This started as a Facebook update, but I thought it would be worth exploring at greater length here, especially as I hope to have a nice bibliography of queer women's fiction by the time I'm through.
On Facebook, I wrote that I was "reading lesbian fiction and thinking about heterosexual privilege." In case it's not clear let me explain what I meant by that. Since I decided a few weeks ago to read only lesbian fiction for the rest of October, Queer History Month (which I didn't realize is actually, or perhaps historically? called GLBT History Month), I began to wonder if I could make it a whole month on lesbian literature (i.e. not pulp. I'm not against pulp fiction, but I wanted to know that there was some more literary stuff out there). One of the things that really strikes me about race, gender, class, and sexuality privilege—about being the default—is that you get to see yourself constantly reflected back at you. I could easily spend a year reading only books by/about middle aged, middle class heterosexual white women. I don't think it would be too hard to do the same with straight female authors of color for a year, or even straight women of African or Asian descent, or Latinas. (I'm saying I suspect I could get through a year's reading, approximately 75 books, in each of those groups individually.)
But lesbian, which I decided in this post to more appropriately I think broaden out to say queer, fiction...not so much. While I don't want to get into a hierarchy of oppression discussion here, I've become more and more aware of late (as friends of mine who are in same sex partnerships have had children or immigrated to the U.S.) of how blatant the discrimination is against our pink triangle friends. Eric and I got married in Canada where gay marriage is legal as an act of solidarity, but get tax breaks as a married couple in the U.S., where we also automatically can go on each other's health insurance, where Eric wouldn't have to adopt any child that came out of my body, and where we wouldn't have to travel separately through customs if one of us got a job in another country for fear of the other one being identified as illegal.
Have I strayed too far off topic? Oops. Really all I meant to say is that queer folk seem to be pretty invisible in literature (as well as other forms of entertainment. Can you say "heterosexual romantic comedy"?), even though I suspect that there is a disproportionate number of queer writers out there. Are they not writing queer characters? Or are mainstream publishing houses not interested? Is the mentoring insufficient? What's up? I'd really like to know. Or, quite likely, I'm just ignorant about all the queer women's literary fiction that's out there. (You may ask what about queer men. The fact is I don't read men much. Last year 83% of the books I read were by women, so while the problem may be just as bad on the male identified side of the tracks, it's just not a top priority for me as kind of homo reader.)
Without further ado, some queer women writers and books I've identified (with some help from L.J. Martin, Jess Ross, and Julie Turley and also by doing subject searches in the Barnard/Columbia catalog for LESBIANS--UNITED STATES—FICTION and LESBIANS--UNITED STATES--BIOGRAPHY. ) in the last week or so, alpha by author's first name:
- Achy Obejas
I found her in the Columbia catalog.
- Alison Bechdel
Mostly I'm referring here to her poignant graphic format autobiography Fun Home, which I loved. Recommended by Jess.
- Amy Hoffman
The one who wrote An Army of Ex-Lovers: My Life at the Gay Community News
- Ann Bannon
Her Beebo Brinker series is known as pulp fiction, but I figured she was a seminal enough figure to include here anyway. Recommended by L.J.
- Audre Lorde
I'm most interested in her memoir, Zami, a New Spelling of My Name, which is next up on my book club with Celia
- Donna Jackson
I'm looking forward to reading Honorable Discharge: Memoirs of an Army Dyke: the Donna Jackson Story
- Dorothy Allison
I've read Bastard out of Carolina and Trash
- Jeanette Winterson
Right now I'm just about to finish Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which I'm enjoying far more than I expected to. I'd started one or two of her other novels that didn't keep my interest. I can be a pretty lazy reader sometimes!
- Karla Jay
Jess recommended Tales of the Lavender Menace: a Memoir of Liberation, which I look forward to, especially since Jay is a Barnard alumna.
- Leslie Feinberg
Her novel Stone Butch Blues has been on my to read list for quite a while. And what list of queer women's lit would be complete without a transgender female?
- Lisa Alther
Five Minutes in Heaven is the only one of her seven books listed in the Columbia catalog that has a lezzie subject heading, which if I'm reading the LC authority record correctly for LESBIANS--FICTION was only applied this year.
- Lorrie Sprecher
Her novel Sister Safety Pin's other LCSH is PUNK CULTURE—FICTION. Yum!
- Lynn Breedlove
Of Tribe 8 fame, Breedlove's Godspeed is about a butch San Francisco bike messenger.
- Marijane Meaker
(aka M.E. Kerr of Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack fame and other pseudonyms)
- Michelle Embree
I don't actually know that Embree identifies as queer, and the protagonist of her Manstealing for Fat Girls spends most of her romantic energy on boys, she does have a lesbian best friend and is her self open to being involved with a woman. For my purposes, I'm interested in any literary fiction in which queer women are central characters, preferably positive ones!
- Minnie Bruce Pratt
The poet's memoir is S/he
- Monique Wittig
Recommended by Julie for Across the Acheron.
- Paula Martinac
Found on GLBTQ Novel: Lesbian.
- Sarah Schulman
I've read People in Trouble and maybe one other.
- Sarah Waters
I just read her Tipping the Velvet, a historical novel about "Toms" in 1890s England, and recommend it.
I didn't include mass market (e.g. Rita Mae Brown) or genre fiction (e.g. mystery or sf/fantasy) authors, not as any kind of judgment, just because those aren't the kinds of books I'm craving at this moment. Same goes for non-contemporary (more or less) writers. It's my blog, and I'll be selfish if I want to!
One more disclaimer—I know this might be a touchy subject, especially for a het bitch to be writing about, so I apologize if I've written anything offensive and will correct anything inappropriate, but you have to school me. Sorry; I know it's not your job to educate me, but I really am making an honest effort to be a good ally here!
Please add your recommendations and at some point I'll make a bibliography somewhere, or maybe a wiki. (I looked around a little, not much and didn't find a great bib already out there, so please enlighten me about that, too, if you know of one. Or a hundred.)