Lez Liberty Lit #76: Sideways Stories

Feature image via courageanddash.


You should read these five zines from Black creators. (After you read those five, read these 50 by queer people of color.)

“Cisgender” is now in the Oxford Dictionary.

On language and gayness: “If gaydar is the ability to intuit someone’s sexual orientation merely by looking at them, what’s the flip side? It’s the ability to tell, with one word, whether someone might be homophobic. And that word, I’ve found, is ‘friend.'”

Comic books are getting gay now. (Also I hear the editor quoted at the bottom is a total babe.)

It’s my favorite time of year, aka so many good books are coming this fall time.

Here is what writers, editors, and other people in publishing think are the quintessential American books.

Always relevant: black women sci-fi writers you should know.

These women are rewriting the diary into what it has always been in its best iterations: incisive, fearless, intimate, the ideal amalgam of intellectual and personal intrepidness.

Lit Hub has a brief timeline of writing about gay people in Western literature.

Drawn and Quarterly is twenty-five years old this year, and its celebratory anthology “combines the history of comics publishing, the study of human behavior at its most intimate, awkward and revelatory, and the drive to tell stories that live suspended in the tension between word and image.”

Ploughshares has a review of Enice De Souza’s Nine Indian Woman Poets, an anthology that functions as a “corrective volume,” collecting work by Indian poets writing in English whose work has gone unrecognized.

Long live the litmag.

I’m into this interview with Mallory Ortberg.

The top most frequently challenged books across schools and libraries in 2014 include Persepolis, And Tango Makes Three, The Bluest Eye, Drama and more.

At Hazlitt, Sasha Chapin writes about having Bipolar II and being an artist and feelings crazy and recovery and choosing sanity and more:

“I have pierced the veil of your perception, and I have dreamed dreams beyond your comprehension, and they were boring. I’d like to tell you different. I’d really like to be writing about becoming a mad genius, because I’d like to believe that such a person exists. I’d like David Foster Wallace to have died of being a saint, not of the trickiness of medicating depression. The former is a line of Romantic poetry; the latter is grotesquely cruel and arbitrary. The latter option means that if Sylvia Plath had the same doctor I have, we could now be lamenting the shittiness of her Twitter feed.”

Electric Literature has an infographic of the best holiday reading by destination.

mercer-street-books-recordsEverything is now an essay:

“I believe that the essay owes its longevity today mainly to this fact: the genre and its spirit provide an alternative to the dogmatic thinking that dominates much of social and political life in contemporary America. In fact, I would advocate a conscious and more reflective deployment of the essay’s spirit in all aspects of life as a resistance against the zealous closed-endedness of the rigid mind. I’ll call this deployment ‘the essayification of everything.'”

Not Funny Ha-Ha is a new comic book about abortion.

You should read Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Gloria Steinem loves librarians.

Let’s talk about Oxford commas.

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian has got recommendations for queer magical realism.

At Lambda Literary, Dahpne Sidor reviewed Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade. Anna Furtado reviewed The Song in My Heart by Tracey Richardson.

At Autostraddle, Melanie’s new column, Hidden Gems of Queer Lit, went up and it is glorious. Mey wrote about Fresh Romance #2 and also interviewed Kate Leth. Also you can win a new Kate Beaton book!

Also I’m taking advantage of this week of particularly awesome commenting to ask, what literary blogs are you into? What weird tumblrs posting exclusively photos of book covers and tea and piles of paper or excerpts from 1920s maps or people reading are you obsessed with?

Map of “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass

Map of “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass” by Emily Dickinson from Plotted: A Literary Atlas via buzzfeed

Book Things To Do In Person

July 31: Submissions (poetry, fiction, and non-fiction) for Polychrome Ink, from diverse authors and/or featuring diverse themes, are due.

August 1: “Editors David Levithan and Billy Merrell are searching for non-fiction entries to include in the upcoming expanded edition of The Full Spectrum, with an emphasis on diversity.”

1 December: Submissions for Topside’s short speculative fiction anthology by trans writers are due.

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

What We’re Reading:

Carolyn: I have actually been reading! My brain forced me to actually read. So I’m reading The Folded Clock by Heidu Julavits, which is a diary that so far I’m loving. (I have also been back into keeping a notebook lately so it feels very validating.)

