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.

Happy reading!


LVLM(Leah) said...

Danika- heh, your feminist rant is right on and absolutely correct.

One of the dirty little elephants in the general romance room is the amount of unconscious and outright misogyny expressed by a lot of readers when it comes to not caring about the heroine in favor of the hero. And I won't even get into the straight female readers of m/m who practically faint at the mere presence of a female character tainting their pure m/m lurve.

I just don't get it. I don't. I love reading about women, the female POV even in m/f. And it's not a place holder thing as much as I like to read about women in all facets.

I don't get why men are more exciting than women. I find women far more exciting.

But… end my feminist rant. snort

I'd love to see f/f and lesbian become more prominent. And not the pr0n for men prominent, but women relating in love prominent. I just hope the more it gets talked about the more people will become open to it.

For anyone reading this comment, Danika has a great site. So much info on it from and extensive publisher list to a great lesbian review blog roll, lots of links to all kinds of interesting sites and articles and great reviews! You should absolutely check her out.

Cathy in AK said...

First, I love love love Sarah Waters and Emma Donoghue. I think I've read all of Waters' books. Still working on Donoghues'.

Thanks so much for starting The Lesbrary! I need to check in more often to see what's up : )

Cat said...

Just a heads up - all the links seem to be broken throughout this post.

And a thirding to people to visit the Lesbrary. It's very handy for all the linkage of everything that's going on in the lesbian book world (And I'm not just saying that because we get linked to occasionally. Much. Probably. Well, clearly that's simply an indication of good taste on Danika's part. Probably).

Heather Massey said...

Great post and I'm excited to learn about your review site.

I would very much like to learn more about the steampunk cowgirl novel if you get a chance to fix the link!

Danika @ The Lesbrary said...

Leah: Thanks for letting me go into a feminist rant! I needed it. And thanks for the opportunity in general!

Cathy: Sarah Waters is definitely my favourite author. I can't wait until her next one comes out!

Cat: Thanks for recommending us! I love your site, that's why I link it!

Heather: Sorry the links are broken! The steampunk coygirl novel is The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head by Cassandra Duffy. Here's the link:

Sacchi Green said...

Do you consider erotica for lesbians to be worth discussing?

Alyssa Linn Palmer said...

I'm learning so much about f/f fiction; I know I'm going to be heading off to the bookstore (Well, Amazon!) and stocking my shelves :)

Also, love Jeanette Winterson's books! Just finished reading The Passion, and I couldn't put it down.