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Books To Watch Out For publishes monthly e-letters celebrating books on various topics. Each issue includes new book announcements, brief reviews, commentary, news and, yes, good book gossip.
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The Lesbian Edition
Volume 3 Number 1
Welcome to Volume 3 Number 1
This issue features News at the top, followed by more "Best Books
of 2005" from a variety of editors and writers, a wealth of short
book reviews and “The Crime Scene”, then several longer
reviews that had originally been scheduled for issues of the Lambda
Book Report that were never published. I realized, just as I sent
the last issue off, that I hadn’t included any Friday Night Reads,
so this issue features a good selection of them as my apology to
the romance and adventure readers.
We were very saddened to learn of the deaths of Anyda Marchant and Betty Berzon in mid-January. Anyda was very supportive of both Feminist Bookstore News and Books To Watch Out For. At one point, in the early '80s, she generously donated the funds to pay for printing and postage for two issues of FBN at a time when that made all the difference between the end and the continuation of the publication. Betty Berzon was also a fierce supporter of lesbian and gay lit, an active supporter of The Lambda Literary Foundation, and a co-funder of the Foundation's Lesbian Debut Fiction Award. Their contributions enriched our literary worlds and we shall miss them both greatly.
Yours in spreading the words,
Lesbian Writers Score Big in British Literary Prizes
In the U.S., mainstream presses published virtually no new lesbian work in
2005, but in the U.K. lesbian writers are accorded a bit more respect:
Ali Smith won the Whitbread Novel of the Year award for her third
novel, The Accidental. The Whitbread carries a 5,000 pound prize. The
Accidental was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her earlier novel, Hotel
World, was shortlisted for both the Booker and Orange literary prizes in 2001.
Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy won the T. S. Eliot
Prize for Rapture. The prize carries an award of 10,000 pounds (approximately
according to The Independent, is a “passionate and beautiful new book-length
love affair in verse” by “'one of the most important, and rightly loved, poets
of our time." In 1995, Duffy was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE).
Earlier this year Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit,
et al) was made an OBE.
Spinifex Press Turns 15
If you're in Australia, head for Melbourne March 3-5 for Spinifex’s weekend-long
literary festival and celebration.
Spinifex publishes a wide range of feminist
and lesbian titles, most of which feature shockingly pink spines.
Their list includes writers from every continent, and features
strong lists of Asian and Pacific writers, Australian and New
Zealand indigenous writers, and African writers as well as internationally
known European and North American feminist and lesbian writers.
More info at www.spinifexpress.com.au
Saints & Sinners Stays in New Orleans - May 12-14
Hurricanes be damned. The Fourth Annual Saints & Sinners LGBTQ Literary Festival
will take place as scheduled, May 12-14, in the proud city of New Orleans. I’ve
only been twice – and it was my favorite GLBTQ writers' conference ever, even before they declared me a Literary Saint last year.
Festival organizer Paul Willis writes, "Keep an eye on our website, www.sasfest.com, for updates on the program and events. Your presence and registration to the event will mean even more this year. Not only will you be supporting the literary community, but also helping to recover losses in funding by the New Orleans AIDS Task Force, as well as supporting the economy of the city.* Saints and Sinners events take place in the French Quarter, and I can assure you that the celebrated neighborhood is as beautiful and charming as ever. Our host hotel, the Olivier House, and other hotels, B&B’s, restaurants, and clubs are open for your enjoyment. Please join us for a Saints and Sinners to remember — a reunion, a celebration, and a pledge to the cultural future of New Orleans."
2006 speakers and presenters will include Val McDermid, Achy
Obejas, Steven Saylor, Karl Soehnlein, Michelle Tea, and Emanuel Xavier, among
many others. * The S&S Festival is a very successful fundraiser for NO/AIDS TF.
Look for updates in the next few days at:
Golden Crown Moves to Atlanta, June 8-11
Carroll & Graf Seeks Lesbian Writing
The Golden Crown Literary Society will meet in Atlanta this year, at the
Sheraton Midtown, instead of in New Orleans. The conference features two tracks,
one for lesbian writers, the other for fans. This year’s conference kicks off
on Thursday with in-depth workshops for writers and editors. The event will, again,
be crowned by the GCLS Literary Awards Banquet and Dance.
Carroll & Graf senior editor Don Weise is actively looking
for lesbian non-fiction as well as literary and commercial fiction other than
mystery or romance.
“There ought to be a way of fostering more lesbian lit
from the publisher's side,” he told The Lesbian Edition, “but I'm not sure
how much lesbian writing really matters to most (mainstream) publishers. For those
of us invested in it, however, we're doing some exciting projects. In addition
to Leslie Feinberg’s first novel since Stone Butch Blues (Drag King Dreams;
April 06) and Michelle Tea’s anthology of new queer girl writing (Baby Remember
My Name; October 06), I have lesbian and lesbian-interest books out or about to come out from Kate
Clinton (What the L?), Cheryl Clarke (Days of Good Looks), Sarah
Schulman (The Child), Patrick Califia (Blood and Silver), and Ali
Liebegott (The IHOP Papers). I’m also publishing Marcia Gallo's extraordinary, Different Daughters (October 06), the first ever history of the Daughters
of Bilitis, and, later, I’m bringing out the first biography of Jeanette Howard
Foster, the pioneering lesbian scholar and Kinsey librarian. I’d love to see more
lesbian biographies and histories, though not nearly enough come my way.”
“Unlike the tired old voices that tell us GLBT publishing is over,” he continued,
“I'm incredibly hopeful about our future. My list of GLBT titles at C&G has
doubled to 25 annually over the past two years. In fact, I'd go so far as to say
that we've entered one of the richest periods of GLBT lit we've seen in a long
time. Exactly how rich the period becomes depends on all of us.”
Anyda Marchant, 1911-2006
Anyda Marchant, lawyer, partner, visionary, publisher, and writer died at home on January
11. She was 94 and had published 14 novels under the nom de plume, Sarah Aldridge,
co-founded two lesbian publishing houses, Naiad Press and A & M, and practiced
law. See below for the full obituary.
Writer, psychotherapist, and community activist Betty Berzon died January
24, 2006, peacefully in her sleep.
In 1971 Betty became the first psychotherapist in the country to publicly
declare herself as a gay mental health professional. Today, Division 44
of the American Psychological Association has more than 1500 members. An expert
in small group process, Betty worked with Evelyn Hooker, Carl Rogers, Abe Maslow,
Virginia Satir and others as part of the emerging Human Potential Movement. She
practiced psychotherapy with groups and couples for the last twenty-five years
of her life, during which time she also wrote four more books, including the perennial
best-selling Permanent Partners: Building Gay and Lesbian Relationships that
Last and Surviving Madness: A Therapist's Own Story. She is survived by her life partner of thirty-three years, Teresa DeCrescenzo.
Favorites and Bests for '05
What Lesbian Writers and Editors are Reading - Part II
I haven't read many lesbian books this year, other than Friday
night reads and erotica! This was fun - thanks for asking me to
Best novel: You Can Say You Knew Me When by K.M.
Soehnlein - not lesbian, but wonderful! New from the author of
the also-wonderful The World of Normal Boys, no sophomore
Best poetry collection: Where the Apple Falls by
Samiya Bashir - beautiful, moving and, if you ever have the chance
to hear her read, don't miss it!
Best Friday Night Read: Just Like That by Karin
Kallmaker - business and pleasure sometimes do mix.
