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The Lesbian Edition
Volume 4 Number 2
Great new books are blooming all over lately - it took a lot of effort for
me to stop reading long enough to write reviews! From prize-winning literary
fiction to engaging Friday Night Reads, from trips back in time to edgy, of-the-moment
anthologies, we hope you enjoy the variety. We also have a few more picks from authors for their favorite books of 2006.
In this issue we honor the memory of longtime LGBT civil
rights activist Barbara Gittings, who also worked with the American Library
Association for many years championing LGBT literature. And speaking of our
literature, we hope you enjoyed BTWOF's
special supplemental issue which listed
the recently announced Lambda Literary Award nominees.
On to the reading,
Books To Watch Out For
Lambda Literary Foundation's First Writers Retreat
On August 5-12 in the Bel Air Hills area of Los Angeles, 21 emerging LGBT
writers will meet for the first Lambda Literary Foundation Writers Retreat.
These writers will be immersed in the craft of writing, led by faculty members
Dorothy Allison, Fenton Johnson, Eloise Klein Healy, and Katherine V. Forrest.
Visiting faculty this year include John Rechy, Michael Nava, and Bernard Cooper.
Emerging LGBT writers (fiction, nonfiction, poetry) of any age are welcome
to apply for this opportunity; some publication history is preferred but not
required. Katherine V. Forrest says, "The aim is pretty lofty - to give
hands-on assistance to our next generation of GLBT writers, and hopefully,
when they come out of the week, they'll have a colleague group going forward,
something most of us isolated old ink-stained wretches never had." Applications
and scholarship requests must be postmarked by April 15, 2007. For details
about the application procedure, check out
Lesbian Publishing News
After thirty years, New Victoria Publishers founders Beth Dingman
and Claudia McKay have sold their company to Patricia Feuerhaken of Chicago.
Patricia, a lifelong reader and writer who worked for twenty-five years in
the telecommunications industry, responded to their ad in Lesbian Connection
and, after working out details of the sale, has moved everything up to Chicago.
Beth and Claudia continue to assist her with the transition, for which Patricia
is grateful. She looks forward to revitalizing the press and says, "I'm
pretty much going to keep it the way it was - I want to publish books women
love to read." The first two titles are scheduled for Fall 2007 publication.
She is also actively accepting manuscripts, and interested individuals can
contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Though the website url will remain
the same (www.newvictoria.com),
there is a new mailing address: PO Box 13173,
Chicago, IL 60613. Beth and Claudia are "pleased that New Victoria will
continue to provide excellent lesbian fiction and nonfiction to the community"
with Patricia's new energy and enthusiasm.
To read about the history of New Victoria Publishers, see this 2002 article
from Vermont's Out in the Mountains:
In another lesbian publishing house change, Intaglio Publications
publisher Kathy L. Smith has sold her three-year-old company to Sheri Payton
and her partner Becky Arbogast. Sheri Payton previously worked with Intaglio
as author liaison and general manager while Becky Arbogast has worked for
both Naiad Press and Bella Books. Sheri, who writes under the pen name of
Robin Alexander and has three titles with Intaglio, will manage the daily
operations of the newly reorganized press. Becky will continue her full-time
duties with Bella Books and Bella Distribution while assisting Sheri with
the re-launch of Intaglio.
The first two publications under the new Intaglio banner are A Nice Clean
Murder, book two in the Kate Ryan Series, by Kate Sweeney and Compensation,
a novel by S. Anne Gardner. The new press currently has 25 authors under contract
and plans to publish 12 books in 2007 and 18 in 2008. They plan to continue
publishing the same kinds of romance, science fiction, mystery, and other
lesbian fiction that Intaglio has in the past, and they are accepting manuscripts
for more information).
Kathy Smith noted, "With Sheri's knowledge of Intaglio Publications
and its family of authors and Becky's wealth of experience in the lesbian
publishing business, Intaglio Publications will, without a doubt, continue
to have a bright and prosperous future."
More Favorite Books from 2006
Additional authors have shared their favorites with us. Enjoy!
Likely this is on the top of every dyke list: Alison Bechdel's
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. For a comix fan like me, its
mix of painstaking
graphics and literate allusion was paradise between covers. But
since everyone is going to sing its praises, how about some of
the less obvious?
Best reprints of 2006: Djuna Barnes's
Nightwood (the first lesbian novel I read at 14 - deep,
dank, mysterious, appropriately tortured for its time, and brilliant)
and Sarah Schulman's Empathy, in a wonderful new edition
from Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver. Go for sexy depth!
Favorite poetry anthology of 2006: What
I Want From You - Voices of East Bay Lesbian Poets, ed. by
Linda Zeiser and Trena Machado. Full disclosure: I wrote the Foreword.
But the variety, edginess, and energy of the dykes where I live
still knocks me out. Check it out: www.rawartpress.com.
And, although they are not books, a plug
for our journals: Sinister Wisdom (how great that it survives
as an independent publisher of a wide range of activist perspectives
on how our communities take shape, along with literature and art),
Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, Bridges - A Jewish
Feminist Journal, and Bitch (the last two have mixed-orientation
contributors). And of course - Books to Watch Out For!
Elana Dykewomon is close to finishing
her new novel, Risk. Look for it in 2008 and check out
her classes and editing services at www.dykewomon.org.
