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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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The Lesbian Edition
— This Issue Sponsored by —
Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For
by Alison Bechdel
Book 11 in the Dykes to Watch Out For series finds Alison Bechdel's beloved cast of characters discovering that nothing
but change is constant in our multihued terror-alert-system world.
Volume 3 Number 3-4
Welcome to this double-issue of The Lesbian Edition. It’s so
rich with great books and news that it grew and grew until we could hardly
get it out the door.
A little news at the top, followed by the books: TLE’s Book
of the Year for 2005, three “Books of the Issue,” and many more excellent
titles. Skip to the end for Feminist Bookstore and Magazine News, Passings,
Awards, Writing Wanted, and an interview with Spinsters Ink publisher Linda
This issue features ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) at the request
of a number of readers. If you want them, they're here for you. Everyone else
can just skip over the awkward, long numbers at the end of each review. We’ll
continue to publish them – or stop – depending on feedback.
We’ll be back next month with more books, and on May 18 with a quick blitz
about the Lambda Literary Award winners.
Yours in spreading the words,
Books To Watch Out For is intrigued that Threshold, Simon &
Schuster’s new, conservative imprint, hasn’t (yet) seen fit to send Books
To Watch Out For a review copy of Mary Cheney’s Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's
Chronicle Of Political Life, despite our request several months ago. Gee,
would that be business as usual, or do they think they’ll get a sweeter spin
from the (mostly Republican owned) mainstream media?
All Girl Action
Books To Watch Out For was lucky enough to be in New York for what was surely
the lesbian literary event of the year: The reception that the new, lesbians-in-publishing
group, All Girl Action, organized for Sarah Waters on April 5. It was clearly
an event that had been waiting to happen and was the most impressive gathering
of lesbian literary energy that I’ve seen in decades. A good 150 women and
a few men squeezed into what had looked like a good-sized brownstone to meet
and greet and schmooze.
The party was hosted by Alison Bechdel, Stacey D’Erasmo, Leslie Feinberg,
Sarah Schulman, Alison Smith, and Tristan Taormino.
All Girl Action is a brand-new organization, dedicated to celebrating
dyke/lesbian literature and culture, and to connecting queer women in publishing
and the related arts. Their plan is to have absolutely fantastic parties and
interesting events at which writers, editors, literary agents, publicists,
et al., can meet up, connect, discover new writers, and have a wonderful time.
All Girl Action organizers are Alyson editor Shannon Berning, reading series
curator Cheryl B., Grove/Atlantic editor Amy Hundley, Publishing Triangle
steering committee member Michele Kristel, Harmony Books editor Julia Pastore,
Publishing Triangle co-chair Carol Rosenfeld, NAL/Penguin editor Liz Scheier,
and Carroll & Graf editor (and Honorary Lesbian) Don Weise.
Seventy-five people RSVP’d the first hour after the invitations were emailed.
Granted, hosting a reception for a British writer we all admire fiercely was
a brilliant organizing strategy, but the incredible response to the event
makes it clear that the lesbian literary communities are hungry for chances
to get together with other lesbians. Here’s to a rich and wonderful future
for All Girl Action and their next events.
Publishing professionals (including booksellers and librarians, of course)
can sign up for the All Girl Action mailing list by emailing:
TLE's Novel of the Year 2005
Wild Dogs is the ultimate stealth (lesbian) novel. If introducing this novel to a wider
lesbian readership was the only thing I accomplished in two and a half years
of publishing this rag, it would be worth it.
Let’s start with the PR — while I sympathize with the publicists’ dilemma
(there’s almost nothing you can say about this rich novel without giving something
away), the catalog and jacket copy make the book sound like it’s about people so
sad and lonely that even their dogs won’t speak to them. I’ve spent forty
years searching out good lesbian reading and I just couldn’t get past the
promo until Emma Donoghue wrote,
in TLE’s “Best
Books of 2005” issue, “Helen Humphreys’ Wild Dogs — about a group
of people whose dogs have run off to the woods — is a ravishingly written
novel about the contrary pulls of danger and home.” I bit the bullet, ordered a copy
and dove in.
Donoghue is right: This is one of those rare books you haven’t read before.
Luckily I read it just in time to insist that it be added to the Lammy’s Lesbian
Fiction shortlist. (Winner to be announced May 18.) So, hopefully, it will
yet land in the lesbian reading community.
Humphreys explores the edge between when we think we’re wild young things
cherishing freedom and independence and that awkward moment when the attraction
of the domesticated life begins to frighten, or worse, when we discover we’ve
already failed at settling in. She looks at how people (mostly women, but
some others as well) build relationships in the context of the everyday, seemingly
banal, damage all too commonly inflicted in our cultures. In the end she redefines
success living in that context. That alone would make this a breakthrough
But I also love the way Humphreys plays with the gender of the beloved throughout
the initial sections of the book – she certainly kept me on edge for those
first 50 pages. Everyone will read this section differently, depending on
their own assumptions and experiences, which makes this a perfect reading
group book. The relief, when it comes, is a throwaway line from the least
expected quarter. Others have used this device before (Jeanette Winterson,
Rebecca Brown, and June Arnold come to mind), but here it’s an aspect that
leads the reader deeper into the book, not the central conceit. Humphreys
holds the tension just long enough to keep it interesting.
But more fun, even than that, is her wickedly spare prose. A few seemingly
backhanded sentences describe childhoods that others have spent entire novels
documenting. A short riff, early in the book, on jobs and boyfriends past
and on the confines and traps of each is encyclopedic in its insight. I keep
expecting to come across it as a broadside somewhere.
Don’t look here for a simplistic, romantic resolution. Humphreys’ exploration
of loss and betrayal and love is much more complex; her characters dream in
conflicting visions, and a single, shared future won’t suffice. That’s a story
that is rarely told, rarely told well, and when it is, the characters are
much too rarely women. In Helen Humphreys’ Wild Dogs we get all three.
Paper: June 5, $13.95, Norton, 0393328422; cloth $22.95, Norton, 0393060152.
Book of the Issue: Fiction
The Night Watch just made the Orange Prize shortlist. Sarah
Waters has a “cult following” in the U.S., but she is something of a media star
in Britain where her “lesbian romps” through Victorian England are read by
everyone. Her books routinely make the bestseller lists there — Fingersmith
hit #7 on the Sunday Times bestseller list and stayed in the top 50
for nine months. The Night Watch went straight to #1 and stayed in
the top 10 for five weeks. Channel Four has already done adaptations of two
of her four books. Fingersmith was shortlisted for both the 2002 Man
Booker and the Orange prizes.
Here in the U.S. of A., The Night Watch has, thus far, made the New
York Times Extended List, went as high as #11 on the Booksense list, hit
#9 on the San Francisco Chronicle list, #11 at the Los Angeles Times,
and, interestingly, #3 on the Denver Post list and #4 at the Rocky
Mountain News. This country has some catching up to do — and it’s the
straight readers, who are behind the curve.
The Night Watch opens in 1947 (quite a departure from her much-loved
Victorian romps (Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith) and then
Waters moves backwards in time, to reveal an interconnected community of women
— and a few men — surviving each day (and night) while London is being bombed
during WW II. It’s a bit like getting to know a new friend or lover: You meet
in the present, then get to know what led her to become the woman she is today
— bumps, bruises, and ex’s, as well as the good bits — only in this case we
get a look at a shifting, evolving network of friends, lovers, and co-workers.
