Lez Liberty Lit #55: Reading Slowly, Reading Well

By Carolyn & Riese

Feature image by Juliette Tang.


She Rises by Kate Worsley, The Last Nude by Avery Ellis and The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson are just a few of Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian’s historical queer women’s fiction favo(u)rites.

It’s okay to read slowly.

Books are not fact-checked, generally.

This butch/femme 101 reading list includes Brazen Femme, Stone Butch Blues, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers and more.

Julie Enszer reviewed Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass, a new collection of poetry that I am mostly interested in because some of it is about lesbian sex.

There is a word in your vocabulary that you use too much and everyone else knows it.

Postcard of women reading by Mimi Kirchner

Postcard of women reading by Mimi Kirchner

Independent bookstores, using curated selections as an edge, are starting to open again. Why not take an independent bookstore road trip?

Readers have better mental and physical health empathy, according to attractive data from the National Reading Campaign. (Though it can also make you bad at sports and maybe commit murder, according to a conversation between Leslie Jamison and Francine Prose.

Lizzie Skurnick Books is an imprint that reissues classic YA. At Bitch, Skurnick discusses the genre, starting with whether it’s a girl thing: “It is a girl thing. Which is why the whole genre, for ages, has been kind of maligned. Seriously, people used to come up to me at parties and when I said I wrote teen books, and you could watch them assuming that it was about romance and girls, who are of course intrinsically stupid. I used to say to them sometimes, ‘I hope you don’t have a daughter. Because you seem to have a really low opinion of what teenage girls like.'”

Young adults are actually going to libraries with their bodies and everything. That’s part of why they’re better read.

Except in Portland where one library travels by bicycle, because of course it does.

And except in Canadian prison where prisoners’ access to books is dropping.


The National Book Award non-fiction long list appeared yesterday and features only one woman author.

At the Rumpus in a posthumously published interview, Maya Angelou discusses the form of poetry, rhyme, joy and more:

“ll sorts of things bring me joy. I’m a grateful person. I have an attitude of gratitude. So when I wake up and look through the blinds and see a little bit of sky through the blinds, I thank God that I’ve awakened and have things to do and people to talk to and people who will make me smile. [I have] bananas and oranges and things to eat and all of that. The truth is I’m a very simple person. What you see is what you get. I know that I think a lot, and so I appear to be complex—and maybe I am—but I don’t think so. I look for joy. Sometimes people don’t find joy because they don’t look for it, they don’t expect it. I expect it. I don’t expect negative, and when I find it, I run like hell and holler ‘fire!'”

At Lambda Literary, Anna Furtado reviewed Keepsake Self Storage by Marianne Banks. Jackson Nash reviewed Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin. Sara Rauch reviewed The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Frank Pizzoli interviewed John Rechy.

At the Lesbrary, Krait reviewed Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon. Hannah reviewed Emlyn and the Gremlin by Steff F. Kneff. Danika reviewed October by Reney Warrington. Ashley reviewed Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger. Casey reviewed A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar. Danika reviewed Hild by Nicola Griffith.

Recently on Autostraddle: Mey reviewed Jilian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer. Laneia wrote about Pioneer Press. Audrey wrote about Alison Bechdel’s MacArthur Genius Grant. Carmen wrote about defining privilege and oppression. Maggie wrote about reading and journaling.

Events To Watch Out For:

San Francisco, Sept, 18: Ellen Bass, Sally Ashton, and Dean Rader will read from 99 Poems for the 99 Percent at Kepler’s Books and Magazines (1010 El Camino), 7:30 p.m.

Cambridge, MA, Sept. 18: Sarah Waters will talk about her new book with Emily M. Danforth and also sign it (40 Brattle St.), 6:00 p.m., $5.

San Francisco, Sept. 20: Malinda Lo will be interviewing Sarah Waters about her new novel at The Booksmith (1644 Haight St.), 7:30 p.m.

New York, Sept. 21: A discussion between Roxane Gay, Kiese Laymon and Leslie Jamison will be part of the Brooklyn Book Festival (St. Francis College Auditorium), 2 p.m.

New York, Sept. 23: Ariel Schrag and Liz Prince will discuss gender identity and their works at Word (126 Franklin St.), 7–8 p.m.