Katherine V. Forrest
I enjoyed Katia Noyes's debut fiction Lammy Finalist of last year,
Crashing America. If this edgy
novel is an example of what our emerging lesbian writers are producing,
we're in very good shape indeed. Another highlight was catching
up with an old friend's new series, Claire McNab's humorous mysteries
featuring Kylie Kendall, the Aussie Outback maverick who's landed
at a detective agency in the wilds of L.A. I liked the first two
books a lot (The Kookaburra Gambit and Wombat Strategy)
and found The Quokka Question so laugh-out-loud funny that
I'm saving the new The Dingo Dilemma for when I really
My book of the year without a doubt is
Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, Fun Home. It's been a
joy to watch this unique, wonderful book garner national reviews
and unanimous praise - and what a shock of delight it was to open
my end-of-the-year Time and see it named their number one
book of the year! I read the book just as it came out, before
I knew anything about it or saw a single review, and I will never
forget the experience of not only sharing Alison's journey of
discovery but understanding with growing excitement that I was
holding in my hands a beautifully realized, groundbreaking work
of art. A highlight of 2006 was watching wonderful success happen
to one of our community's most deserving, most treasured spirits.
Katherine V. Forrest is twice winner
of the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery and has been honored
with the Pioneer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation. Senior
fiction editor at Naiad Press from 1984 to 1994, she teaches classes
and seminars on the craft of writing.
Lori L. Lake
Counterfeit World by Judith K. Parker knocked my socks
off and made
me wish for a sequel. Equal parts mystery and military science
fiction, the book is set on a unique world and is peopled with
promising characters. I hope to see more of this world. A whole
series would be great.
Freedom's Sisters, the third book
in Naomi Kritzer's Dead Rivers Trilogy finished the exciting and
engrossing story begun in Freedom's Gate and Freedom's
Apprentice. This mainstream author isn't afraid to mention
characters of varying sexual orientations, and the main character's
sexuality is left up in the air, which makes me hope for another
trilogy with the same character finding true love. (With a woman.
I absolutely loved the latest Elizabeth
Moon space opera, Engaging the Enemy, which is the third
in the Kylara Vatta series after Trading in Danger and
Marque & Reprisal. I look forward to the fourth book,
Command Decision, which came out in late February. Moon
writes strong female characters, and while they're not lesbian,
they're entertaining and gutsy and fun.
In the art of nonfiction, I truly loved
Heather Sellers's Page by Page: Discover the Confidence &
Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter
What). Now the same author has a new one, just out, which
I look forward to reading: Chapter After Chapter: Discover
the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your
Dreams. I devour writing books and have read a lot of them,
and Page by Page is a keeper. The author has a delightful
voice and is full of wonderful advice and ideas.
Lastly, I was wowed in the mystery realm
by two books: Rose Beecham's mystery/thriller Grave Silence,
and Nevada Barr's Hard Truth. The latter takes forest ranger
Anna Pigeon into new and uncharted territories and includes a
tough-minded, determined major character in a wheelchair who won
my heart over. I didn't read many mysteries or romances in 2006,
but these two mysteries were the sweetest mystery reads of the
Lori L. Lake, the author of six novels,
a book of short stories, and editor of two anthologies, is a 2007
recipient of the Alice B. Reader's Appreciation Medal. Her latest
book, Snow Moon Rising, is a novel of survival, faith,
and love set during WWII. Lori teaches queer fiction writing at
The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and is currently at work
on her seventh novel. You can visit her website at www.lorillake.com.
Let me disclose that my three new favorites are books by three
new friends: Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and
Conformity (edited by Mattilda a.k.a. Matt
Bernstein Sycamore, Seal Press); Jokes and the Unconscious
(by Daphne Gottlieb and Diane DiMassa, Cleis Press); Rose of
No Man's Land (by Michelle Tea, MacAdam/Cage).
Mattilda's fiery anthology uses revolutionary
thought to illuminate the uncategorizable. Daphne's graphic novel
offers a tender dance between the mortal and the carnal. And Michelle's
latest is about teenage transformation through hallucinatory lust.
What more could you ask? Yum, yum, and yum.
Katia Noyes's second novel A Partial
History of My Delusions is under construction; her first novel
(Crashing America, Alyson Books 2005) was blessed with
four award nominations, as well as being chosen as a Book Sense
Find of the Issue: Fiction
"My brain likes to go everywhere," Nona Caspers says in an online work
"but I tend to focus on narrative offerings: fiction,
memoir, creative nonfiction. I love the aesthetics of Dailyness."
This dailyness, relayed with a poetic, frank, and deceptively simple
voice, runs all through Heavier Than Air, her collection
of short stories. The winner of the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction,
Heavier Than Air contains eleven stories, some connected
by their setting (farms in Minnesota) and background characters,
some with explicit lesbian content and others without. This is the
book I couldn't put down last month; I read it - twice - in one
In "Country Girls," fourteen-year-old Nora moves from
urban Saint Cloud, Minnesota to rural Melrose (where the author is from) and
becomes attached to Cynthia, the "cowgirl" next door. She remembers:
"The woman in the picture was once my friend - that is why my father
sent the magazine - and for a moment I felt transported against my will back
to my parents' home, the air too thin, the rooms too small, me pacing the
short hallway from my bedroom to the living room window, and I felt a wave
of the deepest longing I had ever known, a longing too large for the body,
almost cartoonish unless you are the one living it, and you are fourteen,
and then it is deathly serious."