It’s a fascinating structure, and well used to honor the complexity of both
war’s impact on “ordinary” individuals as well as society as a whole. (And,
I might add, it’s a bit of a cautionary tale, for those of us in a country
still madly dropping bombs on small villages and now threatening to invade
a third Middle Eastern nation.) Being Waters, she gives us the passion of
the times, the passions that connect (and occasionally divide), the passions
that landed conscientious objectors in jail, and the small kindnesses and
betrayals that have such a large effect on individual lives. Kay, the “night
watch” ambulance driver, her lovers, Helen and Julia, straight girl Viv, and
the not-so-straight C. O. Duncan will all continue to haunt long after the
book ends. $25.95, Riverhead/Penguin, 1-59448-905-X.
For an article on “The Sarah Waters Method of Writing”:
For my interview with Sarah Waters, find the just-released debut issue of
the newly relaunched Lambda Book Report. Details at:
Interview with Sarah Waters
But, of course, while doing the LBR interview I asked Sarah Waters
a few questions about lesbian publishing — and the publishing of lesbians
— on both sides of the pond:
TLE: Where do your books sell better — the U.S., the U.K.?
Sarah Waters: The U.K., definitely. Fingersmith, and now The
Night Watch, have both made it into the bestseller charts. But in the
U.S. I get the feeling that my audience in still mainly lesbians.
My profile in the U.K., though, was raised enormously by the two BBC adaptations.
TLE: You started your publishing career with Virago and have stayed
there. Why did you choose Virago, and why have you not moved to what we here
in the states (however ignorantly) would think of as a more mainstream press?
Sarah Waters: I wish I could say I had 'chosen' Virago. But I was
very happy to be bought by them. They were a pioneering feminist publisher
when they started; and I still love their commitment to republishing
earlier women writers with their Modern Classics list. I've had nothing but
good experiences with them. And, because they are part of Time Warner (though
soon to be part of Hachette, instead), they have a lot of money behind them,
and feel very solid and respectable.
[Editor’s note: Virago and ten other publishers all turned the book down
when she initially sent the book to them. It still took a year after she got
an agent to place the book. Virago bought it after several “more mainstream”
publishers turned it down.]
TLE: It seems to me that lesbian writers — both those writing about
lesbian topics and those who don’t — get much more attention and respect in
the U.K. than lesbian writers do here. In the U.K., lesbian writers win awards
and literary prizes, TV & film treatments, are named Officers of the British
Empire, and get serious consideration in the press, not to mention getting
published with good publicity budgets. Very few (lesbian) writers get mainstream
publishing attention here. Would you agree? What are your thoughts on the
Sarah Waters: It certainly seems like there are a lot of very visible
lesbian writers doing well in the U.K. at the moment. I'll have to take your
word for it that things are different in the U.S., as I don't really know enough
about the writing scene there... I think things changed a lot here with
Jeanette Winterson. She really raised the bar in lots of ways —
she showed everyone, lesbians included, that writing could be lesbian
and seriously literary at the same time. My own mainstream success,
to be honest, leaves me still a bit surprised. Not because of the lesbian
content of my books, though — just because I started off with such small expectations.
Books of the Issue: Nonfiction
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is nothing short of
brilliant. Here Bechdel, who has been chronicling, spoofing, educating, and
illuminating both the dyke community and the larger world in Dykes to Watch
Out For for twenty-some years, uses a new medium — graphic autobiography
— to give us an exquisite rendering of one girl’s growing up (that would br Alison)
in the shadow of a middle-American gothic family, the family funeral parlor,
and an immediately-present, emotionally-absent, and ultimately repressed and
closeted father. Bechdel is a profound memoirist, telling both the tale and
offering a depth of insight rarely seen in even the best of memoirs. Her mix
of compressed, careful thought, the carefully selected words, and her excellent
graphics combine to tell a story that is at once sweet, intense, and powerful
— and so on the mark that she made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Whew. And, of course, there are moments of great fun.
My advice: Get thee to a bookstore, drop a twenty, then schedule some quality
time to spend at the Fun Home. Better yet, get two copies — you’re going to
want to talk about it with someone, but if you’re like me, you won’t be willing
to let your copy out of sight for awhile.
If America were any less lesbophobic, Dykes to Watch Out For would
run on every comics page in America. The fact that it doesn’t just reflects
the high cost of homophobia for straight people: they’re deprived of some
of the best cultural commentary going. But maybe Fun Home will open
some doors for them. God willing, and the homophobia don’t get in the way,
this book is going to win a lot of prizes.
It is, of course, an essential read for any self-respecting dyke, and for
gay guys remotely interested in non-urban queer realities or the importance
of even semi-queer lit on personal development. But it’s a gift for anyone
who’s grown up with a remote, distant parent, survived a parent’s suicide
or the early loss of a parent as well as any one interested in coming-of-age
tales that haven’t previously been told, graphic novels, or just profound
literature. I dare the New York Times Review of Books to take Bechdel
on. But in the meantime, I’m sending copies to my straight siblings
for Father’s Day — even the one who isn’t much on reading. He’ll find it much
more accessible than any traditionally written memoir. $19.95 hardcover, Houghton
Check out Alison’s blog and some recent Dykes to Watch Out For strips:
Watch a short video about Alyson’s process:
Garrison Keillor and I both agree, albeit for different reasons, that Catherine
Friend’s Hit By a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn
is an irresistible read that neither of us wanted to end. Ostensibly about
farming, it’s the tale of two women, their 22-year relationship, their commitment
to each other’s dreams (one to live the clean pristine life of a writer, the
other to farm), and their struggles along the way. And we’re talking real
farming here: crops, animals to market, and, lucky for us, Friend’s warm,
sometimes hilarious, thoughtful book. City dwellers will learn how llamas
protect sheep from predators (who knew?), straight readers will learn that
dykes (like any red-blooded farmers) have love affairs with their tractors,
and all of us will learn something useful about nurturing and sustaining the
tenacity it takes to launch any brave enterprise. But if you’ve ever hungered
for books about day-to-day realities of long-term lesbian relationships, what
makes them work, and what happens in the years after you start keeping
your underwear in the same drawer, this is for you. And somehow, it’s such
a wholesome, Midwestern tale, that it would also be a perfect book to give
to anyone who can’t quite imagine what two women do with each other. I’m thinking
about giving it to my farmer brother. He’ll like the part about the tractor.
Marlowe & Company, $14.95, 978-1-56924-298-8.
Venerable feminist publishing institution, Spinsters Ink,
has hit the ground running in its latest incarnation, this time
under the care of Bella Books’ publisher Linda Hill. The first
book, French Postcards, is out, and six more titles
will come before the year’s end.
French Postcards, by Jane Merchant, is
a short but leisurely novel set among the wives of Americans working
in France. Elinor, unlike most of the others in the conservative
American community, is pleased to be in France, is eager to practice
her language skills , and is happiest connecting with the local
French community. But, deft as she becomes at negotiating a multicultural
community, she’s more than startled by her own response to the
mother of one of her daughter’s French classmates. A response
that, returned, will cause her to question even deeper ideas about
community and culture, and her own assumptions about life, love,
and desire. There’s no Bella-ever-after ending here, the point
is rather the process, the questioning, and the slow, subtle changes
that will follow her wherever she goes, for the rest of her life.
French Postcards was previously published in a short-run
edition that didn’t receive much attention. $14.95, 1883523672.
TLE asked Spinsters publisher Linda Hill why
she launched Spinsters new incarnation with this novel, what’s
coming up, and what her plans are for Spinsters Ink. Click here
to go directly to the interview.
