Lesbrary Sneak Peek

Another stack of les/etc books I haven’t read yet. But here’s why I want to read them!

Lucy Jane Bledsoe was a Lambda Literary Award finalist, which is always a good place to start to look for les/etc books, and also won the 1998 American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Award for Literature. Working Parts is about a bike mechanic with a lifelong struggle with illiteracy. I like books with literature subplots because I’m that much of a bookworm that I want books in my books.

Women On Women: An Anthology of Lesbian Short Fiction was a book I could’ve gotten from the library, but someone on Librarything offered to let me mooch it on Bookmooch and I just couldn’t resist the chance to own it. It has stories from Dorothy Allison, Sapphire, Leslea Newman, Sarah Schulman, Lee Lynch, Jacqueline Woodson, and more. What more can I say?

Love Ruins Everything is a fantastic name for a book, plus I have an autographed copy.  The back cover doesn’t describe much about the book, but one review says it “takes lesbian camp to new and hilarious heights”. I love lesbian camp! D.E.B.S. and But I’m A Cheerleader are two of my favourite lesbian movies!

A Man and Two Women, judging from the title, is not the sort of queer book I usually pick up, but I really want to give one of Doris Lessing’s books a try, because she’s such a famous author. You know, now that I started googling this, I’m not sure this book actually has any queer content, but there’s usually a good reason a seemingly straight books ends up in my les/etc stacks. Has anyone read it and can tell me?

Letters of Alice B. Toklas: Staying On Alone is obviously a collection of Alice B. Toklas’s letters, but they are all letters that were written after her longtime companion–Gertrude Stein–died. I think I’ll have to The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas first, though.

Short Rides by Wendy Borgstrom should just be some fun erotica (nuns! bikers! cowgirls!).

Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair is one I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I really want to expand my lesbian reading out of the genre I’ve been stuck in (middle class, white, cis, abled, “literary fiction”, etc), and from what I’ve heard, this is a great black lesbian novel.

Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women by Sally Miller Gearhart sounds like it will be one of those fantasy lesbian utopia books, which I’ve heard about, but have never actually read one. A society entirely composed of lesbians! Who can resist that.

Lesbrary Sneak Peek

Some more of the les/etc books I’ve gotten lately and why I’m looking forward to reading them.

How could I resist the cover of Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds by Judy Grahn? Answer: I could not. It is amazing. It also seems to about gay and lesbian culture, history, language, and symbols, which sounds fascinating.

Lesbianism and the Women’s Movement seems to have come out of that brief period when feminists decided that lesbianism was the best course of action. Obviously, not all feminists, but I like to think it was one incredible lesbian who had the brilliant idea of making lesbianism a political statement and converting all her feminist friends. It also has two essays by Rita Mae Brown in it, and I loved Rubyfruit Jungle, so that’s enough to sell me.

Sister & Brother: Lesbians & Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together edited by Joan Nestle and John Preston addresses something that I have found interesting: how lesbians and gay men are ofter slotted together in one category, even though they really have nothing in common other than their shared oppression. We don’t identify as the same gender and we aren’t attracted to the same people. But that shared oppression has been enough to form a community, and Sister & Brother is about those relationships.

Woman Plus Woman: Attitudes Toward Lesbianism by Dolores Klaich is one of the many outdated nonfiction books I’ve collected about lesbians. Why? Because I think that even if the information is outdated, knowing the history of the attitudes towards lesbians is a good way to build a narrative about lesbians now and then. This one also promises “frank interviews and blunt answers to a number of anonymous questionnaires”, which will reveal the thoughts of the invisible lesbian population, which are “unstudied and untabulated” . Sweet, invisible lesbians.

The Lesbian Path edited by Margaret Cruikshank has a delightfully 70s cover. This is a collection of personal stories, which I don’t think ever get outdated. It also seems to include some poetry. I love reading lesbians’ coming out stories. Also, it has a whole chapter on lesbians and literature!

Lesbrary Sneak Peek

Here are some more of the les/etc books I’ve acquired and why I’m looking forward to reading them.

The copy of Lesbian/Woman by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon I have seems to be trying to market itself as a lesbian pulp book. The back blurb starts with the shocking declaration “The authors of this book are lesbians.” They also put the term come out in quotation marks, like it’s a new-fangled slang term. The teaser first page says

Are the women who think, act,
live and love as men?
Are they physiological freaks of nature?
Are they women so sexually driven
that they choose their
love partners indiscriminately?

WHAT ARE LESBIANS?

Well, all right then. It seems like it will be a good mix of lesbian pulp cheesyness and real lesbian history.