Best mystery: Women of Mystery: An Anthology edited
by Katherine V. Forrest - new stories by J.M. Redmann and Randye
Best erotica collection multiple authors: Stolen Moments:
Erotic Interludes 2 edited by Stacia Seaman and Radclyffe
- women grabbing sex on the go. -Hot, quick encounters between
both long-term couples and strangers in a fun variety of settings.
Best erotica collection, single author: Boy in the Middle,
Patrick Califia - Patrick is one of the best, whether he's writing
about trannies, boy on boy, girl on girl, or groups.
Best book about sex: Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink
by Midori - entertaining, informative, and thought provoking essays
about fetishes, protocol, and different flavors of kink.
Best "how to" book about sex: Dr. Sprinkle's
Spectacular Sex by Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D. - this is a sex makeover/workshop
in a book; if you want to spice up your sex life, this is the
title to get.
guilty pleasure: Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For
by Alison Bechdel - of course!
Reprint that makes the former bookseller in me very happy:
Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller. Thanks, Arsenal Pulp!
This is the one my customers always loved and wanted to buy for
friends, since they wouldn't part with their own copies.
(Suzanne Corson was the Managing Editor of On Our Backs
when she wrote this but is now the Executive Editor of H.A.F.
Publishing, which publishes On and Girlfriends.
In her recent past lives she owned and operated Boadecia's Books,
a feminist/LGBTQ bookstore in the Berkeley area, was an editor
for EastBayVoice.org, and worked for BTWOF.)
L. Timmel Duchamp
My favorite book this year was Joanna Russ’s We Who Are About
To…, which Wesleyan University Press reissued this
spring with an introduction by Samuel R. Delany. I was surprised
to find that I appreciated this novel even more now than when
I first read it in the late 1970s - particularly its formal audacity,
its emotional sophistication, and all that it shows us about the
politics of discourse. Like all of Russ’s work, We Who Are
About To… is witty, astute, and fiercely oppositional.
(Timmi’s recent books include Love’s Body, Dancing in Time,
The Grand Conversation, The Red Rose Rages (Bleeding), and
Alanya to Alanya; find her short stories and essays at http://ltimmel.home.mindspring.com.
She is also the founder of Aqueduct Press, which ‘brings challenging
feminist science fiction to the demanding reader.’)
up in drenched Oregon at the Soapstone writers' retreat, but I want to put in
a plug for Alicia Gaspar de Alba's novel, Desert Blood -The Juarez Murders.
- It's a gritty fictionalization of the murders and disappearances of young women
in Juarez with a lesbian academic pushed into being a reluctant detective. Well
written, important blend of politics and detective story - and I'm not usually
a detective novel reader.
If I were home, looking at my bookshelf, I'd probably
come up with more, but I'm thinking that we need some good dyke fiction to come
out - soon!
(Elana is both an extraordinary writer – think
Beyond the Pale, They Will Know Me By My Teeth, and Riverfinger Women
– and a teacher. Find info on her classes at http://www.dykewomon.org.)
Mary Ellen Kavanaugh
I really have been thinking about this all this
Lighthousekeeping, Jeannette Winterson. Lyrical,
mythical, haunting, keeps reverberating in my soul....
On Beauty, Zadie Smith. Delicious; classic
yet with such a keen observation of modern life.
And, here's a third fav: Inga Muscio's Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil
- quintessential Muscio. What I loved about the book is that it
put a whole lot of stuff together - all the isms under one cover
- and she ties it all to the day-to-dayness of her life.
(Mary Ellen Kavanaugh, founder and owner of
the now defunct My Sisters' Words Bookstore (1987-2003) now positions herself
as champion of indie bookstores and works at indie press distributor Consortium
in the Twin Cities - 2 of the 10 most literate cities in the country.)
Hands down, my favorite novel of 2005 was The Iron Girl
by Ellen Hart. Emotional, at times funny, and dramatic in all
the right ways, this book was more than a mystery. It was also
an exploration into Jane Lawless' past relationship and her current
place in an increasingly rich life. It's the best mystery with
a lesbian protagonist that I have ever read, and I was entertained
and profoundly moved by it.
In the non-fiction category, I chortled my way
through Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance
Approach to Punctuation, which not only "gives you permission
to love punctuation," but also made me laugh a lot.
And I quite simply loved Ursula Le Guin's 2004
offering, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on
the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination. I like the fact
that LeGuin does not hesitate to address sexism, homophobia, and
unfairness. Her piece entitled “Unquestioned Assumptions” is masterful.
She talks about the four common varieties of unquestioned assumption
(We’re all men, white, straight, and Christian), and then adds
a fifth (We’re all young) which she explores at length. Her analysis
of these issues alone was worth the price of the book. If you
haven't read it, run right out and get one. I read a chapter every
night before I went to bed, and I was so sad to see it come to
(Lori is the author of the 2005 thriller Have Gun We'll
Travel and has two books coming out in 2006: Snow Moon
Rising, a lesbian WWII saga, and an anthology, Romance
For Life, co-edited with Tara Young.)
Here’s my favorite for 2005 although there were so many! Most non-gay:
Michel Faber, Murakami, Ishiguro.
Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica
- a beautifully written novel about untidy, uncomfortable, half-unwanted
love, and the narrator’s discovery of her own small but authentic
heart. As I wrote in my review, “reading Mary Gaitskill is like
having a flock of birds fly straight at your face. You register
the beauty, but you still want to turn away.”
My two “big hit” predictions
for 2006 are Kenji Yoshino’s Covering and Norah Vincent’s Self-Made
Man. They’re both fantastic.
(Regina’s most recent book is Queer Beats:
How the Beats Turned America On to Sex. She reviews for the Advocate,
the L. A. Times Book Review, and the New York Times Book Review.)
Ali Liebegott's The Beautifully Worthless. I first read
it last April after hearing her read and fell in love with it.
I asked her to read with me at my launch because her work was
so incredible and since then we have gotten to know each other.
But when I read her book, I did not know her, so I was not biased!
(Katia’s girl-on-the-road tale, Crashing
America, is clearly the book-of-the-month with the gals at my local gym.)
I would have to call a favorite book one I would read twice, often
back to back. I am excluding all the Bold Strokes books, quite
a few of which fit this category for me.
This year – I’d pick The Dead, by Ingrid
Black (released late 2004). This mystery/intrigue set in Dublin
has everything I like – a menacing serial killer, an edgy dark
heroine, and an even edgier romance between the disenfranchised
female American FBI agent and her Detective Chief Superintendent
(Prolific writer and publisher Radclyffe’s latest book is Honor
Reclaimed; she has two books coming in the spring, Turn
Back Time and Promising Hearts.)
Best read? Uh . . .the large-print map of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
It's weird, but I can't think of a single book I read before Aug. 29th and I just
haven't done much reading since, which is also bizarre for me. However, I have
managed to finish Micky Knight #5.
(Jean is back at work and writing in post-Katrina
New Orleans. Micky Night, one of my all-time favorite dyke sleuths, lives in Death
by the Riverside, Deaths of Jocasta, Lost Daughters and at The Intersection
of Law and Desire.)
Air by Geoff Ryman: After her community
is nearly destroyed in a test of the government-sponsored Air internet network,
it is left to Chung Mae, fashion expert, to prepare for the inevitable future
invasions. During her forays in and out of Air, she turns tragedy into opportunity,
while opposed and aided by her traditionalistic neighbors, shadowy government
figures, and a surprisingly loyal network of international allies. The memorable
cast of characters is ethnically and geographically diverse, strange, funny, passionate,
and amazingly real.