Indianapolis, Sept. 24: Malinda Lo will discuss diversity and censorship as part of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s Banned Books Week (The Emelie Building, 340 N. Senate Ave.), 5–8 p.m.

Los Angeles, Sept. 27: Katherine V. Forrest and Michael Nava are going to talk mystery novels as part of WeHo Reads: Noir (City Council Chambers, underneath the library), 2–3 p.m.

New York, Sept. 30: The Women’s/Trans Poetry Jam and Open Mike is on at Bluestockings (172 Allen St.), 7 p.m.

New York, Oct. 1: Madison Young will read from Daddy: A Memoir at Bluestockings (172 Allen St.), 7 p.m.

New York, Oct. 7: Contributors to Pen & Ink will be reading from the anthology at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (126 Crosby St.), 7 p.m.

Know of a queer event with literary merit? Send it to us! The Liberty Lit is bi-weekly.



What We’ve Been Reading:

Riese: Welp, I read this article about how millennials have “grown up on” Harry Potter, Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, and I was like are you serious, so then I accidentally found myself reading 50 Shades of Grey and firstly, it seemed really tame compared to how scandalous everybody claimed it was and secondly, it was AWFUL. I think I’m a stupider person for reading it. Anyhow, I’m now about 75% of the way through The Empathy Exams, which I highly recommend although you’ve already read a good chunk of it via TIRTL.


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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Carolyn …I’m sorry to have to tell you……you accidentally left out an important Event To Watch Out For…..my birthday on Sept. 22!!!

    It’s ok….I know you didn’t do it on purpose.

    Oh, and …Great News….I am 39 yet again!!! I must be magical!!

  2. As part of taking education classes and obtain my secondary teaching certificate, one of the classes video-taped all of us doing a presentation in front of the class. OMG! So agonizing to see oneself utter “uh” 30 times (more or less) as a pause in thought while speaking. I guess if we were all video-taped speaking, and heard ourselves, and saw our body language, and just, well, saw us… “being there” , we might all be a little more aware of how we come across to others and a little less judgmental about how others appear to us. Maybe.

    Realizing I am a transfemale, and a lesbian, later in life, and having been raised as a the ‘other’, it has been difficult to find my female peaceful center and writing voice. The emotional realization came like a dazzling discovery, but how to handle the emotions appropriately has involved some embarrassing missteps, and unrealistic expectations of perception from some people. I hope that makes some sense to all of you.
    Unless one is a brilliant writer, words on a screen are but a shallow pool from which to extract the emotions of our heart.

  3. Speak of the devil! I’m finally reading The Persistent Desire, after wanting to in a vague sort of way for about three years. It’s amazing, and I’m glad it made the list. In the same vein as that list, I would also recommend “Drag King Dreams,” an early-oughts novel also by Leslie Feinberg, about an aging, tired drag king in the East Village whose activist spirit is reawakened when one of their friends is murdered in an anti-trans hate crime.

    • Not all the femme books on that list are about femme as opposed to butch, many are about (or at least address) femme all on its own. Brazen Femme is great, and you can pick and choose in Persistence.

      There is also Femme: Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls, Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities, and The Femme Mystique (I have not read these). Femmes of Power is a fun photography book that is also waiting for my eyeballs. Glamour Girls: Femme/Femme Erotica is super femme, With A Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn is less so but needs a plug. Also check out the work of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, which is excellent across the board (but Love Cake especially).

    • I looked, and found this. I hope it helps at all.

      It has some of the same works as are on the butch-femme reading list, but that list has two books that are about butches-without-femmes (Butch is a Noun and Dagger) and two about femmes-without-butches (Brazen Femme and Femmes of Power), so the “butch-femme” title is a little misleading. So I still recommend the latter two. Feel free to tell me off if this isn’t helpful. Good luck.

  4. Ugh, 50 Shades of Grey. I felt like I should read that book because it was fucking EVERYWHERE, but I just couldn’t. So instead, I read Jenny Trout’s epic chapter-by-chapter takedown of it instead. It was very good, I thought. She quotes liberally from the book, so you have a good sense of what the story is really like, but there’s this cushion of Jenny’s mockery and analysis between you and the badness.

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