lesbian literature

RIP, Barbara Grier


Barbara Grier founded a publishing house that published books for and about lesbians. She was a pioneer when no one else was taking lesbian literature seriously. I have a fondness for all LGBT things that happened during this time because I was a child with a photographic memory and I remember them well.

Barbara Grier passed away recently. You can read more about it here.

I remember Naiad Press with fondness. When I first started submitting stories and novels to publishers and small presses there weren’t many choices for LGBT writers. This was before the Internet, before e-mail took off, long before snarky romance review blogs existed, and when we were still submitting in hard copy.

I once submitted a lesbian story to Naiad and they rejected me. I was very young, probably too young to have the audacity to write a novel let alone submit one to a publisher. The rejection letter I received was from Barbara Grier and she told me she liked the writing but thought I should focus on gay male fiction instead of lesbian fiction. It was probably the nicest rejection letter I ever received. And I took her advice.

Ms. Grier once said this, with regard to the books she published “about lesbians who love lesbians, where the girl is not just going through a phase.”

It’s been said Ms. Grier felt this way because all the lesbian themed romance novels she read growing up were focused on women who fooled around with other women, but always wound up with a man in the end…this, so publishers thought at the time, was the only way to achieve the happily-ever-after ending.

I love this, when someone has a serious, valid reason for doing what they do. It’s why I decided to write gay themed novels based loosely on storylines about straight lovers. I grew tired of reading and watching stories about straight people falling in love and living happily-ever-after, and just as tired of gay literature that was too artsy and ridden with dark, depressing storylines like “Brokeback Mountain.”

RIP: Jill Johnston

Jill Johnston passed away on September 18th and I didn’t learn about it until last night while I was reading “milestones” in Time Magazine. I watch the six o’clock news every night and didn’t hear this mentioned once. But I’m not surprised. The local news seems geared more toward sports fanatics than cultural fanatics these days. Don’t get me wrong. I love sports. But I like a balance, too. And it would be nice to actually get some news while I’m watching the news.

Who is Jill Johnston?

For those who don’t know, Jill Johnston was the feminist author of LESBIAN NATION and a writer for The Village Voice. She started writing a dance column for TVV back in 1959 when it was just a little paper in The Village no one ever thought would last. From there she went on to write several controversial pieces that kept her often at odds with the feminist movement throughout the l960’s. TVV even refered to her as, “the country’s first shamelss public lesbian.”

During a debate in New York in l971, Johnston had a three-way kissing session, in public, with two of her friends, which casued more than a few raised eyebrows then. And I think it would still raise a few eybrows now.

But for me, Jill Johnston was the beginning of an era for gay liberation and equal rights. Jill and other gay people like her started a movement that not only liberated gay people in general, but also opened up doors for books and other cultural mediums that might not exist today if it hadn’t been for their courage.

If you’re l, g, b, or t, I urge you to read her work. If you’re not and you’re interested in the lgbt community, you’ll find her work just as fascinating.

RIP, Jill.