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The Lesbian Edition
Volume 3 Number 8
The exploration of our lives, past and present, seems to be the theme of
this issue. Two long-awaited histories were recently published, one on gay Los Angeles
and the other on the founding of the Daughters of Bilitis. In addition, there's
William Mann's excellent biography of Katharine Hepburn, S. Bear Bergman's
Butch is a Noun - the best book about butches I've read, and Patricia
Nell Warren on lesbians and gays throughout the history of sport. And that's
just the nonfiction!
We hope you enjoy this (slightly tardy) issue and find some good
ideas for your winter reading.
Another Look at Kate
I'm still not finished with the more than six hundred pages in William Mann's
Kate, but I don't want to wait until the next issue to tell you about
it. It's big, meaty, and very tasty for lovers of biography and of course,
Unlike James Robert Parish's Katharine Hepburn: The Untold Story,
reviewed by Carol Seajay in
Kate is not full of innuendo - rather, Mann's book is well researched,
carefully constructed, and meticulously documented. (And unlike Parish, Mann is not at all squeamish about
using the f-word.) Any speculations or assumptions
he makes about his subject are labeled as such, and he explains the conclusions
he draws. Most responsibly, he not only examines her life in the context of
the time she lived but through her lens as much as possible.
One example of how he does so is in his discussions of her sexuality.
"...I attempt to understand Hepburn's sexuality the way I attempt to understand
everything else about her, as part of the larger narrative of her life and
legend." Mann continues: "Yet, it's also time to take off the blinders.
That Hepburn loved other women, that she made her life with women, is a defining
aspect of her story." He does discuss Hepburn's relationships with various
women and her awareness of lesbianism - vis a vis her "aunts," Bertha
Rembaugh and Mary Towle, other friends of Hepburn's feminist mother, and Hepburn's
tenure at Bryn Mawr, including a trip to see the lesbian-themed play, The
Captive, on Broadway. But he also spends a great deal of time exploring
Hepburn's own expression of her gender. This statement from the preface sums
it up well:
"Taking her at her own word is far more useful than attempting
to pin her with a modern-day label. 'When you come right down to it,'
she said, 'I haven't lived life as a woman at all. I've lived life as
a man.' She said this, or variants thereof, numerous times. Significantly,
she saw herself as 'the man who cleaned the furnace,' not
the 'woman,' not the 'person.' ... The sort of fame and
power that, in her day, came much more commonly to men than to women made
it possible for her to make her own choices and do as she pleased. Yet there's
possibly more meaning in her words. Katharine Hepburn, who shaved her head
and renamed herself 'Jimmy' at the age of ten, lived life as a man
- a heterosexual man - not just in terms of a man's privilege but in the way
a man sees, perceives, and interacts with his world. She often spoke of herself
as distinct from other women, as a completely different creature."
Mann surmises that this can help illuminate why Hepburn
was often at odds with feminists in the seventies, famously saying that women
"cannot have it all" on TV in 1973.
His main focus is the "legend" of Katharine Hepburn
- how the actor, her agent, her friends, and others in her inner circle constructed,
maintained, and manipulated Katharine's back story as well as media coverage
of her personal relationships. Mann takes oft-told stories about Hepburn,
shows how they were played out in the media, how the players in the stories
themselves discussed the events back in the day, and then Mann re-examines the events based on later
conversations with the folks involved, after Hepburn's death, as well as by
placing them alongside other elements of Hepburn's life, to point out incongruities.
Hepburn's relationship with Spencer Tracy, among others, is carefully dissected
in this manner.
Publishers Weekly said of Mann's book, "This will
surely be the definitive version of Hepburn's life for decades to come, as
it is an outstanding example of painstaking research matched with splendid
writing." Agreed. And it definitely deserved PW's ranking of it
as one of the best biographies of 2006. I do wonder, however, what a feminist
scholar would do with the kinds of material Mann has collected - and with the intricacies involved in navigating both
sexual orientation and
gender expression - and I hope
we don't have to wait decades to find out. Henry Holt & Company, $30, 9780805076257.
New in paper:
Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde, Alexis De Veaux, W.W. Norton,
The book I'd been most anticipating this Fall was Marcia M. Gallo's Different
Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Birth of
the Lesbian Rights Movement, and I was not disappointed.
My knowledge of the DOB prior to this was largely legend - I knew
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were two of the founders, of course,
that The Ladder was its widely passed around newsletter (in
which Lorraine Hansberry had once written) and that there were chapters
across the country, but I didn't know much about what the group's
purpose was, what they did, and what they stood for. One
reason for that might have been that those items were debated within
the group itself as Gallo's book respectfully examines. Even from
the beginning, in 1955 with the four founding couples, the naming
of the group was "the first - and only - unanimous decision
the four founding members would make."
There were disagreements about whether DOB should be primarily
a social group - and should those social activities be private or open to
the public? - or an activism-based one, about whether or not DOB should affiliate
itself with other organizations - and if so, which ones, and once it spread
nationally, how much autonomy, or not, the local chapters should have from
the national organization.
And then there were the milestones: the national DOB conferences,
which were the first large public gatherings of lesbians in the U.S; the 1958
Ladder readership "sociological survey," which was the first
time lesbians studied lesbians; and the use of the word "lesbian"
on the Ladder, the first time the word appeared on the cover of a national
I drank it all up - the dyke drama, the political discussions,
the impact of the group, the history of the Ladder, and all the women
whose words found their way to those pages, how DOB interacted with other
organizations, and the impact of feminism and the late-sixties, early-seventies
women's movement on DOB. Since DOB as a national organization was gone by
the time I came out in the late eighties, I have no personal knowledge of
the accuracy of Gallo's reportage, but I can say that her presentation of
the material seems careful, respectful, and transparent. She explains who
she was able to speak with and who she wasn't - and why. (The appendix includes
a list of everyone she interviewed, along with a bibliography and extensive
endnotes.) When opposing viewpoints exist, she gives each a voice. The former
bookseller in me wishes that Gallo's book had a different title, so it won't
be confused with the Louise Rafkin anthology on mothers and their lesbian
daughters, but other than that, I found this book a great read and recommend
it. Carroll and Graf, $26.95, 9780786716340.
