Casey reviews In Another Place, Not Here by Dionne Brand

For readers unaccustomed to the Black Caribbean vernacular that begins Dionne Brand’s 1996 novel In Another Place, Not Herelike me—there’s a bid of an initial hurdle to leap over to sink into this book. But trust me, it’s worth it; and sink in you truly do. Brand is an exhilarating poet and although this is a novel, it’s definitely a poet’s novel. There is something deliciously seductive about the language, which rolls, rises, falls, and flows its way throughout the narrative. The rhythm and feel of the words are seductive to the point that their meaning at times seems secondary and, in fact, purposely elusive—a quality that might be frustrating for some readers. If you can give yourself over to the novel, though, make yourself vulnerable in a way that one of the main characters Verlia struggles to throughout the text, In Another Place, Not Here is a really rewarding read. Devoting each half of the novel to the story of one of the two women around whom the novel centres, Elizete and Verlia, Brand weaves an emotionally charged narrative that at times hits as hard as a physical assault, at others as softly as a warm wind. You read not so much to ‘find out what happens’ but rather to ride the tumultuous wave of both women’s intertwined emotionally and spiritually fraught journeys.

Elizete, whose story begins the novel, is an exploited sugar cane field labourer living in Trinidad—Brand’s mother country, though she is now a long-time Torontonian—who meets the revolutionary Verlia, also a native of Trinidad but recently returned after an emigration to and residence in Canada. There is an immediate attraction between the two women and a following relationship; Elizete describes her feelings for Verlia breathtakingly: “I sink into Verlia and let she flesh swallow me up. I devour she. She open me up like any morning. Limp, limp and rain light, soft to the marrow” (5). Erotic passages such as this are stunning, almost as if you had stumbled upon a scene truly not meant for anyone except the lovers’ eyes. Their intensity of feeling, however, collides with the seemingly insurmountable obstacles before them: racism, the legacy of slavery, misogyny, homophobia, and capitalist exploitation. Verlia has committed herself to political activism, having been part of the 1970s Black power movement in Toronto, but even her increasing radicalism cannot sustain her in the face of the placelessness and lack of belonging that plague her. Elizete too, feels this diasporic suffering: in search of meaning behind her loss of Verlia she journeys to Toronto from Trinidad but is told there by Verlia’s ex-lover Abena to “Go home, this is not a place for us” (230). There are no answers, let alone easy ones, to both Verlia and Elizete’s search for another place, not here, but their stumblings along the path looking for such a place are gorgeous, both in their sensuous highs and their devastating lows. Such a stumbling, difficult journey makes, in the end, a more worthwhile, truthful novel than a straightforward, but simplified, one would. Highly recommended!

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.

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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?