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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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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
Volume 3 Number 6
My great news (and my sad news) is that I’ve been offered - and have accepted
- a fantastic position as the Director of Mslexia, a British magazine
about women and writing. It’s a superb magazine, rich and dense with information,
insight about writing, community, and yes, fermenting social change. It reminds
me a bit of Feminist Bookstore News in those respects, except that
it’s glossier and better looking than FBN ever was, and of course,
that the orientation is women writing, rather than bookselling and publishing.
It’s a publication that I wish I’d thought of myself, and I’m very pleased
to be able to work with the Mslexia staff, board of directors, and
the outgoing publisher/editor/founder to take it to its next level of development.
The sad news is that, of course, I won’t be putting my 24/7 energy into Books
To Watch Out For.
But the very good news is that Suzanne Corson, whom many of you know from
Boadecia’s Books and from her stint as Managing Editor of On Our Backs
and Executive Editor for H.A.F. Publications, will take over the administration
and management, as well as editing, for Books To Watch Out For. She’s worked
for BTWOF in the past, and occasionally for Feminist Bookstore News,
and brings a wonderful vitality to promoting and distributing our literatures,
to writing, and to getting the exact right book into each reader’s hands.
And she’s meticulous with the details (essential to subscribers) and very,
very good with the technical side. I couldn’t imagine a better fit for BTWOF,
and I wouldn’t have felt free to take the new position if she hadn’t been
available to take on BTWOF.
And me, I’ll be in my dream position of being able to read and write for
TLE & MBW as much as I want (while exploring Northern England)
- without having to spend my time managing the pesky details of running a
business. What a luxury! So I’m off to Newcastle, and Suzanne
will keep the issues rolling off the press, like this, her first. I’ll continue
to get email at BTWOF, but email Suzanne@BTWOF.com
for BTWOF business.
And check out Mslexia at www.Mslexia.co.uk.
I’ll be back with more reviews as soon as I get settled there.
Yours in spreading the words,
A Bit of Housekeeping
If your email copy of The Lesbian Edition contains little boxes, stars,
or other odd characters where apostrophes and dashes should be, you may have
a compatibility problem with your email browser. We know such problems exist
with Gmail accounts, for instance. If your eyes are tired of navigating around
such characters, consider switching to the “text” version of TLE. Just
request the switch, and instead of receiving the full issue in your mailbox,
you’ll receive a short email with a link to both the web (HTML) version of
the issue and a printable PDF. Email me at editor@BooksToWatchOutFor.com
to request the change.
To aid booksellers who must convert to the new industry standard thirteen-digit
ISBNs, BTWOF now lists the longer ISBNs with each book instead of the ten
BTWOF finds it interesting that, as of this writing, neither Amazon.com nor
BN.com lists the new ISBN13s yet, and if the longer numbers are input in search
boxes, the books in question are not found. Booksense.com, on the other hand,
and all of the independent bookstores who use booksense.com websites (including
many feminist bookstores), list both ISBN13s and ISBN10s and both sets
of numbers are searchable. Leave it to the indies to be ahead of the game!
Lesbians on the Shortlists
Much deserved recognition for some of our authors and titles. Let's hope this trend continues.
The Man Booker Prize Shortlist
The Night Watch
by Sarah Waters
was just named a finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction. The
UK’s most preeminent literary award, it aims "to reward
the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the
Republic of Ireland." The winner of this prestigious prize receives £50,000
while each shortlisted author receives £2,500. The winner will be
announced on October 10.
The complete shortlist:
Desai, Kiran The Inheritance of Loss - Hamish
Grenville, Kate The Secret River - Canongate
Hyland, M.J. Carry Me Down - Canongate
Matar, Hisham In the Country of Men
St Aubyn, Edward Mother’s Milk - Picador
Waters, Sarah The Night Watch - Virago
For more information see www.themanbookerprize.com.
The Quills, a new mainstream literary award cosponsored by Reed Business
Information (publishers of Books in Print and hosts of the yearly Book
Expo America convention), NBC, and MSNBC, was designed so that readers can select
their favorite books each year. More than 6,000 booksellers
and librarians nominate books in nineteen categories (including graphic novels
and romance, genres often excluded from literary awards). The public then votes on the finalists.
Two books by out lesbian authors are among those finalists:
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
(Graphic Novel category) and
New and Selected Poems, Volume Two by
(Poetry). Both of these books are also eligible for the overall Book of the
Year Award. You can vote for your favorites - and help increase the visibility
of lesbian literature - by voting online at quillsvote.com,
now through September 30. (To see the complete list of nominees, check out
More About Alison Bechdel and Fun Home
Publisher Houghton Mifflin reports Alison’s brilliant Fun Home is
now in its fifth printing since its release less than four months ago, bringing
the total number of copies in print to more than 51,000.
Last month the New York Times ran a story about Alison's return to
her family’s "fun home" for the first time in twenty years:
Podcast interview on The Bat Segundo Show with Edward Champion:
Outdoor Adventures and Sports
Lucy Jane Bledsoe (Lambda Literary Award
nominated This Wild Silence and Sweat: Stories and a Novella,
ALA-Award winning Working Parts) has contributed essays about her
outdoor adventures to anthologies such as
Solo: On Her Own Adventure, and The Unsavvy Traveler.
Her new book, The Ice Cave: A Woman’s Adventures from the Mohave to the
Antarctic, takes these tales, and others, to a new level. As a collection,
the stories explore
grace, spirit, will, fear, and the wilderness. From being caught alone in
a sudden winter storm to a life-changing trip to Antarctica, from looking
for mountain lions near her Berkeley home to encountering grizzly bears while
backpacking, with modes of transportation from a kayak to a replica of a
nineteenth-century schooner, from snow shoes to her own two feet, Lucy travels
all over the world, and within herself, to gain a clearer understanding of
her relationship to wilderness.