"Wide Like an Eagle's Wings" tells the story of Manny,
a young girl in Catholic school who is obsessed with Senator Kennedy's race
for the presidency. In "The EE Cry," Frank moves on with his life
after his wife leaves him for another woman. Deborah, a medical student in
San Francisco, sits with her mother in her dying aunt's hospital room in "Vegetative
States" and then asks her mom to come visit her in San Francisco after
her lover leaves her in "Mother." Schoolmates bond over religious
fervor in "Stigmata." From the young and inquisitive to the elderly
looking back, each story is full of introspection, wonder, exploration, and
My favorite is probably "Alfalfa," about longtime friends
Ruthie and Margaret on the eve of Ruthie's pregnancy-hastened wedding to John.
It's a heart-wrenching story, beautifully told. Ruthie has always been in
love with Margaret, and even after Ruthie starts dating John, she can't imagine
a life without Margaret. John's a good guy and is always happy to include
Margaret on their outings. Things do change, though, and Ruthie feels resigned.
"Ruthie thinks sex with John will be hard but it isn't. It's as easy
as stripping a field, she tells Margaret. When John is inside her Ruthie closes
her eyes and pulls his hipbones close. She waits for the heat to reach her
heart, the way it does when she's with Margaret, but John never goes that
Ouch. And yeah. Good stuff. So even if you "don't do short stories,"
give this collection a try. It's worth it. University of Massachusetts Press,
An article about the author from her hometown paper:
Find of the Issue: Nonfiction
Cris Beam, a freelance writer, accompanied her grad-student partner, Robin, on a move from New York to Los Angeles.
Once in town, Cris decided to volunteer
at an L.A. high school for LGBT youth called the Eagles. Her two
and a half years teaching there resulted in ongoing involvement
and research into the lives of trans youth on the street, which
she recounts in Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with
This book captivated me, from her own personal story as a lesbian
interacting with (mostly) male-to-female transgender teens to the stories
of those kids. She includes some trans history, looks at regional differences
between places like L.A., San Francisco, and New York, and discusses the reasons
that there is so much more social service funding for MTFs than there is for
FTMs (to simplify one big reason, MTFs do more sex work, so there is a readily
identifiable HIV risk; there is funding available to reduce HIV risks).
When Cris first connected with Eagles
(Emphasizing Adolescent Gay Lesbian Education Services), she found
that it wasn't as much a full-fledged high school as it was a continuation
school for kids who had been hassled in regular high school. A high
percentage of these kids were "boys who looked too girlie or
girls who looked too butch," many of whom considered themselves
transgender. Some kids attended more or less regularly while others
dropped in and out. After leaving, Cris would run into some of these
kids on the streets, and she began interviewing them about their
lives. Eventually she and her partner grew so close to one of the
kids, they acted as de facto guardians for her.
At first I was disappointed that there wasn't more about FTM
youth in Transparent, and felt mislead by the subtitle. I automatically
think "testosterone" when I read something like "the T";
here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the FTMs are quite visible, thank
you very much, starting "T" is a significant transition point for
many transmen. But in Transparent, the kids Cris encounters in L.A.
use "T" to mean everything from "transgender" to "the
truth." And it may have been more accurate to have the subtitle read
"Transgender Girls" instead of "Transgender Teenagers."
The author does address the absence of FTM subjects in her book, giving both
"official" reasons why there are more homeless adolescent transgirls
than transboys in L.A. ("clinical estimates say that transwomen outnumber
the men by three to one") as well as her own thoughts on the subject:
"My experience is that parents are more likely to throw out a 'son'
to fend for himself when he's embarrassed the family by dressing like a girl.
They won't, however, throw out a daughter when she dresses like a boy. Part
of this is sexism - it's fine for daughters to want to be men, but for sons
to be women? Unthinkable."
An arguable point, perhaps, but this book is also not meant to be exhaustive
research - in many ways, it is as much the author's story as it is the kids
And that's part of what kept me hooked - reading about Cris's
reaction to the kids she encounters and about her and Robin's personal experience
with Eduardo/Christina. And the spirit of the kids shines through as well.
I especially enjoyed meeting Foxx, who acts as a mentor for younger
transgirls: "Our flair is where we keep our power," she posits.
Cris Beam's writing is engaging, almost poetic at times - when she discusses
the phenomenon of trans kids from all over the country flocking to either coast,
she writes, "The coasts are where the people live, right at the boundaries
of where we cannot." I very much agree with the sentiment of Rachel Simmons,
author of Odd Girl Out, who wrote, "An unprecedented window into
the lives of transgender teens, Transparent is a testament to the resilience
of young adults trying to find themselves in a world that would prefer them
lost. I couldn't put it down." Harcourt, $15, 9780151011964.
Michelle Tea (Rose of No Man's Land, Rent Girl, Valencia¸
et al) has provided a glimpse into the future of queer literature
new anthology Baby Remember My Name: An Anthology of New Queer
Girl Writing. We will definitely be reading more from the twenty-two
authors, now in their teens and twenties, collected here. In memoir,
graphic novel excerpts, and fiction, they write about road trips,
relationships, race, sex, drugs, growing up, roommates, sex work,
families of origin, gender, and, uh, pigeons. Favorites of mine
include "Homo Marriage Redux" by Zoe Whittal, "Laundry
Day" by Robin Akimbo, and "Stay" by Beth Steidle.
