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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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covers both lesbian books and the whole range of books lesbians like to read. It covers news of both the women in print movement and mainstream publishing. Written and compiled by Carol Seajay.
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announces and reviews new books by and about gay men as well as other books of interest and gay publishing news. Written and compiled by Richard Labonte.
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covers the finest in thinking women's reading, plus mysteries, non-sexist children's books, and news from women's publishing. Written by the owners and staff at Women & Children First, and friends.
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Volume 3 Number 2
Read All About BTWOF!
Check out Michelle Tea’s article about Books To Watch Out For in the
San Francisco Bay Guardian’s March Lit supplement (Feb 22 issue). She writes
a regular column for the monthly Lit supplement that looks at various publishing
houses, what they do, and why. It’s all in Michelle’s inimitable style, and
is fascinating reading for anyone who’s interested in publishing or looking
for the right publishing house for their work.
You can read it online at
or go to the SF Bay Guardian’s website and enter “house
hunter” in the search box to find her previously published columns:
If You're Going to Dinah Shore...
...or other lesbian, feminist, or gay events this spring or summer and could take
along some BTWOF fliers and pass them out, we'd love you
forever - and so will the women you'll turn on to BTWOF.
And it's a great way to strike up a few conversations. Put the fliers
on the literature table, post them in the loo, or pass them out:
I hate standing in lines, but I love walking up them and asking
women if they read books. (Someone will almost always hold your
place while you do it.) When I get that "Duh! Does the sun rise
in the east?" look in response, I know I'm on the verge of a great
conversation. Call us or email Leigh@BooksToWatchOutFor.com
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for some BTWOF fliers and a few minutes to distribute them.
Spinifex Phases Out New Publishing
Australia’s Spinifex Press, on the heels of its 15th anniversary bash,
announced that it will cease signing new books and will focus instead on books
currently in the pipeline and on promoting its 170 backlist titles. Spinifex
has been a fiercely successful publisher, publishing and distributing globally
across a wide range of womanist disciplines from Aboriginal women’s rights
to global women’s rights, from health issues to lesbian fiction.
But why stop now?
Over the past five years, publishers Susan Hawthorne and her partner Renate
Klein have watched as feminist publishers around the world have closed their
doors. “We resisted this and came up with strategies for increasing our visibility
and turnover. We have survived criticism and marginalisation. What we cannot
survive is lack of interest from media and all but the best bookshops,” Susan
“The media pigeonholes us,” she continues, “because our publishing program
includes lesbian books. They forget that lesbians play an important role in
fostering social justice in Australia and internationally, and they forget
that as lesbians we feel the impact of social injustice acutely and that is
why we have published across such a broad range of issues, much of which is
A&M Transitions: New Ownership & New Distribution
Before Anyda Marchant (a.k.a. Sarah Aldrich) died in January, she made provisions
for A&M Books’ Managing Editor Fay Jacobs to assume ownership and
to keep the lesbian and feminist publishing company intact; Muriel Crawford,
Marchant’s partner in life and in publishing, will be Publisher Emeritus.
Jacobs had worked closely with Marchant on the last three A&M publications.
Jacob’s primary focus has been promoting the press’ recently published Ann
Allen Shockley novel, Celebrating Hotchclaw, and shifting bookstore
distribution for all 14 Sarah Aldrich titles and A&M’s other titles, to
Bella Books, a move that will significantly increase their availability and
help to keep Marchant’s literary legacy alive. Other projects in the pipeline:
a sequel to Jacob’s As I Lay Frying, A&M’s first non-Marchant
title, in early 2007.
Girlfriends and On Our Backs Sold
Girlfriends and On Our Backs are in the
midst of being sold to an unnamed (but probably not Planet Out/LPI) media
company. The new owners plan to build on and expand the publications’ online
presence but do not plan to continue with the print editions. The deal, which
includes the magazines’ brands, inventory, licenses, copyright to back content,
and all online and newsletter properties, is expected to close in late April.
Financial problems seem
to have been the inspiration for the sale. In January Girlfriends filed a
lawsuit against the financially troubled Q Television Network for breech of
contract and failure to pay for ads placed over the previous six months, but
however the lawsuit is resolved, it won’t be in time to keep the publications
intact. Publisher and Editor in Chief of H.A.F. Publishing, the owner of the
two magazines, Heather Findlay concluded, “I had an incredible 12 years with
Girlfriends and I’m proud to have been part of On Our Backs’
long tradition of sass and controversy. I think the brands have an exciting
future under new ownership and in a new medium.”
The Women’s Review of Books Is Back
The Women’s Review of Books returned in January with
the first of six 2006 editions. It features a full-color cover, essays by
Dorothy Allison (ruminating on plot), Kate Clinton, and yours truly writing
on the importance of lesbian pulp fiction. Newsstand distribution is sparse,
so you may well have to subscribe to read it: $33/year from Old City Publishing,
628 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123 or www.wcwonline.org/womensreview.
Lambda Book Report is Returning
The Lambda Book Report will return to publication this spring,
under the editorship of Lambda Literary Foundation’s new Executive Director
Charles Flowers. The renewed publication will be a 32-page quarterly and will
be published in April, July, October, and January. The first issue will be
out in time for the Lambda Literary Awards presentation, May 18 in Washington,
DC, and will feature, among many other wonderful items, an interview with
Sarah Waters by yours truly. New subs are $25 until June 1, $30 thereafter.
Send your check to LLF, 16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10E, New York, NY
10001. More details at:
Judy Wieder Leaves LPI Media
LPI Media loses one of its longtime guiding figures when Judy
Wieder leaves the company in late March. Bob Cohen, interim president
of LPI Media, in an email to PlanetOut staff, announced that LPI does not
plan to replace Ms. Wieder and that Cohen, who joined LPI when it was purchased
by PlanetOut, will assume supervision of all editorial operations.