I don’t know what The Revolution of Little Girls by Blanche McCrary Boyd will be like. The back blurb promises “As a young woman in the 1960s and ’70s, she hypnotizes her way to Harvard, finds herself as a lesbian, then very nearly loses herself to booze and shamans.” Well, it should be interesting at the very least.

Sister Outsider should be interesting for different reasons. Audre Lorde is known for her poetry and for being a black lesbian feminist activist. This is a book of her essays and speeches. I love to read some of the pioneers in lesbian history, especially those who helped to break apart the confining middle class/white/cisgender/abled/etc narrative of lesbianism (and feminism), though obviously it’s still a fight very much in progress.

Tide Lines edited by Lee Fleming is a book I hadn’t heard of before I saw it in a queer thrift store. (I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it. It’s called Out of the Closet. I never though my love of thrift stores and lesbians would ever meet. My girlfriend found a Xena shirt for $5.) “[I]n this anthology, change occurs because we are lesbians. Rites of passage, turning points, beginnings and endings”. It looks like it will be good.

And then, in this same thrift store, I found a whole basket of lesbian magazines for $2 each! I hadn’t heard of them before, but they’re called Lesbian Connection and say they’re free to lesbians worldwide, though obviously they have a suggested donation. From what I can see flipping through, it’s like a lesbian family newsletter… awesome. Here’s the link to their website.

Lesbrary Sneak Peek

Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t posted in a month. School took over my life. It should be much less hectic very, very soon, but for now I’ll post something that’s been in my queue for a while.

Crush by Jane Futcher is a book that’s somehow been classed as a Classic Lesbian Book in my head, though I don’t know why. It’s a teen book, which as I’ve said before, is a genre of queer literature that I think is extremely important. Crush is set in an all-girls school, which has to be a lesbian/gay teen book trope, but also seems to be about the clash of personalities between these two girls: Jinx doesn’t want to rock the boat and Lexie is the beautiful, popular, always-gets-her-way type.

Autobiography of a Family Photo by Jacqueline Woodson is one I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Woodson is a prominent black lesbian author, and I’ve heard that her works tend to be controversial, which is a draw, for me. Autobiography of a Family Photo is a fictional memoir, which should be an interesting style to read.

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady is not a book I would have pegged as queer. Actually, when it came in the mail (after I mooched it from Bookmooch), I was completely confused. But it is a les/etc book, and it looks like a funny one. I think it’s an autobiography, though it could be a fictionalized one. It’s about growing up in a southern home with two very strong woman figures, her mother and granny, who try to mould her into the perfect southern lady. But, “like charity, schizophrenia begins at home.”

Lee Lynch is one of the very prominent names in lesbian fiction. I haven’t read any of hers yet, but I’m looking forward to them. Toothpick House is her first novel.

Nicola Griffith is another author I’ve heard tons of praise about, in fact she’s even won the Lambda Literary Award. I tried to read one her books online, through my library, but I have difficulties concentrating on a screen for that long, so it’ll be good to give Slow River a go in paper form.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery is another book I wouldn’t have suspected of being queer, but it won a Lambda Literary Award, too. This looks like a beautiful book, centred around Japanese tea ceremony, which the author studied for five years previously.

Inferno by Robin Stevenson seems to be ridiculously up my alley. It’s a teen lesbian book (though you wouldn’t know from the back cover) that has literary allusions (to Dante’s Inferno) and is about how high school is hell and being anti-authoritarian. Yes, I left high school several years ago, but I didn’t leave the anti-authoritarian stage, so I’m really looking forward to this.

Lesbrary Sneak Peek

Lesbrary Sneak Peeks are when I show you some of the books I’ve gotten lately that I haven’t read yet. I tell you a little bit about why I want to read them and hopefully expose you to some new les/etc books. Here are a few:

May I Kiss You On the Lips, Miss Sandra? looks hilarious. This is one of those sneaky gay books that end up on my les/etc book stacks and then attracts a skeptical look from me. The cover, the back blurb, and the Amazon reviews don’t mention any queerness… but that’s exactly why I made a lesbian book blog. Because some fly under the radar. This is the memoir of a queer celebrity comedian, Sandra Bernhard. The internet can’t decide if she’s lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or something else, but that’s good enough for me.

I’m looking forward to Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold because it’s lesbian history. I was never too interested in history in school, but queer history is different. It’s particularly relevant to me. The fights they started, we’re still fighting. This one seems particularly fascinating because it’s so tightly focused (Buffalo, NY, 1930s-1960s) and because it’s gathered from oral histories of 45 women.

I’ve heard great things about Nicole Conn’s Claire of the Moon, though I haven’t read it yet, so it’s not surprising that I picked up Passion’s Shadow. It sounds like it will be a mystery and (steamy?) romance story and seems to have gotten good reviews, so I hope I like it.