Animals figure prominently - birds, seals, sea lions,
penguins, whales, bears, coyotes, and deer - and she shares both the scientific
thoughts about humans vs other mammals and her own musings:
"Humans just aren’t made for Antarctic survival. We have no fur and very
little fat compared to seals. We’re relatively poor swimmers, and we can’t
go more than a few seconds without air. Really, compared to these seals, compared
to so many animals, we humans are poorly endowed for life anywhere.
We get by on our wits, but our wits are so deeply flawed. For every brilliant
solution we find, there’s a matching bit of havoc we wreak. I wonder if we
are just a passing species, a mere moment in the history of life on Earth."
Lucy’s prose also beautifully describes the outdoors she sees on her journeys
but the true gift - and the difference between this and other "nature writing"
- is how her evocative writing allows us in to her body, to truly sense the
adrenaline, the endorphins, the fear, the awe, the discomfort, and the wonder.
Highly recommended. University of Wisconsin Press/Terrace Books, $19.95 hardcover,
Weekends in the seventies usually found me playing tennis, watching tennis,
or both. Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Chris Evert, and Martina Navratilova
were my favorites. As could be predicted, I loved
The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary
Friendship by Johnette
Howard. It was an entertaining and fond memory-stoking
read. But the author also positions their stories, both individually
and collectively, as part of the larger story of women’s tennis in the seventies
and eighties: battles for prize and expense money, media coverage, union representation,
scholarships, sponsorships; the establishment of the Virginia Slims and World
Team Tennis tours, the "Battle of the Sexes" match between Billie Jean King
and Bobby Riggs; and media coverage of women athletes. Howard then goes
one step further and links it all to other social change movements of
the time: women’s liberation, gay rights, anti-(then Vietnam) war, abortion
rights, and the impact of the Iron Curtain. She provides astute analysis of
the contrasting media presentations of Chris (pretty, feminine, America’s
sweetheart) and Martina (foreigner, extravagant, emotional, mannish). Lesbianism
on the tour, both actual and perceived, is examined.
She discusses the athletic
achievements of these two women, individually and as rivals, and how their
rivalry is often compared to that between boxers Joe Frazier and Muhammad
Ali, although they fought against each other just three times.
And Howard allows us a glimpse into the lives and minds of these phenomenal
athletes: their families of origin, their romantic partnerships, their training
and playing philosophies, and their friendship with each other. Like any good
sports memoir, the appendix includes a table showing each woman’s yearly statistics
as well as the complete records from their eighty matches. If you enjoy reading
about tennis, women’s sports in general, women’s rights struggles, prominent
lesbians, and/or women’s friendships, grab a copy of The Rivals. Broadway
Books, $14, 9780767918855, with sixteen pages of photographs.
Carol mentions that Grayson by Lynne Cox is a "definite read" for those
of you who enjoyed Swimming to Antarctica. Early one morning when Lynne was 17, her
usually quiet training swim was
interrupted by a visitor - a baby gray whale.
A friend who ran the local bait shop explained to her
that the baby was following her, so she couldn’t swim to shore - the 18-foot-long whale
wouldn’t be able to turn around. Though fatigued, she kept swimming,
coaxing Grayson farther out to sea, in hopes that his mother would
find them... It’s about the author’s relationships with the locals who watch
her swim each morning as much as it is about whales - and determination. Carol
says that it wasn’t always clear if Lynne were helping the whales or
the whales were helping her. Either way, it’s a delightful read. Random
House, $16.95 hardcover, 9780307264541.
Lesbian Lives / Lesbian Lives?
I’m not sure when or where I first heard that Harper Lee is a lesbian, but
it was a factoid I glommed onto early in my coming out. As with many people,
To Kill a Mockingbird was a book that moved me as a resistant-to-the-canon
teenager and again when I read it as an adult. It was included
in the Publishing Triangle’s list of the
top 100 gay and lesbian books. With Harper Lee’s understanding
about outsiders, it was not hard to believe that she’s a member of our tribe.
But no confirmation of that "fact" will be found in
Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. In his introduction, author
Charles J. Shields does address the issue, mentioning he is often asked if Lee is gay.
"I cannot say if she is homosexual (she
was friends with [Truman] Capote and other openly gay people), heterosexual
(she and her literary agent, Maurice Crain, were devoted to each other), or
just not open to long-term romantic relationships." Shields later quotes Capote
saying, shortly after Lee’s novel was published, "I have good reason to believe
that she is unhappily in love with a man impossible to marry," presumably
meaning Crain. Who knows if that were true, though Nelle Harper
Lee was close to both Crain and his wife, Annie Laurie Williams, Lee's film agent.
I am all for responsible scholarship when discussing the sexuality of other
people, so the care he took with this topic in those two instances didn’t
bother me. But I did find it annoying that Shields expressed surprise about
Lee’s familiarity with The Well of Loneliness¸ which she referenced
in a piece she wrote for her college humor magazine. He writes, "Nelle was
surprisingly knowledgeable about the topic of same-sex love, especially for
a young woman raised in the south more than sixty years ago." Really, if an intelligent, resourceful, literate
young woman like Nelle was at all interested or curious about
lesbianism, it wouldn’t have been difficult for her to find The
Well of Loneliness.
Issues of sexuality aside, I did enjoy learning more about the witty, private
woman who wrote what Shields says is the best-selling novel in the twentieth-century.
And it was fun reading snippets from her college-era humor and political writing. Lee, eighty, would
not speak with the author, so the book is not as thorough as it might have
been if she had given her blessing. However Charles Shields did extensive research
and conducted many interviews, and his industriousness shows. Overall, even
though I was hungry to learn more about the woman behind To Kill a Mockingbird,
there’s a part of me that respects her desire for privacy and senses her glee
that her secrets are still her own. Henry Holt, $25, 9780805079197.