Wieder was quoted in an Advocate.com article as saying that she now understood
what people meant when they say they’re speechless.
PlanetOut acquired LPI Media, which includes The Advocate, Out magazine,
The Out Traveler, HIV Plus, and Alyson Press, last November
for about $32 million, and these personnel changes would appear to be part
of that larger transition.
Wieder became The Advocate’s first woman editor in chief in 1996 and
held the position until 2002 when she became corporate editorial director.
Under her leadership, LPI Media partnered with Viacom’s LGBT channel, Logo,
to create LPI-branded TV programming, including The Advocate Newsmagazine
series. She is also the executive vice president of the company.
Gay media is facing increasing competition on two fronts, an article in Ad
Age noted when writing about Wieder’s departure — competition from mainstream
media that is increasingly including gay content and competition from new
gay platforms such as Viacom’s Logo network. Out reported a 128,000
paid circulation during the second half of 2005; the Advocate’s paid
circulation totaled 121,000. Circulation at both publications was up 9-10%.
Alyson Press, under Wieder’s direction, moved to New York City last summer
and brought in all new staff.
Lesbian photographer, artist, and writer Tee Corinne has been
diagnosed with liver cancer and, like many a lesbian writer/artist, is a bit
underfinanced in the health care department. If you’ve enjoyed and benefited
from Tee’s many contributions to our community and would like to make a donation
in appreciation or send a card or letter (Tee has requested that people not
call or send emails), this would be the best possible time to do so. This
would not be the time to procrastinate. Send mail to PO Box 278, Wolf Creek,
OR 97497; make checks out directly to Tee Corinne.
Congratulations to Kim Brinster on purchasing the Oscar Wilde Book
Shop. She has been the longtime manager of the historic New York City
store which was founded in 1967 and was the world’s first gay bookstore. The
store was rescued from closing three years ago when it was purchased by Deacon
Maccubbin, the owner of four Lambda Rising bookstores (Washington DC, Baltimore,
Rehoboth Beach DE, and Norfolk VA), who has now returned the store to NYC
ownership with the sale.
Oscar Wilde is at 15 Christopher
Street, New York, NY 10014; 212-255-8097;
Meanwhile Atlanta’s Charis Books has taken a promotional leap with
its new “Cuddle Up with Charis” online and print marketing campaign. Online
ads feature local authors and ask, “What do you read when you cuddle up with
Charis?" Print materials will include postcards and a 2007 Charis Books
and More Revealed calendar.
To watch the commercial:
Lesbian Literary Events
This year the Publishing Triangle’s Pink Ink book fair will also feature
a LGBT literary conference. Tentative dates are June 9-11. Check the Publishing
Triangle’s website for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Publishing Triangle is a NYC-based organization for LGBTQs working in
the publishing industry.
Finds of the Issue
If I had to choose between Michelle Tea’s new novel, Rose of No Man’s
Land and first-time novelist Michelle Embree’s Manstealing
for Fat Girls I wouldn’t. I’d refuse. I’d just sit down, borrow
some attitude from either book, and refuse to budge. Both books
are wonderful, both are essential, both are excellent, irresistible
Everyone loves Rose – Publishers Weekly and Library
Journal both gave it starred reviews – and for
good reason. Michelle Tea gathers all of her excellent resources
and writing skills and takes the reader along on one long day
(and night) as 14-year-old Trisha Driscoll meets new people, braves
everything, and becomes herself. It’s an awesome thing to watch,
and it reminds readers – this one at least – how elegant and fragile
and un-predetermined the whole process is. If I had teenagers,
I don’t know that I’d have the courage to read this book – but
I hope I wouldn’t be foolish enough to miss it. (Ditto Manstealing).
For the rest of us it’s a precious look at the evolution of a
young woman and a brilliant coming-of-age novel about a working/poor-class
probably-gonna-be-a-dyke young girl. And not to be missed.
A few hints? On something of a dare, Trish’s
wanna-be-perfect sister scores the disaffected Trish a nightmare
of a job at Ohmygod!, the ultimate, trendy teen mall store. Not
exactly the best match for our loner girl, but it’s there that
she meets Rose – Rose with the lesbian mom, Rose who takes on
the next dare, Rose who opens the most unlikely – and essential
– doors, but it’s Trisha who walks, however warily, through them
all and into a future she couldn’t have imagined, even the day
It’s the first of the contemporary books
about teens that put me inside that first drug experience in a
way that made me want to stay and understand and see what would
happen next. That made that world not only a part of my world,
but one that I welcomed, not for the drugs, but for the understanding
of the girls (and boys) who come after me in this ever-emerging,
ever-growing lesbian/gay/queer community. Either I’ve been reading
all the wrong books, or Michelle Tea (Rent Girl, The
Beautiful, Without a Net, Valencia, The Chelsea
Whistle) does something extraordinary here, with portraying
worlds, and world views, and making them accessible to a wide
and diverse readership. Somehow, I suspect it’s the latter. $22,
300 pgs, another great book from MacAdam/Cage.
“I flashed on Rose. This would never happen to a girl like Rose. Partly
because girls like Rose don’t get hired to work at places like Ohmigod!, but
still, I couldn’t imagine anyone ever trying to make Rose feel small. You
know why? ‘Cause there’s a crucial part of girls like Rose who simply don’t
show up for it. They’re just not available for humiliation. Maybe because
they’ve been raised by lesbian mothers who are totally persecuted all the
time so they know how to watch their back. Maybe because they haven’t spent
their teenage years locked in their room drinking beers and avoiding everyone.
Girls like Rose don’t avoid anything and so they know how to handle everything.
They know how you’re supposed to react when some loser like Bernice O’Leary
insults you to your face. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. It seemed
like not crying would be a good start....