For TLE’s original article on the Spinsters transition:
More info about Spinsters Ink at:
More Excellent Fiction
Georgette Collins has lost her memory, and possibly her mind. Kirsten Dinnall
Hoyte’s novel, Black Marks, follows her as she reclaims them
both by sorting through memories of her conflicting/colliding worlds — growing
up in both her grandmother’s home in Jamaica and in her parents’ affluent
Boston suburb, a childhood caught between black and white parents, an adulthood
living mostly gay in a mostly straight world, being a black artist with white
lovers and patrons — slowly coming to terms as a daughter, as a sibling, and
as herself. It’s a demanding read — the timeline is complex and ambiguities
refuse to yield to simplistic conclusions. But its challenges are, ultimately,
what make it a complex and satisfying read. Published by Akashic Books, it
breaks boundaries and expectations in a way that reminded me of the early
Firebrand titles. $14.95, 1-888451-84-X.
Leslie Feinberg, author of the much-loved Stone Butch Blues, returns
to the world of fiction (at last!) with Drag King Dreams. Life
in post-9/11 New York City has taken its toll on butch FTM Max Rabinowitz.
Max works nights as a bouncer, trying to keep it together day-to-day. It’s
hard to tell who makes hir life more difficult: the day timers who try to
pound hir into their binary-gender-scheme or the post 9/11 “security measures”
and the growing governmental harassment. But the murder of a sister cross-dresser,
Vicki, forces Max to relinquish hir isolation and reconnect with hir activist
past, as cross-dressers, drag queens and kings, and queers of all kinds find
new allies across the many cultures being affected by the post 9/11 crackdowns.
Together they face down Vicki’s death and Max, for the first time in years,
finds hir activist heart opening. I daresay it’s a mid-life crisis story that
hasn’t been told before. Feinberg is also the author of Transgender Warriors
and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue. $15.95, Carroll &
There’s nary a dyke in sight in T Cooper’s Lipshitz Six, or Two
Angry Blonds — until you come to the “The End” where T writes about being
the last living Lipshitz, about her grandmother’s obsession with the blond
blue-eyed Charles Lindbergh and her belief that he’s the son who disappeared
as her family left Ellis Island, and about how T’s gender disappeared on the
back of a book jacket, T’s life as a bat-mitvah dj, having a girlfriend’s
love and support, and burying parents. Or is that all part of the novel? Or
is the novel really a memoir about the grandparents’ escape, with their
children, from the Russian pogroms and their subsequent move to Texas? T,
in the era of “memoirists” who fictionalize, wisely calls it fiction. That
works for us, and it’s a rich, interesting read. All in all, it’s less reminiscent
of T’s earlier novel, Sum of the Parts than it is of Karen X. Tulchinsky’s
excellent (but also lesbian-less) The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky
($15.95, Polestar) which takes up the tale of a Jewish-Canadian immigrant
family, the long-term damage from Toronto’s anti-Semitic Christie Pits race
riot, and the effects, on generation after generation, of the guilt that comes
from not being able to, personally, prevent and stop senseless violence against
one’s family and one’s people. $24.95 Dutton, 0-525-94933-X.
All of Britain, it would seem, is in love with (lesbian writer) Carol Ann Duffy’s
book-length love poem Rapture. The fact that it’s about one
woman falling in love with another woman doesn’t seem to be causing
anyone to lift so much as an eyebrow. It’s a Poetry Book Society
Choice there, it won the T.S. Elliot poetry prize (think £17,000),
and it has garnered raves everywhere.
One of the most important, and rightly loved, poets of our time.'
Carol Ann Duffy's new collection is about the loss and rediscovery of
love in all its aspects — erotic, intellectual, emotional. —Libertas
I read it on the tube and missed my station. I read it in bed and couldn't
sleep. I read it at my desk and started to cry. Affairs are notoriously disruptive.
You get parking tickets, cancel meetings, forget to feed the cat. Reading
about an affair is not supposed to have the same effect. But it does in the
case of Carol Ann Duffy's Rapture. —Margaret Reynolds (editor
of The Sappho Companion and the Penguin Book of Lesbian Short Stories)
And there you have it.
Published by Picador in the U.K. Not published in the U.S. of A, and no
plans to do so that I can uncover. (Far too progressive for this country?)
But if you want a copy, — and if you have any passion for poetry at all, you
do — you can order her books from the British lesbian e-store, Libertas
or from Gay’s
the Word, £12.99.
Read two of the poems:
Jeannette Winterson interviews Carol Ann Duffy for The London Times:
If you’re going to the Gay Games, don’t leave home without a copy of The
Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian Chicago. It’s a chatty, opinionated inside
scoop on everything from gay-friendly accommodations and dining to shopping,
recreation, music, theater, and the gayist sites to see (from Emma Goldman’s
grave to the heart of Towertown, a thriving gay enclave in the 20s and 30s.),
plus essentials like safety, getting around, and finding the gayborhoods.
Compiled by two booksellers who’ve answered all the tourist questions a thousand
times: Kathie Berquist (Woman & Children First and Unabridged Books) and
Robert McDonald (also of Unabridged). $15.95, Lake Claremont Press, 1893121038.
And the new (28th!) edition of Gayellow Pages, one of the world’s
best collections of all things gay from bookstores to women’s centers, is
out. This edition covers Canada and the U.S.A. 536 pages, $22.95 paper. Renaissance
You can also access much of the information online at:
In Harlyn Aizley’s anthology, Confessions of the Other Mother: Nonbiological
Lesbian Moms Tell All, eighteen women — self-defined Moms, Mamas, Babas,
and Other Mothers and performance artists, career queens, nurses, and stay-at-home-moms
— write about the non-birth parent’s side of the complex dynamic of two-mother
families. By turns funny, sad, poignant, and even political (parenting as
a subversive activity), it addresses issues as diverse as identity and naming,
the lack of public recognition (and strategies for dealing with it), being
jealous of the birth-mother/child bonding that nursing creates, dealing with
(grand) parents, the grief of infertility, switching roles and becoming the
birth mother, and more. Most of the stories address early parenting and pregnancy
issues; perhaps there will be a sequel that addresses life in the secondary-school
car-pool lane. Aizley is also the author of Buying Dad: One Woman’s Search
for the Perfect Sperm Donor. $16, Beacon Press, 0-8070-7963-4.
In the latest addition to the Dyke-on-the-Road genre, Lori Soderlind’s Chasing
Montana: A Love Story, a young small-town newspaper woman looks
for love and lesbians in all the wrong places — with her best friend at the
paper, in a mysterious land that her intended believes in (a much-romanticized
Montana now riddled with survivalists), and in ghost towns — and doesn’t find
them. It’s a bit on the frustrating side for both the writer and the reader,
but life is about the journey not the destination. Chasing Montana is
an eighties girl’s tale of illusions lost and found as she pursues the dream
she inherited from a more optimistic generation. $22.95 paper, Terrace Books/University
of Wisconsin, 029921754X.
Given the number of lesbians who go through menopause there’s surprisingly
little written about it. In Zest for Life: Lesbians’ Experiences of Menopause
, Australian Jennifer Kelly helps remedy that as Kelly considers how lesbians’
experience of menopause differs from the mainstream medicalized model, notes
how systematically lesbians have been excluded from previous studies and,
at least for the duration of the book, puts lesbians’ experiences front and
center. The research was done in Australia, but the citations and criticisms
of previous research are global. It’s a tad on the academic side, but the
author’s commentary on what she was doing and why increase its accessibility.
