Lez Liberty Lit: Never Neutral


Helloooooo and welcome to this week’s Lez Liberty Lit!

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

Librarians cannot be neutral. (I take issue with “remain.”)

Calling it “confessional writing” is sexist.

Magic, or math?

Mallory Ortberg interviewed Patricia Lockwood about her new book, being Weird and Female Online, “Dad Internet” and “Daddy Internet,” religious childhoods, forgiveness and not, and more.

The novel is a hysterical house of mirrors.”

There are a lot more comic book memoirs.

In The Perils of “Privilege”, Phoebe Maltz Bovy “makes a compelling argument that many of us on the left end up using accusations of “privilege” to discredit, silence, and tear each other down,” writes Wendy Elisheva Somerson in a review in Bitch.

Here is a copy editing quiz if you’re into that sort of thing.

“For much of the past, a woman walking alone may have been spectacle, but it also appears to have been dismissed as not especially significant. The paradox is something Lauren Elkin confronts early on in her recent book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London: ‘[I]f we’re so conspicuous,” she asks “why have we been written out of the history of cities? It’s up to us to paint ourselves back in the picture in ways we can live with,’” writes Kate Wolf in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

“Fat girls are rarely granted space in fairytales,” writes Evette Dionne in Bitch. She continues:

“In her honest memoir, This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare, Gabourey Sidibe completely upends and rewrites this fatphobic script. Over the course of 18 essays, the Academy Award-nominated actress presents the subversive notion that plus-size women, especially plus-size Black women, are enough. We’re deserving of love, especially in a weight-biased culture that makes assumptions about the health and worthiness of our bodies. Whether that’s detailing how she landed her title role in Precious or explaining how she’s honed her fashion instincts by hiring a plus-size stylist who understands her body, Sidibe is full of the happiness we should all be guaranteed—no matter our size.”

“10 Incredible Home Libraries” on Design Sponge

Read these five new and forthcoming queer and trans Canadian books. Read these writers of color discussing the craft of writing. Read these books for resistance. Read these 15 new and forthcoming middle-grade books featuring kids of color and these 14 queer middle-grade books. Look at these 30 risqué book covers.

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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. I prefer “person or woman of size” over “fat.” Still has a painful, bullied in grade school connotation. But that may be my own sensitivities.

    • But isn’t everyone “of size?” Like everyone is one size or another.

      I agree that it’s really hard to find the term that feels right. I’ve settled on self-identifying as fat for lack of a better term, I think, but it’s definitely a reclamation that conflicts me.

      • Sure. I was thinking in the same vein as “person of color.” I know our community has taken back terms like “queer” and made them our own. I just don’t think that will happen with “fat.” Too much baggage and pain.

  2. That Lockwood-Ortberg interview is DELIGHTFUL.

    However, sometimes Mallory is a little too good with words. I’m putting this here so the rest of you can experience the same discomfort I’ve been suffering since I read it: “I once had eye surgery that resulted in an infected cornea, and it felt like someone had sewn a small but active piece of the sun into my eyelid for about three months.”

  3. I did much worse on that copy editing quiz than I thought I would – very disappointing.

    • Re: copy editing quiz.
      My results were lousy (43rd percentile). This isn’t much of a surprise, my ability to spot mistakes decreases rapidly after 10 hours of work.

    • Me too.
      Oh, well, I’m a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist of grammar and they all made sense to me.

  4. And the 11th not-so-fab home library…..7 actual bookcases (3 6′ assemble-yourself white particleboard; 1 hand-wrought metal bookcase made by a family friend; 1 finish-your-own plain 2-shelf bookcase from my childhood bedroom; 2 salvaged-from-curbside-trash bookcases; plus 8 media cases for vinyl, CDs, DVD/tapes) AND 2, soon to be 3, 6’tall, 4′ wide commercial wire storage shelving units on which I can stack 24 cardboard “banker boxes” each of packed books (well, I can’t lift the boxes up to sit on TOP of the top shelf at 6′). I am at box #53 now and piling full boxes on the floor 4 boxes high, 1 need to either start culling or put up another shelving unit. The index to the boxes is not computerized yet – an important organizational job to get done. Oh yes – this doesn’t count a few saved magazines that are not digitally archived by anyone. AND – this doesn’t include my professional library at my work office.

