kleindienst announced that the store would donate 10% of the book’s
sales to a scholarship fund to send gay youth to NGLTF’s Creating Change conference,
saying, “What better way to foster educational opportunities for the younger
generation of LGBT people than to raise money through the sale of Lynne’s
lost life chapter? We’re promoting patriotism by promoting shopping and leaving
no LGBT child behind.” Two hundred patrons signed up to make their contribution.
But back in Washington,
where Lynne and Dick seem unable to stand up for marriage rights for their
daughter Mary and her partner, and where both women seem to have disappeared
from the campaign trail, there was decidedly less enthusiasm for the project.
Despite the fact that
this would seem to be a literary matter, we’re told that it was Cheney’s high-powered
lawyer, Robert Barnett, who made a “friendly” call to Penguin and that it
took less than an hour for Penguin to decide not to publish the book after
all. Both Penguin and Barnett stressed that it was a very friendly and above-board
conversation with no threats of legal action. (Which would, at least have
been interesting, since Penguin does appear to own the rights.)
Was the republication
of the book, with its enthusiasm for lesbian relationships, birth control
devices and safe sex, perhaps a bit of an embarrassment to the Bush/Cheney
ticket, what with their anti-gay constitutional amendment, anti-abortion,
anti-condom, anti-woman, “health care” politics and all? Naw! Why would anyone
“Mrs. Cheney just doesn’t
think it represents her best efforts as a writer,” was the line from Cheney
spokeswoman Natalie Rule.
Or as Kris Kleindienst
said, on hearing the news, “If [Penguin] caves in on this, what does that
say about what they’ll do on more important books?”
Truth be told, lesbians
had only bit parts in the book. The heroine, though a bit envious of the lesbian couple's intimacy, was more interested in heterosex on bear rugs, albeit with “sheaths.”
Still, the bodice ripper was ahead of its time in terms of its options for
women. One has to wonder what made Lynne give up her feminist vision and passion
for justice for women?
“The note was short. ‘Helen,
my joy and my beloved,’ it began. ‘Why do we stay? I have no reason beyond
a few pupils who would miss me briefly, and your life would be infinitely
better away from him. Let us go away together, away from the anger and the
imperatives of men. We shall find ourselves a secluded bower where they dare
not venture. There will only be the two of us, and we shall linger through
long afternoons of sweet retirement. In the evenings I shall read to you while
you do your cross-stitch in the firelight. And then we shall go to bed, our
bed, my dearest girl....”
Read more and check out
the back-cover blurb at http://WhiteHouse.org/administration/sisters.asp.
The Campaign for Reader
I’m not big on online
petitions, but this one’s an exception: The Campaign for Reader Privacy –
sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, The American Library Association,
and PEN American – is collecting signatures in bookstores, libraries, and
online to urge Congress to restore safeguards for reader privacy that were
eliminated by Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
This section gave the
FBI vastly expanded authority to search business records, including records
from bookstores and libraries. It allows the FBI to request the records secretly,
without having to convince a judge that there’s probable cause to believe
the person whose records are being examined has committed a crime, and prohibits
the booksellers or librarians served with an FBI demand for a reader’s records
from telling anyone – partner, lawyer, colleague, or the person whose records
were taken, that it happened.
The petition – and the
entire campaign – is about restoring confidence that our reading choices aren’t
– and won’t be – monitored by the government.
Find more information
or sign the petition at http://www.readerprivacy.com.
Just a few more notes
before the books begin....
Do women write better
novels than men? That’s an old question, but Times Literary Supplement
Editor Ferdinand Mount weighs in with an unexpected opinion at http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/pq/mount.htm.
If you’re in San Francisco
before May 2, check out the wonderful exhibit, Reversing Vandalism, at the
San Francisco Public Library. It’s an exhibition of 200+ books – mostly LGBT
titles and women’s health books – that had been severely vandalized. Rather
than throwing them away, Hormel Center program manager Jim Van Buskirk (and contributor to Dangerous Families) turned the
books over to artists who transformed the mutilated books into new works of
art. It’s a great strategy for transforming this particular form of hate crime
into something vibrant and affirming.
A special thanks to publisher
Bella Books for including
our fliers in their recent mailings. –And my thanks to everyone who has waited, however
impatiently, for this issue!
Yours in spreading the
Find of the Month
I had a hard time finding
my way into Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties. I kept starting it
but reading it was like trying to dance to music with an unfamiliar beat.