Another book I eagerly awaited was Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws,
Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, co-written by Lillian Faderman
and Stuart Timmons. I grew up near L.A., but as a late bloomer, I didn't come
out until I moved away. It was very interesting to read about my hometown-area
with a lavender lens.
Faderman and Timmons begin before there even was a city of angels,
with the legend of Queen Califia and her masculine women subjects. Continuing
on to the arrival of the Spanish missionaries, the authors relate how the
different Indian tribes "had always recognized that some males, as well
as some females, were different from conventional men and women" and
that they "had given those who were different an honorable place in their
Hollywood plays a large role in this book, which makes sense,
as do the various real estate booms in the Southland. Organizations such as
the Mattachine Society, ONE, and the Daughters of Bilitis are also discussed,
as are the various nightspots, publications (such as the still-publishing
Lesbian News), and businesses that catered to LGBT Angelinos. The authors
also explore the many groups for queers of color, the founding of the Metropolitan
Community Church, LGBT politicians, and the impact of AIDS.
Gay L.A. is a wonderful combination of
history, socio-political commentary, and delightful dish. Thanks to Lillian
Faderman and Stuart Timmons for shining the spotlight on the queerdom known
as Los Angeles. Basic Books, $27.50, 9780465022885.
Patricia Nell Warren bit off a larger timespan to chew - 3,000 years. Her
new book is The Lavender Locker Room: 3000 Years of Great Athletes Whose
Sexual Orientation was Different, a collection of her essays originally
published on Outsports.com. Known predominantly for her fiction, such as the
seminal novel The Front Runner, her extensive knowledge of queers in
sports and her love of all things athletic are clear with this new text.
TLE #25, we reviewed William Lipsky's Gay and Lesbian
Turns out this was not Arcadia Publishing's first LGBT-themed book. Arcadia has
also published Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia (9780738510002), Gay
and Lesbian Washington, D.C. (9780738517537), and San Francisco's Castro
She begins with Achilles and Patroclus and her annoyance that
Hollywood de-gayed "one of the great gay couples of all time" in
the Brad Pitt movie Troy. Then she presents Joan of Arc as a sports
icon with her jousting prowess. Men and women skilled in fencing, horse racing
and hot-air ballooning are profiled along with expected subjects like tennis
great Bill Tilden and all-around sportswoman Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Rodeo,
ice skating, and track and field also get their due, as do swimmer Diana Nyad
and, naturally, Martina Navratilova.
I wasn't fond of the mix of fictionalized scenarios and historical
facts in some of the chapters, but I really enjoyed learning about Ana María
Martínez Sagi from Spain and how the author discovered her story. And how
fun to find Amelia Earhart in these pages, as "the odd girl of air racing."
Apparently there are enough additional stories to fill a forthcoming sequel,
but in the meantime, sports fans will enjoy this trip through history. Wildcat
Press, $24.95, 9781889135076.
Carol Seajay on Ann Aldrich's We Walk Alone and We, Too, Must Love
BTWOF publisher Carol Seajay returns to The Lesbian Edition
to comment on the recent - and controversial - re-publication of
Ann Aldrich's We Walk Alone and We, Too, Must Love.
Read to the end for a brief update about what Carol's working on
I've been asking publishers to reprint the "Ann
Aldrich" series about lesbian life in the fifties for years.
And at last, someone has. The Feminist Press is publishing the
first two books in December. "Ann Aldrich" was one of
Marijane Meaker's many pen names. In 1952, she had just published
the fabulously successful - and arguably first lesbian pulp novel
- Spring Fire under the pen name Vin Packer. It sold one
and a half million copies and Meaker's publisher (Dick
Carroll at Gold Medal Books) wanted more.
Meaker, inspired by the books coming out
on (male) homosexuality, and angered by their total lack of acknowledgement
- much less inclusion - of lesbians, set out to remedy the situation
with We Walk Alone, published in 1955. It sold so well
that Gold Medal and Meaker published another (We, Too, Must
Love) in 1958, followed by what may well be the first lesbian
anthology, Carol in a Thousand Cities in 1960, We Two
Won't Last in 1963, and then, almost a decade later,
a cheerier, women's liberation movement influenced, Take a
Lesbian to Lunch in 1972.
We like to think, in hindsight, that there
was furor and controversy over the publication of the initial
books. It was,
after all, a mere thirty years after the huge Well of Loneliness
censorship trials. (Well was eventually approved for sale
in the USA after having been banned in England - although it was
printed and published in France and thus somewhat available to
the well-traveled. British authorities had hoped - indeed, had
planned - to jail Radclyffe Hall and make an example of her (see
#11), as they had Oscar Wilde. She escaped that fate, primarily,
because of the book's lack of salacious detail and its "sad"
nature. I like to think of the enormous risks Hall took - jail,
not to mention her literary career - in attempting to publish
that book when I hear people complain about how sad and depressing
the book is, or about how it isn't "sexy" enough, or
how it discouraged women from becoming lesbians. I also like to
think about Meaker - who had been a lesbian for half of those
30 years - and her times when she set out to write We Walk
Alone. It's all about context.
But now, fifty years after the initial
publication, there's something of a controversy about reprinting
these historic novels (see Gloria Weiner's "Not the Last
Word" in the Fall 2006 issue of Lambda Book Report,
v.14, #3). The concerns, as best I understand them, are that the
books say that lesbians are sick, disturbed, demented, psychologically
immature, and incapable of full and complete relationships, etc.,
and that these ideas will be frightening to women who pick up
the books without realizing the historic context and/or that the
extreme right will use the books to make a case against lesbians,
against gay marriage, et al.