Overall, Baby Remember My Name is a fine showcase for these
fresh, original, and exciting voices. Carroll & Graf, $14.95,
Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, has also collected an
eclectic variety of writers in Nobody Passes: Rejecting the
Rules of Gender and Conformity. Mattilda wanted pieces that
critiqu(e) the various systems of power seen (or not seen) in
the act of passing…in the broadest possible sense - passing as
the 'right' gender, race, class, sexuality, age, ability, body
type, health status, ethnicity - or as a member of the coolest
religion, political party, social/educational institution, exercise
trend, fashion cult, or sexual practice." The pieces by writers
as varied as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Jen Cross do fulfill Mattilda's
vision. But perhaps most interesting is her introduction, in which
Mattilda discusses how this anthology came to be: Seal Press editor
Brooke Warner saw an interview with Mattilda in Bitch magazine
about a previous anthology (That's Revolting: Queer Strategies
for Resisting Assimilation) and contacted Mattilda about publishing
with Seal. Resulting conversations, recounted in the intro, discussed
everything from how broad or narrow to focus this anthology to
Mattilda's own gender identity. A decidedly feminist collection
with much food for thought. Seal Press, $15.95, 9781580051842.
The IHOP Papers is the follow up to Ali Liebegott's Lambda Literary Award-winning
Beautifully Worthless, and it ably glides over
the infamous sophomore slump that often affects writers of acclaimed
first novels. Twenty-year-old Francesca is in love with Hope from
TV's Days of Our Lives, her AA sponsor, Maria, and Irene,
one of her professors. Francesca follows Irene to San Francisco,
where Irene is spending her sabbatical with her two lovers, Jenny
and Gustavo. When things get tense between Gustavo and Jenny, Francesca
decides to get her own apartment:
"Why was the water so green? I turned the faucet on
to see if it was really the water or just the reflection from the fluorescent
ceiling lamp. The water from the faucet was clear. There was nothing to reflect
green in the bathroom. Then I saw the lines of white and green boric acid
around the edges of the tub. The roach detergent. I was soaking in it."
Francesca works at the local International House of Pancakes. Her observations of the
customers and the people she encounters commuting to and from work give her
a fast and intense education about people as well as material for her writing. In addition to work, Francesca
concentrates on staying sober, wonders when she's going to lose her virginity,
crushes out on lots of different women, pines after Irene, and cuts herself
to ease the tension of it all.
"There were five bloody (razors) in my wallet when the
police picked me up. I didn't know how to explain the difference between self-mutilation
and suicide attempts to law-enforcement agents. Police see bloody razors and
they don't believe you're using it as a way to impress girls."
Francesca isn't - except when she is - your usual 20-year-old
Bay Area baby dyke. She soberly navigates through her heartbreaks and openings
with a realistic mix of bewilderment and keen insight. One of my favorite
lines comes when she discusses a customer who ate buckwheat pancakes and read
Tai Chi books. After he cautions her not to cook rice while listening to rock
music, Francesca wonders, "Who are these freaks - and if they were so
concerned with right livelihood and health, what were they doing eating at
IHOP?" I just loved the character of Francesca in all her coming-of-age
glory and think you will, too. Carroll & Graf, $14.95, 9780786717941.
One of the most surprising books plot-wise I read this month was Blown
Away by Perry Wynn. Far-right politicians and LGBT-rights
make unlikely bedfellows when a territory in Florida is set aside
for homosexuals. Any folks who live in this territory are governed
by LGBT people, receive full civil rights, and live as the majority;
queer people outside the territory are not afforded much legal
protection. Much thought-provoking content in this speculative-fiction
thriller, about separatism, government, civil rights, and sociopolitical
alliances. Though there is ugliness in Blown Away - conspiracies,
terrorism, intense hatred - it's quite a trip to read about a
state with an openly lesbian governor and all queer statehouse.
Harrington Park Press/Alice Street Editions, $19.95 paperback,
Back in Print
My Blue Heaven, a play by Jane Chambers (Last Summer at Bluefish
Cove) is again available, this time from TnT Classic Books. For more details,
Queer Women's Studies
Sharon Marcus uses contemporary Queer Theory, Women's Studies, literature
analysis, and Victorian women's "lifewriting" (both published and
unpublished diaries, correspondence, biographies, memoirs) to look at women's
relationships from 1830-1880 in Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and
Marriage in Victorian England.
"Scholars of autobiography concentrate on a handful of works by exceptional
women, and historians of gender and sexuality have drawn primarily on fiction,
parliamentary reports, journalism, legal cases, and medical and scientific
discourse, which emphasize disruption, disorder, scandal, infractions, and
pathology. Lifewriting, by contrast, emphasized ordinariness, and typicality,
which is precisely what makes it a unique source for scholarship."
She also argues that looking at lifewriting helps show how women write about
different friends in different ways, allowing for interpretation about the
multiple kinds of relationships women have with each other. But she also looks
at more conventionally-used source material, including recent scholarship
like Martha Vicinus's Intimate Friends. Novels she examines include
Great Expectations (Dickens) with its treatment of women's relationships
and Trollope's Can You Forgive Her? for its look at marriage. A bit
heady for a casual read, Between Women is an interesting addition to
the queer studies shelves. Princeton University Press, $19.95 paper, 9780691128351.
Also new is Christine E. Coffman's Insane
Passions: Lesbianism and Psychosis in Literature and Film,
in which the author looks at early twentieth century treatments
of lesbianism by Jacques Lacan and others and links them to a
number of films later in the century that revisit similar themes
(Basic Instinct, Single White Female, and the film
closest to Lacan's essay on the 1933 "Papin Affair,"
Sister My Sister). Coffman also considers novels by Djuna
Barnes and H.D. in this interdisciplinary work. Wesleyan University
Press, $49.95, 9780819568199.
In Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East, Brian Whitaker
convincingly argues that any change in the rights of queer people
in the Middle East must be part of broader reforms, linked with
other political, social, religious, and cultural issues. It was
interesting to learn that life for same-sex-loving folks in this
part of the world wasn't always so fraught with danger. In the eighteenth
century, for instance, Arab countries were more accepting of
homosexual activity than their European neighbors. In the present
day, most of the author's face-to-face interviews took place in
Egypt and Lebanon, so more emphasis is placed on those countries,
and, as might be expected, there is more information on gay men
than lesbians, though he does address this imbalance. And as has
been found in other parts of the world as well, the relative invisibility
of lesbians in the Middle East offers some protection from the persecution
that gay men often face. But it's small comfort for women who truly
identify as lesbian, as opposed to those who are married to men
and have sexual relationships with women on the side. The author
includes the observations of Iman al-Ghafari from Syria about this:
"Amid feminist discussions around sex as power, there emerged an assertion
of lesbianism as a political choice, a means of escaping relationships as
decided and controlled by men…. In fact, the feminist discourse that turns
lesbianism into a political choice is not liberating. Instead it puts ('inborn')
lesbians in a troublesome position where they have to play a major role in
fulfilling the desires and fantasies of some heterosexual feminists at the
expense of their true lesbian desires."
The author also discusses the amount of female same-sex activity in Middle
Eastern fiction and argues that the only book that can be viewed as a truly
lesbian novel in Arabic is Ana Hiya Anti (I Am You) by Elham Mansour,
which looks at a lesbian trying to assert her true identity in Arab society.
Whitaker also notes the impact of the Internet, and how some countries, such
as Saudi Arabia, heavily censor the sites its citizens can visit, so the web's
not as available as a lifeline for queer folk there as it has been in other
areas. All in all, an interesting read. University of California Press, $19.95
Andrew Koppelman, professor of law at Northwestern University School of
Law, takes a broader view of the issue of state-sanctioned same-sex
marriage in Same Sex, Different States: When Same-Sex Marriages
Cross State Lines. He looks at the debates about marriage
and what happens when laws in different states conflict and concludes
that both sides of the debate - pro- and anti- same-sex marriage
- are often legally wrong. Koppelman clearly introduces the concept
of choice of law to the lay reader, a set of already existing
legal doctrines which direct courts about what actions to take
when the laws of one state are in opposition to another state's.
He also argues for a Federalist solution, where consistency and
fairness should prevail. Yale University Press, $35, 9780300113402.
Legal and other issues are also at the core of
Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
Families by Sean Cahill and Sarah Tobias. Cahill and Tobias
discuss social service funding, legal protections - and barriers,
different types of family structures, domestic violence, elder
issues, and the many policies affecting children in a very readable
text with supporting charts and graphs. The extensive bibliography
will be invaluable for anyone working in or interested in these
topics. University of Michigan Press, $19.95 paper, 9780472030613.
Lori L. Lake may be best known for uber-Xena-like mysteries such as Gun Shy,
but she should gain a whole new following with her latest book,
Snow Moon Rising. Spanning from World War I through
the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, Snow Moon Rising follows
Mischka Gallo and her Roma family (more commonly - and derisively
- known as gypsies) from Poland in 1918 to New York City in 1989.
Near the end of WWI, Mischka's family adopts Emil, an AWOL German
soldier, and Mischka later becomes close to his sister, Pippi. The
paths of Mischka and Pippi cross again during WWII in a concentration
camp. A bit reminiscent of Linda Kay Silva's Tory's Tuesday
though broader in scope, Snow Moon Rising brings the traditions
and tragedies of the Roma to life as well as provides a look at
their struggles as immigrants in the United States. The author has
done her homework, and her use of flashback, symbolism, and sociopolitical
observation serve this engaging novel well. Regal Crest, $20.95
World War II plays a role in
Brenda Adcock's Reiko's Garden as well. In 1949, fresh
from his tour of duty in Japan, Thomas
Sanders returned to his rural home in Eastern Tennesee with Reiko,
his Japanese bride, and their infant son. Ten-year-old neighbor
Callie Owen observes the ostracization this family receives and
is curious about why it's happening - and about her different-looking
neighbor. Reiko and Callie strike up a supportive friendship that
sees them through the racism Reiko experiences and the homophobia
Callie deals with when she grows up. When Reiko dies and Callie
returns to Tennessee with her partner and their children for the
funeral, the past comes roaring back to Callie and with it, questions
about her family of origin. Regal Crest, $15.95, 9781932300772.
Friday Night Reads
Karin Kallmaker always provides a there there in her romances; she brings
the worlds of a diverse group of women to life in her books, be
they the owners of wineries (Just Like That), bakers (Sugar),
or musicians (Maybe Next Time, Paperback Romance).
In her latest, Finders Keepers, we meet Marissa Chabot, the
owner of an online dating service, so we get to learn about how
these kinds of services match folks up. Interesting, that. And I
love how the author describes the audience at one of Marissa's presentations:
"The crowd filling the meeting room was thoroughly mixed, with over-fifties
and under-thirties, skin colors ranging from ebony to hothouse mushroom and
hair styles screaming 'het soccer mom' and 'baby butch.'"
There is the inevitable ironic commentary about a woman running a
dating service being unhappily single herself, but fear not -
girl does get girl.