Flying Under Bridges by Sandi Toksvig is another sneaky gay book, but my google-fu has determined it belongs here. The reviews intrigue me. Murder! Hilarity! Lesbians! Okay, you’re right, “Lesbians!” usually intrigues me in itself, but the other two are interesting, too.

Some Girls by Kristin McCloy, from what I gather from the blurb, is about a 23-year-old woman, Claire, who runs away from her old life to try to make it in New York. She meets up with a glamorous woman who is everything she wants to be (aah, that age old les/etc question: “Do I want to date her or be her?”), and “becomes first Claire’s guide, then something far more intimate.” After that, Claire is forced to make choices that will change her life forever! Excitement or safety! Love or familiarity! Scandalous.

Lesbrary Sneak Peek

I’ve been collecting lots of new les/etc books I haven’t been updating you on, so here’s the beginning of me catching up! So, here are some of the books I haven’t read yet and why I’m looking forward to reading them.

Sarah Schulman is one of the names that’s been filed away in my brain as an Important Lesbian Author. I don’t know how people end up on that list, but it always makes me more eager to read their works. The version I have of Empathy is part of the Little Sister’s Classics collection, Little Sister’s being the lesbian bookstore in Vancouver famous for fighting censorship.

I have an interest in les/etc teen books because I think that’s when a lot of queer people start looking for queer lit. Pretty much everyone is insecure as a teenager, but being queer can make it even worse. Being able to read about other people, especially other teens, going through the same things can be really reassuring. Good Girls Don’t is a bisexual teen book, so it’s obviously on my very long list of books to read.

Dancing In the Dark edited by Barbara Grier and Christine Cassidy is a book from one of the old lesbian publishers, Naiad Press. It’s a collection of short stories, so it will probably be hit and miss, but it includes some authors I’ve heard very good things about, like Karin Kallmaker and Penny Hayes.

A Stone Gone Mad by Jacquelyn Park looks delightfully dramatic! It’s another les/etc teen book, and check out this back blurb:


Drama! Boarding school! Lesbians! That’s enough to entice me, at least.

Travels With Diana Hunter looks like it will be a nice, short, sexy romp. All three of the Amazon reviews mention it’s “not PC”, though… What does that mean? I guess I’ll find out.

Did I mention that I liked Patience & Sarah by Isabel Miller? Well, I did. It was sweet, and surprisingly not depressing. Actually, it’s one of the very books I recommended on this blog. So of course as soon as I saw that she had another lesbian novel, The Love of Good Women, I was more than happy to snap it up.

I don’t think I need to explain why I want to read In A Queer Country. Queer Canada! I’m Canadian! It looks fantastic, plus the back cover mention the Lesbian Rangers. I think my view of the world improved after learning the Lesbian Rangers once existed.

I thought Making Out seemed like it would be an awesome, sexy book, but now I have to say I’ll probably be reading it more for the hilarity factor. This is a book that did not age well. Check out a NSFW sample after the cut.

Continue Reading →

Lesbrary Sneak Peek: Jane Rule

I’m definitely behind in showing off my new les/etc books! Oh well, here are the stack of Jane Rule books I’ve acquired. I think I’ll address these all at once, because I’m excited for them as a whole more than as individual books.

Jane Rule is legendary in lesbian fiction. She wrote Desert of the Heart (still on my TBR shelves!), the classic lesbian book that was made into a movie. She was also Canadian–from BC, in particular–so that’s extra awesome in my opinion. She was an activist for free speech and gay rights. I think of her work as something I need to read as part of being a well-read lesbian.

Have you read any of Jane Rule’s books? What did you think of them?

Lesbrary Sneak Peek: Anthologies and Books About Lesbian Books!

Okay, so I got these a while back in that giant book sale I was telling you about, but I’m still super excited about them. Actually, these are the books I’m most excited about reading.

To start off with, there’s Piece of my Heart: A Lesbian of Colour Anthology. I’m always on the lookout for lesbian books that break out of the white, middle-class standard. To me, being queer is all about diversity, so I’m so sick of only seeing it represented by non-threatening cisgendered, white, middle-class, abled, American men. I also like anthologies for the chance to discover new writers. Piece of my Heart is separated into Coming Out, Finding Home; Memories…Distances…Exile…; Sister to Sister; We Will Not Be Invisible; Pain and Betrayal; Cravings; The Wanting and the Passion; and Coming Into Our Own Power. Piece of my Heart collects together North American lesbians of colour’s stories from 1985-1991, but as always I don’t think that makes it outdated as much as it gives us insight into the past. Does anyone know of a similar, more recent effort?