Rachel: I am in the middle of The Argonauts for our book club and also reading The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block which sounds like it would be corny but is really good!

Books! They are really great. You just won’t believe how great they are. You may think that the Internet’s great, but that’s just peanuts compared to books. In Lez Liberty Lit, we talk about literary shit that’s happening that you should probably care about.

The name “Liberty Lit” was inspired by the short-lived literary journal produced by Angela Chase at Liberty High School in 1994.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

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. Wow this is a lot. I love it though. Thanks for all the reading, I need stuff to do while I travel! (I am pro-oxford comma, by the way).

  2. I don’t follow any tumblrs of books with mugs of tea and piles of paper and old maps, but I want to, so pile on those literary tumlr recs, please!

  3. I always read these posts like 3 times because there are SO MANY things and I want to read allllll of them.

  4. I love love love the inclusivity of this site. Recommendations for new queer and POC women writers are always welcome <3

  5. “At Hazlitt, Sasha Chapin” link is busted. :) Looks like an HTML error. But NOPE cat is a hella awesome way to not get a page.


    Also, a lot of well-meaning older people ask me if the queer women I introduce as my friends are friends or “friends” and it makes me laugh.

    • Hahaha the “friends” thing is always so funny to me because my older family members are so cagey about all romantic relationships such that literally everyone is a “friend” until there is a wedding involved. My mom has been with her boyfriend for almost three years now and my grandmother still refers to him as a “friend.” can’t wait to see what happens when i start bringing ladies to thanksgiving dinner!!

  7. So excited for all the books coming out this year! And I had missed the new Hidden Gems column, so thanks!

  8. I routinely read only two literary-minded blogs:

    https://lezbrarian.wordpress.com/ – I think this blog is run by another Straddler, and it’s distinct from the oft-discussed Canadian Lesbrarian site. The books reviewed and discussed tend to be queer-themed, which makes it right up my alley!

    http://www.malindalo.com/ – This is author Malinda Lo’s site, and she blogs there quite a bit about her work, diversity in YA (see her additional contributions at http://www.diversityinya.com/), and writing in general. I love her books, but her blogging is what’s inspiring me to write.

  9. Sweet, I’m definitely excited to read the books recommended in the queer magical realism list.

  10. Thank you for the long list of recommendations.

    I’ve been meaning to check out The Argonauts so I should get onto that.

    I’ve just found out my local councils have a diversity policy with the books ordered into the local libraries and someone whose job it is to ensure books about people of all sexualities and genders are included so I’m going on a library hop this weekend (even if I’m underwhelmed it is still something).

  11. Yay oxford commas and cisgender being in the dictionary!

    Some sites I like are:

    The tumblr has a lot of stuff, but I just follow the reviews! It’s the only sit of its kinds dedicated to bi books (bi women and men) as far as I know! http://bisexual-books.tumblr.com/

    Also, I don’t read this blog: http://www.queerlyseen.com/ nearly enough but it has great articles about (queer) literature and book reviews.

    And of course the lesbrary is a favourite, but you already know about that!

  12. I have recently started reading comics. I began with The Walking Dead and moved on to Nailbiter, LadyKiller, Jem and the Holograms, Y: The Last Man, and some others. Infinite Loop is a good comic with a time traveling woman who falls in love with a female anomaly that she’s supposed to destroy!

    • Some free online comics with lgbtq+ characters I’m loving (for you or anyone else interested): Demon Street, Knights Errant, Monster Pop!, O Human Star, Supercakes, The House On the Cliff, Travelogue, Witchy, Eth’s Skin, Blindsprings, Hotblood!, Sonnet, Princess Princess, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal.

  13. that mallory ortberg interview was delightful.

    also delightful: the list of quintessential american books. I’d never even heard of lots of those choices, but I really enjoyed reading the logic behind why people chose what they did. I really want to figure out what three books I’d choose now. I sort of wonder if I’m capable of particularly unbiased choice when I’ve been taught in school to consider certain things classics. also, seeing people from diverse countries come up with lists of American books made me feel like I ought to diversify my reading as I’m quite sure there are very few countries I’m capable of coming up with intelligent top 3 lists for.

    lastly, what I’m reading: lots of Shakespeare for a class. I don’t like Shakespeare as much as I feel I ought. I also read the sculptor by scott mccloud recently and did not enjoy it as much as I hoped to. I got it based on recommendation so I had high hopes for it, but I only liked it alright.