Read about Harper Lee’s first time in print
in many years:
In contrast to Charles Shields’ Mockingbird, the lesbian tendencies
of Alli Sheldon were explicitly addressed by both biographer and subject in
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips.
Though she was married twice and probably would never have entertained the
thought of leaving her longtime second husband, Ting Sheldon, her passionate,
though unconsummated relationships and desires were for women. As she wrote
to author Joanna Russ:
"It occurred to me to wonder if I ever told you in so many words that I too
am a Lesbian - or at least as close as one can come to being one never having
had a successful love with any of the women I’ve loved, and being now too
old and ugly to dare try. Oh, had 65 years been different! I like some
men a lot, but from the start, before I knew anything, it was always girls
and women who lit me up."
Her sexuality - and her complicated thoughts and feelings about women as
beings - were rich fodder for her science fiction writing under the pseudonym
James Tiptree, Jr. Yes, those science fiction awards we tell you about each
year were named for Alice B. Sheldon.
This biography is dense with back story, analysis of Tiptree’s writing and
how it was informed by Sheldon’s life, and most interestingly, excerpts from
Sheldon’s journals. What a gift to read her own thoughts about it all. The
first quarter of the book was mostly about her mother, a larger-than-life
figure in both the Chicago society pages and her daughter’s
life. As a
child, Alice explored Africa several times with her parents and illustrated
two children’s books about the continent written by her mother. She thought
she might become an artist, but in school she became interested in psychology.
During World War II, she joined the precursor to the Women’s Army
Auxiliary Corps, wrote about her experiences (Mademoiselle
published one of her pieces), and became interested in photo interpretation.
After V-E Day, she was sent to Germany where she met her second husband, Ting.
Later both Alli and Ting worked for the CIA. Alli came to science fiction
writing quite late, submitting her first story in 1967 at age fifty-two. Her
work with the CIA became part of Tiptree’s past, helping to sell the idea
that Tiptree was male, since few women were CIA operatives at that time.
As Tiptree, Alli had strong friendships via post with Ursula LeGuin, Joanna
Russ, and Vonda McIntryre among others. In those letters, Tiptree was quite
flirtatious, allowing her feelings for these women to flow on paper in ways
she had never allowed herself in real life. She also explored her feminist
leanings as well as her less flattering thoughts about women. Shortly after
her mother died in 1976, Alli began to come out as James Tiptree, Jr. Phillips
does a fine job showing how this identity shift had a huge impact on Sheldon’s
life. Alli even wrote in her journal that she wanted to, at last, try lesbian
sex: "I shall start to mix it with women’s groups, looking to actualize this.
I really believe I shall." But apparently she never did. She did continue
to write, to maintain her friendships with other writers, and in 1987, she
carried out a suicide pact made with Ting.
Though I’m not much of a science fiction fan, I was captivated by
Alli Sheldon’s story, the intricacies and
complexity of her thoughts and feelings, and the reactions of others to her
work as Tiptree. I recommend this biography for anyone interested in science
fiction, feminism, women’s writing, lesbian lives, and psychology. St. Martin’s
Press, $27.95, 9780312203856.
Anna Linzie thoroughly examines The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
by Gertrude Stein and The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book and What is
Remembered, both by Alice Toklas, in The True Story of Alice B. Toklas:
A Study of Three Autobiographies. She argues that The Autobiography
should not be viewed as the primary text about Toklas and that all three should
be examined together, without granting any of them more
weight. Linzie also puts Toklas very much on center stage here and asserts
(as others have) that Toklas was an integral part of Stein’s literary legacy.
She builds her case convincingly; this is a must read for Toklas and
Stein afficionados. University of Iowa Press, $34.95, 9780877459859.
Want to have a baby? Check out The New Essential Guide to Lesbian
Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth by Stephanie Brill. An update
of the guide published in 1999 by Brill and then co-author Kim Toevs, this
volume explains the latest information on insemination and fertility technology
- including that of special interest to women over forty who wish to get pregnant.
Brill (also author of The Queer
Parent's Primer: A Lesbian and Gay Families' Guide to Navigating Through a
Straight World) knows her stuff - she cofounded Maia Midwifery and Preconception
Services, has helped more than 500 babies be born, and is parent
to four children. And she definitely has her pulse on the changing familial
and gender structures in our community - hers may be the first non-science
fiction book to use both male and female pronouns when referring to pregnant
persons, in order to be inclusive of the increasing number of trans men who
choose to get pregnant. Alyson, $21.95 paper, 9781555839406.
The articles from the first
two editions of the new Journal of GLBT Family Studies are now available in book form: An Introduction
to GLBT Family Studies, edited by journal editor Jerry J. Bigner,
PhD. Among the selections are: Gianna E. Isreal’s paper on transgender persons
and their families; a look at siblings and sexual orientation
by Esther D. Rothblum, Kimberly F. Balsam, Sondra E. Solomon, and Rhonda J.
Factor; research on queer youth and their families by Anthony R. D’Augelli;
and Esther D. Rothblum on same-sex marriage. As with many of the Haworth journals-turned-into-books,
the target audience for this book is health care and social science professionals,
so the jargon of those worlds is used throughout. That being said, the article
on communication issues in long-term lesbian relationships by Colleen M. Connolly
and Mary Kay Sicola is interesting, useful, and accessible. Haworth
Press, $24.95 paper, 9780789024978.
