Tuesday, January 17, 2012
2012 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Danika from the Lesbrary Looking for Lesbian Fiction to Review
Hello! I’m Danika, from The Lesbrary. I am, surprise surprise, a lesbian. And although I have a very supportive family and friends base, when I first came out, I didn’t really know any other lesbians. Like many other queer people, I had to find my queer family through media, and because I’ve always been a bookworm, books were the logical place to turn.
I managed to root out lots of lesbian books on my own, but what I really wanted was a lesbian book blog, like all the other book blogs I read. The problem was that the queer book blogs I followed were less queer than just gay men centred. It wasn’t uncommon to have 10 gay male books reviewed for every lesbian book, with the very occasional bisexual book, and usually no trans* books at all. When I couldn’t find any lesbian book blogs, I started my own (and then instantly found a bunch of lesbian book blogs. Ah, well).
I read lesbian fiction for the familiarity, but it’s not just that. As Emma Donoghue’s amazing book Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature says, in lesbian books, gender roles are “up for grabs”. There is no falling back on the “standard” gender roles, because there are none. We have no real parameters for how two women “should” behave in a relationship together, which makes the dynamics a lot more interesting. Also, to be perfectly obvious: lesbian books focus on women! Women are taught from a young age that “men are people and women are women”. We are taught to identify with men because they are the default. This means that most media is about men. There’s nothing wrong with stories about men, but when they’re all you see, it gets tiring.
But the thing I love about lesbian literature is that there is so much more of it then it’s given credit for! Inseparable details the rich history desire between women in literature has. Ovid, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, even the Bible has stories about desire between women! We’ve always been here, and we’ve always been written about, but lesbian literature has been suppressed. And it still is, obviously, which is why we’re having this discussion: M/M is hitting its stride, and F/F is still seen as the underdog. I can’t help but see some sexism in that. F/F is still, I suspect, seen as straight male porn or only applicable to lesbians, but M/M, because it’s written for straight women, somehow doesn’t have the porn stigma attached to it. There is so much sexism tied into this that it’s difficult to untangle all of it: men are seen as the default/more important, women may seek out M/M romance to avoid the misogyny in some straight romance, lesbianism is still seen as less legitimate of a sexuality because it doesn’t involve men, etc.
But setting aside my feminist rant, lesbian fiction has so much to offer. Ever since I started the Lesbrary, I’ve been exposed to more and more awesome F/F literature in every genre. Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters prove that you can have lesbian books that are literary and hugely popular (read Fingersmith and then tell me that lesbian fiction needs lower standards than other fiction). Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is both the best graphic novel and the best memoir I’ve ever read. Ivan Coyote continues to break my heart every time I read anything she writes. There’s F/F sci fi, romance, mysteries (tons and tons of mysteries), YA, literature, nonfiction, steampunk cowgirl novels, Christmas stories, zombie books, memoirs, and so many more, and there’s stand-out, breathtaking things happening in all the genres. In fact, if I could give one piece of advice to people reading F/F it’s this: raise your expectations. Whatever F/F books you’re looking for, don’t settle for ones you think are so-so. I guarantee you there are amazing books for you out there, you just need to dig a little deeper to find them.
And to any F/F authors, reviewers, or publishers who want some extra publicity, I would be happy to help you out at the Lesbrary.