And, of course the books do say
all of that: Meaker cited all of the best information and the
friendliest "authorities" available in the early fifties,
and it wasn't a lesbian-friendly culture. What I loved about the
books - when I first read them, and rereading them now - was the
way Meaker put forth the beliefs of the day and then tore them
apart. She offered her experience or others' experiences as evidence
to the contrary, and then left the reader with other conclusions.
(Regarding therapy and being "cured" of lesbianism,
she first suggests and then states that most lesbians wouldn't
want to be "cured" while continuing to argue for sympathetic
help for lesbians dealing with depression, regret, familial alienation,
and the like.) In many ways Meaker modeled many of the initiatives
of the early women's liberation movement (WLM), and the writing
and publishing movements that grew out of it. I want someone to
go back and find the early movers and shakers of the WLM and women-in-print
movement, and find out how many of them had read these books somewhere
during their pre-feminist days. That may be impossible to find
out at this point. But one thing is clear to me: without access
to these books, we will never be able to fully understand the
fifties, to reclaim our foremothers from the model wife-and-mother
June Cleaver stereotype, to understand the pre-feminism history
of lesbians, the power of the written word in lesbian hands, or
the importance of making a place for women in the world.
I am so glad to see these books coming
out again. I want all my friends to read them and remember, or
read them and reflect. And I want the historians (and the filmmakers)
to go to town with them!
Rereading them was a trip down memory
lane: I first read We, Too, Must Love at 15 (in early 1966),
when a sister Girl Scout snatched it off an older (16?) Scout's
bookshelf. I read We Walk Alone and Carol in a Thousand
Cities a few years later, after having become lovers with
an older lesbian who had copies of some of the pulps. I bought
a copy of Take a Lesbian to Lunch five years later, at
Labyris Books when I was in New York City to see the abortion
clinics a group of feminists were recommending to local women
looking for safe abortions.
I was alternately stunned by the books'
naiveté ("the war years resulted in the final emancipation
of women," p. 7), by how much has changed (may the Freudian
model and psychoanalysis be gone forever!), and by how much has
stayed the same - or come around again: the use of the word "queer"
than "gay," the invisibility of lesbians whenever the
word "homosexual" is invoked by both straight people
and gay men, by women's discomfort with the word "lesbian,"
the focus on butch/femme relationships, and - get crackin' with
your history, bois - the strength and power of transvestites
and the transvestite identity - and by how "embarrassed"
some lesbians feel/felt by the whole phenomena. I'm always amazed
by how much subversive information Meaker managed to cram into
these short books: sex education (surely that was the first place
I found the word "clitoris"), cultural history, social
analysis and criticism (fighting words about how McCarthyism promoted
blackmail), history (dildoes in ancient India, who knew?!), references
to lesbian music circuits, the state of the law, the risk of alcoholism,
the likelihood of being "cured," and literary education.
(What was the first thing my girlfriend and I did on reading We,
Too, Must Love? Sex? Of course not. We went to the local newsstand
and ordered every book Aldrich had referenced.) Not to mention
the practical information: How to find a lesbian bar (ask the
cab drivers), what to wear, what lesbian life looked like to different
groups of women of different ages, priorities, and class identities
Were the books scary? Were they terrifying?
Yes, of course they were for some women. Or rather, the times
they described were. It was more than terrifying for many women,
my girlfriend at the time included, to have all of society's prejudices
against you and the life you wanted laid out before you in black
and white. But I think it was the prejudices, not the books themselves,
that scared that woman I so loved into a closet she has yet to
escape. But me, I found the books to be exhilarating. They named
possibilities and options. I knew I could wear gray flannel trousers
and get by. They offered me a map to a future I wanted. And I
took it. And I'm still grateful to Marijane Meaker for handing
it to me.
And I'm grateful to the Feminist Press
for reprinting them fifty years later. And I want the remaining
three books as soon as possible. The first two come with new introductions
by Marijane Meaker, and academic afterwords by Stephanie Foote
- I hope that the next three will also include information from
the day: reviews, perhaps letters from readers, reprint histories,
sales venues, and anything else that would give readers more of
a context for the books.
This is my history and perhaps yours.
No one gets to take it away from us, hide it, be embarrassed by
it, or make it go away. Are there other versions and other realities
and other stories? You bet there are, and I want them all. If
these books don't tell your story, then write yours down, and
get it into print. Give us the full and complex picture of the
times. But in the meantime, use these books as mirrors. Look how
far we've come in fifty short years. And look at how very much
has remained the same. We Walk Alone: Feminist Press, $14.95,
9781558615250. We, Too, Must Love: Feminist Press, $15.95,
Yours in spreading the words,
P.S. In my new Mslexia-British publisher identity, we've just published
the fourth Mslexia Writer’s Diary, a wonderful week-at-a glance
calendar for women writers. Its features range from a submissions log to a
menstrual calendar and include articles on keeping a writer’s journal, on
starting a reading and writing group, and a wonderful collection of resources
for writers. Lots of quotes from writers on writing, and also on suggested
reading. Don't look for Canadian or U.S. holidays, but if you can work around
that, it's a great resource for writers (and readers). More details at www.mslexia.co.uk/menu/stop_press/diary.html.
More Pulp Classics Back in Print
Cleis Press, who recently published new editions of Ann Bannon's work and
other lesbian pulp fiction writers, now brings us a classic from France. First
published in 1952, The Illusionist by Françoise Mallet-Joris tells
the story of fifteen-year-old Hélène and her affair with her father's thirty-five-year-old
mistress, Tamara. Terry Castle, in her introduction to this edition, does
an excellent job of placing this novel in context with both the time and place
in which it was published and with similar works in the lesbian canon. One
interesting note is that the author was only nineteen when she wrote The
Illusionist, her first of more than twenty books.