Manstealing for Fat Girls
Don’t be confused by the title. The last thing on sixteen-year-old
Angie’s mind is stealing other girls’ boyfriends so that’s what
the popular clique accuses her
of when they decide to take her down because she’s too uppity
and doesn’t just sit still for their shit. “Lezzylard” is the
other thing they call her – and have for years – for being a fat
girl with a best friend who’s an out dyke.
Angie, like Trisha (see above), has a
problem mom with a problem boyfriend. Unlike Trisha, she has a
little more community: an aunt with a whiff of sanity, her best
friend’s irritating big sister, and a wider circle of misfit friends
to teach each other both social and survival skills as they navigate
friendship, families, the dangerous rush of attraction, the everyday
– and sometimes life-threatening – hazards of high school cafeterias
and bathrooms, drinking and drugs, and finding a way through,
even when every door is slammed shut. Is this a YA novel or a
coming-of-age tale? Both. It’s not for the faint of heart. But
then neither is high school these days. By the end, though, Angie’s
got her own, and she and her friends have each other’s backs.
Every kid going into high school should get this book in their
survival kit. I find myself giving it to fifty- and sixty-something
friends who have good reason to be angry and no place to put it.
Did I mention that it’s hilarious? I can’t wait to see Embree’s
work-in-progress, Incarcerated. $13, Soft Skull Press.
There should be a horror movie called Cafeteria. A hundred teenagers
trapped inside with nothing to do. And when the popular kids get tired of
being so wonderful and pretty and cool, they start slowly killing the rejects
by eating little slices of them. Little raw slices with sides of powdered
mashed potatoes and canned green beans.
If you’re parenting teens, read them both – with your kids.
More Great Reading
Can a book about a funeral be a feel-good read? Yep, if it’s Kris
Radish’s Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral, it can.
Here Radish (An
Elegant Gathering of White Snows, Dancing Naked on the Edge
of Dawn, and The Birth Order Effect) gives us a character
we never meet, Annie, who spent her last few weeks of dying planning
“a traveling funeral” and writing notes to convince her five closest
women friends to drop everything in their lives and go. The plane
tickets are purchased, the hotels and cars are reserved, and people
are waiting to welcome them. Could you refuse? It’s the trip Annie
can no longer take, visiting the places and people who were most
important to her, giving her friends good company with whom to both
grieve and celebrate her life, and leaving them, ultimately,
with refreshed lives and a new net of intimate women friends to
take into the rest of their lives. It’s a great meditation on living
and death and going on. Wacky, and weird, and the next best thing
to a long visit with an old friend. (Good lesbian bits, an essential
scene in a lesbian bar, but tasteful enough to give to your mother
for Mother’s Day.) TLE ran into Radish at Michigan last summer
where she was simultaneously helping to tend a booth down the aisle
and researching her next book. (No, sorry, the traveling funeral
gang doesn’t stop at the festival, but maybe in her next book, The
Sunday List of Dreams...?) $11, paperback original, 330 pages,
Lee Lynch Writes Again
Lee Lynch is back after an eight year hiatus with a wonderful
exploration of lesbian community in Sweet Creek.
Romances certainly have their place, but
I’m always much more interested in what happens after that first
flush of romance has grown into something with
some legs and some history. Lee Lynch takes up these questions
and more in Sweet Creek as she explores lesbian life in
a rural Oregon community. In Sweet Creek, Donny and Chick, women
well past their mid-life crises (if not all of their hot flashes)
run the general store, young women wander in on their way to finding
the women’s land communities still back in the hills, the closet
is still essential for some. Here the fight against Oregon’s virulent
strain of homophobia is waged one on one and the victories, when
they come, grow out of finding common cause and then reaching
through to the humanity of one homophobe at a time.
But how can a black dyke from Chicago
cope with her anger in white rural Oregon? Can a MTF post-diva
find a place in a rural women’s commune? And, rock bottom, there’s
that old problem of making a living while trying to find oneself.
Lynch doesn’t neglect the back story of Chick and Donny’s connection,
but it’s the everyday ups and downs of the ongoing relationships
that fuel this thoughtful and complex slice of life. A good warm
read for cold, raining spring nights.
I first read Lee Lynch in the pages of
The Ladder; later she found her novelist’s voice and published,
for years, with Naiad. Now, after an eight-year hiatus, it feels
like she’s come into her own again, in yet another new way, with
Sweet Creek. Bold Strokes is the publisher, and it’s great
to see such an interesting new marriage between the new-guard
action-adventure publisher and such a classic lesbian writer,
and to see Lee with a publisher who can support the depth (and
page-count) of her best writing. May they both continue to open
interesting new doors for one another. $15.95, 350 pages, Bold
Obsession and Post-Romance
Rebecca Brown reclaims, “the lost art of obsession in lesbian
writing” (Joy Parks) with her new short story collection, The
Last Time I Saw You. This
is Rebecca Brown at her dark cynical best, dissecting, slicing,
peeling the black holes in relationships, past and present. It’s
the dark secret – or any twisted truth that, at least for a moment,
punctures denial – that interests Brown; her vision is as sharp
and spare (and tormented) as her prose. Being Rebecca Brown, she
takes you a few leaps of imagination further than you might normally
want to go. Still, where else has it ever been written in lesbian
literature: “I was the one who didn’t do what I said. I was the
one who lied”? Twelve stories, in a hundred pages, that will haunt
as long as you let them. $12.95, City Lights.
Lesbian Communities: Festivals, RVs, and the Internet was
originally published as an issue of The Journal of Lesbian
Studies. Haworth is something of a journal factory: it publishes
a wide range of journals – about 200 of them – many of which address
very specific interests and communities of scholars. The good
news is that the mass production aspects make the smallest journals
– and the conversations they facilitate – viable. I find it a
fascinating model for financing both magazine and book publishing.
The frustrating part is that the books that the journals spin
off all have a very academic look and feel that can be off-putting
for the non-academic reader no matter how interesting the content.