Family structures are also discussed in Gloria
Wekker’s The Politics of Passion: Women’s Sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese
Diaspora. She introduces readers to mati work, where working-class
women take female, and sometimes male, sexual partners, but reject conventional
marriage. The emphasis for these women is their sexual pleasure; the gender
of their partner(s) is less important, though for several women Wekker interviewed,
sex with women is particularly enjoyed. "Sex with women was felt to be inherently
good, healthy, joyous, and fun: sport" (emphasis Wekker’s). Columbia University Press, $27.50 paper,
Reading Origami Striptease by Peggy Munson reminded me of the first
time I read Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body - my then-partner was "treated"
to my reading aloud from the
book because I was so moved by its language. Like then, I wanted to read passages
of Origami to everyone, wanted to share the rhythm of
the prose and the fierceness of the imagery. With Origami, even more so than Body,
there were times when it wasn’t quite clear what was going
on, but Munson's writing kept me glued to the page, engrossed in the story of the
narrator-writer and her relationships with various tranny bois and butches.
“I gave them more than my commitment could have given them. I made us three-dimensional
with printer-planed and ballpoint-flattened words. I knew that paper language
was the anthill of the human race - the thing that some of us woke up compelled
to build upon, and others burned, so it could grow like once-charred prairie
grass. Each time I slid beneath my desk to write, I did an origami striptease.
First my paper stripped, and then the pen. And then, collapsed, and naked,
I imploded into both of them.”
The way the story unfolds reminds me of "psychedelic lit" from the sixties
and seventies, but in Munson’s novel, high fevers, poison, and chronic illness
are the culprits of the hazy narrative rather than drugs. Central to the story
is the writer’s relationship with Jack – the sex, the passion, the love, the
illnesses, the intensity.
"Jack fucked the way a kid swings in a swing when
he has ten minutes until the end of recess and he really thinks that he can
kick the clouds…We weren’t confined by the parameters of what a body was expected
to provide. I wasn’t sure if I could differentiate between the viscera and
Origami Striptease is a completely queer trip into an anti-wonderland
filled with ice hotels and Zamboni machines, characters named the Sludge and
the Pharoah, and more than one kind of heart condition.
Munson is a kick-ass novelist to watch out for. She’s been writing hot erotica
for years, with her stories included in every edition of Best Lesbian Erotica
since 1998. She’s also the editor of the anthology Stricken: Voices from
the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Origami Striptease
was co-winner of the first Project QueerLit contest. (We’ll review the other
winner, Supervillainz, next issue). I look forward to reading what
comes out of Munson’s feverish pen next. Suspect Thoughts Press, $16.95, 9780976341192.
Arden Benbow, the lesbian Latina poet heroine from the unfortunately out
of print Faultline and Southbound, returns in OutRageous
by Sheila Ortiz-Taylor. Arden’s beloved Alice and their six children are back in California for most of OutRageous, which finds Arden and her
best friend Topaz Wilson in Florida to find a home for the large family. Arden,
recently graduated from UCLA, has accepted a tenure-track position at a small
college near Tallahassee. It’s the early seventies, and Midway, Florida
isn’t quite prepared for an interracial lesbian family. The administration
at the college in particular is quite out of sorts about it all and does its
best to sabotage Arden’s job. But she gamely takes what they dish out, including
a last-minute summer school assignment to teach poetry - to the men’s rugby
Along with academic maneuvering and renovations on the old house
she bought, Arden takes a part-time job
at a lesbian press, reminiscent of Naiad, Ortiz-Taylor’s original publisher.
(And yes, Boss Granny bears more than a fond passing resemblance to Barbara
Like the first two books in the series, OutRageous is
filled with lively characters, social justice activism, and the sense that
their family is just fine the way it is, thank you very much. Though this
new title isn’t quite as laugh-out-loud funny as the first two, it does provide
some humor as well as a lot of heart. Spinsters Ink, $14.95, 9781883523725.
Sheila Ortiz-Taylor and her partner Joy Lewis provided yet another
example of the personal being political when they, with the assistance of
the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued a retirement home in Florida
for denying them housing due to their sexual orientation. An amicable settlement
was reached in 2004. More information can be found at the NCLR website, www.nclrights.org.
New in paper:
Bodies in Motion, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Harper, $13.95, 9780060781194.
the Sham: The Irish Lesbian & Gay Organization’s Battle to March in New
York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Anne Maguire tells of her ten year involvement
with ILGO. From ILGO’s march
with then-mayor David Dinkins in 1991 to the counter-marches protesting ILGO’s exclusion
in subsequent parades, she provides
background, context, and lively personalities to expose ongoing discrimination in our community. Street Level Press, $15, 9780972929639.
Indie film lovers know it is rare to find
reviews and analysis of the films they love and the people who make them.
Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews by Gary M. Kramer
should have been cause for celebration, with its 240 pages full of profiles,
reviews, and interviews. But lesbian indie fans will undoubtedly be disappointed. Kramer
does profile dyke director Rose Troche, though
not about Go Fish, which he "missed," but about her more recent,
though not particularly queer, The Safety of Objects. Call me cranky,
but what reviewer of indie queer films could have missed Go Fish,
or at least, not have made sure to catch it later?
The author is particularly fond of Kissing
Jessica Stein and interviews its
straight screenwriter-stars, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen. Lesbian
comedian/actor Georgia Ragsdale is profiled, and reviews of Monster, Gaudi Afternoon,
and Prey for Rock and Roll are included. But where are Better Than
Chocolate, High Art, All Over Me, The Watermelon Woman,
just to name a few, and why didn’t he ever see Go Fish?!
The Queer Encylopedia of Queer Film and Television,
Kramer's book has valuable
work in it, but the misnomer of a title rankles me. Call it Independent
Gay Male Cinema and celebrate that - there really are some great reviews
in here. But calling it “queer” with less than ten percent lesbian-interest
films is insulting. Harrington Park Press/Southern Tier Editions, $22.95 paper,
In the eighties and nineties, books about recovery
from sexual abuse were published frequently. Though the publishing tide has
slowed some, unfortunately the incidence of abuse has not. Alyssa Asteya,
a dyke author and photographer, has just published The Healing Truth, a simple inspirational
book with evocative black and white photographs.
