Lez Liberty Lit #96: Some Books Are Flowers, Some Are Weeds

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Things About Queer Books (And Other Books Relevant To Your Interests)

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, SJ Sindu writes about Jeanette Winterson, mental health challenges, queerness and more:

“I consumed her work and let it fill me up. It wasn’t just that I saw myself in her stories. It wasn’t just that her characters were queer. It wasn’t just that they were hemmed in by religion and ideology. It was that her writing transcends all of these details. The aesthetics of her voice are somehow unique and, at the same time, adaptable. She breaks the boundaries of form, twists and shapes the conventions of genre into art. Her cadence, her rhythm — they pulled me outside of my skin so that I was yet again more than the quicksand in my stomach.”

“As a woman in Saudi Arabia, as a girl there, you have two options: You either lose your mind or you become a feminist. So I kind of lost my mind, and then I became a feminist.”

Copy editing is dead I guess. (Though professional copy editor Mary Norris would disagree.) Also, stop correcting these grammar mistakes.

(Re)watch Lemonade, then read these books.

In the New Yorker, Hilton Als writes about Maggie Nelson.

There’s an all-romance bookstore.

Queensland Book Depot c 1940 via comphotosstatelibrary

Queensland Book Depot c 1940 via comphotosstatelibrary

Some really silly books make it into libraries, and sometimes people who set policies try to get rid of them to make room for other books and other people don’t like it, and on:

“Public libraries serve practical purposes, but they also symbolize our collective access to information, so it’s understandable that many Berkeley residents reacted strongly to seeing books discarded. What’s more, Scott’s critics ultimately contended that he had not been forthcoming about how many books were being removed, or about his process for deciding which books would go. Still, it’s standard practice—and often a necessity—to remove books from library collections. Librarians call it “weeding,” and the choice of words is important: a library that “hemorrhages” books loses its lifeblood; a librarian who “weeds” is helping the collection thrive. The key question, for librarians who prefer to avoid scandal, is which books are weeds.”

In private life, it’s also hard to get rid of books. At LitHub, Summer Brennan writes about KonMari-ing her library, minimalism, and the beauty of unread books:

“Kondo argues emphatically and in bolded text that the right time to read a book is when it first comes into your possession. But throwing out every unread book on your bookshelf just because you’re not reading it right now makes about as much sense as throwing away all the perfectly good food in your refrigerator and pantry just because you don’t plan on eating it for your next meal. Only you can gauge your appetite.

“A book can wait a thousand years unread until the right reader comes along,” said the critic George Steiner, and that’s true. The good ones are incantations, summoning spells. They are a spark, a balm, a letter from home. They contain demons, gods in a box. They are tiny rectangles with the whole universe packed in. We read books that describe magical portals when really it is the books themselves that are the rabbit hole, the wardrobe, the doorway between worlds. Books, like people, are bigger on the inside. It is by this dimension of imaginative relativity that Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Earthsea, Dickens’s London, Hemingway’s Paris, Didion’s anxious California and the mind of Helen Oyeyemi, reclining like a sphinx between her pages in quiet and glittering sleep, all fit inside my tiny apartment, and inside me.”

Which of these classic teen books have you read or never even heard of?

Roman fonts are neat.

Like when infographics make decisions for you? What Shakespeare play should you read? Also, six hot takes on Shakespeare, and 25 authors on his birthday.

The 2016 Pulitzer winners have been announced.

Go return your library books.

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian reviewed Amber Dawn’s poetry collection Where the World Ends and My Body Begins, calling it “a welcome change from the sea of free verse that you usually find written by today’s poets.”

A new literary prize will award $50,000 to an unpublished work with a woman main protagonist.