Geoff Ryman (Was, Lust)
somehow writes convincingly - and with his signature eloquence - from the perspective
of a middle-aged, illiterate, ethnic Chinese woman in Karzistan, a fictional near-future
country in the far-East. Complex and stubborn, yet possessing a great deal of
compassion and integrity, Chung Mae is one of the finest heroines in recent memory.
Ryman is a key author in the
emerging “slipstream” movement, which artfully melds literary and science-fiction/fantasy
tropes. And as slipstream is about unexpected juxtapositions, so Air plays
with seemingly contradictory ideas: an uneducated woman in an underdeveloped society
engages in international communication, plays with sexual mores, and pioneers
economic innovation. Not to be missed.
(Jill is Managing Editor at Tachyon Publications.
BTWOF’s crystal ball sees her editing a feminist science fiction list in a near
My favorite book of the year was Emma Donoghue’s Life Mask. She’s one of
my favorite writers, and I really enjoyed this book. She does historical fiction
very well, and I thought that although the story was complex, it was clear and
compelling, and she rose to the challenge admirably.
(Stacia edits for Bold
Strokes Books, Intaglio, and other presses and is also the co-editor of Infinite
Pleasures, Stolen Moments: Erotic Interludes 2, and the forthcoming Lessons
I'm honored that you asked my opinions on best books of the year...;
I can never pick just one...
Best Lesbian Books:
The Beautifully Worthless by Ali Liebegott
- An epic poem about a runaway
waitress who, with Dalmatian in tow, hops into her pickup truck
and takes off in search of a mythical American town where there
is no sadness. By turns heartwrenching and hilarious, always poetic
Crashing America by Katia Noyes - Continuing
the dykes on the road theme, this novel tells the story of a totally
charming, rootless and lost punk teenage queer girl named Girl
who takes off on a misadventure searching for family, belonging
Best Books By Excellent Ladies Who Aren't Lesbians:
Little Beauties by Kim Addonizio - Starring
three females: a woman struggling against her OCD who is recently
off her meds; a pregnant seventeen-year–old girl and her unborn
(and later, born) daughter, Stella. Smart and smart-assed, the
characters are amazing, real, likeable. The book throws you a
curveball that sort of socks you in the guts.
Veronica by Mary Gaitskill - This book
is stunning. An aging, sort of banged-up former model looks back
on her life. The prose sweeps you inside it like a drug trip.
It is wholly engrossing and a serious literary accomplishment.
Best book to look for in 2006 is Pink coming out
(Poet, novelist, journalist, Radar Reading series curator,
and ex-bookseller Michelle Tea’s new novel, Rose of No Man’s
Land, is due out momentarily; look for her anthology of new
queer girl writing, Baby Remember My Name, in the Fall.)
Find(s) of the Issue
This month’s find was buried beneath the stacks of books next to my reading chair:
Elizabeth Brownrigg’s The Woman Who Loved War.
Published by Firebrand last spring, it offers an interesting, difficult
exploration of internal (and external) conflict and resolution.
Journalist and war reporter Suzanne made one false step and is now
earth-bound, learning her way into life from a wheelchaired perspective.
Transitioning gracefully is not one of her priorities, but she begins
to rediscover herself, despite her best (worst?) efforts, on midnight
wheelchair rides. In a parallel life, Gulf War veteran Rick also
made one small, fatal (but not for him) mistake. Both need to find
a way to make amends to their pasts. Of course there are more than
a few adventures that got Suzanne into this situation, and more
than a few before either of them gets out. It's an ambitious novel,
I wish it worked just a bit better - I wanted it to snap!
and it doesn't, quite. Plan on a slow, atmosphere setting start.
Brownrigg’s first novel Falling to Earth was a Lambda Literary
Award Finalist. 192 finely printed pages. $14.95, Firebrand.
More Than Bit Parts
You’d be hard pressed to call Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s Liberating
Paris a lesbian novel – it’s the adult tale of six long-time
friends in small Arkansas town the year that, well, Wal-Mart comes
to town, the year Wood’s marriage falls apart, the year Carl dies,
the year that Duff returns to the town that scorned her, the year
Mavis finally figures out what she wants – but there are rewards
for the patient lesbian reader. It’s a classic tale of loss and
love and community and change and of everything that’s gained
along the way. A rich and wonderful read - perfect for a cold
winter night or a pervasive bad mood.
Thomason was the first woman to write for M*A*S*H,
she wrote a hundred episodes of Designing Women (the
proceeds of which she has spent sending 100 women through colleges
and trade schools), and served as an unofficial media advisor
to Bill Clinton. “In 1992,” she noted, “I had three television
shows, three hundred employees, and the most lucrative production
contract in the history of CBS. By the end of the Clinton presidency,
I had not one television show, a single secretary, and Ken Starr
had in his possession every piece of paper I’ve ever owned. And
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” And that’s exactly the spirit
you’ll find in Liberating Paris. Thanks to Sara Look at
Charis for recommending it to us. $13.95, Harper.
by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan is “The June Jordan
book to have.” (Pam Harcourt in More Books for Women #3). It includes new work addressing the poet and activist’s
struggle with breast cancer, and all the work where her best black, activist,
bisexual, visionary, and trouble-making selves shine through. Edited by Jan Heller, with an introduction
by Adrienne Rich. 650 pages, Copper Canyon Press, $40 cloth.
Her younger sister-poet, Samiya Bashir addresses the black queer diaspora from
post-War (WW II) to Hip-Hop in Where the Apple Falls. “She knows the women-texts that give us all the fortitude
to write,” says Cheryl Clarke, “[and] makes me hear ghosts – of slavery, Reconstruction,
migration, urbanization....[S]tunning, smart and real.” $14.00, Redbone Press.
Collected Poems: with Notes Toward the Memoirs of Djuna Barnes, edited
by Phillip Herring and Osías Stutman, collects (at last!) the poetry, plays, and
notes toward her memoirs that Barnes wrote during her “reclusive years” (the last
forty years of her life), as well as most of the poetry she wrote during her pre-Paris
and Parisian expatriate years. (The exceptions being, primarily, the poetry published
in Ryder and The Ladies Almanac. The introduction includes a brief
biography outlining, among other parts of her life, her eight-year relationship
with Thelma Woods, her father’s belief in (and practice of) bigamy, her probable
abuse at his hand, her years as a journalist “for every paper in NYC, except the
Times” and her bawdy wit. Meticulously researched and documented. $24.95,
University of Wisconsin.
Now in Paperback:
Adrienne Rich’s The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004, $13.95, Norton.
"One person can make a difference" Matthew Sheppard told his friend Romaine
(Patterson) the last time she saw him. And
it’s clear, in reading her memoir The Whole World Was Watching:
Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard, that she’s taken
that belief to heart: first by organizing her friends into "angels"
(with seven-foot wing spans) to encircle Fred Phelps and render
his band of hate-mongers invisible - and then by learning how to
survive the loss, to work for change, to have fun working
for change, and by showing up and telling the truth. And
she (or cowriter Patrick Hinds) can tell a good story. A great read
for twenty-somethings and teens trying to find their own lives,
and a great antidote for cynicism at any age. She currently cohosts
Sirius Radio’s Derek and Romaine Show. $23.95, Advocate/Alyson.