While I liked the content and think the workbook page in the back is
a nice touch, future printings of this book would benefit from a resource
guide. Lulu.com, $11.95, 9781411683440.
Queer literary pundits will undoubtedly quip that 2006 is the year of
graphic novels about college-aged women whose fathers die. But with that,
the plot similarities between Alison Bechdel’s memoir Fun Home and
Jokes and the Unconscious end. Jokes, with text by Daphne Gottlieb
and art work by Diane DiMassa, is loosely based on the death of Daphne’s father
when she was in college. The fictional structure gives the authors
additional creative latitude and allows them to create a moving yet macabre
work filled with jokes about death and dying. Sasha, nineteen, loses her doctor
father to cancer and takes a job at the hospital where he both worked and
died. In between her paperwork, she looks up the medical records of people she knows. Secrets, sexual exploration, growing pains,
and superstitions abound.
Gottlieb is author of the poetry collections Final
Girl, Pelt, Why Things Burn, and editor of this year’s Homewrecker:
An Adultery Reader. DiMassa is the creatrix of the edgy Hothead
Paisan comics. Alison Bechdel calls Jokes and the Unconscious, the first
graphic novel for both DiMassa and Gottlieb, "As vivid and surreal as grief
itself." Daniel Handler (more popularly known as Lemony
Snicket) says it’s a "mad scientist’s hybrid of a book." I’d add that it grabs
your heart in a vise grip, loosening occasionally to allow a snicker to pass
through your lungs. Brace yourself and dive in; it’s definitely worth the
ride. Cleis Press, $17.95, 9781573442503.
Read an interview with the authors here:
Young folks have been enjoying manga, Japanese-style comics in book
form for many years, and now lesbians get this graphic novel treatment with yuri
manga. AniLesboCon (ALC) Publishing is, at this time, the only publisher
of yuri manga outside of Japan.
Manga books are often read from right to left, with the cover art on what
is traditionally (for English-language books published in the U.S.) thought
of as the back cover. The flow of the text balloons in the comics also is
the reverse of what we usually see in, say, the Dykes To Watch Out For
series, so it can take some time to get used to. One example is Eriko Tadeno’s
Works, a collection of four yuri manga stories, including one about
a romance in an office and another about two actors in a play. The art work
in this volume is quite explicit and is marked as “Mature Content.” It’s a
good introduction to the genre and includes some interesting notes from the
text translator in the back. ALC, $11.95, 9780975916049.
To see a variety of yuri manga styles, check out ALC’s anthology
Yuri Monogatari 3, featuring the work of seven contributors. Stories
include a couple with lesbian bed death who consider a ménage a trois with
alien beings, three young women involved in an unrequited love triangle, and
a cute depiction of the Yuricon 05 convention. This
volume is also rated “MC” for Mature Content, but unlike Works, it
has been laid out in a left to right orientation. ALC, $14.95, 9780975916032.
Indestructible by Cristy C. Road is more novel than graphic, but the
illustrations that are in this slim volume are full of attitude,
vivid expressions, and adolescent punk-rock fashion sense. The story follows
Cristy, a Cuban teenager from Miami, as she explores gender, class, friendships
with both boys and girls, her sexual identity, Latina culture, masturbation,
punk rock music, dating, and most eloquently, self-expression.
"I learned that while we’re all socialized to tamper with the well-being
of those around us, being an us is not always what its cracked up to be. Growing
up, we entertain thoughts of solidarity and compassion, but a lack of constructiveness
in most teenagers is in most cases, justifiable. We’re judged poorly by those
around us because we’re tarnished in their vision - loud, poor, horny, queer,
outrageous. But while the banter on what bitches we are rustles in memoirs
and recollection, we learn to grow from this, and insults fade into ashes....
We remember how every day of our adolescent
life was withered with dismay, yet agitated with a warped rendition of hopefulness."
Forgive the grammatical and typesetting errors and get caught up in Cristy's
world as she finds the way to herself. Microcosm
Publishing (distributed by AK Press), $6, 9780977055777.
Young gay boys finding love get the PG-rated graphic novel
treatment in Tough Love: High School Confidential by Abby Denson. The
requisite straight female best friend is on hand, as are examples of both
understanding parents and, um, less so. Tough Love addresses
gay bashing and the suicidality of some gay teens, right alongside the wonder of young love. Manic D
Press, $12.95, 9781933149080.
Not lesbian but noteworthy is The Adventures of Carrie Giver, vol. 1,
no. 1: The Cost of Caring by Theresa Funiciello, Diane Pagen, et al. Carrie
Miller is a top level official at the Department of Labor, lobbying Congress
to implement a Caregiver Tax Credit and educating everyone about the true
worth of the unpaid work that women do at home. She is also gifted with ESP
and the ability to astral project herself, which she utilizes in her Carrie
Giver superhero guise. The publisher is TR Rose Associates, public policy
consultants who use this comic strip as one vehicle to bring visibility to
social and political issues such as sexual harassment, domestic violence,
and unpaid labor. TR Rose Associates, $3.95, 9780977724604, www.trroseassociates.com.
Friday Night Reads
Promising Hearts by Radclyffe is the sequel to her historical romance Innocent Hearts.
In the earlier book, Kate Beecher
moves with her family from Boston to the Montana frontier. There she meets
rancher Jessie Forbes and Jessie’s friend, Mae, the local madam. Promising
Hearts continues the story of Jessie and Kate’s relationship and Mae’s adventures in the
saloon. New to the story is Vance Phelps,
a female surgeon from Philadelphia. She passed as male to enlist in the War
Between the States and lost an arm in one of the final battles.
Wanting a change, she travels
to Montana to work with a doctor there. One of her first
assignments is to do checkups on Mae and her girls.