Like other lesbian-themed novels of the fifties, this story is
not a happy one. Tamara is abusive, treating Hélène with contempt, disregard,
and disdain in addition to the affection and fondness she sometimes demonstrates.
Hélène competes with her father and Tamara's other suitors for her lover's
attention and rejects her friendships with others due to her focus on Tamara.
Women in general do not come off well in this novel. Hélène also learns hard
lessons about class, politics, and social strata - her father is a local politician,
and his relationship with divorced Tamara raises many eyebrows. Yet its story
of a schoolgirl involved with an adult is not an unfamiliar or unusual one,
and The Illusionist can be read as an erotic yet disturbing cautionary
tale about the impact of such relationships. Cleis Press, $14.95, 9781573442534.
As we mentioned in TLE #15, Arsenal Pulp's imprint Little Sister's Classics
has been reissuing both lesbian and gay classics, such as The Young in
One Another's Arms by Jane Rule, Patience & Sarah by Isabel
Miller, and Empathy by Sarah Schulman. Number seven
in the series is Valerie Taylor's Whisper Their Love, her first novel,
originally published in 1957. It sold more than two million copies.
The Arsenal Pulp edition includes a new introduction by Barbara Grier (whose
Naiad Press had published some of Taylor's later work, such as the novel Rice
and Beans, 1989) and several appendices: the transcript of an interview
with Valerie Taylor from 1995, eight poems by Taylor (from Two Women Revisited:
The Poetry of Jeannette Foster and Valerie Taylor), and Kate Brandt's
piece on Taylor from Brandt's Happy Endings: Lesbian Writers Talk About
Their Lives and Work. Arsenal Pulp, $15.95, 9781551522104.
The Dominican Republic is the setting for Erzulie's Skirt by
Ana-Maurine Lara. Miriam and Micaela come from different rural villages and
spiritual traditions, eventually meeting each other in Santo Domingo. Their
strength, fortitude, and resilience swim throughout this mystical book, peppered
with the traditions of Vodoun (Vudú). Think magic realism with an African
Diaspora flavor, mixed with a heavy dose of survivor instinct and the desire
to not accept the status quo. These women face tradition, prejudice, deceit,
and abuse head on while on their path to fulfilling their dream - which brings
them round circle, though not exactly back home. I strongly suggest that you
read the author's reference notes and glossary in the back as an overview
before beginning the novel itself, and mark these sections for easy retrieval
during your read. It's a much richer experience having some fore-knowledge
before opening the spirit-full pages. Redbone Press, $15, 9780978625108.
I find the age-old bookseller question "what section do I file this
book in" rearing its head as I write this review. Is it a romance? Is
it fiction? Is it a mystery? The Secret Keeping by Francine Saint Marie
does not strictly follow the formula for any particular genre, though there
is the girl-wants-girl tension and some high-profile intrigue thrown in for
additional spice. But the first part of the book is so quietly elegant and
lovely, I placed the review here in the fiction section.
As much as I wanted to discover the secrets in "Part One:
The Waiter," I also didn't want the suspense to end. Lydia has drinks with her
friends each week at a restaurant near her office. She exchanges glances with
a woman seated alone at another table with a book. Lydia is curious about this stranger
and inexplicably drawn to her. The pace of this section is slow but not at
all in a tedious way nor in a manipulative way. It's understated, deliberate,
sensual, and compels the reader to continue.
I enjoyed learning about the mystery woman in the second section,
but the rest of the book, including the machinations involving blackmail,
the press, and lawyers didn't quite hold the charm of the beginning of the book.
Still, it was interesting, and that beginning is so good, it's worth picking up The Secret Keeping.
Spinsters, $14.95, 9781883523770.
I wish I could distribute "I Know What Butch Is," the first chapter
of S. Bear Bergman's Butch is a Noun, to everyone: those who
don't "believe" in butches and butch/femme, those who don't
understand it, those who think it's only about fashion, those who
think it's mimicking the patriarchy, and those who get it, embrace
it, love it, struggle with it, and are turned on by it. Here are a few bits
from "I Know What Butch Is":
"(B)utches are monosyllabic, until you get to know them,
which they will not allow but want, or will allow and want, or will allow
but don't want, or won't allow and don't want, so you may or may not get to
know them but you should try, or not... Butches are not beginner FTMs, except
that sometimes they are, but it's not a continuum except when it is... Butches
who do those sorts of things either are Real Butches or are Not Real Butches,
depending on who you ask. There, that should be perfectly clear."
This book is illuminating, emotional, thought-provoking,
and respectful. Chapters on gender-neutral pronouns (ze - pronounced zee
- in place of she or he, and hir - pronounced here - instead of her,
him, or his), manners, dating, body image, hair, butch brotherhood, relationships
with parents, dealing with femmes, online flirting, shopping, and mentorship
explore the many facets of butch as a noun, adjective, and verb. Naming a
favorite is impossible for me; it changes each time I flip through the book.
Favorites include Taxonomy ("We need to know about gender so we can know
about language") and Foie d' Butch, where ze wishes for an organ that
takes in both the difficult and nourishing parts of being a butch "and
then processes and balances and filters them until we are healthy enough to
But I think the one I'm most impressed by is Border Wars, in which ze tackles
some of the scary questions in the dyke community about butches and FTMs -
who has the right to what terminology? Does "butch flight" exist? What
are the generational differences? From that chapter:
"When people speak admiringly of a butch, what I see is
someone who has taken on the best gendered characteristics of both woman and
man, left a lot of the stuff born of misogyny and heterosexism behind, and
walked forward into the world like that without apology..."
"And they (butches) are grieving, some of them, that after
being thrown out of the women's movement for being too male-identified they
are now being ridiculed or having their identities questioned for being not
There's a lot of there there in this book. The author's not afraid
to roll up hir sleeves and get in the muck of it all: the fear, the anger,
the passion, the loss, the delight, the benefits, the grief, the discovery,
the confusion, and the certainty. This is the book that had me crying, laughing,
and reading aloud to friends and my lover this month. Check it out. Suspect
Thoughts Press, $16.95, 9780977158256.