Women who read Wild
Girls and want more and women who are taking on the Djuna
Barnes collection (above), can turn to Women Together/Women
Apart: Portraits of
Lesbian Paris, for more insight into the times. Here scholar
Tirza True Latimer considers how lesbian artists working in Paris
during the vibrant years between WWI and WWII began to create,
shape, and circulate the first visual models of lesbianism and
explores the ways these images offered lesbians a collective sense
of identity and mutual recognition. She uses gender theory, along
with visual, cultural, and historical analyses, to portray the
impact of sexual politics on Paris’ cultural life in a time and
place where women’s rights to political, professional, economic,
domestic, and sexual autonomy had yet to be acknowledged culturally
or legally. $24.95 paper, Rutgers.
Latimer has also created a traveling exhibition,
"Acting Out: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore," featuring the work
and relationship of two of the women she highlights in Women
Together. It's currently in Seattle at the Frye.
On The Ice
What is it with lesbians and Antarctica? Maybe it’s the penguins. Or the challenge.
Or that old sense of derring-do.... Or maybe we're just making up for lost time,
since women were barred from Antarctica until the 1970s....
of us who will never get there ourselves can read about it in On the Ice: An
Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station. Gretchen Legler writes about
her five-month stay, about the land, the light, the ice, the research projects,
the Zen of getting anything done under such difficult circumstances, the support
workers – and about falling in love with one of the women on the electrical crew.
She was in Antarctica courtesy of the National Science Foundation Artists and
Writers Program. $15.95, Milkweed.
Get the next generation off to an eager start with Lucy Jane (This
Wild Silence, Working Parts, Sweat) Bledsoe’s How to Survive in Antarctica, a
mix of memoir, survival tips, and travelogue that takes elementary school readers on a vicarious trip to Antarctica. $16.95 cloth,
Moving to the Northern extreme, Sue Carter writes about the first women’s expedition to ski to the North Pole in Ordinary Women: An Arctic Adventure. She explores the events in our lives that lead us
to these adventures, the dynamics of women making difficult decisions under maximum stress, and about taking responsibility for errors amid an absence of blame. $29.95 cloth, Michigan State University Press.
In Breaking the Trail: A Climbing Life legendary trailblazer Arlene
Blum (Annapurna: A Woman’s Place) reflects on her journey from her over-protected
youth in Chicago to the tops of some of the highest peaks on Earth, on the ways
her childhood fueled her need to climb, how climbing liberated her from her
childhood, and on her scientific life, which includes challenging gender stereotypes
and banning two cancer-causing chemicals. $26, Simon & Schuster.
More photos at:
of the Paste Eaters: Memoirs of a Misfit picks up where Cheryl
Peck’s Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs ($12.95, Warner) left off
– mid-life with a fat, middle-aged dyke with a wicked comment
on all aspects of small-town Michigan life. It’s a sense of humor
that coastals aren’t equipped to understand, unless they’ve seriously
practiced their cultural diversity appreciation skills. But if you live or grew up in
the mid-country lands, Peck is a deadpan riot. The cover on the new book
is good, but the cover on Lawn Chairsbrilliantly sets
you up to enjoy the book. If you haven’t read either, start with Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs. $12.95,
5 Spot/Time Warner.
Friday Night Reads and Action Romances
Marianne Martin (Mirrors, Under the Witness Tree) returns with Dawn
of the Dance, a coming-of-age-of-a-young-dyke tale crossed with intergenerational
romance, jealous men, loving through the difficult times, and rebuilding careers
as needed. Kudos to Martin for writing about the complexity of our flawed but
well intended communities, and for her tip-of-the-hat to the softball networks
that are, for many of us, core communities. $12.95, Bywater. And watch for Martin’s
forthcoming novel, Never Ending (February 15, $13.95, Bywater).
radical urban musician Jax is pretty happy with her life: She makes music, manages
financially, and avoids getting too close to anyone. It suits her. And
she’s managed to maintain a loving, if not close, relationship with brother, Danny,
and a more distant relationship with the rest of her evangelical, fundamentalist
family. So maybe holidays with the family are a bit depressing, but she avoids
them, OK? But when Danny introduces her to his fiancé, Jenn, the sparks begin
to fly. If Jenn is the nice Christian girl she purports to be, what’s with the
chemistry between them? And why does Danny keep insisting that the three of them
spend time together? Kudos to first-time author Loren Stone for her insightful
presentation of dykes raised in conservative, faith-based communities. 360 pages,
$19.95, Baitbook.net. If you order online you get to choose your cover:
Bold Strokes Books
The incorrigible, inimitable, prolific Radclyffe is back with Honor Reclaimed,
the latest in the Honor series featuring Secret Service Agent Cameron Roberts
who has sworn to protect – and love – the President’s daughter,
Blair Powell. Honor – and their very futures – are at stake, as Cam and her team
give their all to extricate Blair from a violent confrontation with evil.... $15.95,
275 pages of page-turning drama.
Radclyffe shifts to a different clime and style with Innocent
Hearts, a tale set in 1860s Montana featuring Kate Beecher, a young woman
who has just moved West from Boston with her parents, and Jessie Forbes, a “pa’s
boy” who learned ranching at her father’s knee, carried the ranch on after his
death and became good enough at it to earn the town’s respect... and Kate's. $15.95,
In Bold Stroke’s adventure-romances, lesbians are everywhere, and there’s
never a lavender ceiling: In The Devil Inside, Cain
Casey, mobster with a heart of gold and the head of a powerful New Orleans crime
family, has long since lost her heart to the Wisconsin farm girl who walked out
on Cain and their son. But now Emma Verde is back. But what does she really
want? There’s no doubt that Cain will survive this and all the other challenges
to her power and position, the question is how.... The Devil Inside is
the first in the Casey Family Sagas, written by Cuban and New Orleans writer Ali
Vali. Look for the sequel in June. $15.95, 300 pages.
Protector of the Realm by Swedish writer Gun Brooke, promises “daring
intergalactic romance against a backdrop of space adventure.... With the fate
of entire civilizations at risk, the galactic battleground makes for unusual alliances
and unexpected passions as two women from very different worlds join forces....”
$15.95, 350 pages.
The Temple at Landfall follows The
Walls of Westernfort and Rangers at Roadsend in British writer
Jane Fletcher’s Celaeno Series. Even the best of goddess religions can grow, well,
stale at best, oppressive at worst and, despite all prohibitions, there’s a real
and vibrant attraction growing between Lynn, of the temple, and Kim Ramon, an
officer in the squadron of Rangers assigned to protect her.... $15.95, 300 pages.
The Value of Valor is the third in Lynn Ames’ trilogy (after The
Price of Fame and The Cost of Commitment). It follows the lives
and adventures of high-profilers Katherine Kyle (news anchor, friend of governors
and presidents) and Time magazine reporter Jay Parker in and out of career
changes, homophobia (when your relationship can almost cost you your
career), and surviving media assault. Start at
the beginning, start at the end, it all works. Ames’ political, critical backdrops
add needed depth to the genre. 280 pages, $16.75.
