Lez Liberty Lit: Recovering Narratives


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

Masha Gessen writes about emigration, immigration, queerness, identity, all the lives there are to lead and more at the New York Review of Books:

“On Valentine’s Day in 1982—I was fifteen—I went to a gay dance at Yale. This was a great time for gay dances. It was no longer terrifying to be queer on campus, but gay life was still half-hidden in a way that was thrilling. I do not remember, in fact, dancing, and I don’t even remember catching anyone’s eye. In other words, I’m pretty sure that no one noticed me. Strangely, that wasn’t crushing. Because what I do remember is standing somewhere dark, leaning against something, and feeling like I was surrounded by community. I remember thinking, This is who I could be.

What the syncope of emigration had meant for me was the difference between discovering who I was—the experience I had in the woods outside of Moscow—and discovering who I could be—the experience I had at that dance. It was a moment of choice and, thanks to the “break in my destiny,” I was aware of it.”

At Electric Literature, authors Sandhya Menon, Sheba Karim, Tanaz Bhathena, Sayantani DasGupta and Nisha Sharma discussed South Asian cultural identity in young adult literature, including desi literature, the danger of a singular story, publishing gatekeepers and more.

Sometimes reading Eve’s Hollywood gets you through winter.

Maya Angelou would have been 90 a few days ago. Watch an animated reading of her “Still I Rise.” Or read about her in her own words.

Here’s Joan Didion’s handwritten reading list.

Life is short and death is certain so it’s okay to stop reading that book you’re not really into.

Powerful women are cast as witches as a way to police and control them.

At Dazed, eight Nigerian writers discuss Nigerian reading culture.

At Lambda Literary, Chelsey Johnson, author of Stray City, discusses queer refuge, “the old Portland,” the 90s, time passing and more.

Judy Blume taught a generation of young girls to be feminists.”

At the Rumpus, Alana Massey is in conversation with Leslie Jamison on Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, including addiction narratives, setting boundaries, how sobriety changes creativity, multiplicity and more. And at Hazlitt, Chantal Braganza interviewed Jamison on the same, and on writing recovery well Jamison says:

“When you’re writing recovery, you’re surrendering that primal vehicle of narrative—of things being wrong and broken.

There’s something about happiness or wellness or positive states that is more aesthetically challenging than states of difficulty, and I think part of it is the danger of flattening positive states into something bland or boilerplate or Tolstoy’s idea that all happy families are alike.

I actually think the Tolstoy line false. It’s not so simple. It takes more effort to excavate how things got better; it’s really hard to show consciousness and all those subtle gradations, even when overall what you’re portraying is a more positive state. “

Read these 12 books this April. Read these books by living women instead of books by dead men. Read these seven YA books about coming out. Read the vanguard of books shaping how we now read and write. Read these 30 queer Canadian books. Read these books for women’s history or read these ones. Read these books if you’re into New York. Read these books about reproductive health. Listen to these erotic audiobooks.

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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. Thanks for Didion’s list. Glad to see Baldwin made it on there twice. He’s a favorite of mine.

  2. Masha Gessen’s essay about autocracy is one of the most deeply unsettling reads.

    On a lighter note, thanks for putting this list together. Gonna check out the erotic audiobooks, maybe…

  3. Jamison’s latest work is highly recommended – especially if you have ever struggled with addiction. I picked it up last week and hands down the best thing I’ve read in the last 10 years.

  4. Thanks for the Stray City recommendation, and the link to the Masha Gessen article. (and the other links, as I slowly get to them.)

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