In addition to the rewarding love stories, spicy sex scenes, and a bit of
adventure, Promising Hearts addresses gender roles, class issues,
and provides some medical history. You needn't read Innocent
Hearts first - Radclyffe provides all the back story needed to enjoy its
sequel. Promising Hearts is a fun read with a decidedly feminist consciousness
and page-turning momentum. Bold Strokes, $15.95, 9781933110448.
The travel and hospitality industry are the backdrop for KG MacGregor’s Just
This Once. Paula is a night-shift manager at an upscale hotel in Orlando
where Wynne, a Baltimore-based marketing manager for a travel agency,
stays during frequent visits to her company’s home office. A strategic free
upgrade for Wynne to the concierge floor leads to flirtatious encounters on
that floor’s lounge, dinners offsite, and email exchanges when Wynne is back
in Baltimore. Both women, devoted to their careers and their families of origin,
find in each other camaraderie, play, relaxation, and passion. But an obligation
in Baltimore threatens to keep them apart... What I especially appreciate about
this book is that these women have lives, and they are unapologetic
about how important their careers are to them. They have friends and families
they are close to. Each is confronted with difficult choices that affect both
their work and personal lives, and they weigh the options with intention.
Though their romance is a welcome addition for each of them, they don’t rely
on it for validation as human beings. Can you say amen?! Bella Books, $13.95,
I enjoyed Kim Baldwin’s Whitewater Rendezvous, a romantic adventure
tale set in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As in her previous book Force
of Nature, Baldwin has a great way of bringing the outdoors to life -
the smell of a bear, the sounds of the birds, the chill of the water, and
the wonder of a herd of caribou are just a few of the spectacles we are treated
to. Whitewater Rendezvous is about a group of women from Chicago who
work in broadcasting and their kayak trip down a river in Alaska. Adventure
guide Chaz Herrick is surprised to find herself attracted to a VP of a CNN-type
network, Megan Maxwell. Workaholic Megan, reluctantly coaxed on this trip
by her sister “Broads in Broadcasting” friends, is alarmed to find that Chaz
looks just like the ex who betrayed her so horribly. The water, mountains,
a few misadventures, and sweetly meddling friends bring together these two
women who have done without love and passion for too long. I also appreciated
the author’s inclusion of the "Leave No Trace" policy and in the opening notes,
several urls for folks wanting more information about this beautiful area
of the world. Bold Strokes, $15.95, 9781933110387.
I read Beneath the Willow by Kenna White
as the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 strikes approached and wondered that
there aren’t more lesbian-themed books that touch on that event. Perhaps not
enough time has passed. Time passing and healing from tragedy are among the
themes of White’s novel. Paris DeMont is a cardiologist in Manhattan. Her
practice has become her life since her partner of eight years, a paramedic,
died on September 11, 2001. Memories of her pre-Gabrielle life in Missouri
come to Paris when she visits the farmhouse she inherited from her grandmother.
Once there, she renews a friendship with Sloan McKinley, her childhood best
friend. When they meet again, there’s definitely a there there, but Paris’s
grief only allows Sloan to get so close... A sweet story of healing. Bella Books,
Behind the Pine Curtain by Gerri Hill
is another “going back home” tale: Jaqueline Keys was literally run out of
town by her parents when they learn she’s gay, and she doesn’t return until
fifteen years later. Now a successful author living in Los Angeles, she’s
persuaded to return to her hometown by her father’s lawyer, after her father’s
death. Curiosity leads her back there and reuniting with her childhood best
friend - and first crush - Kay, keeps Jackie there longer than she intended.
Gerri Hill, author of Artist’s Dream, Gulf Breeze, The Killing
Room, and several others, keeps getting better and better. Her storytelling
skills improve with each book, and the many secondary characters in Behind
the Pine Curtain serve the plot well. Healing is a theme in this book,
as in Beneath the Willow, but you’ll find more mature writing and story
crafting in Behind the Pine Curtain. Bella Books, $13.95, 9781594930577.
I found it a bit hard to take Combust the Sun: A Richfield & Rivers Mystery by
Andrews and Austin seriously, but I enjoyed it anyway. There are truly
funny bits, and the mystery kept me second-guessing myself, even though I thought
I had it all figured out early on. Teague Richfield is a screenwriter in Hollywood.
Callie Rivers is a friend of Teague's mother back in Texas, and is an astrologer who
also happens to be psychic - and gorgeous, to boot. Throw in some Egyptology, Hollywood
egos, bad guys, and sexual tension, and you've got an enjoyable, if slightly over-the-top
lesbian mystery. One cool thing: our protagonists are in their forties rather than the usual
mid-twenties to early-thirties; that's certainly refreshing for those of us of a certain age.
Bold Strokes Books, $15.95, 9781933110523.
Don’t let the opening chapter of A Taste of Sin by Fiona Zedde put
you off - this book is all about lesbians. Desiree Nichols, dyke since
high school, did spend two years with Ruben, a queer boy she met in college,
and in the opening chapter of the latest book by the author of last year’s
Bliss, Ruben dumps Dez. As with many breakups, Dez is surprised, confused,
and hurt, but once she arrives home in Miami to check on her mother’s health,
she’s all about the women.
And does she ever hook up - with many women. This book has too
much non-sexual content to classify it as Clit Lit and way too much sex for
it to be a typical Friday Night Read. But A Taste of Sin has both romance
and very hot sex in abundance, along with family drama, social consciousness,
and long-held friendships.
Once Dez returns to Miami, she looks up her friends including
Rémi Bouchard. Rémi and Dez bonded over being the only two out black dykes
in middle school. Though they never dated each other, they often engaged in
threesomes together, a practice they resume when Dez comes home. Private sex
parties, polyamory, and quick hookups abound in Dez’s circle.
Then Dez meets Victoria, her twin brother’s best friend, owner of the local
women’s bookstore and café...