And it’s worth skimming over
the footnotes to find things like, “More than
half of the lesbians in my study (58%) believe that there are different issues
for midlife lesbians than for heterosexual women.” It was shortlisted for
the LGBT Studies Lammy. $17.95, Spinifex Press, 1876756462.
Kenji Yoshino writes about three phases of identity and oppression in his
thoughtful mix of memoir and legal scholarship, Covering: The Hidden Assault
on Our Civil Rights. He identifies “covering” — the mainstream’s demand
that minorities be “not so gay, not so black, not so whatever-is-core to one’s
identity” — as the third phase in the struggle for full human rights and as
the next frontier we must tackle. (The first two phases being the demand that
we “convert,” which was followed by a couple of decades of demands that we
“pass.”) It all sounds very dry when I write about it, but Yoshino, a gay
law professor at Yale, writes a surprisingly warm and personal book that is
informed by his feminism and by his acute awareness of many different minority
cultures, as well as by his own cultural history and experience. A fascinating
and important book that should be well-discussed in the year to come. $24.95,
Random House, 0375508201.
Ah! I love the Queer Encyclopedia series — but hate what a small percentage
of attention is given to lesbians and lesbian work. It would seem that, at
least in the case of The Queer Encyclopedia of Film and Television,
if it isn’t mainstream, if it doesn’t cross over into the male view, it doesn’t
exist — or at least it doesn’t get documented here. Missing In Action are
most of the lesbian-made-for-lesbians work of the seventies, eighties, and
nineties, the lesbian venues, and lesbian vision. Granted, that’s not the
work closest to the heart of the editors and the website that inspired this
series. But, oh, I wish a big chuck of lesbian history research had been added
before the books went to press — it would be a much queerer book with more
lesbian content. The series is edited by Claude J.Summers. The first two books,
The Queer Encyclopedia of the Visual Arts and The Queer Encyclopedia
of Music, Dance, and Musical Theater, were published in 2004. $29.95 paper,
Cleis Press, 1-57344-209-7.
Where do woman-friendly sex stores come from? Dell Williams (with Lynn Vannucci)
tells about starting and nurturing Eve’s Garden, and her life — from her first
women’s march to her first Hitachi Magic Wand to making the business side
work — in Revolution in the Garden: Memoirs of the Gardenkeeper. It’s
funny, full of advice (she’s not at all shy about telling readers what they
ought to read), and offers a quick course on the impact of the women’s movement
along the way. $22.95, Silverback Books, 1596370386.
The inimitable feminist theologian and theorist Mary Daly (The Church
and the Second Sex, Beyond God the Father, Gyn/Ecology) is back and is
in full form with Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big,
in which she champions women as saviors of the planet, offers strategies to
combat destructive patriarchal forces, and interweaves quantum theory with
radical feminism. She challenges women to see them/ourselves as Life-Savers
and Life-Enhancers, invokes feminists from the past (most notably Matilda
Joslyn Gage), and invents a continent “from the future” where women live in
harmony with one another and with nature. Daly is never for the faint of heart,
the weary of brain, or the literal minded. She is a universe unto herself.
$24.95, Palgrave Macmillan, 1-4039-6853-5.
For the Kids
Jacqueline Woodson is one of our most brilliant visionaries and writers.
She regularly turns stereotypes and expectations inside out, lends support
to kids of many experiences, and always gives kids another, wider, way of
looking at — well, whatever she has in hand — from her book about a black
teenager dealing with his mother becoming a lesbian (From The Notebooks
Of Melanin Sun), through her recent Newberry Honor Book, Show Way.
I miss having a bookstore that stocks whatever she writes, gay-themed or not,
knowing that she has a cadre of adult fans who will come in and buy anything
Single mothers, and lesbian moms will be particularly partial to her Newberry
Honor Book, Show Way (illustrated by Hudson Talbott), the story of
seven generations of women in her family, that reaches back through slavery
times, when some of the women were sold away from their mothers, right down
through Woodson’s own daughter. She writes about how each baby girl was “loved
up” by her mother (and by her father if she had one), about the legacy of
love and passion for justice passed from generation to generation, along with
sewing skills, including making “show way” quilts that guided escaping slaves
to freedom and, in later generations, the skill of making the words that help
create that justice. The story ends, “And I grew up, tall and straight-boned,
writing every day. And the words became books that told the stories of many
people’s Show Ways. //Had a baby and named that child Toshi Georgiana.//Loved
that Toshi up so. Yes I love that Toshi up.// So some mornings I start all
over, Holding tight to little Toshi, I whisper a story that came before her....
// Now Soonie was your great-grand grandma and when Soonie’s great-grandma
was seven....” And the last pages feature a tall, strong woman, and a baby
girl with a fierce presence that any dyke’s daughter will recognize as a family
like her own. The illustrations are as rich and beautiful as the story. $16.95
hardcover, Putnam/Penguin, 9780399237492.
Pulp To Watch Out For
Yes, it’s true that The Feminist Press will be publishing two of the “Ann
Aldrich” (Marijane Meaker) controversial, groundbreaking accounts of lesbian
life in the fifties, We Walk Alone (1955) and We, Too,
Must Love (1958). I’ve been lobbying for years to get this historical
series back in print. (There were five of them altogether, concluding with
the much more upbeat Take a Lesbian to Lunch in 1972.) Back
in the day people either loved them or hated them, and that’s still true today.
I read them at 16 and found them thrilling and affirming. My girlfriend, on
the other hand, found them terrifying. But I’ll argue, anywhere, anytime,
that these books broke new ground, opened new doors for lesbians, and are
an essential part of our history that we should all be able to access any
time. Hooray for The Feminist Press for bringing them back into print. Look
for them in November.
Can’t wait that long? Cleis Press has just published two more pulp novels
from the day: Twilight Girl by Della Martin and World
of Women by Carol Caine. Twilight Girl features a budding
butch of the Brylcreem era who fantasizes about a South Pacific island full of women
where everyone will be free and accepting (and she’ll never have to wear an
eyelet blouse again). Instead she finds the Los Angeles’ lesbian underworld,
and the brilliant and lovely black jazz pianist who already has a girlfriend,
and one who wants to keep her.... Today’s “sexual outlaws,” I tell you, have
nothing on the gutsy girls of yesteryear. Both $12.95, both with lusciously
Now in Paperback
Beautiful Inez, one of my favorite lesbian novels from 2005, puts to
rest the whole question of can (and will) presumably straight men write excellent
lesbian characters. Bart Schneider’s Inez is a brilliant violinist, mother,
and wife in a pre-Feminine Mystique San Francisco — everything is perfect
except for that gnawing, unnamable, unbearable inner ache. It’s a beautifully
written book, from the portrayal of those times (including the loud absence
of any reason to believe or even hope that a feminist revolution was coming)
to Inez’ unexpected flirtation with witty, innovative, sometimes-journalist
and more often music store pianist, Sylvia Bran. Not at all a romance, the
book reads as if the author had spent a number of years puzzling out how a
situation, perhaps from his youth, could have come to be. My one criticism
would be that the ending seems a bit rushed for the complexity of the dynamics.
Still, readers with a deep understanding of the dynamics of women’s lives
(which would include most The Lesbian Edition readers) will recognize
the tipping point. (Others will have only an A- reading experience.) It’s
one of those books that makes you want a reading group to discuss it with.