Tantalizing. Irresistible, but I was clearly missing some moves.
Finally I asked a friend
to read the first few paragraphs to me. She gave me that What’s-wrong-with-you-but-we’ve-been-friends-for-along-time-so-I-will
look and proceeded to give me the syntax and rhythm I’d been missing.
“I might as well tell you right now that this is really about
my girl Weeping Woman, Nana, and me,” Trace Elements begins. “My best
boy, Nolan, she says listening to me is like letting a drunk drive you to
a gala event – no indicators given at turns and the windshield wipers are
always on. Buckle up, doll. I promise I’ll try not to tangle your quinceañera
dress. We’ll get to the ballroom soon enough…."
Then I asked the pronoun
question: “So when she says ‘my best boy, Nolan’ she means her best (girl)
friend?” I asked. “More like ‘your best butch buddy,’” my friend replied.
But even as I was thinking, “OK,” I could see a lecture forming in her mouth:
“You know some people find that ‘lesbian’ is a tired old word. Now-a-days
girls will be boys when they want to....” But I already knew that. I just
needed to learn how to follow Trace Element’s pronouns. Weeping Woman,
I already knew, was that spirit of discontent that can appear, at a moment’s
notice, in anyone’s culture.
That’s all it took to
get the moves in my body. I started again at page one and let Felicia Luna
Lemus dance me through Leticia’s world view for 247 pages, visiting her nana,
(“My great-grandmother was something fierce strong.”), and the LA dyke’s cast
of friends and lovers and too-soon-to-be ex’s. The language was irresistible,
and the story rarely faltered. And I came away with a renewed affection for
this generation of dykelets who learned the useful skill of pronoun shifting
the way my generation learned to change tires. Women in their twenties and
thirties won’t need a moment’s introduction to this exquisite novel. $23.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
“Put simple, (the solteros)
hung out in [Nana’s] store looking for the México they held in their hearts,
where their families were, where all their money earned went to, where their
skin was common and their tongue understood – the solteros stood around in
the store smoking cigarettes to try to find home…. Some serious cowboy tears
would have been shed if that generation of solteros had stayed in town long
enough to learn that eventually their habits stomped out Mamá Estrella’s story-telling
“Strong presence is family
to me…so it was only natural that Vivienne became a good buddy super quick.
Didn’t hurt any when she said Rob was a complicated mess of a boy. I kept
buying Viv drinks just to hear stories about how problematic Rob has always
been. She huffed and puffed and blew Rob’s persona down.”
“The brink of dreams was
the only time [Edith] ever talked and she didn’t really want answers, so all
I had to do was give her my one easy-to-remember-even-when-about-to fall-asleep
line and let her continue to get the tension out of her mouth….”
The first issue of Bloom,
the new, eagerly awaited LGBT literary journal, is out – and what a wealth
of both literary and production delights it is! The cover is beautiful, the
design clean, and the visual art, well produced. Just holding the issue (which
is actually a 150-page book) is the first pleasure; inside there’s short fiction
by Stacey D’Erasmo, Judith Nichols, and Andrew Holleran, visual art by Amy
Goldstein and Ken Chu, and poetry by Adrienne Rich, Eileen Myles, Cheryl Clark,
Beatrix Gates, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Chrystos, as well as Mark Doty, Edward
Field, and nineteen others.
Bloom’s goal is to nurture
LGBT writers and artists and to foster the appreciation of queer literature
not discriminate against the imagination. Gardeners must identify as Queer
(LGBT), but the flora of their labor need not serve any pre-conceived notion
of beauty. Peonies, sweet williams, ragweed, and gladiolas – every shade &
shape of blossom – are all welcome. Let the garden grow.”
Submission details on the web site. Edited by Charles Flowers. Single issues
are the bargain of the year at $10, subscriptions are $20/year. Bloom, P.O.
Box 1231, Old Chelsea Station, NY, NY 10011 or http://www.bloommagazine.org
Three for Tea
Congratulations to the
prolific Michelle Tea. Tea, who is something of a cheerleader and documentarian
for the world of tattooed, pierced, politicized and sex-radical queer grrls
and boys, has three new books this spring: two anthologies and a collection
of poetry. She’s loved for her vision, for her support of other writers, for
her autobiographical tales, and for selecting the tales in Best
Lesbian Erotica 04 ($14.95 Cleis).