Hanne Blank interviews author S. Bear Bergman about Butch
Is a Noun:
University of Minnesota Press has just published an excellent addition to
the growing literature by and about "individuals whose gender identity
or expression does not conform to the social expectations for their assigned
sex at birth" with Transgender Rights, edited by Paisley Currah,
Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter. The volume is divided into three
parts: the law, history, and politics. Writers include experts on gender,
like Judith Butler, and the law, such as Ruthann Robson. Everything from community
building and health issues to workplace discrimination and trans inclusion
in gay and lesbian organizations is addressed. There are thought-provoking
articles about civil rights, human rights, and legal rights coupled with treatises
on biology and sociology. Overall, an excellent collection. I especially recommend
Julie A. Greenberg's piece, "The Roads Less Traveled: The Problem with
Binary Sex Categories." University of Minnesota Press, $19.95 paper,
Much has been written in mainstream media about the "lucrative gay market,"
with, "they" say, many dual-income-no-children households, i.e.,
more disposable income, and individuals with a propensity to travel more and
spend more on entertainment than their heterosexual counterparts. Robert Witeck
and Wesley Combs, marketing communication and public relations consultants,
have written a guide on how to tap into that market with Business Inside
Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Customers. They take a research-based
approach, looking at census data and market research, rather than repeating
the broad-stroke assumptions made in those mainstream media articles. And
they have an additional agenda: openly gay businessmen themselves, they want
to help corporate America not only understand but "celebrate the many
hidden yet essential contributions gay men, lesbians, bisexual men and women,
and transgender people (GLBT) make to America's economy and to our public
life." Their book includes discussion of explicit targeted ads vs. those
that are "gay vague," profiles of existing ad campaigns that target
our community, and how to handle any backlash that might occur as a result
of reaching out to gay consumers. Kaplan Publishing, $25, 9781419505201.
In The New Gay Teenager, author Ritch C. Savin-Williams argues that
the category of people who have traditionally been called "gay youth"
no longer exists as such, rather that many kids today resist labeling themselves
in accordance with their sexuality and that their sexualities are more fluid
than ever. He examines the differences between "sexual orientation,"
"sexual behavior," and "sexual identity," as well as what
youth themselves consider "sex." Savin-Williams, who prefers the
term same-sex attracted, says these kids are healthier, less suicidal, and
better adjusted than has been previously recorded. While I found his arguments
thought-provoking and found his look at how the study of same-sex-attracted
adolescents has changed through the years interesting, I find it a bit irresponsible
that there isn't more concrete statistical information to back up his conclusions
- nor does there appear to be much consideration about what may be different/similar
for kids of different class, racial, or religious backgrounds, or from different
geographic areas. Interesting theories, but more documentation is needed to
support them. Harvard University Press, $16.95, 9780674022560.
Friday Night Reads
Prolific author Radclyffe returns to her Provincetown Tales series with Storms
of Change. If you haven't read the others in the series (Safe Harbor,
Beyond the Breakwater, and Distant Shores, Silent Thunder) fear
not - Radclyffe provides enough back story in each that they can all be enjoyed
independently. In Storms of Change, Reese, Tory, and their now nine-month-old
daughter, Reggie, are back, along with Bri and Caroline, Kate and Jean, and
KT and Pia. They are joined by new P-towners Rica Grechi, owner of a new art
gallery in town, and attorney Carter Wayne. Drama ensues when Reese's Marine
Corps Reserve unit is called up for active duty in Iraq, and intrigue is provided
by Rica's family - her father is known to be a high-level leader in organized
crime in Boston. Family connections of all kinds loom large in this book,
as do the relationships between the main players. Time spent in P-town with
these folks is entertaining, heartwarming, and scintillating, and Storms
of Change ably continues the tradition. Bold Strokes Books, $15.95, 9781933110578.
Kenna White's latest book, Romancing the Zone, shows her growing strength
as a writer, with a carefully crafted story about a woman in her late thirties
who returns to college and her collegiate basketball career. Her previous
books, Beneath the Willow
and Shared Winds
were fine stories, but Romancing the Zone ups the ante, even with its
slightly implausible plot. Liz Elliott owns a successful restaurant in her
small town and revels in watching her nineteen-year-old daughter, Becca, as
she becomes an adult. When Becca challenges Liz to return to college to finish
her degree - and her final year of basketball eligibility - Liz is skeptical
but ultimately agrees. Newly appointed head coach Sheridan Ross wants to motivate
her team and get them on a winning track; she doesn't want to be slowed down
by an out-of-practice former basketball star. The many threads of the story
are dealt with well, as is the horrible secret which Liz has kept to herself
for much too long. Bella Books, $13.95, 9781594930607.
A college campus south of Boston is the setting for Learning to Trust
by J.Y. Morgan. Jace is the director of the Achievement Center there, and
Taryn is her new graduate assistant. They are alike in many ways yet get off
on the wrong foot right away at work. Both keep their thoughts and feelings
deep inside, to the detriment of their personal relationships. They share
in common their fondness for Anne, Jace's long-time coworker and Taryn's aunt.
Even when things are tense between Jace and Taryn, they are constantly thrown
together, both professionally and personally. In spite of the boundary-crossing
problems with their relationship, I liked how the author developed these characters
and allowed them to grow over the course of the book. Their changes were realistically
bumpy, scary, and ultimately, fulfilling, and J.Y. Morgan did a fine job of
both bringing them together and bringing them more to themselves. Regal Crest,
$17.95 paper, 9781932300598.