A welcome aspect of Dez’s complex character is her consciousness
about independent businesses, including bookstores, versus chains. We also
learn of her close relationship with her deceased Aunt Paulette, a dyke who
left Dez a bequest large enough that she doesn’t need to work. Dez’s mother,
Claudia, and twin Derrick also feature prominently in the story. Kudos to Kensington
for bringing out another novel filled with dykes
of color, living and loving boldly, under the talented pen of Ms. Zedde. Kensington,
Another book that’s a bit racier than most romances is Private Dancer
by T.J. Vertigo. With a strip club setting reminiscent of Therese Szymanski’s
Motor City Thrillers featuring Brett Higgins, Private Dancer too focuses
on a female bouncer-turned-club-owner who falls for one of her employees.
There’s no mystery here, though, other than how long it will take club owner Reece and
Faith to consummate their attraction for one another. The chase is the story
here, aided by Cori, “a freaky little dancer with a heart of gold,” who is
one of the few who have been able to penetrate Reece’s reserved being. While
it would have been interesting to learn more about what led Faith from her
privileged upbringing to her new life in a “gentleman’s club,” the characters
in this quick read are fun. (I wonder if the name of the main character is
an homage to Szymanski, who goes by the nickname Reese?) Intaglio Publications,
Forthcoming Titles from Cleis Press
From classic lesbian lit to the twelfth edition
of their annual lesbian erotica anthology, Cleis Press continues its tradition
of eclectic offerings this fall. Cleis, who celebrated their twenty-fifth
anniversary in 2005, is still run by its founders, Felice Newman and Frédérique
The Illusionist, by Françoise Mallet-Joris,
introduction by Terry Castle, $14.95, 9781573442534, 264pp. First published
in 1951 when the author was twenty, Le Rempart des Beguines (The
Ilusionist in English) is the erotic story of a fifteen-year-old girl
who has an affair with her father’s thirty-five-year-old mistress.
Dark Angels: Lesbian Vampire Erotica, edited by Pam Keesey, $13.95,
9781573442527, 160 pp. A reprint of the mid-nineties
anthology which features both contemporary stories and older classics like
Cora Linn Daniels’ "The Vampire" from 1891.
Best Lesbian Erotica 2007, edited by Tristan Taormino, selected and
introduced by Emma Donoghue, $14.95, 9781573442596,
248pp. The Grande Dame of lesbian erotica anthologies is back with stories
by Peggy Munson, Catherine Lundoff, Andrea Miller, and many more.
Best Women’s Erotica 2007, edited by Violet Blue, $14.95, 9781573442589,
248pp. The latest edition of the yearly
anthology showcasing erotica where women’s (lesbian, straight, bi, queer)
desires are central.
Best Lesbian Romance, edited by Angela Brown, $14.95,
9781573442619, 248pp. "Girl gets girl" in a
new collection with stories by Cheyenne Blue, Lisa Figueroa, Lynne Jamneck,
Annika Jones, and many others.
Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black
Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation by Natalie Hopkinson and Natalie
Y. Moore, $14.95, 9781573442572, 264pp. This book examines the “complicated
relationship between women and hip hop” and presents a “multifaceted picture
of American black men now,” including gay black men.
For more about Cleis Press, visit their website: www.cleispress.com.
Lesbians Out on the Web
Read an excellent interview with Jane Rule, who Katherine V. Forrest calls
"the most significant lesbian writer of the twentieth century": www.hillgirlz.com/Jane_Rule_12.html.
The New York Times is running excerpts from the journals of Susan
Sontag, who died in late 2004 at the age of 71:
Kathie Bergquist, columnist for More Books for Women, bookseller at
Women and Children First, and co-author of A Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian
Chicago, has donned yet another hat: book editor at CHILL¸
a new lesbian webzine. Check out her first column, "Reading is Sexy":
There’s also an interview with Kathie and her co-author, Robert McDonald,
about their new book in the Chicago Sun-Times:
AfterEllen.com recently profiled authors Jeanette Winterson
and Rose Beecham, aka Jennifer Fulton
and reviewed some books on queers in Hollywood
I was a bit surprised that the latter article’s author, Rose Yndigoyen, didn’t mention
Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film by Andrea Weiss, The Ultimate
Guide to Lesbian & Gay Film & Video by Jenni Olson, or Boze Hadleigh’s
Hollywood Lesbians. Even though those books are out
of print, they are more lesbian-centric than the titles she did discuss
(Queer Images, The Celluloid Closet, Behind the Screen,
and The Prime Time Closet). Bemoaning the fact that the more lesbian-centered
titles are out of print seems in keeping with AfterEllen.com’s mission
to promote lesbian visibility in popular culture. That aside, I’m happy that
this popular website is continuing to cover lesbian authors and books.
Happenings - Future and Past
Fire This Time
The UK will see its first celebration of queer Black and Asian artists and writers this October with Fire This Time: Queering Black History Month. Planned is a day of workshops, films, writing, and visual arts, followed by an evening of performances, spoken word, and deejays. It will be held at the Women’s Library in London on October 21 and is presented by Chroma, the UK’s queer literary journal and rukus!, a Black LGBTQ organization. See
www.firethistime.co.uk for more information.
This past August, three of our community’s writers - Hanne Blank, Jewelle
Gomez, and Amber Hollibaugh - were keynote speakers at Femme 2006, the first
national conference "by femmes, about femmes, and for femmes and
their allies." More than five hundred
femmes and allies congregated in San Francisco to discuss feminism, identity, race, class,
surviving abuse, fat politics, spirituality, building community, relationships
with butches and FTMs, visibility, discrimination, bisexuality, polyamory,
desire, performance, art, aging, history, and much more. It was an empowering,
enlightening weekend with many ideas to digest. Other authors who participated
in the conference include Laura A. Harris, Dossie Easton, and Shar Rednour.