$14.00, Three Rivers/Random House, (1-4000-5443-5).
To read TLE’s review of the hardcover:
I just received a note from one of my favorite readers that The Lavender
Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government,
by David K. Johnson is out in paperback. “A fabulous book, with incredible
research,” she wrote. It won a Publishing Triangle/Randy Shilts Award for
Gay Nonfiction. $20, University of Chicago, 0226401901.
To read TLE’s review of the hardcover:
I had a wild moment of hope when I picked up Lori Lake and Tara Young’s new
anthology, Romance for LIFE, that it would be a collection of stories
about long-term relationships. Nope — but it’s something equally fine: it’s
a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the National
Breast Cancer Foundation. The title was inspired by Lifetime TV’s “Stop Breast
Cancer for Life” campaign and all of the writers, editors, and the publisher
are donating their royalties and profits. The project grew out of the frustration
of not being able to do enough when a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Despite its title, it’s more of a cornucopia of relationship stories than
specifically romances. The fact that a few of the stories deal specifically
with breast cancer or death in lesbian relationships (Gabe Goldsby’s sweet
confessional, “Best of My Life,” Karin Kallmaker’s gutsy, “Pas de Trois,”
and Lori Lake’s life-after-life story, “Another Stage”) make this a richer,
and deeper anthology than most. But I also appreciated the tales of romance-weary
butches (Lee Lynch’s “After the Second Breakup”), retired women dumping the
closet (Nann Dunne’s “Dominoes”), and relationships on the mend (Jean Stewart’s
“Seasons”) that enrich the usual mix. Surround them with stories by the likes
of Val McDermid, Radclyffe, Ida Sweringen, Stella Duffy, Melissa Good, Elizabeth
Sims, Jennifer Fulton, and there goes another evening or two of short pleasures.
$17.95, Intaglio Publications, 1933113593.
Friday Night Reads
From Suzanne Corson
In Megan Carter’s When Love Finds a Home, homeless thirty-six-year-old
Rona is helping newfound friend Tammy and her four-year-old twin girls find
shelter in a San Antonio office building on a stormy night. The two women
witness a mugging in a parking lot, interrupt
the attack, and take the frightened woman, Anna, to the hospital. Grateful,
Anna takes the two unknown women and little girls into her home when she realizes
they have nowhere to stay.
Maybe I’m too cynical, but this premise required a huge suspension of disbelief.
That aside, I did enjoy the development of Rona and Anna’s relationship, the
blossoming of Tammy and her daughters in a safe home, watching the women healing
from old wounds, and reading a story of two women, already out lesbians, who
found their way to each other.
But I found myself wondering if a chapter or two had gone missing somewhere
along the line: The back cover blurb refers to a “series of events (that)
cast doubt between them” and to Anna making a hasty decision that causes a
rift between her and Rona. I did catch a set up for what I suspected would
be one of those events, but the event never happened, nor was there any rift.
The last part of the book contains little dramatic tension at all. I can’t
tell if this was a printing error, editing exuberance, or misrepresentation
on the back cover, but it was odd. $12.95, Bella, 1594930414.
The sophomore novel by Ronica Black (In Too Deep) is hot, hot, hot.
Wild Abandon portrays a clash of wills and desire between a motorcycle
riding psychologist and a secretive, controlled police officer. Dr. Chandler
Brogan’s work focuses on sexual dysfunction, but her own relationships need
work. She escapes dealing with that by speeding through the countryside on
her motorcycle. While out riding with her brother, the two are pulled over
for reckless driving by Officer Sarah Monroe. Sarah relishes the control in
her life yet knows she wants something more out of her relationships. Chan
and Sarah have a brief encounter after a chance meeting at a bar and can’t
stop thinking about each other afterwards. There are many side steps and false
turns before they connect again but it’s well worth the ride.
It’s a fun read: Chan and Sarah are complex, flawed, likable, and believable;
the character development is excellent; and Sarah’s police partner, Dan, and
Chan’s brother and grandmother are wonderful supporting characters. Perhaps
Black will revisit all of these great folks in a sequel? $15.95, Bold Stokes,
More disappointing was Kim Baldwin’s Force of Nature, which revisits
the tired trope of lesbian rescuing a straight woman, suffering through their
burgeoning relationship, straight woman experiencing confusing feelings, straight
woman doing the come close-push away-come close again dance, but they eventually
live happily ever after. But maybe I’m the only one who’s tired of these stories,
since so many get published? I do give Baldwin credit for taking the time
necessary to develop this story; the “coming out” wasn’t resolved in fifty
pages like so many of the lesbian romances in the nineties. (Publisher Bold
Strokes Books deserves credit, too, for publishing books that are long enough
for the authors to fully develop their stories and characters.) But while
the premise is a bit tired, the setting is not. Baldwin’s characters — volunteer
firefighter Gable McCoy and Erin Richards, the woman she rescues in a tornado — live
in a sparsely populated and densely forested section of Michigan. The descriptions
of the scenery, wildlife, and pace of life in the small town are idyllic and
the volunteer firefighters are an entertaining bunch. My fussing about tired
tropes aside, if you want to visit a world where everyone truly cares about
each other — and the environment around them — you’ll enjoy Force of Nature.
$15.95, Bold Strokes, 1933110236.
Leave it to prolific author, publisher, and retired surgeon Radclyffe
to turn the trope I mentioned above on its ear and send it spinning in a new
direction. Turn Back Time opens on “Match Day” when medical school
students in Philadelphia learn where they will be spending their residency.
Wynter Kline and Pearce Rifkin literally run into each other in a meeting
they’ll both remember for years to come. Four years, to be specific, when
the twists of fate and lesbian romance bring them to the same hospital’s surgical
Each woman has secrets, each has some baggage, each is very good at her
job, and each has had trouble forgetting the near kiss they shared four years
earlier. When they meet again, assumptions, family obligations, and their
grueling schedules keep them apart — oh, and then there’s the fact that Wynter’s
never been with a woman. But as I said, this isn’t the same ol’ same old:
Wynter’s aware of her feelings from the get go, she just isn’t sure what to
do about them.
I really enjoyed Wynter, Pearce, Wynter’s friends Mina and Ken, and the
nearly three hundred pages of entertaining storytelling by the consistently
good Radclyffe. You’ll probably need more than one Friday night to
get through this one, but it’s well worth your time. $15.95, Bold Strokes,
In her new novel, Dope ($21.95, Putnam), author Sara Gran is so hardboiled
you could roll her on the White House lawn (as Dorothy Parker once said of
Dashiell Hammett). New to
the mystery genre, Gran pulls off a near-perfect evocation of noir New
York City, ca. 1950. Joe (Josephine) Flannigan, a former junkie and hooker,
now clean for two years, is making her living boosting jewelry from mid-town
stores when a wealthy attorney and his wife approach her to work for them.
The job is to find their daughter, who has gone astray from Barnard and disappeared
into the junkies' underworld that Joe knows well. Gran gives us a fascinating
tour of that underworld, including strippers, hookers, grifters and cons of
all sorts. The plot makes more than one unexpected hairpin turn, and the ending
is a killer. Don't say I didn't warn you.
You can't help but feel the love in Justice Served ($15.95, Bold Strokes
Books), the fifth installment in Radclyffe's "Justice" series.