With three mystery series to keep her busy, Claire McNab doesn't
have too much time for writing romance. Writing My Love
joins Under the Southern Cross and Silent Heart
as her contributions to this genre - and does so with a tongue-in-cheek
look at romance writers and publishing itself. Vonny Smith publishes
the name Victoria Vanderveer. She is one of her publisher's best
selling authors. The object of Vonny's affection is her editor
at Crimson Loon, Diana Broswell. Too nervous to approach Diana
directly, Vonny uses her work-in-progress, Desire's Desperate
Drumbeat, to woo her oblivious editor. With main characters
named Velda and Davina and their working relationship a mirror
to Diana and Vonny's, Vonny hopes that Diana will get the point
- and act on it. Office politics, ex-lovers, and deadlines humorously
disrupt the path of true love. This short (185 pages) but entertaining
book features over-the-top characters, clever references to the
queer publishing world, and a glimpse at the ever-working mind
of one best-selling romance writer. Bella Books, $13.95, 9781594930638.
Back in print:
Of Drag Kings & the Wheel of Fate, Susan Smith, Bold Strokes Books,
For the Kids
Kids love bedtime stories, both those bound between two covers and those
told by a parent. The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan combines the
two. Noah asks one of his two moms to tell him a story, which she does, ably
assisted by Noah himself. In the story-within-a-story, Noah and his cat Diva
are sailing one moonlit night when they meet a dragon who doesn't want to be the
kind of dragon he's expected to be. Sailor Noah tells him he can be the kind
of dragon who could join him for "badminton and then have some ice cream."
The Different Dragon is a very sweet book with illustrations by Danamarie
Hosler. Two Lives Publishing, $10.95 paper, 9780967446868.
Children whose mothers are in choruses, or who are in choruses themselves,
will love Becky Thacker's The Chorus Kids' Memorial Day Parade. When
the City Women's Chorus gathers at their director's house to practice for
the Memorial Day concert, their children of various ages entertain themselves
in the backyard. They decide to have a parade, complete with kazoos, rainbow
flags, and costumes. The backyard seems much too small for such an elaborate
production, so they go out to the sidewalk, the older children being careful
to attend to the younger. But when Officer Janet tells them they can't have
a parade without a permit, their parade comes to a halt... until one of the chorus
members comes to the rescue and applies for a permit downtown. Though not
specifically lesbian, this is a delightfully spirited book, suitable for kids
3-6, with illustrations by the author. Seeds and Toads Press, $10.95 paper,
9780978627614. Order from www.m2print.com.
Middle-school children can read "both sides of an issue" in the
Hot Topics series published by Lucent Books. In addition to Overweight
America, Students' Rights, and Biological Warfare,
now they can learn about issues such as gay marriage, parenting,
and workplace issues in Gay Rights by Tina Kafka. This
thin textbook-type volume
is colorful and eye-catching, with cartoons, photographs, and
sidebars breaking up the text which presents the viewpoints of
both proponents and opponents on these issues. And the author
does present divergent viewpoints, while also pointing
out what data does - and does not - support these viewpoints.
Kafka did a fine job of clearly presenting the issues involved,
explaining the arguments, and, with the study questions in the
back, encouraging the readers to come to their own conclusions
based on the information presented. Pricey for a casual read,
this would make a great donation to your local school's or public
library. Lucent/Thomson/Gale, $31.20 hardcover, 9781590186374.
Calendars and Datebooks
At Boadecia's, our bestselling datebook each year was We'Moon by Mother
Tongue Ink. Colorful, inspirational, convenient, and packed with useful information,
we sometimes had trouble keeping them in stock. This year the theme for We'Moon
'07: Gaia Rhythms for Womyn is "On Purpose." The datebook,
again available in layflat, spiral bound, and unbound (so you can use it in
your DayRunner-type binder) formats, features full-color art, inspiring poems
and prose, sun and moon signs and transits, a planetary ephemeris, and much
more. The 12"x12" wall calendar has larger versions of twelve of
the beautiful art pieces and shows the phase of the moon each day. The 5.25"x8"
datebooks are each $17.95 (layflat: 189093139X, spiral: 1890931381, unbound:
1890931403), and We'Moon on the Wall is $13.95 (1890931411).
Luna Press also returns with their '07 Lunar Calendar: Dedicated to the
Goddess in Her Many Guises. Their pages show the moon's phases in a unique
spiral format - beautiful, but not much room for writing, so it is best viewed
as a piece of art rather than a place to jot down appointments. In addition
to full astronomical and astrological data, it also includes an excellent
bibliography. $23, 1877920177.
The Women Artists Datebook from Syracuse Cultural Workers is also
back, featuring art and poetry by Susan Davitti Darling, Ellen Bass, and Rachel
Guido deVries, among others. Spiral bound in a 5"x7" size, it also
includes a menstrual calendar, the lunar cycles, and a list of women's resources.
Pomegranate again presents its Reading Woman Calendar and hardcover
engagement calendar, each with reproductions of paintings showing women with
a book and featuring quotations by women about reading. The engagement book
contains both weekly and monthly grids. Engagement calendar: 6 5/8" x
8", $14.95, 076493564X. Wall calendar: 12"x13", $13.99, 0764935682.
For those wanting explicit lesbian imagery in their calendars, photographer
Judy Francesconi has printed a limited run of On the Lips 2007, which
features sensual black and white photographs of couples. For more information:
10% Productions has one women's calendar this year, Sirens 2007, with
photographs of solo women by Torben Raun ($14.95). They've also published
a calendar called History of Gay America: From the Beginning of a Nation
to the Debate on Gay Marriage ($14.95). See www.10percent.com for more
about both of these wall calendars.
Interview with Angela Brown about Subterraneans: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Writing
Angela Brown, former editor in chief at Alyson Books, has just launched a
new web-based venue for lesbian and gay writing and photography. The first
issue, online now at
www.subterraneansonline.com, features work by Lisa E.