Click to the “What They’re
Reading at Wild Iris” (below) for a review of The Beautiful. Tea’s
new poetry collection. The title poem, by the way, is a strangely comforting
read on Election Day.
Without a Net: The
Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class stole my heart in an instant with
its gutsy collection of truth-tales from real women’s lives. No sob stories
here: just riveting detail, honest reality, and, yes, tenderness. But Tea
says it best: “The tragedy isn’t [these women’s] poverty, it’s what happens
to them because of their poverty, the way the world judges and despises
them, fights and blames them, makes their lives plenty hard....”
inherently feminist, and the contributors range from Dorothy Allison to Meliza
Bañales, from Terry Ryan to Diane di Prima and Eileen Myles, and include a
number of new writers to watch out for. What could be better? $14.95, Seal
Press/Live Girls Series.
If you want something
edgy, dark, and troubling, turn to Pills, Thrills, Chills, and Heartache:
Adventures in the First Person, edited by Michelle Tea and Clint
Catalyst, for a mixed-gender collection of scary, funny, chaotic – and sometimes
poignant – true-life adventures in the contemporary counter-culture. The screaming
intelligence of this collection competes with angst, abuse, bulimia, cruelty,
and drugs (and that’s just the beginning). These more-and-less kinky,
and occasionally cautionary tales left me craving a politic that could lead
to a kinder world. But if you’re lonely for speed junkies, scat freaks, cybersensualists,
punk-rock shoplifters, gender benders, Tourette’s syndrome fetishists, gloomophiles
and glamazons, this is your book. $15.95, Alyson Publications.
And Watch Out For Tea’s
novel, Rent Girl, the tale of a young dyke’s adventures in and out
of the sex industry’s mix of “exciting outlaw occupation and traumatic existential
nightmare.” July, $24.95, Last Gasp.
Details on Michele
Just as gritty as Pills...,
but never gratuitously so, Dangerous Families: Queer Writings on Surviving,
edited by Mattilda (a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore), is another mixed-gender
collection. It also breaks all the rules about gender, sex, and politics as
the contributors shatter silences about the many kinds of abuse families can
inflict, but these writers know exactly where they’re coming from and are
on their way to something better. This collection follows in the footsteps
of The Courage to Heal and collects “the next generation’s” anger,
insight, and healing. $17.95, Harrington Park Press
Take Back Your Life!
Kristie Helm’s Dish It Up, Baby, Firebrand II’s second offering,
follows a plucky twenty-something computer-savvy cubicle-girl forward out
of an abusive marriage, backward through her bad-teeth Kentucky childhood,
and up, down, and sideways through the adventure of finding out who she is
now: a southerner or a southern-drawl New Yorker? a lesbian (or does that
just seem like a good idea?), a career woman or a temp girl? But find
her way, she does. It’s a good ride for the reader and a solid second title
from the newly reconstituted Firebrand.
Helms’s blog (web-log, aka, online journal) won a 2001 Best Writing Award
from Diaries.net. If Dish It Up is any indication, blogging is great
training for emerging novelists. But don’t worry if you’re not a geek, no
computers are required to enjoy this tale. Check out the blog at http://www.DishItUpBaby.com. or schedule
an online “appearance” with Helms for your book group. $14.95, Firebrand.
The title, by the way, is taken from the advice a waitress gives our
heroine on her first, overwhelmed evening in NYC:
“When we finished eating, the waitress brought the check over and sat
down at the table. She told us that subways go 'uptown' and 'downtown' and
that there are detailed transit maps posted in every station....She told me
that her manager could help us find an apartment.... She told me that New
York City was an incredible place to live and that every day I would find
a power and strength on the streets that I had never felt before. She told
me that living there was going to be a pain in the ass, but...whenever it
felt too difficult to go on...I should stand on the nearest street corner
with my arms outstretched and hold my head high and yell as loudly as I could,
‘Go ahead and dish it up, baby!’ ”
Caroline Kraus’ Borderlines,
on the other hand, isn’t a lesbian book at all, despite the odd bit of sexuality
and the deep passion and attraction between two women. It is, rather, a deeply
insightful memoir – albeit one that reads like a thriller – about a friendship
gone terribly wrong, what it took to break free of it, the delicate lines
between intimacy and identity, and the possibility of giving up one’s boundaries
and identity to maintain an illusion of love. Rich, complex, even wryly funny
at times. Tolerable only because we know that Kraus did find her center again,
in the end. A wise and rewarding tale. $23.95, Broadway/Random House.