Bella is up and running full speed, and is just about as prolific as god(dess)mother
Naiad Press always was. Bella is now working on multiple fronts: publishing their own books, running a distribution
wing to distribute smaller publishers' books to the book trade, and selling other publishers' titles online via “The Bella Bookshelf,” which currently features titles from Bold Strokes and Rising
Tide. Bella is also running an online bargain
books shelf featuring remaindered titles from Spinsters, Naiad, and elsewhere, mostly
at $3 a title. The quick shopper will find a half dozen Jane Rule titles, a British edition
of Katherine V. Forrest’s Daughters of a Coral Dawn, classic
of classics, Gail Wilhelm’s Torchlight to Valhalla,and a tiny collection
of audio books.
recent titles include:
Karin Kallmaker’s latest, Just Like That, pits vintner
Syrah Ardani against corporate turnaround specialist Toni Glanchard as Syrah fights
to reclaim her family’s vineyard and winery that her father endangered, “just
like that” by accepting outside investors who now want to see some profit. Set
in Northern California’s beautiful wine country and lesbian communities. Karin
Kallmaker is always at her best. $12.95
Vengeance is ours in Peggy Herring’s Midnight Rain. Someone
– a woman – is appearing at just the right
moment to intervene in attempted rapes in parking lots and late
night laundromats and then the woman – and the would-be rapists
– disappear. The survivors want to thank her and, with the help
of one of the survivor’s mother’s curandera, they might
be able to. Midnight Rain offers a rich slice of life as
the survivors work to make sense out of their new, changed lives,
make a few false steps, and help each other heal. It's my favorite
kind of Friday Night Read: not all of the characters are white,
arrogance and entitlement are not virtues, and romance isn't
the piece that holds the book together. $12.95.
Cassie’s fundamentalist preacher father still haunts the inside of her mind even
though she's moved far away, built a life around the driftwood sculptures she
creates, and developed a friendship circle made mostly of lesbians – even though
she isn’t one. That's the premise of Gerri Hill's Artist's Dream. But time
heals, and when a new-to-town architect stops to admire her work at the county
fair, Cassie finds that time might have achieved a little more healing than she's
ready to acknowledge. BTWOF welcomes this little sub-strata of lesbian lit portraying
the lives of lesbians with homophobic, fundamentalist families. (See Bait,
haven’t read it yet but here’s what ex-bookseller Suzanne Corson wrote to say
about Diane Tremain Braund’s Tides of Passion: “A wonderful 'Friday Night
Read.' Besides the fact that it was over 380 pages(!) - my customers would have
loved it!- it has a wonderful supporting cast of characters. I wish there
was a little more about some of them, but the curmudgeonly Elizabeth character
is a treasure. And the book featured a scene you rarely see: one friend telling
another friend a hard truth. I applaud the author for including this.” $12.95.
And a few more new Bellas:
Bell, Book and Dyke: New Exploits of Magical Lesbians, the latest in
the Bella After Dark series, features novellas from Barbara Johnson, Karin Kallmaker,
Therese Szymanski, and Julia Watts. That, of course, would be magic at the intersections of desire, lust, and love. 350 pages, $14.95.
And watch for: Reunion, by Jane Frances, $12.95, Lyn Denison’s Always
And Forever, $13.95; Back Talk by Saxon Bennet, $13.95: and The
Perfect Valentine: Erotic Lesbian Valentine Stories edited by Therese Szymanski
and Barbara Johnson, $15.95. See "The Crime Scene" for Bella's mysteries.
Wow! 2005 was a great year for lesbian mysteries,
as I realized when I made my list for Lammy nominations. This month's column is
particularly packed with high-quality entries that manage to be innovative and
still remain true to the genre. Several of these titles qualify for my list of
the best lesbian mysteries of 2005, which you can find at the end of this column.
First, though, there's a landmark anthology of lesbian mystery stories edited by Katherine V. Forrest, Women of Mystery ($17.95, Harrington Park Press). (The title may be a tad bland, but at least it says "lesbian" right on the cover - front and back.) I hate short stories, but I was grabbed by a number of these, with their great titles ("The Intersection of Camp and St. Mary" by J.M. Redmann), opening lines ("I started to suspect she was a werewolf on our first date"), and remarkably sharp, vivid writing. The roster of authors includes some of my favorites (Forrest and Redmann, Randye Lordon, Martha Miller), as well as first-time authors and some writers not known for mysteries (Karla Jay, Victoria Brownworth). It was especially good to see a story by Diana McRae, who disappeared from the scene after publishing a great lesbian private eye novel, All the Muscle You Need, back in the Eighties. Although the selection of authors and stories is diverse, the (non)representation of lesbians of color is disappointing.
Rose Beecham, author of Grave Silence ($15.95,
Bold Strokes Books), is the mystery pseudonym of romance writer Jennifer Fulton.
By that or any other name, Rose Beecham certainly can write! Grave Silence
is set in the remote Four Corners area of the Southwest, and Beecham's descriptions
of the landscape rival Nevada Barr's. Detective Jude Devine, lesbian and ex-FBI
agent, brings some secrets of her own to the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office.
When the body of a teenage girl is discovered with a stake through her heart,
Jude finds ties to a fundamentalist Mormon sect that practices polygamy. The story
involves graphic, but not gratuitous, violence and abuse. With social consciousness,
a believable plot and strong characters, Grave Silence is an exemplary
thriller - with one exception. Why should such a smart, tough, admirable heroine
be in the closet?
Mouths of Babes ($15.00, Serpents Tail), the
fifth Saz Martin mystery by Stella Duffy, is brilliant and unsettling,
a twenty-first century version of classic psychological suspense.
Literally and figuratively scarred by her work as a private eye,
Saz has retired to full-time motherhood, living in London with her
lover Molly and infant daughter Matilda. Their little family is
dealing with the death of Molly's father, when Saz's past shows
up on the doorstep. Will was one of a group of schoolyard bullies
who tormented Saz when they were teenagers, but worse things are
haunting him. The unfolding of this secret history is worthy of
Rendell or Highsmith. (For information on the rest of the Saz Martin
series, see TLE
Memories to Die For by Adrian Gold ($12.95, Bella), has
many virtues, not the least being the feeling of dropping in on
someone else's life-someone smart enough and likeable enough
to become a friend. Gold's realistic lesbian heroine, Rachel Katz,
is a Seattle psychologist complete with friends, ex-clients, a
dog, and a community. Rachel is just coming out of the traditional
Jewish mourning period for her lover, and thus just starting to
date, when she is asked to investigate the state of mind of a
colleague who may have committed suicide. The reader is immersed
in the professional and academic life of psychologists, including
the controversy over "recovered memories" of sexual
abuse. Any veteran mystery reader could guess the outcome, but
getting there is highly satisfying.
Lillian Byrd, heroine of a Detroit-based series
by Elizabeth Sims, is an odd duck, and getting odder with every book. In Easy
Street, fourth in the series (after Holy Hell, Damn Straight, and Lucky
Stiff, all $13.95, Alyson), Lillian is so broke she seems close to becoming
a bag lady, until a friend offers her work helping to renovate a "fixer-upper"
of an old house. The plot thickens, with hidden treasure in the walls of the house
and the death of a street person. Lillian is a funny and charming, albeit eccentric,
narrator. In fact, a couple of scenes had me laughing out loud, especially one
where Lillian poses as "Stacey Wounded Deer" to get on the good side
of a New Age Native American wannabe. Other times the mood shifts drunkenly from
hilarious to heartbreaking. Easy Street is great fun but also strangely
A Time to Cast Away by Pat Welch ($12.95, Bella) is consistently noir
- which the dictionary defines as "bleakly pessimistic" - but in a
good way. Former cop and private eye Helen Black has no place to go but up, after
getting out of prison for murder. She returns to Berkeley, California, where she's
barely making ends meet with temp jobs and the help of a couple of old friends.
One night Helen goes home from a bar with Alice, a pathetic drunk who cries over
her lost love all night. One week later Alice is dead. Welch writes a highly readable,
straightforward private eye story, which, like a shot of whiskey, will sometimes
hit the spot when nothing else will do.