Davis (Under the Mink), Bett Williams
(The Wrestling Party,
Walking Backwards) and Bridget Bufford (Minus One), among others.
We recently spoke to Angela about her new venture:
BTWOF: What prompted your decision to start an online lesbian and gay
Angela Brown: Honestly, it kind of happened by accident. I was looking
for a web designer for my freelance editing company, and a friend suggested
I invest in iWeb, a web-design program for Mac users. I bought it and was
wowed by how easy it is to use - especially for someone like me who had never
designed a website. Then I thought, What else can I do with this?
I know! An online lesbian and gay literary journal. There are some really
terrific online venues for lesbian and gay fiction writers out there - including
Blithe House Quarterly, which I absolutely love - but I wanted to create
a site that also included nonfiction, poetry, artwork, and photography.
BTWOF: Was the name inspired at all by the Jack Kerouac novel of the same
AB: Yes! I'm a big fan of Kerouac's writing - and the work of the
Beat writers in general, especially Allen Ginsberg. Most people consider Kerouac's
Subterraneans to be a semi-fictional account of a love affair he had
with a black woman in the 1950s. But others claim the novel is a cleaned-up
account of the affair he had with Gore Vidal. For the site, I wanted to choose
a name that reflects the current (and past) political and social climate surrounding
being gay or lesbian. Even people who are out - myself included - make choices
everyday about whether to reveal who they are. In effect, all of us live underground
at some point in our lives.
BTWOF: How did you find such an eclectic group of contributors? How did
you publicize your initial call for submissions?
AB: I'm a member of several online gay and lesbian writers' groups,
so that definitely helped. But I found most of the writers through ads I posted
on Craigslist! Now that Subterraneans is live, people are really spreading
the word, and my inbox has been flooded with submissions.
BTWOF: In the current letter from the editor on the site, you mention
that the writing in the first issue changed you, and that was a surprise for
you. Would you elaborate on how you were changed?
AB: Except for some fiction anthologies I'd compiled and edited, I'd
been away from gay and lesbian publishing for more than a year, and I missed
it a lot; it's one of the reasons I started Subterraneans. So many
of the essays, stories, and poems I received really moved me. And they reminded
me of one of the great joys of being an editor: giving people a forum to tell
their stories. I feel blessed to be able to do that, to create a place for
that kind of exposing of the self. It's a very intimate action, and I'd almost
forgotten what it felt like.
BTWOF: How is the site funded?
AB: Solely through individual donations. Down the line, I hope to
get some advertising for the site, but I want to be very selective about the
number and kinds of ads that appear. No one wants to be bombarded with ads.
There's more than enough of that on the web.
BTWOF: How often do you plan to offer new issues and will the old ones
AB: A new issue of Subterraneans will appear every two months,
and the next issue is due out in February 2007. All past issues will be archived
on the site. I've put way too much work into designing and editing Subterraneans
to let past issues disappear. [laughs]
Angela Brown has edited more than thirty anthologies, including Mentsh:
On Being Queer and Jewish and is in the process of completing her first
novel, I Fall To Pieces: A Kit Gunning Mystery. Check out the current
issue of Subterraneans: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Writing,
writers' guidelines, and information about making donations at www.subterraneansonline.com.
More Lesbian Literature Online
GLB Publishers have created a lesbian e-magazine to showcase short fiction.
They want to provide a venue for novellas, which they define as fiction with
25,000 to 55,000 words. They explain that novellas are often hard to sell
in book form, since their spines are so narrow and can't be seen well on a
bookshelf in a bookstore, but they are well suited for downloading to individual
computers. Go to www.e-lesmag.com for more information.
Alicia Goranson interviewed her co-Project QueerLit winner Peggy Munson about
Munson's novel Origami Striptease (reviewed in
...and Peggy Munson interviewed Alicia Goranson about Supervillainz
(reviewed in TLE #25):
Bloody Brits Press
Kelly Smith, Bywater Books publisher,
has teamed up with best-selling mystery author Val McDermid to bring British mystery writers across the
pond to North America. Bloody Brits Press, an imprint of Bywater Books, will
also republish McDermid's Kate Brannigan series; they've also released Star
Struck, the newest novel featuring Manchester P.I. Brannigan. For more
Books To Watch Out For
There hasn't been a new Lisa Alther (Kinflicks) book since 1995's
Five Minutes in Heaven. So I'm pleased to share the news that 2007
will bring the publication of Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree, In
Search of My Melungeon Ancestors, a humorous travelogue memoir. For more
information about Lisa, check out her website, www.lisaalther.com.
Fans of folk singer Ronnie Gilbert will be happy to hear that she's written
a new memoir, Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life with Songs, which will
be published by University of California Press. In addition to the story of
the Weavers, in which Ronnie was the only female member, the book will discuss
the censorship she and the Weavers faced and the revived interest in their
music. Gilbert is also the author of Ronnie Gilbert on Mother Jones: Face
to Face With the Most Dangerous Woman in America, published by Conari
Press in 1993.
Former Charis Books co-owner Sherry Emory passed away in November.
From the note Charis sent to the community: "Sherry was a warrior, living for over two years
with stage 4 breast cancer. For many years, Sherry was at the heart of Charis Books, offering a
warm smile along with insightful book guidance to so many people. She did so much for Charis,
staffing almost all of the programs in the early years, doing all the bookkeeping, and doing her
share of book-ordering and all the other things that it takes to not only keep a business going,
but also to serve the community in unspoken ways day after day." After leaving Charis in 2001,
she served as a librarian in a Jewish school and later moved to Florida, where her twin sister lives.
An education fund has been set up for Sherry's 16-year-old daughter, Rivka, in Sherry's memory.
Donation checks should be made payable to Sherry's sister, Susan Garlock, with "Rivka" on the subject line
and mailed to 1737 NE 26th Dr., Wilton Manors, FL 33334.