Hanne Blank (Unruly Appetites, Big Big Love, and the forthcoming
Virgin: The Untouched History; editor
of Zaftig: Well-Rounded Erotica and other anthologies) called her speech
"Tits of Clay: Genderphilia and Changing the World, One Lipstick at a Time."
She defined genderphile as "someone who loves gender. Someone who is attracted
to the what and the how and the when and the fun of how people create and
remix and love and live gender." Hanne encouraged people not to accept narrow
views of what a femme is or can be: "Femme tells you
to look for the color red; it doesn’t tell you what shade of red you’ll find."
She also challenged the notion that femmes are assimilationist, conforming
to straight societal gender roles, or that we pass. Instead, she opines that
"Femme is subversive because it breaks the gender rules and expectations of
the larger culture in ways that are far more elemental and wide-ranging than
the fairly limited arena of what happens in anybody’s love life." We are entirely
conscious about our femininity and how we express it. We refuse to accept
that femme equals inferior and refuse to believe that "intelligence isn’t
congruent with a liking of nail polish."
Jewelle Gomez, speaking on "Feminism and Femme Radicalism," reminded
us that we have to commit to feminist political work, that there is still
much work to do, and that some of the work is internal. She infused her speech with art,
reading poetry by Chrystos, Cheryl Clarke, and Elana Dykewomon. Jewelle encouraged us to
look at our righteous anger; she read numerous statistics to quantify women’s
invisibility and the discrimination we face, but also advised us to look for
ways "we can express the anger, experience it, and point it at the people
who have the power - we shouldn’t point it at each other." Lookism and stereotyping
are alive and well in the LGBT community, but "It is not a surprise that most
of us cannot shed centuries of oppression in a couple of years." We need to
give each other room to make mistakes. Jewelle cited several examples of women
who have taken their righteous anger and turned that energy around to create
real power, such as Nancy Bereano who established Firebrand Books to publish
feminist books. (Firebrand published Jewelle's The Gilda Stories, Don’t Explain,
Oral Tradition, and my favorite, Forty-Three Septembers.)
Amber Hollibaugh (My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way
Home) spoke about "The Price for Who We Are: Femme Histories, Femme Realities,
Femme Futures." She talked about attempting suicide when she "couldn’t
figure out how to be in a political movement that I couldn’t live without
but who wouldn’t accept me as I am." She has a lot of pain because her own
"erotic identity was seen as a betrayal of the movement I was helping to create."
And she names the elephant in
the middle of the room: the mainstream LGBTQ movement tries to de-emphasize
our community’s sexuality in reaction to those in straight society who despise
us because of it. And when femmes and butches (and leather folks, and kinky
people, and transgenders) show up, we are visible, our desire is visible,
our sex is visible. So we are often ridiculed, ostracized, not included in those glossy magazine ads.
She says, "We can’t give
away our bodies to the right." Amen.
The Femme 2006 steering committee worked using the feminist model of consensus and discussed
their successful process in a plenary session. Information about their process and
the conference itself can be found online at www.femme2006.com.
They plan to hold another national conference in 2008 and hope that regional
conferences will be held on the odd years. Kudos to these fabulous femmes
for pulling off a great conference with such inspiring keynote speakers.
Tee A. Corinne, 1943-2006
Lesbian photographer, artist, writer, and teacher Tee Corinne died peacefully
at her home in Oregon this past August. She had been diagnosed with liver
cancer in March. Tee, known for her sensual photographs of lesbian couples
of all abilities and sizes, several of which have been made into posters found
in lesbian homes all over the country, also shared her extensive knowledge
of depictions of lesbians and lesbianism throughout the history of art via
classes and workshops. She published several collections of her short stories and poetry,
illustrated the still-in-print Cunt Coloring Book, and was the
Art Books editor for Feminist Bookstore News.
Sister artist Jean Sirius spent much time with Tee her last few months and
created an informative blog to keep friends of Tee’s informed of her status.
Now the blog is being used to share memories of Tee. BTWOF publisher Carol
Seajay has taken on the mission of getting Tee’s “Erotic Images of Lesbians
in the Fine Arts” slide show into book format. (Interested
publishers may email Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Several living tributes to Tee’s work and memory have been established including
the Tee A. Corinne Prize for Lesbian Media Artists. Tax deductible contributions
can be sent to: Moonforce Media, PO Box 13375, Silver Spring, MD 20911.
Lee Lynch’s tribute to Tee:
Amazon Trail Sept. 2006
Jean Sirius’s blog:
A personal statement from the nineties:
Some of her best known images:
Info about the “Erotic Images of Lesbians in the Fine Arts” slide show:
Calls for Submissions
Ellen Tevault is collecting stories for an anthology tentatively titled Superqueeroes. Heroes can be any race, nationality, species, etc... but must be from some segment of the LGBTQ community. Original characters and plots are sought - no fan fiction or trademarked characters please. Ideally stories should be between 1500-6000 words. Deadline: February 1, 2007. For more details, please email Ellen at email@example.com.
Lee Lynch and Renee LaChance seek more recipes
for their Butch Cookbook. They want all of you butches - or femme partners
of bashful butches - to send up to three of your favorite recipes along with
the story behind them - who you cooked for, how people liked it, how well
known, or not, it is, where it came from. Recipes for pet treats welcome,
too. The deadline is December 1, 2006. Email recipes, stories, and a short bio to
Sabbaticals for Activists of Color
We all know that working for social, racial, economic, and environmental
justice is hard, demanding, and exhausting work. And when is there time to
read and write? Are you, or do you know, an activist of color who could benefit
from a sabbatical? The Alston / Bannerman Fellowship Program issues awards of
approximately $15,000 to ten activists for sabbaticals of three months or
longer. No "product" is required of sabbatical recipients, though
some do use the time to write. The deadline for the 2007 awards is December
1, 2006. For applications and more information, visit their website:
Yours in community,
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