The major characters include three different lesbian couples, all of them
madly, truly, deeply in love, thus generating more sex scenes per page count
than any other lesbian novel I can remember. But Justice Served is
also about friendship, loyalty, commitment and, of course, justice, which
is why Radclyffe's band of heroes ultimately won me over. At the center of
the complicated plot is the impossibly perfect Detective Lieutenant Rebecca
Frye, newly named head of the Philadelphia PD High Profile Crimes Unit. Her
team includes her cop partner, a well-drawn straight guy with a high tolerance
for strong women; a formidable lesbian computer consultant; and a bashful
butch rookie who goes undercover as a drag king. Although many threads continue
from previous books, there is a self-contained story — the search for an
informant within the department, connected to a mob operation in human trafficking.
If you've never tried Radclyffe's blend of passionate sex, high emotion, suspense
and well-crafted prose, this is not a bad place to start.
Nene Adams begins her "Gaslight" series with a brilliant premise:
a Victorian lesbian detective who literally rivals Sherlock Holmes, solving
cases based on real historical crimes. In Black by Gaslight ($17.95,
Cavalier Press), consulting detective Lady Evangeline St. Claire rescues a
prostitute from an attacker and offers her a position as confidential secretary.
Of course the two fall in love. St. Claire's chief rival in detecting is the
famous Sherrinford Pike (which Sherlockians will recognize as one of the names
Conan Doyle considered for Sherlock Holmes), and it soon becomes clear that
the man attacking prostitutes is Jack the Ripper. If anything, Black by
Gaslight might be a little too Victorian. The plot unfolds slowly, and
the romance consists largely of misread cues and misunderstandings, as both
heroines muse about their great attraction for the other. In the sequel, The
Madonna of Sorrows ($16.95, Cavalier Press), the two are already lovers,
so possibly things move more quickly. Here, the plot involves the real theft
of a fabulous diamond necklace, le collier de la Reine, in Paris at
the 1889 World's Fair.
The Killing Room by Gerri Hill ($13.95, Bella Books) is an excellent
(and not overly gruesome) serial killer mystery, wrapped in a fun and believable
romance. Denver homicide detective Jake McCoy travels to her mountain cabin
for solace and healing after being wounded in a tragic shootout. Meanwhile
psychologist Nicole Westbrook prepares for a wilderness hiking vacation... and
Hill builds a pleasant tension as we await the inevitable crossing of their
paths. Later, a serial killer appears to be targeting Nicole's patients, or
perhaps Nicole herself. To her credit, Hill presents Nicole's closeted existence
as limited and limiting, in sharp contrast to Jake's tough but no-nonsense
life as an out police officer.
In Grave Opening ($12.95, Bywater Books), author Jeanne Harris brings
back the eponymous heroine of Delia Ironfoot ($12.95, Chenault and
Gray), formerly published by Naiad. A disgraced archaeologist, Delia has built
a new life divided between summers as a wilderness guide in Utah and winters
with her Navajo grandmother in Medicine Hat. Now she returns to her childhood
home in Arkansas, where her grandfather has disovered a burial mound on his
farm. The archaeological details are fascinating, but Harris pours on more
plot elements, including Delia's dreams of bloody ancient warfare, and two
separate romances for Delia, one with an herbalist/folk healer and another
with a young archaeologist. Ultimately there is too much going on for a short,
fast-moving mystery, and the ending felt unsatisfying.
Blood Guilt by Lindy Cameron ($13.95, Bywater) is a witty professional
private eye novel, set in Melbourne, Australia. Kit O'Malley is hired by eccentric
socialite Celia Robinson to tail her husband, who has been taking money from
Celia's publishing business and, presumably, spending it on a mistress. Although
Kit turns up some strange doings, she doesn't have time to report them before
her client is drowned in the goldfish pond. This is my favorite kind of mystery,
with just enough personal details (loony mom, critical best friend, The Cat
From Hell) to give a taste of the heroine's life, while the emphasis remains
squarely on the case. And it helps that the writing purrs along like a classic
Smoky Mountain Tracks by Donna Ball ($6.99, Signet) is everything
you could want in a paperback mystery and nothing you wouldn't want — crisp,
clean prose, engaging characters and setting, a strong plot, and no cutesy-poo
gimmicks — in spite of the fact that it's subtitled "a dog mystery."
The plot involves a search-and-rescue operation, a golden retriever who's
all heart, an animal psychic, and convoluted land deals; and it all comes
together neatly in a satisfying ending. The heroine is not apparently a lesbian
(she is separated from her husband, a police officer), but she is a
dog trainer. Enough said.
Lost Daughters, the fourth entry in J.M. Redmann's wonderful series
about lesbian P.I. Micky Knight, is available in paperback for the first time
($12.95, Bywater Books). The San Francisco Chronicle called this "A
sophisticated, funny, plot-driven, character-laden mystery set in New Orleans.
As tightly plotted a page turner as they come...."
Idaho Code by Joan Opyr ($13.95, Bywater Books) begins at the funeral
of a man who had disappeared from his small Idaho town twenty years before,
then suddenly turned up in the town jail and died while in custody on vagrancy
charges. Wilhelmina "Bil" Hardy gets involved with the deceased's
daughter and therefore with the mystery — along with her entire "wacky"
mixed family of adoptive parents and siblings.
Out on the 'net
Science fiction dyke-writer Nicola Griffith (Ammonite, Slow River,
The Blue Place, and Stay) talks about writing, lesbian writing,
the state of GLBTI publishing, what she’s reading, and cites The Lesbian
Edition in an interview on StrangeHorizon.com:
Feminist Bookstore News
Sisterhood Bookstore: The Book
Sisterhood operated in Los Angeles as a feminist, lesbian, and progressive
center for 27 years, from 1972 to 1999, with a branch at the Woman's Building
in the mid-1970's. Women from all around the country — from community activists
and academics to musicians and authors — gathered there for literary and political
discussion, networking, poetry and music. Like many other independents, Sisterhood
couldn’t compete with Internet and chain bookstores. The final blow was Borders
opening a store directly across the street.
Sisterhood co-owners/founders Simone Wallace and Adele Wallace (former sisters-in-law),
Emily Gold (Simone’s daughter who grew up in the bookstore), writer/web-designer
Irene Wolt, and educator/author Ronni Sanlo are working on a book to document
the life and breadth of Sisterhood Bookstore. They’re asking women who passed
through its doors — customers, community members, activists; bookstore workers
and artists and writers who read or performed there — to send them a sentence,
a paragraph, or a chapter on their experiences at Sisterhood Bookstore. Help
them out by filling out a quick survey. Details on the Sisterhood Bookstore
to find out more.
Charis Bookstore Staff Changes
After 32 years of feminist bookselling, Charis Bookstore co-founder Linda
Bryant is (semi) retiring. She’s selling her half of the business and the
building to Charis volunteer Amanda Hill; Angela Gabriel, who works part-time
at Charis, is also buying into the business. Her buy-in will bring new capital
to the bookstore. Amanda is a home renovator by profession and an electrical
engineer by training. Angela is a Pre-K teacher; she’ll be keeping her day
job for the immediate future.
Long-time store manager and Charis co-owner Sara Luce Look continues on
at Charis. She’s been at Charis for 12 years. Linda Bryant will continue working
one day a week at Charis and part-time at Charis Circle, the bookstore’s sister
nonprofit that does educational work and funds Charis’ programming.
Thriving in Toronto
The Toronto Women’s Bookstore has just hired feminist bookstore historian
Kristen Hogan as their interim manager while Anjula Gogia is on a one year
leave. Kristen logged many years at Austin’s Women Books before and while
completing her dissertation on women’s bookstores.