Of Lives and Literature...
Songs of the Gorilla
Nation: My Journey Through Autism is a profound and insightful memoir
about growing up with undiagnosed autism (Asperger's Syndrome). Dawn Prince-Hughes
writes of unexpectedly finding, after a difficult period of drug abuse and
homelessness, an unexpected sense of community and harmony with a zoo-bound
family of silverback gorillas, and how she then applied the social skills
she learned from the gorillas to understanding and connecting with – human
primates.... Less intentionally, perhaps, it’s also a memoir of being an out-lesbian
in a Montana high school just after Harvey Milk was shot, of a gay community
that made room for her, of striving toward understanding relationships and
how (and why) to have them, and of her relationship with her partner, Tara,
and their son. And it’s a profound meditation on the connections between humans
and other species and on cross-cultural and interspecies definitions of justice.
Unexpectedly I left the book with more sympathy toward men (at least of the
silverback variety) and wondering if undiagnosed and untreated autism is common
among control-oriented battering men. Prince-Hughes, after a troubled young
adulthood, is an anthropologist specializing in primate behavior. In Songs
she offers a compelling and fascinating tale. $24, Harmony/Random House.
There are days when I
enjoy Margaret Atwood’s wry, sharp-minded, sharp-tongued nonfiction even more
than her fiction. If the arts (and cynicisms) of the writing life are your
pleasures, and if you are charmed by sentences like “We do so wish to believe
in a logical universe” and eagerly anticipate the deconstructions that follow,
indulge yourself with Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing.
$14, Anchor/Random House.
And for a little Girl-Gets-Girl
Back to Basics: A Butch-Femme
Anthology, the first offering in Bella’s new Bella After Dark (BAD)
imprint, offers good, one-handed reading for women who want something spicier
than a Naiad, but without the imposition of chains, pains, and humiliations
and other downers that are standard fare for trendier lesbian erotic collections.
Look for well-dressed roles, well-placed dildos, odd bits of analysis, and
a little light bondage and fist-fucking. Edited by Therese Szymanki and featuring
work by Karin Kallmaker, Lesléa Newman, Julia Watts, Joy Parks, Carole Rosenfled,
krysia lycette villón, and many others. $14.95, Bella/BAD.
Cynn Chadwick's Girls with Hammers,
the sequel to Cat Rising ($17.95, Alice Street Editions) is a great
read whether you’ve read the first book or not. It follows carpenter Lily
Cameron’s adventures through a difficult year: her best friend and fellow
Girl With Hammer has already left town, her girlfriend gets sick of her sulking
and takes a job in Europe just as her dad dies and leaves her in charge of
the family construction business.... It all means finding new ways to walk
through a challenging time – and learning to embrace unexpected alliances
while keeping her own integrity intact. $19.95 pb, Alice Street Editions/Harrington
“Well constructed and
reinforced. This novel hits the nail on the head!” –Emöke B’Racz, Malaprops
Gulf Breeze, by Gerri Hill, and Survival
of Love, by Frankie J. Jones, are both somebody-done-me-wrong-so-I’m-not-easy-to-get
songs, but they also feature issues-lite: In Gulf Breeze, wildlife
biologist Carly Cambridge struggles to instill just a wee bit of politics
and consciousness into the heart of brilliant and handsome nature photographer
Pat Ryan. Survival of Love takes on long-term friendships between lesbians
and straight women, cross-generational relationships, and even more daringly,
breast cancer in the midst of a passionate new relationship.... Given the
light-reading/romance context, I was especially pleased to find the Mautner
Project/National Lesbian Health Organization page at the end of Survival
of Love, which features Alison Bechdel’s breast exam drawings and a lesbian-safe
place to go for more information. What an excellent idea! Web sites routinely
feature “author’s favorite links” pages, and books should be able to be “interactive”
in the same way. An “author’s favorite resources” page could give readers
whose interest has been piqued a place to begin. Congratulations to Frankie
Jones and to Bella for this innovation. Both books are $12.95, Bella.
One of BTWOF’s favorite
readers highly recommends The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and
Why by Dalton Conley. Conley uses national data sets to look at family
size, gender, race, sexual orientation, religiosity, social class, etc., to
see which siblings do well. The sexual orientation issue is very interesting
– lesbian/gay sibs from rich families tend to be downwardly mobile because
they are not tapped to take over dad’s company, etc., whereas lesbian/gay
sibs from poorer families become upwardly mobile because they move away to
big cities and are exposed to different jobs, friends with connections, etc.