BookFinder.com recently released a list of the out-of-print books that are
most sought out by their customers. Number one on the fiction list is Lynne
Cheney's Sisters, which Carol discussed in
Annie Leibovitz, whose most recent book is A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005
(Random House, $75, 9780375505096), discussed her relationship with "longtime
soulmate" Susan Sontag on NPR recently. You can hear the show online
No surprise to any of us, but Publishers Weekly named Alison Bechdel's
as one of the Best Graphic Novels of the year: www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6388897.html?nid=2789.
Chroma: A Queer Literary Journal announced that Sarah Waters
will be one of the short story judges for their next writing competition.
Entries should be mailed to Chroma Writing Competition, PO Box 44655, London
N16 0WQ. Poems up to 50 lines, stories - 5,000 words. Entry fee is £5/$10
per story/poem. Deadline is September 10, 2007. Chroma can be found online at
Calls for Submissions
Richard Labonté and Lawrence Schimel are seeking work for their forthcoming
anthology First Person Queer: Who We Are, Where We've Come From, Where
We're Going, for publication in Fall 2007 by Arsenal Pulp Press. They
want "first person essays from across the spectrum of queer experience
that depict the diversity, the complexity, and the excitement of contemporary
GLBTQ life. We want to be surprised, and to surprise our readers, with intensely
personal experiences from writers of diverse genders, ages, races, and orientations,
informing us about unusual aspects of our lives." Under 1500 words, prose
or graphic/comix narratives; no poetry. Deadline: Feb. 28, 2007. Submit your
work by email, as an attachment in .doc format, with author's last name and
story title in the file name: Surname-Title.doc, to Richard Labonté at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include contact details and bio in the .doc file, not just in your
email; submissions that are considered will be separated from the emails.
"Out in the World" is Haworth Press's new gay and lesbian travel
literary series. Proposals for books can range from the erotic, to the literary
to the academic, fiction or nonfiction, and can be anthologies or the work
of one author. Proposals should be clearly presented, with a synopsis, marketing
outline, a CV of previous works, and a bio. Guidebook proposals are not being
considered at the moment. For more information, or questions on presenting
a proposal, contact Series Editor Michael Luongo at email@example.com
Bruin Christopher Runyan is looking for nonfiction essays, up to 6,000 words
for Less Than Settled: Critical Perspectives on Travel and Privilege.
"This anthology seeks to address critical questions around western privilege
and international travel. Specifically, how do activists, organizers, critical
thinkers, radicals, progressives, and subversives bring or don't bring their politics with them
when they travel to the third world/two-thirds world/global south." Also
sought are pieces from "those who have decided not to travel and from
those who travel but feel less than settled about it." Deadline: June
30, 2007. Send essays to: Less Than Settled, c/o Bruin Christopher Runyan,
1643 South King Street Seattle, WA 98144. Questions: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline has been extended to Ash Wednesday, February 21, 2007, for the
"Queer and Catholic" anthology to be edited by Amie M. Evans and
Trebor Healey. From the call for submissions: "This anthology seeks to
explore positively or negatively how being raised Catholic informs our queerness
and how our queerness affects our Catholicism....We are really more interested
in the culture of Catholicism rather than the dogma or letter of it."
They're looking for previously unpublished personal essays, narrative prose,
and creative nonfiction between 1,500-5,000 words. Email
or write them at 33 Campbell St., Woburn, MA 01801.
Also extended, until May 31, 2007, is the deadline for an anthology of coming-out-while-married
stories by black lesbians. 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. Contact RedBone for more
or write to P.O. Box 15571, Washington, DC 20003.
Lesbian Literary Quiz
This October more than 3,000 lesbians gathered for the 2006 York Lesbian
Arts Festival. We'll have a report from BTWOF publisher Carol Seajay, who
was able to travel to York this year from her new home in Newcastle, in a
future Lesbian Edition. In the meantime, we have a game to pass along. At the
festival, literary quotations were placed about. We have the list below, thanks
to the YLAF, so you can test your knowledge of lesbian literature through
the ages by guessing the author of each quotation. Answers will appear in
Literary Quotes - Guess the Author of the Literary Quotes
© Robyn Vinten, 2006 for YLAF
1. The charming Musick of thy Tongue
Does ever hear and everlong:
That sees with more than human Grace
Sweet smiles adorn thy Angel Face.
2. Fair lovely Maid, or if that Title be
Too weak, too feminine for Noble thee,
Permit a Name that more Approaches Truth
And let me call thee, Lovely Charming Youth
3. The Manly Young Lady.
This specimen is found mostly in those counties where there is good
hunting and prefers north to south.
4. ...If any of your friends are going to Llangollen pray recommend
to the King's head or New Hotel.
5. When you are a mother you never know the minute that your child
and do something downright peculiar.
6. 'This is a pleasant, lazy way of life, to be sure. But,' she thought
her legs a kick, 'these skirts are plaguey things to have about
7. As a wife has a cow a love story
8. Next to my skin, her pearls
9. Among the dire results of my 'unnaturalness' I had been told I
go blind and mad.
10. As the air changes or the lightening comes without our blinking
Change as our kisses are changing without our thinking
11. Aunty Em was the first woman who ever smoked a cigarette in
12. She was constantly giving things away... She was as if deciduous.
was as if her languorous body rejected anything that would give
it a third
13. "We are not Queer. How can you say that? I'm very feminine, how
can you call me Queer?"
14. You pearl, she says... Her voice broken. You pearl.
15. If I could not put Louise out of my mind I would drown myself in
16. Why is the measure of love loss?
That's it for this issue of The Lesbian Edition. We'll be back very soon
with our annual survey of the Best Books of 2006 - and more great
books to watch out for.
If you give gifts during the winter holiday season - or any time for that matter -
please consider a gift subscription to one or more of the three editions of
Books To Watch Out For.
Your friends who love to read will thank you for it!
Until next month,
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