But there are often riches to be found if you can wade through
the seemingly mandatory abstract at the beginning of each article,
the keyword and indexing summaries, the online-access info, and
the author credentials to get to the content. Apparently it’s
written, somewhere in the halls of academe, that none of these
things can be published at the end of the articles.
That said, Lesbian Communities: Festivals,
RVs, and the Internet, edited by Esther Rothblum and Penny
Sablov, offers a rare and thoughtful look at
the power and history – and importance – of lesbian community.
Articles consider many of its manifestations (from brunches to
bookstores, from RV parks to activist circles), and at its impact
on our lives. Susan Krieger writes about studying and writing
about lesbian community (The Mirror Dance) 25 years ago
and now, Saori Kamano writes about finding and entering the lesbian
community in Japan, Elana Dykewomon writes about community changes
and institutional memory... but that’s just the beginning. Community,
wonderful and otherwise, is such a core part of lesbian experience
that it’s often taken for granted, rather than discussed or celebrated.
Hopefully this is the beginning of an ongoing conversation. Essential
reading for any woman who values lesbian community and/or has
wondered at its changes over the last few decades. Rothblum teaches
women’s studies; Sablove runs an Aikido school. $29.95, Haworth/Harrington
For a listing of Haworth’s Lesbian and gay journals:
A Good Friday Night Read...
In Poppy’s Return Pat Rosier (Poppy’s Progress)
continues with the mid-life twists and turns in feministly-intended
Poppy’s life as she makes her way through, well, trying to do
the right thing. (Fortunately, her friends and her wise cat, Mrs.
Mudgely, provide perspective.) Rosier, former editor of Broadsheet,
New Zealand’s longstanding feminist magazine, continues to explore
the complex truths of lesbian lives. A great low-key read for
those who like depth better than flash. Younger lesbians might
like the glimpse of what makes those feminist-era lesbians tick.
Science Fiction — With a Side of Mystery and a Full Serving of Justice
Octavia Butler stole my heart decades ago with Kindred.
She was a consummate craftswoman and one of the too-few writers
who takes race as seriously in science fiction as it is taken
in our culture. The MacArthur Foundation, quite appropriately,
gave her a “genius” grant a few years back. She died, much too
young at only 58, in February (see "Losses" below).
The recently published Fledgling,
her first book
since the Nebula Award winning Parable of the Talents, was
clearly intended to be the first of a series. If we are very lucky,
there’s a finished manuscript tucked away, and we’ll yet get to
read at least the second installment – though Fledgling stands
on its own just fine. Here Butler gives us a coming-of-age novel
of a young black vampire with a growing thirst for justice, for
rebuilding the community that was destroyed by a hatred she can’t
yet fathom, and for resolving the conflicts that generate violence
– and for enjoying the sweetly erotic “exchange” (with both women
and men) that nourishes and sustains both the vampire and human
members of this ancient community. And if you haven’t read Jewelle
Gomez’ The Gilda Stories: A Novel ($14.95, Firebrand), about
our original, wonderful, justice-seeking black lesbian vampire,
read that next. $24.95, Seven Stories.
The Tiptree Award honors science fiction that explores and expands gender
– work that is thought-provoking, imaginative, and challenging. Launched in
1991 by a bunch of crazy feminists (who financed it with bake sales) to honor
Alice Sheldon, the pseudonymous James Tiptree, Jr., a brilliant, gender-expanding
award-winning science fiction writer herself.
The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 and 2 (just released)
collect many of the winning writings, interspersed with some extremely entertaining
(and often profound) essays on the inception, inspiration, and process of developing
this fiercely feminist award. Anthology 1 (published under the banner
“sex, the future, and chocolate chip cookies”) includes Joanna Russ
claiming the actively heterosexual Tiptree as a lesbian, commentary by Suzy
McKee Charnas (on judging and the ever-changing criteria), Karen Joy Fowler
and Ursula Le Guin, as well as stories by James Tiptree, Sandra McDonald,
Carol Emshwiller, Kara Dalkey, and Kelly Link. Anthology 2 features
work from L. Timmel Duchamp, Carol Emshwiller, Eileen Gun, Nalo Hopkinson,
Gwyneth Jones, Ursula Le Guin, and Johanna Sinisalo as well as more great
essays and commentary. Both are edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie
Notkin, and Jeffrey D. Smith. Would that all literary awards were so good
humored, well documented, anti-hierarchical, and transparent. I wish I could
give these essays to everyone who ever judges any literary award. $15.95 and
$14.95 respectively, both from Tachyon Publications.
More information about the winners, the short- (and long) lists of writing
Poets and Poetry
Bullets and Butterflies: Queer Spoken Word Poetry, edited
by Emanuel Xavier, starts with Slam, Performance, and Hip Hop poetry
to address sexuality, gender, class, race, religion, and politics
with work from Cheryle Boyce-Taylor, Staceyann Chin, Celena Glen,
Daphne Gottlieb, Alix Olson, Shailja Patel, and many others. $16.95,
who loved Jackie Kay’s Trumpet, a novel about a jazz musician
who passes as a man for the chance to play, her relationships
with her wife’s love, and their son’s ultimate sense of betrayal
($13, Vintage), may want to track down a copy of Life Mask,
Kay’s most recent poetry collection. Not surprisingly it focuses
on love, loss, and mistaken and secret identities.... It might
take some effort to get it – it was published in the U.K. by Bloodaxe,
but I found it at both the Women & Children
First and Charis
Lesbian Lives — Or Not
there more to be said about Virginia Woolf? The consensus is a
resounding “yes!” In Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, Julia
Briggs offers a meditation on the nature of creativity along with
an intimate study of Woolf’s writing process. She traces the creation
of Woolf’s novels using Woolf’s own commentaries on her writing
process from her letters, diaries, and essays and explores the
contradictions that recur in both her life and her work. $30,
a nice Jewish girl doing in the military? For that matter, what’s
any dyke doing in the military? And more urgently how do
they survive and sustain in these “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” times?
