Lez Liberty Lit: Let’s Hang In Lesbian Victorian London


Hey there and welcome to this week’s Lez Liberty Lit!

Sarah Waters’s Victorian lesbian classic, Tipping the Velvet, just turned 20. At the Guardian, Waters writes:

“Tipping the Velvet was never intended to be a work of historical realism. Instead, it offers a 1990s-flavoured lesbian Victorian London, complete with its own clubs, pubs and fashions. It conjures up an antique lesbian lingo, using, or cheerfully misusing, some of the words and phrases – “toms”, “mashers”, “tipping the velvet” itself – that I’d come across in dictionaries of historical slang and in 19th-century pornography. And it makes frequent little nods to lesbian and gay icons and classic queer texts – to Dorian Gray, Hadrian and Antinous, Woolf’s Orlando, Zola’s Nana, Compton Mackenzie’s Extraordinary Women, Henry James’s The Bostonians … The very patchiness of lesbian history, I was trying to say, invites or incites the lesbian historical novelist to pinch, to appropriate, to make stuff up. I wanted the novel not just to reflect that, but to reflect on it, to lay bare and revel in its own artificiality.”

In an interview with Bitch, Ijeoma Oluo discusses confronting racism, dismantling white supremacy, personal boundaries and more.

“Is Homer’s Calypso a feminist icon or a rapist?” asks Stephanie McCarter at Electric Literature.

At Little Red Tarot, Beth Maiden muses on whether a business can be anticapitalist.

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin. Read Margaret Atwood on Le Guin. Also read her essential novels, or her writing on what it means to be a working artist.

Elena Ferrante has a new column.

At the Rumpus, Morgan Parker, author of There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé, talked to Vivian Lee about the writing process, language, black America, feelings, negotiating understanding in poetry, swirling thoughts and more:

“I love having the freedom to think about the content of my poetry book and communicate it in a different way to different people. So every idea I have, I think about whether it is a poem or a dialogue or an essay. I used to be afraid that I have to just pick one, so what I’m doing is trying all of it and not being afraid of trying it all. There are different ways to approach an idea so I’m allowing myself to be comfortable with that. The kind of repetition of things, return to things, is pretty central to my work. There’s no way to compartmentalize it into one way. It feels unorthodox and extra, but there could be something exciting that happens on a long scale where you read a poem and see a thought appear later on in an essay.”

“Mansplaining” made the OED.

At Nylon, Morgan Jerkins, author of This Will Be My Undoing, discusses vulnerability, developing a writing voice on twitter, mental health, intersectional feminism and more.

The “writer’s lifestyle” is a fantasy.

Read these ten books about the body. Read these books about sisters. Read these 10 queer poets. Read these romance novels by or about a person of color. Read these forthcoming queer sequels.

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. This may be my favorite LLL ever! There are so many gems in the Morgan Jerkins and Ijeoma Oluo interviews, but I particularly appreciated that they both acknowledged the permanence of books vs. online articles with regard to how we treat the insights contained within them.

    I also loved this from the Odyssey piece (and honestly the whole piece):

    “Calypso offers not a hopeful possibility for women but a warning to any woman who climbs the tiers of power without questioning or transforming the asymmetrical system that keeps women as a whole in check. … As long as it is built upon the oppression of others, the same hierarchy that at one moment works for you can now work against you.”

  2. THE WICKED COMETHi by Laura Carlin is out now and was pitched a Victorian lesbian detectives. You know, in case that’s your thing.

  3. Just a heads up: a French journalist asked Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie very seriously “Are your books read in Nigeria? Are there bookstores in Nigeria?” to which Adichie, after a shocked silence, replied “I think that it reflects very poorly on France that you asked such a question” lmao

  4. It was quite gloriously surreal to take a break from writing Victorian lesbian fiction set in London and see “Let’s hang in Victorian lesbian London”.

    Carolyn, I felt like we were hanging out together…it was lovely.

Comments are closed.