Lez Liberty Lit #20: Remember Library Lesbianism

by carolyn & riese

Books! They are really great. You just won’t believe how great they are. You may think that the Internet’s great, but that’s just peanuts compared to books. Welcome to Lez Liberty Lit, our column about literary shit that’s happening that you should probably care about.

The name “Liberty Lit” was inspired by the short-lived literary journal produced by Angela Chase at Liberty High School in 1994.

Header by Rory Midhani


Lit Links

At Emily Books, Caty Simon writes about growing up without a lesbian canon, the internet and Sarah Schulman’s Empathy:

“I was one of the last generation of queer teen girls doomed to library lesbianism. I searched yellowed index cards (index cards!) for any mention of homosexuality, looked desperately for all that stuff that dares not speak its name in the subtext of modernist novel after modernist novel. Here’s what I found out about being queer from these Freud-inflected texts: being a lesbian was juvenile. Being a lesbian was penis envy. Being a lesbian was narcissistic. Being a lesbian was the inability to have a vaginal orgasm and be a Real Woman.”

At the Rumpus, KMA Sullivan writes about the types of people who say, “women are bitches.”

Jamaica Kincaid says that people only think her writing is “angry” because she’s black and a woman: “People only say I’m angry because I’m black and I’m a woman. But all sorts of people write with strong feeling, the way I do. But if they’re white, they won’t say it. I used to just pretend I didn’t notice it, and now I just think I don’t care.”

Hettie Jones writes about sexism in publishing, VIDA, the Women’s Fiction Prize, Wikipedia’s “American Women Novelists” category and more. Meanwhile, at Lambda Literary, Julie Levine interviewed VIDA co-founder Erin Belieu about the Count, whether gender disparity is as simple as it seems, submitting, editing and more.

Mia McKenzie, author of The Summer We Got Free, wrote a message of support to queer black kids at Black Girl Dangerous.

Julie Marie Wade interviewed poet Denise Duhamel (author of Kinky and Heaven and Heck) on her writing style, subject, dedication, feminism and more.

The June Mazer Lesbian Archives of Los Angeles and Southern California, in West Hollywood, now has a video tour.

peter pan book art via pinterest

peter pan book art via pinterest

Six major publishers will testify that they conspired with Apple at an ebook price-fixing trial beginning next month, according to recently filed court documents.

Do you have struggling writer friends who never shut up? At the Awl, Polly has some advice.

Designers talk to the Atlantic about cover design for classic novels.

Chicken lit is the new chick lit.

Michelle Tea’s new YA novel, Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, was recently released by McSweeneys. Here is an excerpt of an excerpt:

“The trick to doing something you’re totally not supposed to do is acting like it’s the most natural thing in the world, like you have every right to be doing it, whatever it is. Sophie pushed her feet into her Vans and passed her mother, asleep on the couch. Her heart pulsed at the sight of Andrea in her work clothes, her head at an odd angle on the couch. It had to be uncomfortable. The woman had to be truly exhausted to have fallen asleep in such an awkward pose, oblivious to the blare of the TV. Sophie thought of turning it down, but then maybe the noise was keeping her mother asleep. What was it about the way Andrea looked, her sleeping mouth open, drool wetting the corners? She looked vulnerable. It gave Sophie a strange, sad feeling. She clicked the door closed gently before she left, praying that her mother wouldn’t stir awake at the sound.”

At the Lesbrary, Jordan reviewed Kissing the Witch, a collection of re-told fairy tales by Emma Donoghue. Casey reviewed Wildthorn, a historical lesbian romance by Jane Eagland. Tag reviewed Reclaiming the L-Word: Sappho’s Daughters Out in Africa, a collection edited by Alleyn Diesel.

At Lambda Literary, Anna Furtado reviewed Relative Stranger, by Barbara Treat Williams. Rachel Wexelbaum reviewed Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side, a memoir by Rayya Elias.

Don’t forget to check out all the awesome book-related things we published recently: Moya reviewed Mia McKenzie’s The Summer We Got Free. Cara wrote about the word “dyke.”

nancy drew tattoo via buzzfeed

nancy drew tattoo via buzzfeed

Events To Watch Out For:

May 17, New York: Elvis Bakaitis and Aron O’Donnell present on “Homos in Herstory: 1950s Edition” and “Queering the Science of HIV” at Bluestockings (172 Allen St.), 7 p.m.

May 18, Scranton, Pennsylvania: Poet Andrea Gibson will be at the Vintage Center (326 Spruce Street), 7:00 p.m. Call 570.589.0271 for details.

May 19, New York: Dyke knitting circle at Bluestockings (172 Allen St.), 4 p.m.

May 22, Chicago: Lambda finalists Tracy Baim, Anne Laughlin, Marty McConnell, Lania Knight, E.M. Kokie, Ramon Rivera-Servera and Chris Paynter will be reading at the Gerber/Hart Library Archives (6500 North Clark St.), 7 p.m.

May 28, Amherst, MA: Michelle Tea is reading with Ali Liebegott at Food for Thought Books Collective (106 North Pleasant St.), 7 p.m.

May 28, New York: Women’s and trans* poetry jam and open mike featuring Geri De Luca and Deborah Hauser at Bluestockings (172 Allen St.), 7 p.m.

May 28–June 30, New York: Sontag: Reborn is at the New York Theatre Workshop (79 East 4th St.).

May 30, New York: Michelle Tea is reading at Bluestockings (172 Allen St.), 7 p.m.

September 1: Natural Selection, a companion novel to Malinda Lo’s Adaptation, will be released.

Know of a queer event with literary merit? Send it to us!

What We’ve Been Reading:

Riese: As we’ve been in A-Camp overdrive there’s been scant time for reading, but I am loving Zami: A New Spelling of My Name more and more and more and more and more, especially now that she’s grown up and gay in New York City.

Carolyn: I did not finish any books of note that I have not already talked about three times (shout out to Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings) but I am currently reading Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures, because it’s 2006; and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, because someone with impeccable taste recommended it.

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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. So the phrase “library lesbianism” just gave me this image of two girls kissing in a hidden back corner of a library aka pretty much every fantasy I had as an oblivious pre-teen Catholic school girl.

  2. If the publishers get in trouble for fixing e-book prices, does that mean e-books will finally become cheaper than paperbacks? Because that would be nice. (Although I would not like to see Amazon have a monopoly, even though it almost already does. I’m saving up for a Kobo, instead.)

  3. Re: the May 28th one at Bluestockings: by “women and trans,” do they mean, like, actually women and trans people? Whenever I see the phrase “women and trans” it makes me think of spaces where AMAB people were not included. I’d like to go, but I hate the feeling of worrying whether people in a queer women’s space would see me as an “invader” if they knew.

  4. I’m really excited about Michelle Tea’s new book.
    i’ve been in a major Michelle Tea loop, reading her “getting pregnant” blog, the sister spit book that Gabby reviewed, i read Passionate Mistakes for the first time, reread Valencia… i even read Beth Ditto’s memoir because when i was looking for Michelle Tea books at the library it popped up bc she cowrote it.
    so.. um, yeah. apparently i’ve reached a time in my life where i can really appreciate her style, and i’m now reading and rereading her everything.

  5. I only just got the Douglas Adams riff at the beginning of these columns, and had to wave my towel in solidarity. Nice.

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