Zsa Zsa Gershick answers the first question, then interviews lesbian
soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, active duty, in the reserves,
and retired, to find out. Secret Service: Untold Stories of
Lesbians in the Military collects those interviews, with introductions,
insightful commentary, and sometimes photos, to give us a look
at the many variations of dyke-life in the military, and at the
many ways women adapt – or can’t – to the pressures inflicted
by Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and other aspects of military life. More
variation on the interview format would have created a stronger
structure but, that said, I couldn’t bring myself to skip over
a single interview. Forward by Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer. $14.95,
Re: Katharine Hepburn: The Untold Story by James Robert
Parish. Now I can enjoy a dishy, “biography” as much as the next
person, and I’m perfectly willing – eager, in fact – to believe
that Hepburn preferred the company of women, that she was bisexual
if not lesbian, that her relationship with Spencer Tracy was largely
platonic, et al, but Parish’s combination of recycled innuendo,
his very male-centered perspective, and his inability to use the
word feminist without putting it in quotes coupled with
his constant, non-quoted use of “mannish” to describe Hepburn
and her friends left me, sadly, with a strong mistrust of all
of his information. Just for the record: one can be both a feminist
and a lesbian. (Hepburn’s mother was a very active feminist
and, indeed, it would be odd if her fiercely independent daughter
was not also a feminist.) Few women’s lives are primarily centered
on avoiding confrontations with male sexuality and, surprise,
lesbians’ lives are much more about, duh, women, than men.....
Urg! This book was a great opportunity that was missed.
What a loss. $24.95, Advocate/Alyson.
Lesbian Parenting / Maverick Moms
new, revised, updated, second edition of Rachel Pepper’s The
Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians is out. Subtitled
How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception
through Birth, it’s the ultimate info-source and wise-guide
for Moms, would-be Moms, and partners on everything from the latest
on sperm banks, choosing a donor, and fertility drugs to sex,
desire, and self-esteem during pregnancy; from negotiating family
roles to providing legal protection for your family, and much
more. $16.95, Cleis.
More interested in adoption? A Love Like No Other offers
a collection of experiences from straight, gay, partnered, and
single adoptive parents about their joys, problems, challenges,
frustrations and other experiences of adopting and raising their
kids in blended, traditional, and not-so-traditional families
and dealing with all the issues that come up. Says contributor
Jenifer Levin, “[A]dopting children, even when it’s extremely
difficult, is a lot easier than raising children.” $23.95,
what do you tell the kids? In Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates:
Answering Tough Questions and Building Strong Families, Diane
Ehrensaft, Ph.D, helps parents anticipate the big questions and
sort out which answers will work best in each situation. Ehrensaft
has worked with families using assisted reproductive technology
for twenty years and addresses the needs of both gay and straight
parents, single and partnered. $16.95 Guilford Press.
and what happens to those poor boys raised in a household without
on-premises male parenting? They grow up to be socially savvy,
generous, and caring communicators, and passionate about
sports, and score just fine on roughhousing skills, too. You already
knew that, but it’s still fun – and insightful – to read the empirical
evidence. Research psychologist and former Stanford University
gender scholar Peggy Drexler, PhD has been studying and comparing
boys raised by “maverick moms” (two-mom lesbian households, intentionally
single moms, and moms single by circumstance) and boys from “traditional”
nuclear families since 1996. Raising Boys Without Men (written
with Linden Gross) is a report on research in progress. What she’s
found is that, contrary to misogynist and homophobic fears, boys
raised in female-headed households often fare better than boys
raised in traditional nuclear families, that good parenting isn’t
gender-based, and that maverick moms are not only changing the
face of the American family, their kids are changing our society.
And it’s a good read. Look for follow-up volumes in the years
to come. I can’t wait to see if her notion that mom-raised boys,
because of their communication skills, are less prone to violence
than is “normal” in America.... $23.95, Rodale.
more? Former vice president of PFLAG, Robert Bernstein (Straight
Parents, Gay Children) supports and salutes same-sex parents
and their families and all the ways we’re redefining and reclaiming
“family values” in Families of Value: Personal Profiles of
Pioneering Lesbian and Gay Parents. Another good read, and
a great book to give the folks when you’ve just told them they’re
going to be grandparents. $14.95, Marlow/Avalon.
And Now in Paperback
Pam Houston’s Sight Hound the lesbians are never who you
expect, and never as frequent as I’d wish, but it’s hard to resist
a novel of re-learning how to love (and change and grow and survive
loss) where the primary tutor is a wolfhound. I found it such
a relief after having read one too many lesbian romances where
The Embittered One suddenly opens to true love after locking eyes
with Ms. Right across a crowded room, that I hardly cared who
came next in Rae’s life – the exciting thing was that someone
would. Kudos to Houston for giving us such a rich novel of transition;
mere romances look boring by contrast. $13.95, Norton.
OK, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio has been out in
paperback for quite a while (as well as out on film), but I just
wanted to say that, filmgoers, don’t you just know that
the cute, young thing nervously/proudly chauffeuring her mother
around and asking the hard questions is going to grow up to be
a dyke? $13.00 trade paperback from Simon & Schuster; $7.99
mass market from Pocket Books.