In addition to being a successful business
owner, Marissa is also someone who struggles with her body image
and weight. Unlike many romance heroines, those
who seem to be physical perfection personified, Marissa probably
looks like many of those who will read about her - someone who
is attractive, though not in an L Word-lesbian sort of
way, and one who is not always happy with her body. During the
course of the book, we witness and learn from Marissa's journey
- from hating her body and the limitations it has (tested when
a cruise ship she's on sinks) to a life-changing meeting with
a nutritionist who teaches her (and us) about the intersections
between our bodies, aging, exercise, and eating. As someone who
has run the gamut from body hatred in her twenties, through self-acceptance
and fat liberation in her thirties, to new physical challenges
in her forties, I had sometimes conflicting emotions about Marissa's
character, but I did appreciate much of what Helena, the nutritionist,
had to say:
"It wasn't until I accepted that fitness and meal planning were a reasonable
use of my time - not just reasonable but justifiable and vital - that I had
success. So think about that for a moment. We can train ourselves to plug
in our cell phones, take the car in for oil changes, moisturize our skin,
brush our teeth every day, absorb the news important to our lives and jobs.
These things take time but they're necessary to maintaining our lives. So
when is the last time you allowed time to maintain your body?"
Linda, the object of Marissa's affections, also has a difficult journey to
travel, one that is artfully concealed until the end of the book, so no spoilers
here. Suffice to say that Karin Kallmaker continues her tradition of strong
character portraits, interesting and informative plots, and engaging storytelling
with Finders Keepers. Bella Books, $13.95, 9781594930720.
Speaking of online dating, a sarcastic Internet profile leads to a match
in Dani O'Connor's A Poem for What's Her Name. This is
a short, sweet, romantic, seemingly semi-autobiographical story
of Doc, a cynical college professor who has pretty much given
up on finding love and pours her frustration out into her profile:
MTV addict with a penchant for bad fashion and dull conversation
seeks overly attractive, high maintenance, money grubbing, curious,
"straight" woman for bad dates and awkward kisses….
I like long walks through airports and singing in public restrooms….
Normal, intelligent, funny, fit, attractive women need not apply;
you don't exist. I might as well date the Easter Bunny."
Several entertainingly-bad dates later, she receives a response from someone
calling herself the Easter Bunny, and their clever, amusing, long-distance
courtship begins. A Poem for What's Her Name is both the story of the
building of a relationship and a look at how achieving one's dreams in one
area can lead to positive movement in other areas. Spinsters Ink, $14.95,
Radclyffe is a writer who doesn't disappoint. When Dreams Tremble
brings Leslie, a high-power Manhattan attorney, back to her upstate
New York family home where she runs into Devon, her best
friend in high school. Painful memories of the other from that
time haunt them both, and meeting again forces them to confront
their past. Leslie's family owns a small lakeside vacation business,
and Devon is an environmental biologist, so the lake and surrounding
environs play prominent roles in the story as do Leslie's parents.
The near-book's-end meeting between Natalie, a sergeant with the
Forest Service, and Jules, the local sheriff, smoothly lays the
groundwork for a sequel. Perhaps there is an upstate New York
equivalent of Radclyffe's Provincetown series in the offing. Bold
Strokes Books, $15.95, 9781933110646.
Shelter from the Storm is another going-home-again story, this time
by Peggy J. Herring. Nora Fleming heads back to the homestead
for her mother's 75th birthday and decides to stay, leaving behind
both her career and her girlfriend in Dallas. Once home, she helps
her mom with her farm, reconnecting with her brother and cousins
in the process. Eventually she runs into Darcy Tate, her high
school sweetheart. Old passions are rekindled amidst painful memories,
and then Nora's girlfriend comes to visit. Dyke drama, family
dynamics, farm antics, small town idiosyncrasies (donkey basketball?),
and even an ultimately amusing little subplot about marijuana
make Shelter from the Storm an entertaining read. Bella
Books, $13.95, 9781594930676.
Paula Offutt's Butch Girls Can Fix Anything was quite
fun. Kelly Walker is the local fix-it butch, whose business keeps
her busy after
the death of her lover. Her good friends and neighbors Kaye and
Annette lease one of their rental houses to Grace Owens, mother
to nine-year-old Lucy. Rental units often need fixing you know,
as do broken hearts… As I said, this book was fun, with wonderful
characters, including several dykes who are wheelchair users -
all too rare in fiction. Butch Girls Can Fix Anything is
the kind of story that clearly illustrates the concept of "family
of friends," and it's lovely. My only beef is with the title
- most butches I know would take great exception to being referred
to as "butch girls." But it's a small beef about an
otherwise entertaining story. Regal Crest, $16.95, 9781932300741.
A nursing home is the setting for The Choice by Maria V. Ciletti.
Mina Thomas is married to a police officer, loves her job, and
is fairly happy with her life. Then she is assigned to mentor
a new nurse. Both heterosexually inclined until meeting, they
are startled to find themselves drawn to each other. Will Mina
give up her comfortable life for this never-before-felt passion?
Truthfully, I found the background tales of their work at the
nursing home more compelling then their love story - there are
great moments with some of the patients and their families. The
husband's character was realistically drawn, and the ending was
not the one you'd expect, so that was refreshing, though some
readers might find it disappointing. At times I felt like I was
in product-placement hell, though, with many brand names unnecessarily
strewn about, so that was annoying. Nevertheless, I'm sure this
story will resonate with women whose life it mirrors. Harrington
Park Press/Alice Street Editions, $16.95, 9781560236382.
Girlfriends From Hell
When will we learn to listen to our friends? Erin Fox, in Voices of the Heart
by Frankie J. Jones, had been warned - Ashley was trouble. But Erin's
heart and hormones got in the way and before she
knew it, she was falling hard for a woman who not only already had
a girlfriend, but whose girlfriend was a police officer.