    I have the literary hoarder’s disease.

  5. For me, the phrase “IMPOSSIBLE TO REMAIN NEUTRAL” actually evokes a different reaction. Williams (whose position is spot-on) brought up some of the history of the ideology of neutrality in our field. A lot of the reactions in that piece’s comments actually reflect what is happening on professional listservs. We’ve had to pivot towards a new reality where facts and statistics are politicized, and a lot of us are resentful that this suddenly makes us leftist.

    Many more of us are relieved that we can finally talk about systemic information inequalities, why there are so many white women (like myself) in our profession, and related equity challenges. Even earlier, the standards for information literacy that we used were replaced by the ACRL Framework, which there is still huge resistance to whenever it comes up on listservs. (I teach from it, and I think that it’s great.) Libraries are also often the “neutral” and “safe” space on campus because we’re a place for free inquiry. I think that the post’s title and content were definitely written with an eye towards all of this internal professional context.

    Otherwise, agreed. Libraries have never been neutral — neither in the ideological sense nor in our participation in upholding systems of inequality.

  6. The library where I volunteered definitely wasn’t neutral. It was staffed only by one member of staff and the training wasn’t much, mostly focusing on practical skills such as how to put books on shelves & how to use the computers (which we then weren’t allowed to use after they got updated because theoretically we could have accessed private information on them).

    The people who volunteered there were 90% + extremely conservative. It was bad enough as an aspie young person who was closeted to hear their conversations about disability and young people and homosexuality (they liked gay men because they stereotyped them as camp, they didn’t like lesbians because they didn’t trust them…). What was harder for me was that they were unpredictable in their prejudices and also listening to the way they spoke about customers. (We had like 1 POC in there for all the time I was in there but we had Irish Traveller customers there every summer & they said hateful comments about them & let the other customers be worse. I tried standing up to it & other comments they made, such as about POC, but I lacked the confidence to say too much and they didn’t respect me because I was unemployed/young/from outside the village). The library was basically left to run itself so there wasn’t much chance of reporting it, I did every time I got but that just got ignored.

    In the end it became too much so I became ill over it which was why I quit & don’t work in the sector atm.

    What am I saying? I’m saying that we need to be making sure that the people working for libraries (whether paid or volunteer) don’t have prejudices against whole groups of people & that if they do, they’re 1 trained out of it and 2 at least trained out of saying anything in the library itself. That way, it can become a welcoming place to all types of people. A library can’t just be a place to store books without thinking about this human angle of it.

    Also, those who work at a library need to be able to do what it is that they need to do in order to keep the library running. There’s no point in having computers that nobody who works at the library regularly is allowed to use.
    Thanks for that piece on confessional writing. I’ve been writing a lot of what I’ve been thinking of as ‘confessional’ writing lately & it was just what I needed to assure me that I’m doing the right thing (yes I’m nb rather than strictly female but I think it can be applied anyway, unless someone’s a white cishet non-disabled man, a writer will always be pigeonholed by their demographics, I think).

    • This reminds me of my small-town library growing up, which couldn’t afford an MLIS librarian due to the low (I think under $20K) salary. When the non-MLIS librarian retired, there were only 3 shelves of scifi, fantasy, and horror because she thought those were satanic. The woman who replaced her spent the next decade expanding on that collection *and* rounding out the holdings in the world religions section. An MLIS is not a sign of progressive values, though — a loud minority of MLIS-holders are very conservative.

  7. I’m just uh gunna leave this link to a Nakba Day Reading List right here


    slowly back away and hope I don’t get called names or accused of something.
    Never going to forget that 3 day siege of y’all who there know who and what, I laughed then but now Bannon is a member of a “presidential” administration.
    It was like fan discourse broke the tumblr barrier and tried to find a new host. *shudders*

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