The Very Inside: An Anthology of Writing by Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbian and Bisexual Women offers a look at lesbian writing outside of the Western perspective. I’m excited about this one for similar reasons to Piece of my Heart. The Very Inside includes essays, interviews, poetry and prose and it split up into Origins, Departures; Finding/Founding Community; Waking From a Dream of Love; Life Struggle; and Out of Fire, Grace. It was published in 1994.

Two of my favorite genres of books are lesbian books (gasp!) and books about books. These next four combine these into one magnificent subject that left me dancing with joy when I spotted them: books about lesbian books. Epic. The first is called Sweet Dreams: Sexuality, Gender, and Popular Fiction and was published in 1988. Sweet Dreams is a collection of essays about feminist, lesbian, and gay books published in the 70s and 80s as well as, I think, how more traditional books can be read from a feminist, lesbian, or gay perspective (now we call it queering!). It looks like it will be a pretty academic book, so that’s intimidating, but it also looks very interesting.

I first spotted Sex Variant Women in Literature at Powell’s Books when I was visiting Oregon last summer (if you can, definitely check it out. They had a whole aisle of lesbian books; I was in heaven). I had no money and was devastated to leave it behind. Luckily, the great big book sale had it! Sex Variant Women claims to cover 2600 years of lesbian writing. Twenty-six hundred years! Sure, it was first published in 1956, so it’s missing 54 years now, but what’s 54 years out of 2654? Seriously, this is like the book I’ve been searching for all my lesbian life… and she wrote it in the 1950s! That is a very impressive feat! … Now I want to drop the book I’m reading and start this one. Soon!

Oh Naiad Press, how are you so awesome? Lesbiana: Book Reviews from the Ladder is a book I hadn’t heard of until I spotted it at the book sale, and considering I’ve been adding to my wish list of lesbian books for several years now, I find that surprising. Picking it up now,  I see that the back cover says “This collection starts where Jeannette H. Foster’s Sex Variant Women in Literature ends.” Well… perfect! Wow, it’s like they were publishing just for me… Lesbiana is a collection of lesbian book reviews by Barbara Grier which first appeared in The Ladder… which I’ve never heard of. Does anyone know what The Ladder was? Anyways, Lesbiana combines the reviews of hundreds of titles and was in 1976, which I suppose means we’re only missing 34 years now!

Lastly, I have no idea how I missed it, but the day after I went the book sale my girlfriend went to it and unearthed this other amazing book I’d never heard of: Lesbians In Print: A Bibliography of 1,500 Books with Synopses. It attempts to tell you every lesbian book there is! Of course, it’s published in 1995, but if these three books do what they claim to do, than all the Lesbrary has to do is cover the last 15 years, because apparently I was late to the party. Seriously, how amazing are these?

Have you read any of these books or similar ones? What did you think of them?

Lesbrary Sneak Peek: Nonfiction

Lesbian nonfiction! Now, I’m going to be honest, the first book on that stack I only picked up because I got it for free. I am not a parent. It will be interesting, though, to hear about it from the other side. I’ve heard so many horrible stories about parents’ reactions to coming out (I luckily have a life that may be one of the most ideal to come out in) and I just can’t wrap my head around it. It was published in 1997, which you may say makes it outdated, but I say it makes it an interesting view into the attitudes of the past. These are based on interviews with PFLAG parents, so they should have a positive tone overall.

This article on glbtq literature (which I highly recommend, by they way) has a quick overview of the importance of coming out stories in the queer community. In fact, one of the first things queer people do once they get together is to tell our coming out stories. This collection is from 1980, and looks like it was one of the first of its kind. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Lesbian (Out)law was published in 1992 and tackles the relationship of lesbian to the law. According to the author’s website, “Robson argues that the law’s traditional categories and themes sacrifice and damage lesbians. She reveals the centuries of legal punishment of lesbians, hidden behind the myth of lesbian impunity.” I know that the law has changed in eighteen years, but with same sex marriage and DADT continuing to be big issues, I imagine a lot of this will still be relevant or at the very least interesting.

Now this one I was definitely happy to find. A lesbian nun! A lesbian nun in renaissance Italy! If that is not automatically a draw for you, we have very different tastes in books. I honestly can’t think of anything to say to improve on that. This is a true story and also looks like it will be a pretty easy read, too.

Hidden From History looks absolutely fascinating. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m a fan of nonfiction and fiction alike, and this looks like it will be particularly good. It, as far as I can tell, attempts to sift through the past and bring up gay and lesbian narratives that have been forgotten or, as the title states, hidden. It also covers some non-Western history, which is refreshing. It’s a collection of essays, so there should be some variation. I’m very glad I could snap this up.