BTWOF asked Suzanne Corson – who was well-loved for her erotica recommendations
during her years running Boadecia’s in Berkeley – for her thoughts on the
current round-up of women’s erotica anthologies and how to choose between
For eleven years, Cleis Press has been publishing their Best Lesbian Erotica
(BLE) series. Edited by Tristan Taormino with stories selected by guest
authors such as Jewelle Gomez, Michelle Tea, and Cheryl Clarke, BLE
is known for featuring well-written, cutting edge, genderqueer, kinky, and
sizzling stories. The 2006 collection, selected by Eileen Myles, is a great
addition to the series. In addition to the now usual variety of gender expressions,
flavors besides vanilla, and delicious nastiness, Best Lesbian Erotica
2006 has the first-ever (that I’ve seen) reversal of a tired heterosexual
male trope in “Riding the Waves” by Rose William, where one woman brings home
a bio-boy toy to entertain her female partner. I imagine this would be what
The L Word could be this season if Tina would encourage Bette to explore
her dominant side. But what sets this collection apart from the others for
me, besides the temperature staying on Broil consistently throughout the book,
is “Silver Dollar Afternoon” by S. Bear Bergman, my favorite of the over one
hundred erotica stories I’ve read while working on this column. The traditional
romantic in me was touched and very aroused by this story of a long-term couple’s
sexual and loving afternoon. The level of intimacy in this story was so well-drawn
that it brought tears to my eyes in addition to the moisture generated elsewhere.
To get caught up with the series, check out the recently published Best
of the Best Lesbian Erotica 2. Both $14.95, Cleis Press.
This year the Bold Strokes Books gals gave us a second volume of their Erotic
Interludes series, this time with the common theme of Stolen Moments,
the title of the collection. If you’ve ever had a fantasy about making it
with a stranger or having a quickie with your lover, you’ll find fuel for
that fantasy’s fire here. Sex on airplanes and trains, in libraries and hospitals,
and on break from work can all be found here, written by Friday Night Read
and Uber-Xena favorites like Karin Kallmaker, Radclyffe, Jean Stewart, Georgia
Beers, and Ronica Black. If you want erotica that’s all about women getting
it on with women, with some spice mixed in for seasoning, you’ll love this
collection, edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman. $15.95, Bold Strokes Books.
Rode Hard, Put Away Wet, edited by Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia,
is a collection of lesbian cowboy erotica. As someone who has never particularly
been drawn to horses, cowbois, or cowgirls, I found that I couldn’t read too
many stories from this book in one sitting — too many sentences like “No more
mutterin’ somethin’ about somethin’” got to me after awhile (from “Franky
and Johnny” by Jake Rich). But I kept getting drawn back to this book because
the stories were hot, the characters compelling, and perhaps even because
the surroundings (barns, rodeos, ranches, old-west bordellos) are not the
usual settings for the erotica I generally read. Pieces I especially enjoyed
included “Independence” by Caralee Levy, about a post-Civil War, all-female
team of cattle drivers, and Shanna Germain’s “Western Pleasure” about the
once-a-year reunions of two rodeo riders. $16.95, Suspect Thoughts Press.
Like the heart-shaped boxes of assorted chocolates that many
of these stories mention, The Perfect Valentine, a
brand-new anthology edited by Therese Szymanski and Barbara Johnson,
contains many delicious treats, some soft and sensual on the tongue,
others salty or a bit rougher, and unfortunately, a few you may
want to spit out. In spite of a couple of stories where the writing
isn’t, um, up to the caliber of writing in the rest of the book,
I really enjoyed the variety of stories in this book, all in some
way involved with V-Day. Fantasies fulfilled for long-term couples,
as in Denny Evans’ “Fantasy Valentine,” new lovers coming together
for the first time (like “Sweet Thing,” a wonderful story by Joy
Parks), and reunions for others (“Roses and Strawberries” by Barbara
Johnson is one fine example), are among the themes, with a few
first-time-ever tales thrown in as well. $15.95, Bella After Dark.
“femmes writing porn” is the subtitle for With a Rough Tongue,
edited by Amber Dawn and Trish Kelly, not all of the stories feature
femmes, nor are all particularly erotic, but all are well-written,
empowering, and challenging. This is definitely the most diverse
collection of the bunch, in terms of content. From a famous psychiatrist
accidentally shooting her receptionist with an arrow (“Dr. Malis
and the Risky Venture” by Miss Kitty Galore) to an MTF transwoman
giving a blowjob to a bio-male cabbie (“Free Ride” by Miss Cookie
LaWhore), these stories are, as the back cover blurb states, no-holds-barred
and transgressive. I was especially impressed by co-editor Amber
Dawn’s “Fortunate Messes,” in which a massage-parlor worker performs
cunnilingus on her FTM partner for the first time, just before
his phalloplasty, and a poignant first-time story, “Fisherman”
by science fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson (The Salt Roads).
$16.95, Arsenal Pulp.
Stirring Up a Storm: Tales of the Sensual, the Sexual, and
the Erotic edited by Marilyn Jaye Lewis is an eclectic
stories by a variety of women — some well-known writers including
Dorothy Allison, Margaret Atwood, and Joyce Carol Oates, others
by renowned erotica writers like Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel,
and Lori Selke, and even one by actress Selma Blair (who shared
a girl-on-girl kiss with Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions).
Many of the stories have been previously published, but as a group,
it comprises a solid volume of sensual tales. Lesbian content
is liberally sprinkled throughout as in Saskia Walker’s “Matilda’s
Touch,” “Leitmotifs” by Debra Hyde, and “The Spunk Gun” by Michèle
Larue. $16.95, Thunder’s Mouth Press/Avalon.
Blue is the new editor for the Best Women’s Erotica series,
now in its seventh year. The stories in the Best Women’s Erotica
2006 volume seem edgier than usual, more “alternative,” especially
in terms of the types of groupings, like the lesbian couple who
has sex with their brother-in-law in “The Arrangement” by Jean
Roberta, and a woman who prowls gay male cruising areas being
taken by another woman into the same thing (“Cruising” by L.E.