ColorLines ran a great article asking “Why is TWB thriving
when so many others have closed?” Their conclusion: It’s TWB’s fierce commitment
to women of color, communities of color and, of course, politics.
“When asked why so many feminist bookstores are closing, [co-manager May]
Lui says it’s more complicated than just pointing the finger at Amazon and
Barnes & Noble. ‘If the whole thing about feminism is for white women
to access what white men had, a lot of that happened,’ Lui says. ‘So successful
white women will go to the chain bookstores.’”
“[Co-manager Anjula] Gogia also thinks having a woman-of-color definition
of feminist affects everything, from what books they stock to the atmosphere
of the store. ‘When women of color are in a critical mass of leadership, the
way we define feminism changes,’ says Gogia.”
Nine of the twelve staff at TWB are women of color.
Read the entire article at:
More about ColorLines, a wonderful magazine, with a fierce feminist
consciousness, addressing race, culture, and action, at:
Maybe it’s just coincidence that all of the senior staff at ColorLines
are women? But this magazine has some of the smartest articles on women of
color, sex and sexuality, work and sexuality, and the interplay with how race
and racism affect women’s options, how women see themselves, and how the culture
sees women that I’ve seen in a long time. And it’s beautifully produced.
After a five-month remodel, Mother Kali’s is open in a gorgeous new
space. Store manager Karen Luna writes that about ten San Francisco Bay Area
women made donations to their remodeling/moving fund because they didn't want
Eugene to lose her store, too. Visit Mother Kali’s in Oregon at 1849
Willamette Street, Eugene 97401, (541-762-1077) or online at
Change Makers, the Berkeley bookstore who took over the storefront
left when the Mama Bears crew retired and closed the store three years ago,
has also closed.
Still no word on the future of On Our Backs and Girlfriends.
They’ve both been bought by an online company that seems much more interested
in online publication than print. Details to come when we have them.
Meanwhile, Debbie Wells and Alison Zawacki are launching Jane and Jane,
“A Home & Family Magazine for Lesbian Lifestyles” for “lesbians who prefer
to entertain their friends and family at home to going to the local nightclubs.”
It will feature culinary creations, fine wines, investing, family vacations,
and articles on maintaining relationships, home decor, outdoor yard projects,
fitness and health, and on enhancing your social life with clubs and various
Scheduled to premiere in June. Subscriptions $12/year. Details at:
Celebrate 30 years of Sinister Wisdom by donating to SW’s
Thirtieth Anniversary Fund. Keep SW in print, keep free copies
going to women in prison and psychiatric institutions, and help finance a
special 30th Anniversary commemorative issue. Send to Sinister Wisdom,
PO Box 1180, Sebastopol, CA 95473. Details at
And check out BTWOF’s nifty ad offering 3-month Trial Subscriptions to More
Books for Women, The Lesbian Edition, and The Gay Men’s Edition
in the Spring issue of Ms. Magazine. It’s on page 71. Or, better yet, send your friends and colleagues straight to our trial subscriptions page at www.btwof.com/TRIAL
Lisa A. Barnett — 1958-2006
Fantasy/science fiction writer, Lisa Barnett, who co-authored of The Armour
of Light, Point of Hopes, and the 2002 Lambda Literary Award winning
Point of Dreams with her partner of 27 years, Melissa Scott, died May
2 after a three year struggle with breast cancer and a metastatic brain tumor.
Lisa — ever the writer — blogged about it all on:
The Boston Globe obituary:
Muriel Spark, the novelist who wrote The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,
died at 88 in April. She lived in Italy with her companion of thirty
years, painter and sculptor Penelope Jardine.
For the London Times obituary:
And the New York Times painfully discreet obituary:
This year’s shortlist for the Orange Prize includes lesbian writers
Ali Smith and Sarah Waters. Waters' The Night Watch is rich with unabashedly
lesbian characters and content. And Ali Smith’s The Accidental? Only
the odd kiss or two. But I think there’s a case to be made that it’s a work
well informed by a lesbian- and outsider perspective, though I can’t say I’ve
seen anyone else making that argument. Find the entire shortlist in More
Books for Women or at:
The Alice B.'s
The 2006 Alice B. Medals went to Jennifer Fulton, Claire McNab, Ann
Allen Shockley, and Sheila Ortiz-Taylor.
Ex-bookseller Jennifer Fulton, who was born in New Zealand, lived
in Australia for a number of years, and now resides in the American Midwest,
also writes as Rose Beecham and Grace Lennox. She published five novels this
year; Yellow Rose and Bold Strokes are her publishers.
An Australian living in Los Angeles, the extremely prolific Claire McNab
writes three mystery series and the odd romance (which add up to at least
27 lesbian novels). Alyson publishes her Kylie Kendall series; Bella publishes
her Carol Ashton and Denise Cleever titles.
Pioneer Awards, which are intended to go to writers who are no longer publishing,
went to Ann Allen Shockley and Sheila Ortiz-Taylor, but both writers proved
that you can’t keep a good woman out of print by immediately publishing new
Ann Allen Shockley was honored for her 70s and 80s titles about black
lesbians; but has also recently published a new novel with A&M Books,
Celebrating Hotchclaw, which tackles internal politics, homophobia,
and cross-dressing at a historically black college.
Sheila Ortiz-Taylor, who was honored for her Benbow Trilogy, is publishing
a fourth book in the series, OutRageous, which will be followed by
Assisted Living, both of which will be published by Spinsters Ink.
She and her partner sued a Florida retirement community for refusing them
admission as a couple, and won. Look for OutRageous in June.
The Alice B.'s are funded by an anonymous donor and are selected by a group
of lesbians in southern Arizona who are avid readers. Writers may receive
the medal only once. It recognizes careers distinguished by consistently well-written
stories about lesbians. Recipients receive, in addition to the medal, a lapel
pin and a check for $500.
Previous winners include Sarah Dreher, Katherine V. Forest, Ellen Hart, Peggy
J. Herring, Karin Kallmaker, and Radclyffe.
The Publishing Triangle & Ferro-Grumley Awards
The Publishing Triangle and Ferro-Grumley Awards honor books published in
2005 in the United States or Canada. This year the Publishing Triangle also
sponsored an award for lesbian and gay debut fiction. The winners are indicated
with an *.
The Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction
*Tania Katan, My One-Night Stand with Cancer (Alyson Books)
Gretchen Legler, On the Ice (Milkweed Editions)
Diana Souhami, Wild Girls (St. Martin’s Press)
The Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction
*Martin Moran, The Tricky Part (Beacon Press)
Thomas Glave, Words to Our Now (University of Minnesota Press)
Neil McKenna, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (Basic Books)
The Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry
*Jane Miller, A Palace of Pearls (Copper Canyon)
Djuna Barnes, Collected Poems with Notes Toward the Memoirs, edited
by Phillip Herring and Osias Stutman (University of Wisconsin Press)
June Jordan, Directed by Desire, edited by Jan Heller Levi and Sara
Miles (Copper Canyon)
The Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry
*Richard Siken, Crush (Yale University Press)
Frank Bidart, Star Dust (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Peter Covino, Cut Off the Ears of Winter (New Issues)
The Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction: Women
*Patricia Grossman, Brian in Three Seasons (Permanent Press)
Brenda Brooks, Gotta Find Me an Angel (Raincoast Books)
Ivan E. Coyote, Loose End (Arsenal Pulp Press)
The Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction: Men
*Barry McCrea, The First Verse (Carroll & Graf)
Darren Greer, Still Life With June (Cormorant Books)
Douglas A. Martin, Branwell (Soft Skull Press)
The Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
*Mack Friedman, Setting the Lawn on Fire (University of Wisconsin
Charlie Anders, Choir Boy (Soft Skull Press)
Katia Noyes, Crashing America (Alyson Books)
Also awarded that night:
The Publishing Triangle presented a special Leadership Award to Oscar
Wilde Bookshop, the world’s first gay bookstore, now under the care and
direction of Kim Brinster.