We need diverse books, but we also need better language about them:

“”Diverse’ isn’t half as bad as ‘multicultural,’ which is like saying if it isn’t white, it’s an undecipherable mass of otherness that we won’t even bother to [give] actual cultural identities because they fit so neatly outside our main shelves,’ says Sonali Dev, author of, most recently, the novel The Bollywood Bride. ‘Then again,’ she adds, ‘maybe ‘diverse’ is worse because it clumps not just different cultures together but throws different sexualities and everything that’s not straight and white into the sidelined mix, too. At least we have labels now, and that means we exist. A foot wedged firmly in the door, and all that.'”

At Autostraddle, Mey wrote about the Eisner-nominated comics you should check out and also ChaosLife. Maree wrote about Oscar of Between.

Book Things To Do In Person

4 May, New York: Lambda Literary Award finalists will read at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (26 Wooster St.), 6:30 p.m.

10 May, New York: Queering Sexual Violence Anthology release and reading at Bluestockings Bookstore & Cafe (172 Allen St.), 7 p.m.

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


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 queer books and 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.

Carolyn Yates is the NSFW Consultant, and was formerly the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor, for Autostraddle.com. Her writing has appeared in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She recently moved to Los Angeles from Montreal. Find her on twitter.

Carolyn has written 908 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. Wow, I definitely forgot most of those old teen books existed! Although I have never heard of a lot of them… But From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was soooo good! Who didn’t want to live in a museum after that?

    • Philosophy is that we were not an “archival library,” and thus had to stay current. While I know logically we could not just keep amassing volumes in our limited space, it wasn’t easy to remove the only copy of a book no one had ever checked out. Knowing that many go on to be resold online allowed me to sleep at night!

      Also, that Jeanette Winterson piece is lovely.

    • I remember being all shocked and outraged about the weeding at my university library (they actually sent the books for burning, which is reasonable when they can’t be recycled but omg), but then i fell in love with a librarian and I guess the process makes sense to me now.

      • I work at a bookstore and the weeding (or “purging” as we call it) is so sad! I know we have to do it because we have finite space and need to make money and can’t hold on to books that don’t sell forever, but I still feel bad for the sad little books that no one wanted to buy… Someone worked so hard to write that! It might be amazing, if only anyone ever read it! 🙁

  2. Every week I open about 80% of the links in this column, and then I try to finish reading all of them til the next one is published. I just heard about Mary Norris’ book, Confessions of a comma queen, and I’m super excited to read it.

  3. I was surprised at the number of those teen books I hadn’t heard of. I went into the article feeling very superior, and I was wrong wrong wrong in feeling it. I was also surprised to see behind the attic wall on the list. I had no idea anyone else had read it.

    the article on trying to weed your personal library is super relevant to my interests. I’m in the midst of trying to convince myself I don’t need every novel and anthology I purchased through the course of my english degree. it’s not going well.

    • I hear you. I worked as a book sorter/pricer at a charity bookstore for my first three-year undergrad. When we refurbished the store, I took the old shelving home to accommodate the library I’d amassed by getting first dibs on all the awesome things.

      Now I have the unenviable challenge of deciding which books to ship to Canada from my folks’ place in the UK. One textbook = several paperback = a HARD decision!

  4. “It was that her writing transcends all of these details. The aesthetics of her voice are somehow unique and, at the same time, adaptable.”

    I feel the same way about Winterson! I loved all of her writing except for Oranges. Everything else I want to bathe in.

  5. I liked reading the piece about weeding – I worked in an academic library for a while and used to write about the random books I would find while shelving.

    The last bit about Tolstoy made me pause for a second, though. It seems like having a feeling that a book isn’t a weed makes some sense – there are definitely books that are important enough that even if they aren’t checked out often, people should have access to – but I hope that librarians are being race and gender-conscious when they go through that process since so many books that are considered “essential” are by white dudes.

  6. I loved this article I read in library school about a library that had a lot of theft in one area (probably art), and patrons started leaving comments about how they loved the new art section. The emptier shelves made them feel like the library had added art books instead of losing them, because they could finally see what was on the shelf.

    I love weeding, and I am a strong advocate against keeping books I haven’t read. Books left out too long go stale!

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