Yates). There are fewer strictly women-loving-women stories than
usual, but I astonished myself by being most drawn to the seemingly
done-to-death scenario of a young woman modeling for an older
male painter, but Cate Robertson’s “Just Watch Me, Rodin” was
really, really good — and arousing. Color me surprised. $14.95,
In addition to the annual erotica compilations, two anthologies
of nonfiction writing about sex were recently published.
My favorite is Best Sex Writing 2005, edited by Violet
Blue ($14.95, Cleis Press). Included are articles about working
at sperm banks, sex clubs, and escort services; Annalee Newitz’s
funny story about trolling for sex at a scifi convention; and
a wonderful piece by Carol Queen about visiting the Kinsey Institute.
Other queer writers in the collection include Harlyn Aizley, Patrick
Califia, and Michelle Tea. Thunder’s Mouth Press put out a similar
collection, The World’s Best Sex Writing 2005, edited by
Mitzi Szereto ($15.95). Highlights include Katha Pollitt’s obit
of Andrea Dworkin and an infuriating story of gay men, arrested
in the forties and fifties, who are on sexual predator lists today
for having consensual sex with other men back in the day (“The
Sex Files” by Ben Ehrenreich).
Another collection of writings about sex that is worth checking out is Everything
You Know About Sex is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to the Extremes of Human
Sexuality (and everything in between), edited by Russ Kick. At 350 pages,
this book is chockfull of things you may have been curious about but didn’t
know who to ask. And unlike The Joy of Sex or the Kinsey reports, this
book features essays by people who walk the walk (or at least interview those
who do). Public sex, sex during pregnancy and delivery, sex at midlife and
beyond, different kinds of pornography, fetishes, polyamory, orgies, sex work,
recommended erotica collections, pet names for genitals, anal sex, politics
and sex, spiritual sex, and a look at the altered states of consciousness
during sex are just some of the categories covered. $24.95, Disinformation
you curious about kink? The newest must-have book on this topic
is Midori’s Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink—Educational, Sensual,
and Entertaining Essays. There are three informative sections:
a how-to section with details about specific kinds of play and
roles, a similar section that explores different types of fetishes,
and a wonderful collection of essays called “The Fundamentals
of Kink,” where Midori explores philosophy, psychology, protocol,
and even some politics, both within and outside of kinky communities.
$18.00, Daedalus Publishing. (For kinky fiction, check out Cleis’s
Best Bondage Erotica 2, $14.95.)
was really pleased to see the U.S. release of German writer Christa
Schulte’s Tantric Sex for Women: A Guide for Lesbian,
Bi, Hetero, and Solo Lovers. I had been curious about this
subject for years, but I was never able to attend the workshops,
and all the books were so focused on the male energy. Besides
giving clear explanations of tantric sex, the chakras and how
they relate to sex, and great exercises to try, this book has
some wonderful explanations of how orgasms differ among women
and contains some very fun games. Sex can be transformative, spiritual,
and fun, and this book will help you achieve all three. $15.95,
of orgasms, last year saw the publication of two hardcover texts
on the topic. Elisabeth A. Lloyd’s The Case of the Female Orgasm:
Bias in the Science of Evolution provides an exhaustive overview
of the research on women’s orgasms to explore why we have them
— unlike men, women’s orgasms are not needed to aid reproduction,
so we essentially get them just ‘cuz. Cool, eh? ($27.95, Harvard
University Press.) If you’ve ever wanted to learn to become multi-orgasmic,
Mantak Chia and Rachel Carlton Abrams give you exercises, anatomy
lessons, and philosophy in an informative and effective marriage
of Taoist sexual practices and western medical knowledge in The
Multi-Orgasmic Woman : Discover Your Full Desire, Pleasure, and
Vitality. Kind of a dry read, but the exercises are great.
And finally, there’s Jude Schell’s The Guide to Lesbian Sex. This
book is reminiscent of a work from the past, The Joy
of Lesbian Sex, with its encyclopedic format. Schell’s book includes some
edgier entries, such as kink, jill, and fuck. It makes
a good first guide for novices, with accessible information on flirting, kissing,
and many other components of sex, in addition to a useful resource guide in
the back. I did tire of the mostly white, mostly femme, mostly thin women
with French manicures in the photos, but it was fun to learn a new-to-me term,
splosh, for erotic play with food. $19.95, Hylas Publishing.
The Lambda Literary Awards
It’s full-scale awards season. The Lesbian Edition readers
have already received the Lambda Literary Award finalists as well as
the list of all books considered for each catetory. The Lammy winners
will be announced May 18, following a reception at Book Expo America (BEA)
in Washington, DC. Details and a full list of nominations at:
The Orange Prize
I love the Orange Prize. It’s the British feminist response to seeing
great books by women being ignored, again and again, for Britian’s high-end
literary awards – the Booker and the Whitbread – both of which carry large
purses as well as prestige and, face it, book sales. After seeing one too
many male-writers-only shortlists for these prices, they found financing and
organized The Orange Prize – a literary award for the best fiction published
in English, with a £30,000 (US$60,000) purse – the largest of any of the literary
prizes. Oh, and it’s for women only.
The Orange celebrates the diversity of women’s writing, brings attention
to the issues women writers are addressing in their work, enjoys the controversy
it creates, and finances research into the status of women in literature.
They’ve recently launched a New Writers Award, as well. The process
is that the judges select a “long list” of books being considered in March,
the shortlist is announced April 26, and the winners are announced June 6.
The shortlist for the New Writers Award will be announced May 3. The Orange
long list (below) always features a wonderful round-up of books. I’ve *’d titles by
lesbians or that I know have lesbian content. If I’ve missed any, do fill
Note: Links below take you to the Orange Prize website descriptions and author
biographies. Publishers in the U.S. and Canada may be different than the British
The Accidental by Ali Smith*
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
Frangipani by Célestine Hitiura Vaite
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Harbor by Lorraine Adams
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore
Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller
Minaret by Leila Aboulela
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters*
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Position by Meg Wolitzer
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates
Watch Me Disappear by Jill Dawson
White Ghost Girls by Alice Greenaway
And the ALA Stonewall Award Winners Are...