I’m not a historian… at all. I’m terrible with names, dates, and places. And yet, these queer history books are some of the finds I’m most interested in. Making History is more of a modern history than Hidden From History, focusing on the gay rights movement. I think it’s incredibly important, especially for someone like me, who’s had it pretty easy, to recognize and attempt to understand the struggles that lead us up to this point. This looks like it will be a good overview for me. Maybe I’ll pass it on to my girlfriend after so she no longer horrifies other lesbians by not knowing what Stonewall is.

Have you read Beyond Acceptance, The Coming Out Stories, Lesbian (Out)law, Immodest Acts, Hidden From History, or Making History (or its updated version, Making Gay History)?What did you think of them? Do you recommend any other lesbian nonfiction?

Lesbrary Sneak Peek: Catching Up

Okay, I’m way behind in the new lesbian books I have acquired since last Lesbrary Sneak Peek. All the stacks on the shelf are the lesbian books I’ve gotten since then:

The books behind them are my girlfriend’s. So, here’s the first stack, and I’ll try to tackle the next one tomorrow.

One review of this book ends with “HAND OF PROPHECY, Severna Park’s second novel, benefits from an unusual plot and neat prose, but its graphic descriptions of lesbian sex might limit the novel’s appeal”, which may be the best unintentional sell I’ve ever heard. Hand of Prophecy is a sci fi novel set where slaves are injected with a virus that makes for great slaves for two decades, then promptly kills them. Our protagonist, Frenna, is one of these slaves, but she’s found a way to fight the virus. Will she overthrow the tyrants and free her fellow slaves? Will she be able to recruit enough people to her side to be a formidable opponent? And, most importantly, how much graphic lesbian sex can we look forward to?!

Stella Duffy’s Calendar Girl is another genre lesbian book, this time in the mystery category. I have no idea how lesbianism comes into Hand of Prophecy, but it’s a lot more clear in Calendar Girl. According to the back cover: “Maggie has fallen for ‘the girl with the Kelly McGillis body’, a mysterious woman who can’t commit herself. Meanwhile Saz Martin is hot on the trail of a woman known only as September, who commute between London and New York in a whirlwind of drug smuggling, gambling and high-class prostitution. A murder brings Saz and Maggie and their respective mysteries together.” Yes, I am being lazy and just giving you the blurb. There are a lot of books to get through!

I have no idea what the back of this book is talking about, but that is a very cool cover. The Lesbian Science Fiction site has a positive review of this one, calling it “[p]ost-apocalyptic science fiction with a touch of fantasy and the absurd”, and promising a lesbian main character. I love post-apocalyptic books and lesbian books (obviously), so this should be perfect for me. Does anyone know any other dystopian lesbian novels they would recommend? I wonder how many there are out there.

Judy Grahn’s The Queen of Wands is a poetry collection. I’m a little iffy on it, because poetry can go very much either way for me. If it’s at all boring, I won’t bother. I need emotion and vivid imagery, not long descriptions of scenery. Grahn is a lesbian who often writes on the lesbian experience, so I’m hesitantly optimistic. I haven’t found any lesbian poetry I really like yet, unless you count the slam poet Alix Olsen, who is awesome.

This does not seem like it will be a light read. Gulf Dreams is about a Chicana woman dealing with abuse, racism, sexism, and homophobia in a small town in Texas. It looks like it’s not written in an entirely linear way, either. So, heavy subject matter and a challenging writing style… could be a very rewarding read. I’m looking forward to it.

Shadows of Aggar is the third sci fi/fantasy book in this stack. The reviews I’ve read of this one are very positive, and promise “a unique world and culture, swords and magic, and imperfect characters on a heroic quest” with a good lesbian romance to boot. This one was also nominated for Lambda award: always a good sign.

In contrast to Gulf Dreams, all the reviews of The Romantic Naiad promise it’s full of stories you can read with your brain turned off. It’s all short stories, and appears to be partly mysteries, partly romance, and partly erotica. Nothing wrong with that.

Have you read Hand of Prophecy, Calendar Girl, Daughters of Moab, Queen of Wands, Gulf Dreams, Shadows of Aggar, or The Romantic Naiad? What did you think of them?

Have you received any lesbian books lately?

What’s odd about all these stacks is that this is after I’ve stopped sending out books on Bookmooch (temporarily; I’m out of money). There was a giant book sale here and I managed to pick up a surprising amount of lesbian books, all $1-3, and even managed to grab some free ones. So if I had been on Bookmooch, too, this would be a lot bigger.