Sure, I thrilled at the occasional lesbian scene in school books such as Communist-China set "Red Azaleas" and I had high hopes for "Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels from 1950-1965," but these and other literature I had encountered with lesbian scenes or undertones was extremely depressing. Women desperately, deeply in love with each other, but then punished, repressed, abused for it. What a terrible message to send to young lesbians!
So people, let's create the Guide for New Lesbians Book List. Slash, these are just fantastic books that everyone should read, the common theme being that they (thankfully) celebrate women loving women instead of forbidding it. Here are my top picks (in no particular order):
- Any anthology of Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. Bechdel started creating semi-autobiographical comic strips of novels in the 80s and only recently took a hiatus. Her lesbian characters and their friends are hilarious, complex and expressive. With so many lesbian characters, you're bound to find yourself in her pages.
- After Delores by Sarah Schulman. A fast-moving short novel about a bad-ass lesbian in the 80s who has been cruelly broken up with by her dear sweet girlfriend Delores. She alternates between scheming ways to get her back and scheming ways to kill her with a pearly-handled hand gun.
- Valencia by Michelle Tea. Tea's knowingly self-centered narration is addictive and you'll find yourself wanting to live in her half-beautiful half-disturbing lesbian San Francisco.
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel about coming out and her relationship with her family, focused mostly on her father who she suspects is also gay.
- Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lourde. An intense and poetic memoir/myth.
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. A young hermaphrodite struggles with her identity. I don't remember all the details, but remember really liking it; well written and gripping.
- That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation by Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein. A collection of essays that amount to a romp around the spectrum of radical queer politics, majorly queer positive and at many points, hilarious. See "Dr. Laura, Sit on My Face".
- Passing by Nella Larsen. Okay, I know I said we were going with lesbian-positive here, but this book is simply amazing. Overtly it's the story of black women who pass as white in the 1920s. Covertly, it's the story of lesbians who pass as straight. Seriously, incredible book.
- Tipping the Velvet by Sara Waters. Sexy period novel. Doesn't really come off as true in any way, but a good beach book for sure.
- Rent Girl by Michelle Tea. Love the full-page illustrations that go with Tea's novel about longing, sex and prostitution. Some of the content made me feel uneasy, but still interesting nonetheless.
Would love to hear what other books you would add to the list!