The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement to Karla Jay.
The Robert Chesley Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Megan
Terry and the Emerging Artist Award to Kathleen Warnock.
The Chesley Foundation awards honor playwrights.
RedBone Press seeks well-written personal stories by black
lesbians on the subject of coming out while married to a man and stories from
women who are partnered with formerly married women, addressing their point
of view surrounding these issues. Journal entries, personal essays, creative
autobiographical fiction, poetry, or whatever way the words come. This book
is intended to be a resource for black women coming out of marriage and for
the women who love them. Deadline: November 3. Write to RedBone for more details:
email@example.com; P.O. Box 15571,
Washington, DC 20003.
The Revolution Starts at Home Collective, a collective of Asian and
South Asian activists and writers, women, and genderqueers including Ching-In
Chen, Dulani, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Sham-e-Ali al-Jamil, is
launching a zine to break the silence about partner abuse in activist communities.
Send submissions (with a short bio) or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
by October 15, 2005.
Kathie Bergquist and Owen Keehnen are looking for submissions for the third
annual Windy City Times Pride Literary Supplement. This
year’s theme is “Personal Best: Pushing Boundaries.” Features (up to 500 words)
will be paid $25; short form poetry: $15. Deadline: Monday, June 4. Send up
to three of your best pieces of poetry or prose to WCTLit@gmail.com.
British queer literary journal Chroma is launching its first International
Queer Writing Competition for short stories and poetry by lesbian, gay, bi,
and trans writers. Mark Doty will judge poetry; Ali Smith and Michael Arditti
will judge short stories. First prize: £300. Deadline: September 10. Details
TLE Interviews Linda Hill
TLE: Congratulations on launching your first Spinsters
Ink title — the latest in a long history of distinguished Spinsters titles.
As Spinsters Ink’s First Title Is Launched
Linda Hill: Thank you! We couldn't be more excited. It's taken us
about a year to make it all happen, but we are both pleased and excited about
the new Spinsters Ink.
TLE: Where did you find French Postcards? How did
it become the first Spinsters title in Spinsters’ latest incarnation?
LH: French Postcards was originally submitted to Bella Books
long before I had any inkling that we would be picking up Spinsters. The problem,
at the time, was that French Postcards just wasn't a traditional
Bella Book. While the story should certainly appeal to lesbians, it is not
what I would consider lesbian fiction. Certainly not lesbian romance
fiction. So I held on to it a bit and tried to figure out a way to give it
a home. Then Spinsters came along and I found the answer.
TLE: What else do you have scheduled in the near future?
LH: This week we have three Jennifer L. Jordan titles coming off press.
Jennifer writes the Kristen Ashe mystery series, which will anchor Spinsters’
mystery selections. A Safe Place to Sleep and Existing Solutions
are the first two in the series and will join Commitment to Die,
which we picked up from Beanpole Books last year. Unbearable Losses
is the fourth in the series and will also be available at the end of May.
The fifth title, Disorderly Attachments, will be out in the fall.
Jennifer is now finishing up book number six.
We couldn’t be more excited about the titles coming out this first year.
We have some award-winning authors who will be familiar to everyone, including
Sheila Ortiz-Taylor and Julia Watts. We also have several books from first-time
authors that absolutely captivated us — manuscripts that fell on my desk that
I just couldn’t quite let go of and that absolutely haunted me.
TLE: What are your goals for Spinsters? How do you see them
as being similar and different from Spinsters’ previous incarnations?
LH: Our primary goal for Spinsters is to publish quality fiction and
nonfiction by and for women. The majority of the titles in 2006 have some
lesbian content, but it’s not essential for publication.
Probably the biggest difference between now and the previous incarnations
of Spinsters is that we are referring to it as a Women’s Press instead of
a Feminist Press. A subtle distinction. We want our books to be uplifting,
entertaining, pertinent, and meaningful. While we want to champion women and
issues central to women’s lives, we also want to run a profitable business
— two goals that can sometimes be contradictory. So we may try to find some
balance and select a few titles each year that try to reach a broader audience.
The beauty of Spinsters Ink is that it allows us to publish titles that
don’t fit the traditional Bella mold — or any other mold, actually. Right
now we have no restrictions or limitations, and that’s very exciting.
TLE: How many Spinsters titles do you have scheduled for
the rest of this year? Next year?
LH: Spinsters will publish 12 titles in 2006. In some ways I find
that to be nothing short of amazing when I think of what we’ve accomplished
in one year. We plan on publishing 12 titles in 2007 as well. The market and
the manuscripts will always tend to dictate the number of books we publish.
I will always try to find a place on the schedule for a good book.
TLE: How many titles is Bella doing this year? Next year?
LH: We are trying to keep to 24 new titles a year with Bella, but
somehow that number always seems to grow. There are 30 titles scheduled in
2006. We’re trying to maintain a balance between printing new books from our
existing authors while introducing new authors as well.
TLE: How is what you’re doing with Spinsters different from
what you’ve already been doing with Bella? Why did you want a different publishing
company – or is it more of an imprint? – instead of just doing this as part
LH: We’ve kept Bella and Spinsters as two distinctly separate companies
for a number of reasons. While they share much of the same infrastructure,
they each have such different identities and we want there to be a clear distinction
between them. It also gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of personnel
and even ownership.
TLE: At the very end of 2004 Bella launched some exciting
programs to help support other publishers titles: Bella Bookshelf (which sells
books via the Bella Website directly to readers) and Bella Distribution (which
sells books to bookstores and wholesalers). How are these programs going?
Why did you set them up?
LH: The reason we set up Bella Distribution is because we kept hearing
of the struggle small presses were having with getting their books into bookstores.
We were in the unique position of having all of the relationships and infrastructure
in place; it just made sense to help out wherever we could. So far it seems
to be working out well. We’re working with nearly a dozen publishers now and
have had to slow the growth down a bit while we addressed staffing issues.
That tends to be our biggest obstacle so far — finding and keeping the appropriate
level of staffing in Tallahassee.
TLE: How is the Bella Bookshelf program affecting
sales of Bella titles?
LH: This was a bit of a fear for us, initially. We grappled with it
a lot because of course our first priority is to support our own authors.
But so far sales of Bella titles haven’t really been affected by offering
other Publisher’s titles as well. Individuals seem to be buying other books
in addition to Bella titles — not instead of them. We really just want to
get all of the books out there in the marketplace. Ultimately, it will be
the reader who decides which books and which publishers do well.
TLE: Is the new warehouse up and running? How much staff
do you have? How much does it take to run all these operations?
LH: We are completely set up in our new warehouse, yes. It’s taken
us a long, long time to hire and train the necessary staff and we just brought
the total number of employees in the warehouse to six. We are still probably
one person shy of being fully staffed.
TLE: Anything else I should be asking?
LH: No, but check back with me next year — I’m sure we’ll be doing
something else that’s new and exciting. We always seem to be discovering new
possibilities. And I seem to have a hard time saying no.
That's it for this issue.
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