In Too Deep by Ronica Black ($15.95, Bold Strokes) is a twisting
tale of forbidden lesbian love between a newbie homicide detective
and the chief suspect in a serial killer case.
The Missing Page by Patty G. Henderson is the third supernatural
mystery about Brenda Strange, a psychic detective based in Tampa,
Florida. The first two were The Burning of her Sin and Tangled
and Dark (all $12.95, Bella). In
this one, Brenda is tracking down an elusive rare manuscript in
the Florida Keys.
The Next World by Ursula Steck ($12.95, Bella) features
Anna Spring, a self-described "one-eyed German American of Asian descent,"
who has left her former profession as a genetics researcher in Germany to work
as a security guard in San Francisco. When an employee from Anna's job disappears,
the trail leads to a sinister fertility clinic.
Nan's Picks: Best Lesbian Mysteries of 2005
Darkness Descending by Penny Micklebury ($14.95, Kings Crossing Press;
see TLE #19.
Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders by Alicia Gaspar De Alba ($23.95,
Arte Publico Press; see TLE #15.
Easy Street by Elizabeth Sims ($15.95, Alyson, see above).
Grave Silence by Rose Beecham ($15.95, Bold Strokes Books, see above).
Hostage to Murder by Val McDermid ($12.95, Bywater; see TLE #15.
Mouths of Babes by Stella Duffy ($15.00, Serpent's Tail, see above).
Murder on the Mother Road by Brenda Weathers ($12.95, New Victoria;
see TLE #19.
A Few from the Lambda Book Reports That Never Were
Here are an essay and a few more reviews that had been scheduled for the issues of the Lambda
Book Report that were never published.
The Power of Mystery Fiction - An Essay
by Judith Markowitz, Ph.D.
Authors of gay and lesbian detective fiction recognize the power of mysteries
to educate and inform a broad spectrum of readers. Author and publisher Joan Drury
exploited that power to bring feminist issues to new audiences. “I knew that people
who knew none of the statistics about violence against women would be reading
my books if I wrote them as mysteries," Her belief was validated when one
of her mysteries was nominated for an Edgar. Like the writers of hard-boiled and
noir mysteries, Katherine V. Forrest, Jack Dickson, Claire McNab, and others use
murder mysteries to expose the panoply of crimes that are committed every day
through abuse of power and privilege. When she began writing her first mystery
series in the 1980s, Barbara Wilson/Sjoholm saw detective novels as a tool for
bringing social consciousness to fiction. “I thought the mystery - with its format
of question-asking, issues of social justice and crime, and its accusations and
vengeance - was well suited for that.”
From the start, these and other authors have used mysteries
to inform, to attack, and to undermine stereotypes about gay men and lesbians,
sometimes employing humor to accomplish these objectives. Lou Rand’s The Gay
Detective, the earliest documented gay detective novel, is a parody of hard-boiled
mysteries. Among other twists, his novel casts a man with “an unconsciously un-masculine
air” as the detective - a role reserved for ultra-masculine men - and ascribes
a talent for interior decorating to a heterosexual football star. Joseph Hansen
approached the same task using more sober mysteries.
"In Fadeout I wanted
to tell a rattling good mystery yarn, but I also wanted to turn a few more common
beliefs about homosexuals inside out and upside down, as many as I could in a
space of fifty-thousand words."
These authors are not simply trying to educate heterosexual
readers. Many of them write for gay and lesbian audiences with the intention of
turning common internalized homophobic beliefs “inside out and upside down.”
Some of the characters they create are virtually indistinguishable from the heterosexual
characters that abound in mysteries. “I want readers to see that what makes a
person gay is not the only thing that defines him or her,” Joan Albarella points
out. “I also want readers to see that gays come in all shapes, sizes, economic
conditions, and even physical conditions.” Indeed, authors of gay and lesbian
mysteries have created detectives who come from a variety of racial and ethnic
backgrounds whose ages range from sixteen to
over sixty, who represent all economic classes and financial situations, and who
were raised in Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Native American, and Wiccan traditions which they
currently embrace, ignore or reject.
The fact that many authors describe their gay and lesbian detectives
using terms such as brave, decent, self-accepting, and role
model, demonstrates their intent to go beyond simply creating characters that
are comparable to heterosexuals. “I was conscious growing up of the complete lack
of any sort of lesbian role model, anything out there that would make young women
growing up gay feel less like a freak,” says Val McDermid, “so I wanted Lindsay
[Gordon] to be a kind of Everydyke.” Role models for healthy, long-term relationships
- a rare phenomenon in the mystery genre as a whole - are core elements of the
series of a number of authors, notably Lev Raphael, Michael Craft, Vicki McConnell,
Fred Hunter, and Mark Richard Zubro. “There would be no question,” asserts Hunter,
“about the fact they are simply a very happily married couple.” Following the
lead of Blacksploitation films of the 1970s, some authors go beyond role models
to create super-heroes who serve as antidotes to the homophobic stereotypes in
our daily lives.
Some authors consciously forge new images of individuals within
our community who are frequent objects of disdain or homophobic hatred. “If we
truly believe it’s important to embrace diversity,” argues Ellen Hart, “we should
also embrace diversity within our own ranks.” Authors of gay and lesbian detective
fiction do precisely that. Among their detectives number a male transvestite and
several cross-dressing butches, feminine lesbians and gay men, one youthful bar
dancer, an HIV-positive journalist, and an elderly private investigator who combats
ageism as well as sexism and homophobia. Included among the series-level secondary
gay/lesbian characters are a wheelchair-bound private investigator, sex workers,
and a drag-queen.
All these characters – those who resemble heterosexuals and
those who do not – capture the spectrum of our colorful community. By casting
these characters as savvy detectives and by giving them admirable human faces,
authors of gay and lesbian detective fiction use the power of mystery fiction
to make us visible and reaffirm our lives.
Judith Markowitz is the author of The Gay Detective Novel: Lesbian and
Gay Main Characters and Themes in Mystery Fiction. She has a doctoral degree
Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories
by Jaime Hernandez
reviewed by Marissa Pareles
With its punk-inspired DIY attitude, (magical)
realism, and raw, gorgeous depiction of Latinas and Chicanas,
Love and Rockets has, for over twenty years, been a gold
standard of contemporary comics. But if you haven't already been
reading it for years, you might skip lightly through the first 45
sections of Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories, which introduces
the dynamic queerotic duo and the series' convoluted plotlines.
In short: freelance mechanic Maggie Chascarillo runs into scores
of old acquaintances, a bone-chillingly evil provincial boss and
his rapacious kin, and a quasi-dead supernatural dinosaur while
stranded in deep jungle in the sort-of Latin American nation of
Zimbodia. Maggie’s not a superhero - she's just our heroine, a multiplicitous
girl with a buzzing sex drive, body issues, and hundreds of friends
and relatives - and she doesn’t react well to danger, so the dark
supernatural element that threads erratically through this volume
doesn’t do much for her character - or for the reader’s tenuous
grasp on the interweaving plots. Her connection to her punk-rocker
roommate, Esperanza “Hopey” Leticia Glass, on the other hand, sizzles.
Hopey, a half-white dyke bass player, is a series regular usually
appearing in the context of her messed-up family. She’s got it for
It’s this fraught love, which tours buddyhood, sexual passion, estrangement,
and other strange geographies, that holds the Maggie stories together. Before being gathered together here by Jaime Hernandez they were scattered across volumes of the 1500-page Love and Rockets series created by Hernandez and his brother Gilbert. In 1985, barely grown-up Hopey and Maggie are shacked up in Hoppers, their native
LA barrio, like girlfriends…or is it roommates? “Just ’cause me and Maggie live
together and sleep in the same bed doesn’t mean anything. Just ’cause we hold
hands while walking down the street doesn’t mean shit!” Hopey tells her jealous,
homophobic brother. But we’re not so sure. After their one sex scene,
Maggie claims the nookie is casual. And we might even believe her, in context.