But even Erin's friends didn't know the whole story until Erin's
life was turned upside down. Fortunately Diana, Erin's new neighbor,
provided a comforting shoulder to cry on, and Erin's parents were
supportive as well. Frankie Jones, whose Survival of Love
included a character battling breast cancer (see our review in TLE
#5), again brings a tough issue to light, this time mental illness.
Bella Books, $13.95, 9781594930683.
Stephanie Alexander deals with not one, but two girlfriends from
hell in Samantha Brenner's Grand Slam. This dishy,
humorous novel follows Stephanie's nine months on the women's
tennis tour, initially as the friend of Conchita Martinez's coach,
then as the girlfriend of former number-one player Sydney Foster,
and finally, as the girlfriend of Sydney's ex, Casey Matthews.
When Stephanie's with Sydney, it spins that old U-Haul joke on
its ear; Sydney's on hyperdrive. Eventually Stephanie bonds with
Casey over Sydney's possessiveness, and sparks fly between them.
But Casey has her own baggage... Dyke drama can be amusing all
on its own, but dyke drama combined with women's tennis? Much
fun. Kedzie Press, $16.95, 9781934087428.
Books To Watch Out For
Houghton Mifflin, publishers of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, will also
publish her second graphic memoir, Love Life: A Case Study. In announcing
the deal, Publishers Weekly said Love Life "will examine
the author's love life against the backdrop of her complex childhood."
Yale University Press will be publishing Janet Malcolm's Two Lives: Gertrude
and Alice, "a nuanced account of the legendary couple's relationship,
with emphasis on their mysterious survival during World War II; paired with
a reading of Stein's modernist masterpiece, The Making of Americans."
For a sneak preview, see "Strangers in Paradise: How Gertrude Stein and
Alice B. Toklas got to Heaven" by Malcolm from the New Yorker:
Barbara Gittings, 1932-2007
Longtime gay rights activist Barbara Gittings died at 75, after battling
breast cancer for seven years. Founder of the first East Coast chapter of
the Daughters of Bilitis in 1958, she met her partner of 46 years, Kay Tobin
Lahusen, at a DOB picnic. Barbara Gittings will be remembered for her courageous
participation in early public gay rights demonstrations, such as walks in
front of both the White House and Philadelphia's Independence Hall (see photo
in Philadelphia Inquirer obit, linked to below), as well as her work
with the American Psychiatric Association in removing homosexuality from its
list of mental disorders. But she also contributed to lesbian literature,
first as editor of the DOB publication The Ladder from 1963-1966. Under
her tenure there, with the help of her partner, the words "A Lesbian
Review" were added to the title, and the cover began featuring photographs
of lesbians. Gittings also served on the American Library Association's Gay
Task Force for 15 years and helped compile their LGBT bibliography. (As you'll
see below in the Awards section, the ALA's LGBT fiction award is named for
her.) She also assisted with her partner's book, The Gay Crusaders,
published in 1973. The lesbian and gay book collection at the Philadelphia
Free Library was named in her honor. "She will live forever in our hearts
and our memory. In the history of LGBT people, she will stand forever among
our giants," observed Katherine V. Forrest, president of the Lambda Literary
Foundation. In the Philadelphia Gay News, her partner said, "Barbara
left behind a legacy of love. Love for the cause, for all the workers in the
cause, for justice, for her community, for music, and for me.'' Donations in
her memory can be made to Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, 120 Wall
Street, Suite 1500, New York, NY 10005-3905, www.lambdalegal.org.
Philadelphia Inquirer obituary:
Philadelphia Gay News obituary:
More recent photos:
Lesbian Literature Online
Minnesota Women's Press profiled Ellen Hart:
Lynne Jamneck interviewed Karen X. Tulchinsky for L-Word.com:
Nerve.com interviewed Alison Bechdel:
Camille Paglia has resumed her weekly columns on Salon.com after a six-year
Southern Voice interviews Kate Clinton:
And finally, financial guru and author Suze Orman comes out in an interview with
the New York Times Magazine:
2007 ALA Stonewall Book Awards
The GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Association has announced the
2007 Stonewall Book Awards and this year's honor books:
Barbara Gittings Literature Award: Andrew Holleran, Grief (Hyperion)
Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award: Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family
Tragicomic (Houghton Mifflin)
The Stonewall honor books in literature are:
The Manny Files by Christian Burch (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (Riverhead Books)
Rose of No Man's Land: A Novel by Michelle Tea (MacAdam/Cage Publishing)
A Scarecrow's Bible by Martin Hyatt (Suspect Thoughts Press)
The Stonewall honor books in nonfiction are:
Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino
Gay Power: An American Revolution by David Eisenbach (Carroll &
Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships by
William Benemann (Harrington Park Press)
Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son: A Memoir by Kevin Jennings (Beacon Press)
For more information:
2007 Alice B. Awards
National Book Critics Circle Awards
The Alice B. Medals
are awarded to living writers for a body of work of "consistently well-written
stories about lesbians." Each year at least one writer who is currently
publishing is honored as is one writer who has not published within the last
five years. The Lavender Certificate is awarded to the author of the committee's
choice for best debut novel. This year's 2007 Alice B. Awards recipients are:
2007 Alice B. Medal
Alison Bechdel, Gerri Hill, Lori L. Lake, Lee Lynch, Marijane Meaker, Jane
2007 Lavender Certificate
See www.alicebawards.org for more information.