$24, Pantheon/Random House.
I’m staring at three photos
of Condoleezza Rice that “graced” the front page of my local paper last week.
In all of them she looks so.... sincere, so wholesome, and so like someone
you’d want to trust, and whose friends you’d want to trust, too... At least
now, having read Laura Flander’s Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species,
I know why I feel so suckered by these images and how brilliantly the Bush
administration has used women to sugar-coat – and disguise – some of its most
brutal policies and anti-human actions. And I understand how the women of
Bush’s inner circle have been cast – via carefully crafted images – as moderate,
malleable, maverick, irrelevant or benign while the reality of their records
remains unscrutinized by a media that can’t get past its own golly-gee-it’s-a-woman-isn’t-that-just-so-very-fascinating
pseudo-journalism to examine their records and actually report on what these
women are doing.
But Flanders pulls the
wool away to reveal how Karen Hughes was used to defeat Ann Richards and how
pulled-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps stereotypes have been utilized to
disguise Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Rice’s familial and political power,
while entertaining us with tales of how Karen Hughes got her first job thanks
to NOW and the lesbian subplots in Lynne Cheney’s 1981 novel, Sisters.
Women can – and often
do – decide elections these days. And Bushwomen will go a long way
toward clarifying the issues for all of us who have felt the least bit suckered
by the right’s brilliant use of “female friendly” (think “friendly fire”)
rhetoric to cover its actions. Buy it now, before the elections. And give
a copy to all of your sympathetic but confused relatives, friends, and coworkers.
“Excellent, making this
book required reading for those of us too young to remember a time before
the ‘New Right.’” –Bust
More on Marriage
Nolo Press has just released
the 12th edition of its excellent, readable, and very useful Legal Guide
for Lesbian and Gay Couples. This edition covers new domestic-partner
laws in California and New Jersey, same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and
Canada, the latest in child law, estate planning law, and more. $29.99 paper,
(See the last issue for other recent books on gay marriage.)
Civil Unions and the Future of Gay Rights by William Eskridge.
Eskridge argues that lesbians
and gays should support compromises like Vermont’s civil unions laws without
giving up on full formal equality and that these transitional steps will help
create the conditions that will make full equal treatment easier to win.
$17.95 pb, Routledge
Civil Unions: Opening
Hearts and Minds, Linda Hollingdale.
Forty-seven black & white photographs and accompanying
essays document the legislative struggle for the right to gay/lesbian marriage
that resulted in Vermont's historic civil union law. $23, Common Humanity Press, 2002.
On Same-Sex Marriage,
Civil Unions, and the Rule of Law: Constitutional Interpretation at the Crossroads,
The United States Constitution has already been interpreted
to provide a variety of family-related protections which, if applied consistently,
also protect same-sex couples and their children. Strasser explains that only
by radically reformulating and severely undermining existing protections can
courts and commentators justify the claim that the Federal Constitution does
not offer a wealth of family protections, including the right to marry a same-sex
partner. $44.95, Praeger. 2002.
Legal Recognition of
Same-Sex Partnerships: A Study of National, European and International Law, edited by Robert Wintemute and
An international team of scholars examines both theoretical
issues and the wide variety of legal developments in the United States, Canada,
Brazil, thirteen European countries, Israel, South Africa, India, Japan, China,
Australia and New Zealand, as well as under European Community and European
Convention law, and United Nations human rights law. $108, Hart Publishing, 2001.
What They're Reading at
Each issue BTWOF asks the staff at a different women's bookstore what they're reading and what they're loving. This issue we asked Dottie Faibisy and Mindy Cardozo at Wild Iris Books what women are reading in Gainesville, Florida. Here's what they said:
* Books with lesbian content.
