It has come to my attention that all of the books I grew up with, the ones that formed my opinions of what it means to be gay, were written before 1980. “Where did all the lesbian lit go?” I ask.
I have a theory. I think the ’90’s were graced with some of the best economic times on record, as well as a growing sense that the government was some all powerful entity that regular people weren’t meant to interfere with. People picked up their credit cards and put down their pickets, heading to the mall to eradicate any feelings of inadequacy.
I came out in 1998, going to my first gay bar in 2001. Walking through those rainbow doors for the first time, I was amazed by the lack of concern. Where I thought there would be activists and earth and politically conscious citizens sitting around talking about the latest advancement in gay marriage rights, I found handfuls of pills washed down with vodka or beer. When I asked people about their political ideologies, they usually laughed and told me to lighten up.
Then the 2000 election came along, setting our fears in stone. Those fears that my generation harbored, were manifested with glaring atrocity. Ballots were “lost” and “misread” or just plain thrown out and suddenly there in front of us sat helplessness, futility and the deepest rooted…fear.
What does all this have to do with lesbian lit? Simple. It didn’t get published because the publishERS didn’t think anyone would read it and they were probably right, to some extent.
After researching for some time, I’ve compiled a list of lesbian fiction and non fiction that were published around or after 1990. Some of them, I had actually read, but only since I came to college; I don’t recall hearing of them before that.
Here are some of the titles:
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Affinity by Sarah Waters
Selects Her Own by Claire Garden
Window Garden by Janet McClellan
Rat Bohemia by Sarah Schuman
The Bebo Brinker Chronicles (series) by Erika Lopez
The Comedienne by Val G. Lee
Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Three Junes by Julia Glass
The Last Resort by Alison Lurie
I found a website that actually discusses this lack of lesbian lit and explains that there is a new resurgence of youth lesbian lit as of recently. It’s a page off of the afterellen.com page.
Is lesbianism more attractive now that it’s been exploited by heterosexual men? Or are publishers just recognizing that lesbians read too? Either way, I’m glad the strike is over.