Lez Liberty Lit: Take Up Space In The World

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

At the Creative Independent, astrologer Chani Nichols discussed the link between astrology and storytelling, being a mess, knowing your audience, taking up space as a queer person and more:

“What I learned from some of the elders in the queer community—whether they’re Black feminists, indigenous feminists, POC feminists—informed everything that I am. It informed how I see the world and everything that I write. If it’s any good, it has someone’s teaching in it that I’ve gratefully received. So my queerness, I mean it should be clear: I think we have to push back against the currents that are trying to sweep us up and say, ‘Fuck this. This is actually the way I need to take up space in the world.’ Even if we can’t take up that space externally, for safety reasons, I think it’s really important if we allow ourselves to take up that space internally. Astrology supports that, because it only ever speaks to your essence in a nonjudgmental way. So as queer folks living in this place in history we need these systems of knowledge that support our understanding of ourselves to say, ‘You are you. This is exactly what was meant for you. This is exactly who you’re supposed to be.'”

“How do we grieve a natural world we always thought would be ours? How does such grief on a mass scale mirror the little griefs we’ve always known? Crissy Van Meter tackles these questions and more in her debut novel, Creatures, an atmospheric, literary tale with elements of magic realism,” writes Rebecca Renner in a review at Electric Literature.

The Bluest Eye was published 50 years ago this year. At the New Yorker, Hilton Als writes about Toni Morrison’s vision, the legacy of The Bluest Eye, placing black girls at the center of the story, and finding himself in the text:

“I held on to every bit of hope I could find. I felt Pecola’s predicament in the pit of my stomach not because folks thought I was ugly but because I knew that, in my small, working-class West Indian community in Brooklyn, my sexuality was considered ugly. My black world then (and, to be frank, it hasn’t changed much) defined itself by the rules of heterosexuality, and one of the few things its inhabitants could agree on was how spiritually abhorrent gay people were—at best, objects of derision. I felt as trapped in Brooklyn as Pecola did in Lorain. I didn’t have a dream of blue eyes, but I did dream of a world full of culture and artists to which I would one day belong, if, like Toni Morrison, I wrote books. I would try to write a perfect book, like Morrison’s first novel, but in my version the character of Soaphead Church—a celibate gay West Indian who Pecola believes has conjured up her blue eyes—wouldn’t be yet another manifestation of black American prejudice against West Indian difference. Instead, he would fall in love, and maybe prosper, and not live his life as an outsider. In short, I would try to overturn what the society in “The Bluest Eye” said lay in store for me: a kind of madness. This understanding, of course, took many years to form, because I didn’t know back then that gay men could find ways to love one another, let alone themselves. I didn’t grow up at a time when you talked about the problem of not seeing yourself in books or of “negative” portrayals; you hunted and dug for the characters and metaphors that mattered to you, and that was the fun—and the reward—of reading and looking at pictures.”

Here’s how not to write a book review. Here’s how white writers profit from Mexican pain. Here’s more about what’s terrible about American Dirt — it’s reckless, careless, and rooted in stereotypes designed to appeal to the white gaze. If you only read one review of it, read Myriam Gurba’s:

“Jeanine Cummins narco-novel, American Dirt, is a literary licuado that tastes like its title. Cummins plops overly-ripe Mexican stereotypes, among them the Latin lover, the suffering mother, and the stoic manchild, into her wannabe realist prose. Toxic heteroromanticism gives the sludge an arc and because the white gaze taints her prose, Cummins positions the United States of America as a magnetic sanctuary, a beacon toward which the story’s chronology chugs.”

Cut the book in half.

“What if all books were scented to reflect their contents? Kind of like smell-o-vision, but for reading.” Here’s what some classic books could smell like if that were a thing we were doing now.

Beth Piatote, author of The Beadworkers, spoke to Electric Literature on Nez Perce aesthetics, structural variety, contemporary and future Native American literature and more.

Read these 16 graphic novels in 2020. Read these 11 books this winter. Read these seven books about surviving political and environmental disasters. Read these indie literary magazines.

Carolyn Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Carolyn has written 1039 articles for us.

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