Nevada Barr’s bestselling new Anna Pigeon mystery, is set in the Sierra Mountains
at Yosemite National Park. Wild Iris Books’ reading group enjoyed one of Barr’s
previous novels, Bittersweet, and our customers continue to enjoy Barr’s
work with High Country. $24.95. G. P. Putnam’s Sons.*
Cynn Chadwick’s Cat
Rising was a very popular item at Wild Iris Books, and the follow-up sequel,
Girls With Hammers, is another success. Lily Cameron and her all-female
construction company are a sexy and mysterious delight for our lesbian fiction
fans. $19.95. Alice Street Editions.*
Allison Bechdel’s classic
comic strip serial, Dykes to Watch Out For, is, of course, a hilarious
and politically savvy consideration of independent bookstore drama, current
events, and lesbian romance, child-rearing, and community. The 10th
book in the series, Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch
out For, is a delightful return to form. $13.95. Alyson Publications.*
Arundhati Roy’s third book of nonfiction essays is a timely and scathing look
at contemporary global politics. In War Talk, Roy turns a surgical
eye to topics ranging from Donald Rumsfeld to the Palestine/Israel conflict
to Noam Chomsky with a writing style that is every bit as enjoyable as her
Booker-prize winning debut work of fiction, The God of Small Things.
$12.00. South End Press.
Wrapped in Rainbows
by Valerie Boyd is being called the “definitive” new biography of Zora Neale
Hurston. Hurston, a favorite author of the professors and students who order
their textbooks through Wild Iris Books, is much-loved by many Floridians
for her creative storytelling and locally inspired narratives. Wrapped
in Rainbows is the first new Hurston biography in more than 25 years,
and we can hardly keep it on the shelf! $16.00. Scribner.
Michelle Tea’s newest
book is a collection of poetry bearing the same title as one of the included
poems, The Beautiful ($13.95. Manic D. Press). As the title suggests,
Tea offers a consideration of the country she’s spent years hitchhiking and
poetry slamming her way across and back. Tea, a prolific Boston-born California
transplant concocts narratives that are biographical, erotic, and relentlessly
funny. Her three novels/memoirs, The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate
Corruption of One Girl in America ($12.95, Semiotexte) Valencia,
and The Chelsea Whistle ($13 and $14.95, both from Seal Press), are
all much loved by the young feminists who frequent Wild Iris Books, and Tea’s
venture into published poetry has been long awaited by fans of her performances
with the traveling poetry road show, Sister Spit.*
The Rise of the Creative
Class by Richard Florida. This is the current “in book” in Gainesville, Florida.
As Gainesville was in the #2 spot in Florida’s initial ranking, campaigning
candidates and elected officials drop the title as often as they can. The
author is speaking in Gainesville at the end of the month, and the organizers
of his event have got the city “buzzed” on this book. $15.95. Basic Books.
The Trouble with Islam:
A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, by Canadian lesbian Irshad Manji,
takes a humorous and insightful look at mainstream Islam. An important book
for any reader because, as Manji warns: “If more of us don’t speak out against
the imperialists within Islam, these guys will walk away with the show.” $22.95.
St. Martin’s Press.*
Women Who Eat: A New
Generation on the Glory of Food, features popular feminists such
as Ayun Halliday and Michelle Tea challenging both the idea that women are
more concerned with dieting than with savoring a good meal, and that feminists
can’t be bothered with cooking! This book is part of the Live Girls series
from Seal Press, which also includes such Wild Iris favorites as Inga Muscio’s
Cunt and Ariel Gore’s Atlas of the Human Heart. $15.95. Seal
We can’t keep Ellen Degeneres’
new memoir, The Funny Thing Is . . ., on the shelf. With her trademark
wit and comfortable prose, Ellen gives us the ultimate guide to her everyday
battle with greatness. $23.00. Simon & Schuster.*
Many thanks to Dotty and Mindy and to all the women at Wild Iris for their help and for all the work they do to support our community. You can find Wild Iris at 802 West University Ave., Gainesville FL 32601. Phone: 352-375-7477 or email wildIrisbk@aol.com. There's a current list of women's bookstores at www.litwomen.org/WIP/stores.html.
The Crime Scene
By Nan Cinnater
Presented by the Mystery Writers of America, the Edgar Awards,
named after Edgar Allan Poe, are the premiere American mystery awards, the
Oscars of the genre. The 2003 nominations have been announced, and a number
of the nominees are of feminist and even lesbian interest. (For a complete
list, go to http://www.mysterywriters.org.)
Out by Natsuo Kirino, translated by Stephen Snyder ($22.95, Kodansha International)
was nominated for Best Mystery Novel of 2003. Billed as Thelma-and-Louise-meet-Dostoevsky,
Out is a dark crime novel that focuses on four women factory workers
in Tokyo, all of whom are caught in some kind of domestic trap. Young Yayoi
kills her no-good husband in a rage, and turns to older, wiser Masako and
her two friends for help in disposing of the body. Out is the first
novel by Kirino to be translated into English; it won Japan's highest mystery
award and was made into a Japanese movie.