This year's NBCC Award winners include Julie Phillips for James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
(St. Martin's Press) in the Biography category (we reviewed it in TLE #24) and
Kiran Desai for The Inheritance of Loss (Atlantic Monthly Press)
for Fiction (reviewed in MBW #7). See www.bookcritics.org/?go=awards
for more information and the complete list of winners.
Special Note for Booksellers About BEA 2007
Are you attending Book Expo America this June in New York City? Mary from
Out Word Bound Books in Indianapolis is organizing a get-together for feminist
and LGBTQ bookstores to coincide with BEA. Perhaps a lunch gathering, this
will be an opportunity to meet your queer bookselling sisters and brothers,
exchange ideas, etc. If you're interested, write Mary at
or call 317.951.9100.
Calls for Submissions
The deadline is March 15 for submissions to Visible: A Femmethology,
an anthology of writing on queer femme identity. Editor Maria Angeline seeks
personal essays which explore what femme means and "the power and complications
in presenting femme as a gender and (in) breaking the traditional meaning
of feminine." Submission instructions and more information can be found
Send questions to email@example.com.
Chong-suk Han, guest editor for a forthcoming special issue of The
Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services: Issues in Practice, Policy &
Research, has announced a call for papers which examine the lives
of LGBTQ people of color. "In recent decades, queer scholarship and
scholarship on race have begun to examine what it means to be raced and/or
sexed in the U.S. Yet despite this movement, both Queer Studies and Ethnic
Studies have often overlooked the existence of gay men and women of color.
This special issue is an attempt to add to the scholarship about lesbians
and gay men of color; where lesbians and gay men of color find a 'home' and
what kind of home they find, what needs are specific to those who are both
'raced' and 'sexualized' and what are the factors that need to be addressed
when working with people marginalized both along racial and sexual lines."
Deadline for submission is July 31, 2007. Inquiries for this special issue
should be directed to the guest editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
(215.204.7751). Check out more about the journal at www.haworthpress.com.
Logan Gutierrez-Mock is looking for original essays and poems that address
the specific experiences of multiracial and queer identities for an anthology
called Mixed Fruit: Writings from Multi-racial Queer Communities. Creative
nonfiction, interviews, essays, and poetry will all be considered. Deadline
is May 15, 2007. For additional information, please contact Logan at
Lesbian Literary Quiz, Part 3
In this final quiz from the York Lesbian Festival, we'll provide you with
some memorable "last lines," and you can guess the author and novel.
Answers will be provided in TLE #29. Again, our thanks to the women at the
York Lesbian Festival for allowing us all to play along with them! (Answers
to the "First Lines" quiz from TLE #27 are below this new quiz.)
Guess the Author and Novel of these Last Lines
1: Rejoice little book! For on that day, we will be free.
2: They all walked over to the streetcar then, laughing, shouting, pulling
at each other, on their day, in the middle of that beautiful sunny Sunday.
3: "You did it Gert."
"You grew up."
4: I wrapped my fingers in Raylene's and watched the night close in around
5: October the twelfth stroke of midnight, Thursday, the eleventh of nineteen
hundred and twenty-eight.
6: "We did it," she almost crowed. "We beat the bastards."
7: I've told you everything. My father came off a boat right enough.
8: But if it takes that long then watch out world - I'm going to be the hottest
fifty-year-old this side of the Mississippi.
9: "It's Clarissa," he said. For there she was.
10: And they turned and walked back up the steps towards their own image,
reflected in the great, glass doors.
11: She said, "You can't tell a gift how to come."
12: I know this fantastic offer will not be repeated. So I do.
13: "Acknowledge us, oh God, before the whole world. Give us also the
right to our existence!"
14: When she came to the house, the porch light was on. And it was Ruth who
opened the door.
15: "This is Kindly Light calling Manchester, come in Manchester, this
is Kindly Light."
16: "I'll have bacon and eggs and then toast and marmalade," said
17: From the speakers' tent came a muffled cheer, and a rising ripple of
18: Careful, I'm everything you ever dreamed.
19: "I won't know for sure what love is till I've spoiled you for awhile,
sweetheart," Beebo smiled.
Answers to Lesbian Literary Quiz, Part 2
And here are the answers to Guess the Author and Novel for These First Lines
from TLE #27:
1: Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters
2: Rubyfruit Jungle - Rita Mae Brown
3: The Accidental - Ali Smith
4: Lessons in Murder - Claire McNab
5: Common Murder - Val McDermid
6: The Female Man - Joanna Russ
7: Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
8: The Well of Loneliness - Radclyffe Hall
9: Crocodile Soup - Julia Darling
10: Beebo Brinker - Ann Bannon
11: Leave a Light on For Me - Jean Swallow
12: Oranges are Not the Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson
13: Stir-Fry - Emma Donoghue
14: Patience and Sarah - Isabel Miller
15: Orlando - Virginia Woolf
16: The Fires of Bride - Ellen Galford
17: Desert of the Heart - Jane Rule
18: Trumpet - Jackie Kay
19: Bastard Out of Carolina - Dorothy Allison
That's it for this issue of The Lesbian Edition. Do you know others who would appreciate knowing about new LGBT or feminist
books? Gift subscriptions to any of the three editions of Books To Watch Out For make great presents for readerly friends and family
Until next month,
for Books To Watch Out For
© 2007 Books To Watch Out For
Graphics © Judy Horacek
Books To Watch Out For
PO Box 882554
San Francisco, CA 94188