    • I agree about The Sculptor. I felt like the art was pretty stunning, but the characters were just meh. Like I might have loved it as a freshman in high school, but I’m a little over the manic pixie dream girl trope and the misunderstood virgin nice guy dude.

      • yeah, exactly. plus I liked the gimmick with the magic or whatever, and then I feel like he did nothing particularly interesting with it. the art was indeed quite nice though. so at least there was that.

    • the “I don’t like Shakespeare as much as I feel I ought” is so real, I took a Shakespeare class and just didn’t understand the appeal! I find I appreciate the language so much more when it’s performed (and since then I’ve actually joined a Shakespeare company at school). Shakespeare didn’t ~want~ people to read his work, he wanted them to SEE it!

      • yep, I work at a Shakespeare theater company and it’s all about seeing it performed! Reading Shakespeare is kinda the worst, yo.

  14. Great post. I’m enjoying all of the love for the Oxford Comma.

    As far as queer lit goes, I’ve been reading She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya, and I’d definitely recommend it.

    • Omg, thank you for this link. I just read the review of Call of the Wild that said: “If London wrote about women like he wrote about dogs in this book you’d find his books in the erotic books section.”

    • Add a couple of years and its culled review of Finnegan’s Wake could have been written by me…

  15. The American lit column reminded me I should read all the Faulkner I inherited from my grandmother.

    And that I despise Catcher in the Rye with an almost unreasoning passion.

  16. Oxford commas and queer magical realism… I’m so happy.

    Also, I love the article about language and how it relates to belief systems and our changing cultural and political landscape. That was really interesting.

  17. I’ve never heard of magic realism before. I’m intrigued! Casey always has great recommendations. I think she should write for AS!

  18. The language and gayness article resonates hard. I read somewhere that one of the Penguins from and Tango makes three is now considered not gay as he has a female partner and left the other penguin. Broken family for tango…surely the folks angered by the book will be delighted.

  19. I haven’t clicked any of the links yet except the Ortberg interview, but I can’t wait to start!

    Also, I just need to say that while I don’t thiiink that photo of the bookstore window is of Magus Books in Seattle, it does remind me of them a ton, which made me really happy when I saw it. Magus Books is, in my mind, exactly what a good used bookstore should look and feel like (except for the part where they have narrow aisles and thus aren’t super wheelchair-accessible – it’s not a problem for me personally but it sucks and I wish they would/could change it).

  20. Has any one ever been on the other side of the *friend* thing? Where someone because they have clocked you as queer are all like “Suuuure so and so is your friend, just your friend right” cause the ONLY possible reason you have to know another person of the same gender not related to you is cause you’re diving in that muff.

    • This happens to me all of the time. I live with my roommate, and because we often hang out and have lived together for a handful of years, everyone is like, “riiiiiight, your ‘roommate.'”

      It’s doubly annoying, because I’m out to the people who say that. If I had a girlfriend, I would just tell them? Oy.

      • I’m never surprised at the depth of human numb nuttery, just disappointed and am disappoint right now.

      • SAME. My roommate & I get “your girlfriend” CONSTANTLY. And since she easily reads as queer and I’m an ~invisible~ femme, I have the added bonus of only being seen as queer when we’re out together… because everyone assume we’re dating D:

  21. Carolyn, I’m using the commenting competition to give me the push to tell you that I LOVE THIS COLUMN SO MUCH. I adore reading and books and read this column religiously. Thanks so much!

    The main book websites I frequent are ones that everyone knows anyway. Good Reads I use for everything and I love the community. Plus there are SO MANY lists. Lists are the best.

    Buzzfeed Books is also weirdly great. I subscribe to their newsletter so I can easily access all the book-related content and there are frequently great recommendations on there. Plus, they featured a recommendation from me, so I’m Buzzfeed famous now! :P

    The second-half-of-2015 list is so delicious! I can’t wait! I’m especially excited for Margaret Atwood’s new book, as she’s coming to Nottingham and I’m going to hear her read/answer questions. SO EXCITED. Plus the premise? “a near-future in which the lawful are locked up and the lawless roam free”? I NEED AN ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK VERSION OF THIS SO BADLY.

    The black female sci-fi writers list looks great, will need to check them out!