Also nominated for Best Mystery Novel was Maisie Dobbs
by Jacqueline Winspear ($24.00, Soho Press). The eponymous heroine of
Maisie Dobbs is a former WWI nurse – now a private investigator in
1920's London. Her first case involves suspected infidelity, but quickly
to the fate of several wounded war veterans. A long middle section tells Maisie's
story from childhood, including how she met her unusual mentor, Dr. Maurice
Blanche. Maurice Blanche is less Sherlock Holmes than William James, putting
out an oddly New Age-ish mix of philosophy and psychology: e.g., “Judicious
use of the energy of touch can transform, as the power of our aura soothes
the place that is injured.” Nevertheless, Maisie's story grew on me, and I
found myself racing through the last third of the book. Winspear deals thoughtfully
with the clash between Maisie's education and her working-class roots, as
well as with the changes wrought by the war.
Although Maisie Dobbs is a satisfying “read,” I did
find myself longing for the more artful style and psychological complexity
of other books I've read dealing with the traumatic legacy of WWI – notably
mysteries such as Justice Hall by Laurie R. King ($6.99, Bantam), which
really does feature Sherlock Holmes, and the fascinating series by Charles
Todd that began with A Test of Wills ($6.99, Bantam). The gold standard
here is the literary trilogy by Pat Barker comprising Regeneration,
The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road ($14.00 each, Plume),
winner of the Booker Prize.
Another 20th-century war dominates hearts and minds in Death
of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel ($12.00, Soho Press), nominated for
Best First Mystery. In 1939 Madrid, just after the Spanish Civil War,
Sergeant Tejada Alonzo y Leon is a member of the feared and hated Guardia
Civil, police who uphold the victorious fascist government. While searching
for the killer of a murdered comrade, he discovers a wounded Republican in
hiding. In unraveling the murder mystery, Tejada also must question his assumptions
about who are his friends and enemies, villains and heroes. Pawel recently
published a sequel, The Law of Return ($24.00, Soho Press), in which
Tejada travels to Biarritz and becomes involved with his former lover, her
father, and their Jewish friend, who may be forced to return to Nazi Germany.
12 Bliss Street by Martha Conway ($23.95, St. Martin's Minotaur) was also
nominated for Best First Mystery. Twenty-something Nicola, a San Francisco
web designer, gets kidnapped by two teenagers in a comic thriller with a noir
Months ago our esteemed editor, Carol Seajay, picked Southland
by Nina Revoyr ($15.95, Akashic Books), a wonderfully atmospheric lesbian
novel about a Japanese American law student, as Find of the Issue for the
very first BTWOF. The Edgar Committee has also nominated Southland
for Best Original Paperback Mystery – yet another reason to put this one on
your must-read list.
Also nominated for Best Original Paperback, Find Me Again
by Sylvia Maultash Warsh (Dundurn Group – no longer available; check used
book stores or your library) looks like it would be worth tracking down. Second
in a series featuring Toronto physician Rebecca Temple, Find Me Again
alternates a contemporary story of Polish Holocaust survivors with a historical
mystery set in Russia under Catherine the Great.
For the record, one of my favorite women writers, S.J. Rozan,
won the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel last year for Winter and Night
($6.99, St. Martin's Press). This is the latest in her series about two New
York City private eyes who are informal partners: Chinese American Lydia Chin
and hard-boiled-with-a-soft-center Bill Smith. The series began with China
Trade ($6.50, St. Martin's Press), which focused on Lydia and her
Chinatown home. In Winter and Night, Smith's teenage nephew
has run away from his New Jersey home. Exploring the suburban wilderness outside
of her beloved NYC, Rozan takes on teenage anomie and the jock culture that
can drive disaffected kids to Columbine-style violence.
Now in Paper
And with a shiny new,
much more science-fictionish cover: Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge. About
which BTWOF said, “Excellent writing, a profoundly insightful and engrossing
story, and a complex exploration of passion and commitment.” If you read any
science fiction at all (or even if you don’t), make a beeline for this book!
