Lez Liberty Lit: Reclaiming Genderqueer Monstrousness


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

A new collection of Audre Lorde’s writing is out now. Roxane Gay, who wrote the introduction (which you can read all of at the Paris Review) and edited the volume, writes:

“When I read her books, I underlined and annotated avidly. I whispered her intimately crafted turns of phrase, enjoying the sound and feel of them in my mouth, on my tongue. Lorde was the first person who actively demonstrated for me that a writer could be intensely concerned with the inner and outer lives of Black queer women, that our experiences could be the center instead of relegated to the periphery. She wrote beyond the white gaze and imagined a Black reality that did not subvert itself to the cultural norms dictated by whiteness. She valorized the body as much as she valorized the mind. She valorized nurturing as much as she valorized holding people accountable for their actions, calling out people and practices that decentered the Black queer woman’s experience and knowledge. Most important, she prioritized the collective because “without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression.” As a reader, it is gratifying to see the legacy Lorde has created and to see the genealogy of her work in the writing of the women who have followed in her footsteps. Without Lorde’s essay “The Uses of Anger,” we might never have known Claudia Rankine’s manifesto of poetic prose, Citizen.”

Claudia Rankine discussed her book Just Us: An American Conversation with Catherine Barnett, in a must-read interview at Lit Hub.

At Catapult, Emily Hashimoto, author of the recent (and great) A World Between, writes about writing sex with women, by women, for women.

Why aren’t there more books about asexuals?

The US Education Department is getting rid of all anti-racist literature, including any materials that mention critical race theory or white privilege.

Translation relies on intuition.

Read Octavia Butler right now.

Who I Was With Her, Nita Tyndall’s debut queer YA novel, explores grief, loneliness, and coming out. In a review at Bitch, Rachel Charlene Lewis writes, “I had to take breaks while reading it, as it caused memories of my own coming-out experience, and the spiral it caused, to swell to the surface.”

Here is the longlist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

What does it mean to buy from Black-owned businesses?”

Academia was built on white theft.” And academic publishing leaves Africa behind.

At Tor, genderqueer author Tessa Gratton wrote about reclaiming genderqueer monstrousness, and says (in a piece I recommend reading all of for context):

“Like Lestat, like Raistlin, like Jareth, embracing the villain seemed the only way to take power and retain myself. The conversation about queer and queer-coded villains in literature is a long one, and I’ve always fallen on the side—if there are sides—of liking it. It isn’t a matter of “better to have queer villains than no queers at all” either: it’s a matter of power. When I was young literature showed me that to be queer you either had to be tragic or monstrous, and villains are not just monsters, they’re active monsters. Villains are the ones who do something, who drive the entire story. They matter so much you can’t unravel their threads from the story without ruining everything. And I’m pretty sure queer-coded villainy inherently has a lot to do with challenging binaries. Gender binaries for sure, but also binaries of good and evil and right and wrong. Queerness exists outside of Western ideals of heroism—pure, just, masculine, violent—which automatically pits queerness against protagonists, and aligns us, and our coding, with villainy.”

A book is not a baby.

Little free libraries helped me ‘meet’ my neighbours.”

At Book Soup, Shani Mootoo discusses Polar Vortex, “a seductive and tension-filled novel about Priya and Alex, a lesbian couple who left the big city to relocate to a bucolic countryside community,” in conversation with Julie Enszer.

In a review of Raven Leilani’s Luster at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Lee Thomas writes, “In Luster, Leilani does what Edie cannot. She captures the force of desire in a portrait from which you cannot look away.”

“Crappiness is not just a material condition but a cultural one as well: an often exuberant and wholly unapologetic expression of American excess and waste,” writes Wendy Woloson in an excerpt of her book Crap at Lit Hub.

Read these 15 modern Indian classics in translation. Read these 10 books about doomed love. Read these 10 books about poly and open relationships. Read these story collections about working lives. Read these 12 new memoirs by Asian authors. Read these trans YA books by trans authors.

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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 liked the Emily Hashimoto article on writing about sex between women, although I take issue with her statement that this fact (women/queer) makes it somehow safe from the worry of coercion

    • She clarifies later in the piece that in her personal experience she initially “wrongly assumed” that queer women were safe from coercion, and then when writing the book she wrote “what [she] wished to see in the world” by making them very intentional about consent. Full quote below.

      “It’s not something I thought deeply about in college, when I wrongly assumed that conversations about consent were unnecessary if cis straight men weren’t involved. But with my fresh 2020 eyes, I wanted to make sure that sex scenes—between college-aged people especially—featured a lot of checking in and requests for consent. This is in part my feminist desire to create what I wish to see in the world, but it also tells us something important about Eleanor and Leena: They respect each other and are kind and careful with the other in intimate, delicate moments.”

    • Yes, this article! The quote that got me was a description of one character as “a traditionally queer-coded antagonist-prince who knows who he is, including every shade of his fluid gender, but makes hard choices about the parts of himself to hide or reveal. He loves his body but hates how it’s perceived, and that’s a knife-edge to walk.”

      Loving my body but hating how it’s perceived is my gender. I wish my local library had this latest book!

  2. That Tessa Gratton piece is really good and manages to hit on a lot of feelings I’ve had for a long time- it’s not a coincidence that the year I started to accept I was queer was also the year I saw The Shape of Water like 4 times in theaters lmao

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