The Barbara Gittings Book Award in Literature
goes to Abha Dawesar for Babyji (Anchor Books).
The Israel Fishman Book Award for Nonfiction goes to Joshua Gamson for The
Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the ‘70s in San
Francisco (Henry Holt).
The 2006 Stonewall honor books for fiction
Acqua Calda by Keith McDermott (Carroll & Graf)
The First Verse by Barry McCrea (Carroll & Graf)
Mother of Sorrows by Richard McCann (Pantheon)
The Wild Creatures: Collected Stories of Sam D’Allesandro edited by
Kevin Killian (Suspect Thoughts)
The Stonewall honor books for nonfiction:
My One Night Stand with Cancer by Tania Katan (Alyson)
Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957
by Matt Houlbrook (Univ. of Chicago)
The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde by Neil McKenna (Basic Books)
The Tragedy of Today’s Gays by Larry Kramer (Tarcher/Penguin)
This is the thirty-fifth year for the American Library Association’s Stonewall
Book Awards. The actual awards will be presented at the ALA Conference in
New Orleans in June.
The Goldie Finalists
The Golden Crown Literary Society awards prizes in four categories. Winners
will be announced at the GCLS convention in Atlanta June 9.
A Time to Cast Away Pat Welch, Bella
Grave Silence Rose Beecham, Bold Strokes
Have Gun We'll Travel Lori Lake, Regal Crest
Hunter's Way Gerri Hill, Bella
In Too Deep Ronica Black, Bold Strokes
Justice Served Radclyffe, Bold Strokes
The Iron Girl Ellen Hart, St. Martins Press
Turning the Tables Jessica Thomas, Bella
A Guarded Heart Jennifer Fulton, Regal Crest
Distant Shores, Silent Thunder Radclyffe, Bold Strokes
For Every Season Frankie Jones, Bella
Galveston 1900: Swept Away Linda Crist, Regal Crest
Just Like That Karin Kallmaker, Bella
The Sacred Shore Jennifer Fulton, Regal Crest
The War Between the Hearts Nann Dunne, Intaglio
Unbreakable Blayne Cooper, BookEnds
Amicus Humani Generis SB Zarben, P.D. Publishing
Bell, Book and Dyke Barbara Johnson, Karin Kallmaker, Therese Szymanski.
Julia Watts, Bella
Call of the Dark Therese Szymanski, Bella
Counterfeit World Judith K. Parker, Intaglio
Dark Dreamer Jennifer Fulton, Regal Crest
No Sister of Mine Jeanne G'Fellers, Bella
Protector of the Realm Gun Brooke, Bold Strokes
The Missing Page Patty G. Henderson, Bella
Course of Action Gun Brooke, Bold Strokes
In Too Deep Ronica Black, Bold Strokes
Misplaced People C.G. Devizei, Intaglio
No Sister of Mine Jeanne G'Fellers, Bella
On the Wings of Love Megan Carter, Bella
Picture Perfect Jane Vollbrecht, Bella
Risky Investment Beth Moore, Bella
The Next World Ursula Steck, Bella
For more information about GCLS:
And the June convention in Atlanta
Octavia Butler, the much-admired author of Kindred and other science
fiction tales, died February 24, apparently from congestive heart failure,
just outside her home in Seattle. She was 58.
A visionary, and one who always looked at the complexity of oppression in
the human condition, Butler’s vengeance for social justice was manifest in
all of her work, from Kindred (250,000 copies in print) through her
Parable tales and, most recently, Fledgling.
Tall, black, lesbian, dyslexic, a self-proclaimed recluse, and a consummate
storyteller, she once described herself as “a pessimist, a feminist always,
a Black, a quiet egoist, a former Baptist, and an oil-and-water combination
of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.” As readers, we simply
knew her to be brilliant.
She was the first (and still the only) science fiction writer to receive
a MacArthur genius grant. Her other awards include science fiction's biggest
award, the Nebula, for Parable of the Talents, as well as Nebula
short story awards for “Speech Sounds” and “Bloodchild,” and a lifetime-achievement
award from PEN-America. We already miss the books she didn’t get a chance
to write; we will be rereading her for the rest of our lives.
Check the WBAI archives for an interview with Octavia Butler:
Sybille Bedford, the author of A Compass Error (1968) (which
rated an A** in Barbara Grier’s The Lesbian in Literature), A Favorite
of the Gods, and Legacy, died in London in February at the age
of 94. The New York Times obituary skipped over her lesbian relationships,
as they did with Susan Sontag’s, despite Bedford’s having written about them
in her recent memoir Quicksand, which was nominated for a Lambda Literary
Award this year in the Belles Lettres category. Bedford married only briefly
and for “convenience” to obtain the visa that allowed her to flee to London
when the Nazi’s discovered that she was part Jewish.
Her lovers included Evelyn Glendel, an American woman who left her husband
for Bedford, and a 20-year relationship with the American novelist Eda
Lord. Bedford’s third novel, A Compass Error, which picks up the narrative
from A Favourite of the Gods (1963), describes the lesbian love affair
of one of its characters’ granddaughters.
And Just to End on a Cheerful Note:
A couple in Savannah, Missouri complained that the popular children’s book,
And Tango Makes Three, which features two nest-sitting male
penguins who hatch, then raise a baby penguin together, had homosexual overtones.
The librarian responded by moving the book from the fiction section to the
nonfiction section which, it seems to us here at BTWOF, will make the kids
take the story even more seriously. Let’s hear it for the librarians in Savannah!
Yours in spreading the words,
for Books To Watch Out For
© 2006 Books To Watch Out For
Graphics © Judy Horacek
Books To Watch Out For
PO Box 882554
San Francisco, CA 94188