Lez Liberty Lit: Women and Power

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

Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley writes at Lit Hub on looking for lesbian, trans, and queer experience in Caribbean writing, the literature of Ezili, a Vodou spirit force of queer black womanhood, and getting stuck and unstuck in writing:

“I went back to texts I’d gathered for my project and other texts I’d loved in the past ten years, looking for what unexpected things they might have to say about Caribbean lesbian, gay, transgender, and queer experience that I was still missing. I quickly found my answer: nothing. This was because the vocabulary I had been using to describe these authors, the descriptors that they used for their own identities — queer, lesbian, transgender — appeared nowhere in their work. […]

Not one of these authors wrote about “queers,” but almost everyone wrote about lwa — that is, about the spirit forces of the Haitian religion Vodou. And, finally, finally tuning into this other vocabulary, I was fascinated by the recurrence of one figure, who multiplied herself in these texts as if in a hall of mirrors: the beautiful femme queen, bull dyke, weeping willow, dagger mistress Ezili. Ezili is the name given to a pantheon of lwa who represent divine forces of love, sexuality, prosperity, pleasure, maternity, creativity, and fertility. She’s also the force who protects madivin and masisi, that is, transmasculine and transfeminine Haitians. And Ezili, I was coming to see — Ezili, not queer politics, not gender theory — was the prism through which so many contemporary Caribbean authors were projecting their vision of creative genders and sexualities.”

“I admire how Beard refuses to uncomplicate the past, present, and future of gender equality. She cautions the reader to be wary of thinking “lazily,” and of communicating in sound bites. The importance of keeping things complicated is inestimable,” writes Rachel Shteir on Mary Beard’s Women & Power at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Listen to Muriel Spark once read from her own work, or just take her advice.

At Electric Literature, Jennifer BAker spotlights five people building literary community in the Bronx.

At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova wrote about Zadie Smith’s recent essay collection Feel Free.

Get rid of whatever isn’t working.

Read new poetry by indigenous women.

“Does the stigma of migraines as a women’s disease, and the stereotypically feminine language still used to talk about them, affect patient treatment?,” asks Rachel Mabe at Catapult on gendered medical language and migraines.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein turned 200.

“How can you allow yourself to enjoy sex on your own terms without being punished for it? How can you find power and autonomy in a relationship without taking other people for granted? And how can you date/fall in love/exist as a young woman in America without encountering violence?,” writes Marian Crotty at Electric Literature on why we need to take young women’s love stories seriously.

There’s new Foucault.

Here’s some Black History Month reading recommendations from the Rumpus. Read these books to diversify your shelves. Read these two love stories for Black History Month. Read these three comics by creators of color. Read these 10 Caribbean women authors and this brief Caribbean reading list. Read 100 books with cats in them why not. Here are 30 bad couples from literature. Read these three new queer Canadian books.


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Carolyn Yates is the NSFW Consultant, and was formerly the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor, for Autostraddle.com. Her writing has appeared in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She recently moved to Los Angeles from Montreal. Find her on twitter.

Carolyn has written 877 articles for us.

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