    Also, three of the frequently challenged books are some of my absolute favourites (The Bluest Eye, Persepolis, and The Kite Runner) – I recommend them highly. :)

    The holiday reads by destination infographics are SO BEAUTIFUL.

    I enjoy the quintessential American list – lots of great books there – but only 19 female writers out of 96?!

    ANYWAY, thanks again Carolyn and have a great reading week everyone!

    • This is really great to hear! (Most weeks I just sit quietly and this column gets under five comments and takes forever to do and anyway basically I’m overwhelmed, I love you all.)

  22. I am so glad to have that list of queer poc zines to start of international zine month!

  23. all those zines are so good! i love growing my collection zines it makes me feel v 90s and much cooler than i really am!

    Confusion over language can be a good thing, too. It means people are actually thinking about what to say and why, instead of lapsing into outdated terms or callously disregarding the social change that’s otherwise impossible to ignore.

    this is also just a really good article in general, language is so important i hate when people don’t realize that.

    also also, on the quintessential american books list, I am surprised to see a lot of those titles. Middlesex, Lolita, and just a surprising number of books by women and or people of color! I am not surprised to see that Catcher in the Rye was high up on there though, but I can’t lie, my New England born and bred self really loved Catcher and the Rye. I felt a lot of affinity towards Holden.

  24. That Oxford Comma video is awesome! I had never seen any of the Ted ed videos before and they seem wonderful. Thank you.

  25. In the spirit of comments week I want to say that I love this series and as a massive sf and young adult fan I am forever looking for good books in these genres with good representation. You never let me down!

  26. “If Sylvia Plath had the same doctor I have, we could now be lamenting the shittiness of her Twitter feed.”


  27. I look forward to this column all week :D I also might have done a happy jig through my kitchen when I saw that Margaret Atwood is releasing a new book!! Also more zines to check out!

  28. The Folded Clock sounds really interesting, I’ll need to put it on my list! Just started reading The Price of Salt and already I can’t put it down. I can’t believe it took this long for me to finally start reading it.

    • I can’t wait to read The Price of Salt. It must be good because it’s always checked out and on hold at my library.

      Plus, the movie “Carol” is coming out this winter, and I can’t see it if I haven’t read the book first.

      And I need to see it because of Cate Blanchett, obviously.

    • Ah the price of salt is so good! My girlfriend is absolutely OBSESSED and she gave me her copy and I devoured it in a week and now we’re both obsessed. The movie is looking to be quite promising!

  29. 1. I need to get a New Yorker subscription.

    2. I love the growing “write a diary” trend.

  30. Also totally guilty of reading + loving this column but never commenting – sorry!! I super appreciate all the work that goes into it and always find really interesting things here :)

    A comic about abortion is basically everything I never knew I wanted, v excited about it

  31. August break is going to be the best. I’ll finally have time to read cool stuff like all these things again!

    Also, Oxford Comma for the win.

  32. I read every edition of the LLL and just keep lists of all the books you mention, because I am on a self-imposed reading ban (for anything more than internet articles) until I submit my final project for my Master’s (less than two months to go). I am going to have so much to catch up on in September.

    Also, I am pro-Oxford comma. I am just pro-comma in general.

  33. Another lurker commenting to say that this is one of my favourite columns; I always learn so much from it!

  34. Oh dear I have a TOTAL TAB EXPLOSION right now. Oxford commas? Gay comic books? Black women sci-fi writers? Gay people in Western literature? Gloria Steinem? Mallory Ortberg? QUEER MAGICAL REALISM?!?! HOW WILL I EVER READ ALL OF THE THINGS?

  35. Reading about the books that non-Americans see as The quintessential American books was so interesting. And I’m happy that cisgender is in the dictionary now! Also excited to read some of the new books that are coming out this fall. Thanks for this!

    As far as your questions go, I don’t follow many literary tumblrs and none come to mind at the moment. However, I’m just going to mention a book I’m reading right now for the hell of it – “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” by Aimee Bender. I’m only on page 20, but so far it’s fantastic.

  36. I admire you for all the work you are putting into this. I ignored “Lez Liberty” for some time mainly because I was so overwhelmed (how could I not be) by it, but this is so interesting!

  37. I also love this column, thank you. Though, I didn’t like all the video links this week. I don’t like to watch videos! Especially at work…

    I’m on course to read 100 books this year per my goodreads challenge. I have the Argonauts up next.

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