Leaving Mother Lake,
by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu, “fascinating portraits of a girl
growing up amidst huge cultural changes and of the ‘Country of Daughters’
– the still-functioning matrilineal society high in the Himalayas where she
was raised.... The telling is as wonderful as the history.” $14.95, Little
Nancy Rawles’ sequel to Love Like Gumbo, features lesbian activist
Grace’s mother, Camille, (got that?), Camille’s attempts to reconcile her
children’s errant (to her eyes) choices with her own priorities, and a few
mad schemes designed as much to pull the kids back in as to generate retirement
income. A great adventure set on the Creole edge of Watts. $13, Anchor/Random
Nothing That Meets
the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith, $15.95, Norton.
Click to here
to read BTWOF’s original reviews of these books.
Books to Watch Out For
Alice Walker’s new novel,
Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart. $24.95, Random House.
The Amelia Bloomers
If you buy books for young
readers, check out the 2004 Ameila Bloomer List. All the books on the list
celebrate girls and women as a vibrant force in the world, the power of choice
in the lives of girls and women, and/or girls and women who stand up for themselves
and others. The Bloomer list covers picture books through high school reading
and is sponsored by the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities
Round Table of the American Library Association. What a great resource!
Alice B Readers
The 2003-2004 Alice B
Readers’ Appreciation Medal went to Peggy Herring, Karin Kallmaker, and Radcliffe.
The awards include a $500 honorarium, the Reader’s Appreciation Medal, and
a silver lapel pin.
The Alice B Awards are
given to authors of lesbian fiction who have produced a body of well-written,
inspirational, and entertaining fiction. The award comes from a group of lesbians
in Arizona who, after years of reading and enjoying books written by, for,
and about lesbians, decided to thank “writers who have contributed so much
to our community and culture.” The awards were initially given for a single
book published by Rising Tide Press but were reconceptualized as an award
for a body of work after Rising Tide’s demise. Recipients are selected from
a “favorite lesbian authors” list. Readers may nominate writers to the Favorite
Authors list by writing to the Alice B. Committee, 181 East Allen Lane, Huachuca
City, AZ 85616.
Nalo Hopkinson’s Salt
Roads, featured in our last issue, was nominated for a Nebula, as was
Diplomatic Immunity by
Lois McMaster Bujold, The Mount by Carol Emshwiller, Light Music, by Kathleen Ann
Goonan, and The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. Novellas on the Nebula
shortlist include Eleanor Arnason’s “Potter of Bones” and Kage Baker’s
“Empress of Mars.”
You can read excerpts
from the nominated novels and novellas, as well as nominated short stories
by Eleanor Arnason, Carol Emshwiller, Karen Joy
Fowler, and Molly Gloss by following the links from http://sfwa.org/awards/2004/nebfinal2003.html
The Ferro-Grumley Award
for Fiction: Women
Alison Bechdel, Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch
Out For (Alyson)
Rebecca Brown, The End of Youth (City Lights)
Nina Revoyr, Southland (Akashic)
The Ferro-Grumley Awards
for Fiction: Men
Christopher Bram, Lives of the Circus Animals (William Morrow)
Trebor Healey, Through It Came Bright Colors (Harrington Park)
John Rowell, The Music of Your Life (Simon & Schuster)
The Judy Grahn Award
for Lesbian Nonfiction
Casey Charles, The Sharon Kowalski Case: Lesbian and Gay Rights on Trial
(University Press of Kansas)
Lillian Faderman, Naked in the Promised Land (Houghton Mifflin)
Andrew Wilson, Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith (Bloomsbury
The Randy Shilts Award
for Gay Nonfiction
Augusten Burroughs, Dry (St. Martin’s)
John D’Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (Free
Dale Peck, What We Lost (Houghton Mifflin)
The Audre Lorde Award
for Lesbian Poetry
Daphne Gottlieb, Final Girl (Soft Skull Press)
Marilyn Hacker, Desesperanto (W.W. Norton)
Minnie Bruce Pratt, The Dirt She Ate (University of Pittsburgh Press)
The Publishing Triangle
Award for Gay Male Poetry
Patrick Donnelly, The Charge (Ausable Press)
Peter Pereira, Saying the World (Copper Canyon Press)
Brian Teare, The Room Where I Was Born (University of Wisconsin Press)
The Lambda Literary
Foundation has removed The Man Who Would Be Queen from the nominations
from the Transgender/GenderQueer category after the judges for that category
concluded that the book was not an appropriate nomination for the category.
That's it for this month. See you next issue. Subscriptions run for 12 issues – so even if it takes ua a little longer than 12 monhts, you'll still get all of your issues.
Yours in spreading the words,
for Books To Watch Out For