But elsewhere they’re clearly girlfriends: lying in bed topless, for instance,
and fighting over Hopey’s infidelity with ex-girlfriend Terry: “I can imagine
what goes on while I’m away!” “Well, shit, Mag! What the hell am I supposed to
do while you’re away? Lock myself up and wait for you to come home?” If you’re
a fan reading this book (as I did) to suss out the details of their relationship,
then you’ll probably end up more baffled than you started.
Unusual for a comic series, the stories focus
instead, and with similar sensual intensity, on Maggie’s tortured
career as a jack-of-all-trades: mechanic, short-order cook, wrestler,
and occasional hooker. In a flashback strip, 13-year-old Maggie
gets her itchy hands on a boat: “One of these days I’m gonna be
a pro… I’m gonna be a famous mechanic and travel all over the world
fixing rocket ships, robots, an’ maybe even plumbing.” She’s not
wrong. Hernandez doesn’t pin down Maggie (a.k.a. Margaret, Perla,
and Shrimp) who balloons from skinny to busting-at-the-seams hot
and hooks up with everybody from a chivalrous trick to true-love
Hopey to a dangerous fugitive who initiates a plea for safe harbor
by flinging her onto his bed and covering her mouth.
All this while working in highly physical, male-dominated jobs and
looking out for number one. Maggie’s vulnerability - and frequent foolishness
- allow this tough girl the bravery of a bottom and a femme. Unlike Hopey, who
loves deeply but with a keen sense of self-preservation, Mags goes through pain,
danger, and denigration simply for the sexual pleasure she needs - and for a buck
or two - or to stay in her male-dominated job. The ending - for this collection
at least - lets the made-for-each-other heroines stay queer and realistic after
years of rocky intimacy. When was the last time a straight guy wrote that
story? And it's probably the last time, except in Cherríe Moraga, we saw such
well-drawn queer Chicanas.
“I can always
tell how it tears you up inside when she does that. She has no class
at all,” says Terry.
“Maggie can’t help it if she likes guys too
much,” replies Hopey.
The association between Los
Bros Hernandez and Fantagraphics is clearly beneficial: the design looks awesome,
and the brothers have recently released 13 new issues of the previously presumed-dead
series. Look out for the grown-up adventures of las locas invincibles.
$49.95 Hardcover, 704 pages, Fantagraphics.
Marissa Pareles is a journalist and editor writing on food, health, and travel. Her travel journalism appears in The Rough Guides NYC, The Village
Voice, and Out Traveler. Find her edgy, experimental fiction in Hot Lesbian Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, and Best of Best Lesbian Erotica 2. Watch for her forthcoming anthology, Cheap: Jews Write about Sex, Money, and Class; check her Web site for submission details:
She’s Got Next: A Story
of Getting In, Staying Open, and Taking a Shot
by Melissa King
reviewed by Gwendolyn Bikis
Basketball is a sweet sport: it requires little space or equipment,
its rhythms are hypnotic, most of its plays and players are
quick and graceful. The game carries the trappings of democracy
- even a woman can be a basketball star, now, thanks to the WNBA
- and the mythic aura of freedom and equality. Small wonder that
so much fluid and poetic prose has been written about basketball.
Next is a memoir about basketball; it was excerpted in Sports Illustrated
and then anthologized in The Best American Sports Essays. In the prologue,
Melissa King explains her love affair with basketball in almost-spiritual terms:
"I’ve played because, when the game
is good, when everyone is doing, not thinking, it happens, little
stillnesses in the moments when you see your open man and nothing
else, or you feel your shot going in the hoop as it leaves your
hands, or you share a laugh with someone you’ve never spoken to.
Race, money, gender, age, they’re still there. But the junk we’re
all saddled with is gone." (p. 1)
King’s narrative takes the reader from her childhood
in rural Northern Arkansas, to the (non-South Side) streets of Chicago, and out
to Southern California. She recounts her memories of Southern seasons spent in
the family driveway, dribbling and leaping beneath a basketball hoop. These merge
into memories of her white father playing basketball with the line guys he supervised,
and how loose and free and happy it was, if only for slightly longer than a Mississippi
The author seems happy to bask in blissful moments of inter-racial
accord afforded by the game of basketball and she seems proud of those times
when she is accepted as an almost-equal on the court by a group
of men, but she seems terrified of on-court encounters with lesbians: Her cumpulsive need to distance herself from, and to try to
get the reader to dis-identify with, lesbians becomes more and more
evident as the book proceeds. Apparently homophobia is so compulsory that, even in the midst of a game when everyone is
“doing, not thinking,” it doesn’t require any thought. She’s Got Next
is full of swipes at women who look like men, women who wear their
hair in crewcuts or have hairy armpits, women who dress and strut
like men, and at (two) lesbians who comprise an entire “gay invasion” into a pick-up game. Even as King basks in the freedom
and sheer exhilaration of escape from the boundaries of gender roles,
she automatically equates female strength with lesbianism or - more
horrifying - with butchness.
This is a short book with fairly large print and
wide margins; it's a quick, casual read, perfect for waiting rooms and medium-length
airplane trips, but only if one can stomach unexamined homophobia and the type of racial
awareness that mostly designates only people of color by their race. The
author criss-crosses the country in search of pick-up games, attends a woman’s
basketball camp craftily planted with lesbians who titillate, and inevitably begins
to grow old. When age, the death knell for a basketball player, strikes Melissa
King, she becomes a coach for a girls’ basketball team.
Along the way, the author accumulates a boyfriend who is barely mentioned,
and a son who seems to pop out of nowhere - he's two years old before the reader
knows of his existence or of his existence’s circumstances. It is as if these
accoutrements are mentioned not because they are important to the narrative, but
because they seem to represent a mainstream lifestyle where nobody would
dare think that a female basketball player is that most dreaded of people: a dyke.
King’s prose is clunky as a double-dribble. The game’s mesmerizing choreography
deserves better. I much prefer reading John Edger Wideman, whose daughter plays ball,
and whose many basketball memoirs capture the game so well, or the near-poetry
of Susan Straight who, like King, also began her writing career in the sports
"I had watched a hundred times while he
positioned himself surely, his hands slanting nervously up and down like
fins to guide him in his own part of the water, his long arms fencing out the
others behind him. He would sway for a second, his mouth hung in a triangle and
eyes rolled upward, waiting for the ball to leap within reach.... It was like he
knew instantly from the rotation of the shot where it would fly".
$13.00; 180 pgs., Houghton-Mifflin.
-from “Off-Season,” in Aquaboogie;
Milkweed Editions, p. 127
Gwendolyn Bikis's novel, Your Loving Arms, was published in 2002 by Alice Steet Editions/Harrington Park. Excerpts from her novella, Cleo's Gone, have appeared in Hers3, Close Calls, The Persistent Desire, Does Your Mama Know?, The Best Lesbian Erotica 1998 and 2000, and The Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica. She was a recipient of the John Preston Erotic Writing Award and runner-up for an Astraea Foundation's Emerging Writers' Award.
Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures
by Gayatri Gopinath
reviewed by Lori Saffin
In Impossible Desires, Gayatri Gopinath
examines a range of South Asian public and popular culture texts,
including literature, film, and music, to show how the
histories of colonialism, nationalism, racism, and migration shape
diasporic discourses. The author argues that dominant diasporic
narratives maintain oppression because they rely upon patriarchal
and heterosexist articulations. However, Gopinath focuses her discussion
on the multiple forms of resistance to hegemonic conceptions of
the diaspora to highlight the always competing and contradictory
definitions of diasporic identities. Yet, as she illustrates throughout
the text, these interventions oftentimes collude with dominant discourses,
perpetuating oppression, reliance upon notions of authenticity,
and a splintering of the nation/homeland from the diaspora. Impossible
Desires offers up reconfigurations of the diaspora by placing
queer South Asian female subjects as central to its meaning. Gopinath
reworks the logic of diaspora through a queer and feminist
lens, thereby disrupting heteronormativity, the presumed whiteness
of queer bodies, and the disconnection of home/nation from the diaspora.
The author does not simply bring into visibility a queer South Asian
female subject; she also challenges the very basis of visibility
and “coming out” that are so salient to Western queer identity.
By rereading homosocial spaces of the home represented within various
South Asian public and popular culture narratives, Gopinath shows
how queer female subjects fashion unique forms of accommodation
that resist dominant ideologies and assert alternative diasporic
Impossible Desires employs a queer diasporic framework
that centers on queer South Asian female subjectivity and desire. She argues that
queer female desire is rendered impossible within the logic of nationalism because
morality, tradition, and a sense of “home” are maintained by policing the female
body and sexuality. Patriarchal nationalist and diasporic narratives, thus, make
“lesbianism” intelligible only outside of the home whereby queer female subjects
must literally leave the nation in order to exist. South Asian queer females are
forced to either remain within the oppressive and heteronormative homeland or
leave the nation, seeking “refuge” in the ostensibly liberatory diaspora. This
bifurcation of the home/nation from the diaspora inevitably fragments the identities
of queer women of Color, reifying gender and sexual hierarchies, and enforcing
heteronormativity within the “home” and nation.
Gopinath tackles the complex interconnections between nationalism,
diaspora identities, and various forms of oppression by using South Asian public
and popular texts to imagine a queer female subject within the home/homeland.
In doing so, the author not only renders possible a queer South Asian female but
also criticizes the ways in which many diasporic individuals and communities resist
dominant discourses by relying upon the impossibility of a queer female subject.
For example, Gopinath reads the popular music of several well-known British Asian
bands of the 1990s, such as Asian Underground, Asian Dub Foundation
(ADF), and Fun’Da’Mental. She contends that these bands, which critique
globalization and racism, do so at the expense of queer female subjects because
they view the effects of globalization as existing only within the public sphere.
Gopinath, instead, discusses other musical, cinematic, and literary representations
that provide complex readings of gendered labor intersecting with globalization
and illustrate how the home is continuously created within transnational public
culture, collapsing the distinction between public and private.
The author also argues that queer diasporic audiences reclaim a sense of home
and homeland through their viewing of popular Indian cinema. In particular, South
Asian queers utilize the Bollywood song and dance sequence as a space to imagine
queer subjectivity. Gopinath asserts that it is often in moments of extreme gender
conformity within the homosocial spaces of the domestic that queer female desire
emerges in very disruptive ways. The representations are not deemed overtly or
visibly “lesbian,” but rather provide a space of homoeroticism that challenges
heteronormativity within the home, homeland, and nation. Yet, even in overtly
“lesbian” films, such as Deepa Mehta’s controversial film Fire (1996),
because queer female desire is placed within the home, dominant ideologies of
gender, sexuality, and nationality are thoroughly disrupted.
Moreover, Gopinath analyzes Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel Funny
Boy and Shani Mootoo’s 1996 novel Cereus Blooms at Night. Both texts
refuse to separate sexuality from processes of racialization, colonialism, and
migration and they rethink the category of home through a form of nostalgia. However,
what is so powerful about the nostalgia evoked in these texts is that they recreate
the homeland through a queer lens, allow for contradiction and conflict within
a diasporic identity, and show how queer desire is central to the telling and
remembering of histories.
0Impossible Desires offers up alternative ways of imagining
home, community, and kinship, while providing a framework for queer racially marginalized
subjects to resist dominant white/Western models of queerness that rely upon visibility,
“coming out,” and separating oneself from the larger heterosexual and heterosexist
culture. Through an examination of South Asian public and popular culture, Gopinath
places queer female bodies and desire as central to history and memory in order
to envision new ways of being in a transnational world. Impossible Desires
proposes an important and powerful critique of dominant conceptions of the nation
and diaspora, revealing the potential for crucial intervention in the most marginal
$22.95, paper, Duke University Press.
Lori Saffin is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies who teaches Women's Studies
at Washington State University and is researching the intersections of Critical
Race Feminism with Queer Theory.
Anyda Marchant, 94, partner, lawyer, visionary, publisher, and writer died January
11 at home in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
In 1974, after retiring from practicing law, Anyda Marchant, with her life
partner Muriel Crawford, co-founded the Naiad Press, in tandem with Barbara Grier
and Donna McBride. Marchant’s first novel, The Latecomer, published under
the pen name Sarah Aldridge, was one of the two books that launched the press.
Naiad went on to publish eleven Sarah Aldridge novels, and became, over time,
the most influential lesbian publishing house in history. Anyda served as Naiad’s
president from its inception until the mid 1990s.
In 1995 Anyda and Muriel withdrew from Naiad and founded their own publishing
company, A&M Books. A&M published the last three Sarah Aldridge novels,
including O, Mistress Mine in 2003, along with As I Lay Frying: A Rehoboth
Beach Memoir by Fay Jacobs and, just last October, Celebrating Hotchclaw,
a new novel by feminist literary icon Ann Allen Shockley. Passionate about supporting
feminist writers, Marchant continued her publishing and mentoring activities until
Anyda was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and moved with her family to Washington, D.C. when she was six. As a law student,
she served as an assistant to women’s rights pioneer Alice Paul,
who was then doing the first research for an Equal Rights Amendment.
Decades later Anyda organized the very first National Organization
for Women meeting in Delaware and launched its Rehoboth chapter.
In 1933, after earning her law degree from what is now George Washington University,
she was admitted to the bar and practiced in DC and Virginia, before the U.S.
Court of Claims and the U.S. Supreme Court.
In l940 Marchant was appointed assistant in the Law Library of Congress, Latin
American Law section. When the man heading that department was drafted, Marchant
was appointed in his place. When he returned in 1945, she relinquished the post,
but declined a lesser offered position, on principle.
She returned to Rio to work, then did a brief stint as a translator at the
1948 Pan American Union Conference in Bogota, Columbia. From there she returned
to Washington as one of the first female attorneys with the law firm now known
as Covington and Burling. She served briefly in private practice and then with
the U.S. Commerce Dept. before moving to the legal department of the World Bank
where she worked for 18 years. When she retired in 1972, she and her life partner,
Muriel Crawford moved to their weekend home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which
became the site of legendary Saturday evening salons, with cocktails, conversation
and an amazingly diverse crowd - neighbors, clergy, writers, musicians, young
and old, gay and straight - filling the spacious front porch. In the winter the
salon would move to the couple’s Pompano Beach, FL home.
Anyda Marchant is survived by Muriel Crawford, her partner of
57 years, as well as a large circle of loving friends. A&M Books will continue
under the direction of Fay Jacobs, who has been managing the press for the last
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