Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 31a - On the Shelf for February 2019 - Transcript
Note: Enough story submissions came in on the very last day that I will be doing the fiction series this year.
(Originally aired 2019/02/02 - listen here)
Welcome to On the Shelf for February 2019.
All sorts of fun things are coming up on the horizon for the podcast. I have three interviews scheduled to record and another five in discussions. When I have them in hand, I’ll let you know who and when, but I don’t like to jinx things before the recording happens.
One big thing I’ve started on, relating to the interview shows, is that I’m commissioning transcripts of all the past interviews and will eventually work up to getting the interview transcripts up fairly soon after they air.
At the moment, I don’t have any interviews in the can for this month, so you’ll get more surprise content--which is another way of saying, I’ll see what I can come up with on the fly. Maybe I’ll do a list of some of my favorite lesbian historical movies. There are more of them out there than you might think! If you’re a fan of historical fiction and would love to come on the show to talk about some of your favorite books, drop me an email and we can set something up.
By the time this show airs, the submissions period for the 2019 fiction series will have closed. But at the time I’m recording this, I honestly have no idea whether I’ll have enough submissions to actually run the series this year. Maybe I’ll get a ton of stories submitted in the last couple days; maybe just the couple that people have said they’re planning to send in. Maybe I’ll get enough great stories to fill the series. Maybe I won’t By the time you hear this, you’ll already know the answer, if you read the blog. I confess I’d expected there to be more interest and enthusiasm in the second year. No matter how things go with this year’s series, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again in 2020, which is a shame because I’d hoped to provide a new venue for publishing lesbian historical short fiction. But a publishing venue doesn’t do much good if no one sends their work in for consideration.
Publications on the Blog
On the blog I’ve been continuing to work through some thematic groups of articles from the Journal of the History of Sexuality, with a few other random items. January focused on articles covering 16th and 17th century topics, including a fascinating study of a gender-queer person in colonial Virginia that sheds light on how ordinary people understood gender identity and sexuality. In February, I’m tackling a collection of articles about the late 19th century field of sexology and the supposed “invention” of homosexuality by psychologists. I confess it’s an era and a topic that makes me impatient because too often that particular era in the medicalization of sexuality and gender identity gets misinterpreted as demonstrating that there was no such thing as same-sex love before people like Krafft-Ebing wrote their books about it. So if a bit of my impatience shows through in my summaries, you’ll understand why.
The only new book purchase for the blog this month was my very own copy of Delarivier Manley’s The New Atalantis, in support of last week’s podcast with readings from the text. What did you think of Manley’s depiction--satiric though it may have been--of a secret sapphic society in early 18th century England?
For this month’s podcast essay, I think I’m ready to begin tackling the delicate topic of the historic intersection of themes of female homoeroticism and trans-masculinity. It’s a complicated and broad subject. For this first installment I’ll be tackling some basic approaches to unpacking our cultural assumptions about gender and sexuality categories so we can think and talk about historic categories in an open-minded way. Lesbian historical fiction has a bit of an unfortunate history of erasing or ignoring trans possibilities, in large part because we’re wedded to concepts of gender and sexuality that are rooted in our specific cultural context. To address the issues around trans-masculinity in lesbian historicals in a meaningful way, we need to take a close look at the historic relationship between how people in the past understood gender and how they understood sexual orientation. I’m going to have a lot of fun in this first essay, although with a very serious purpose, because I’m going to start by taking you on a tour through the semantics of prepositions--the topic of my doctoral dissertation.
Recent Lesbian Historical Fiction
And now for the new and recent releases of lesbian-relevant historical fiction! The first few books all have a prominent element of fantasy in their history.
Running Wild by Laurel Clarke (published through Amazon Digital) is subtitled “A Steamy Lesbian Romance in Ancient Greece” so you can probably assume you get what it says on the label. Here’s the blurb:
In ancient Greece, women don't leave the homes of their male relatives. They don't become physicians, and they CERTAINLY don't fall for other women. But Melitta is breaking all the rules. She didn't set out to get thrown out of her brother's house or meet a troop of naughty naiads. She definitely never expected to befriend Ris, a half-naiad half-human woman who has a bad habit of not wearing clothes. And now Ris just won't get out of her head. All Melitta ever wanted was a career as a village doctor and a normal life. But things are changing. Now, the only thing she seems to want is... Ris.
Breaking Mae's Curse self-published by Amy DeMeritt may have only tangential historical content. It’s hard to tell from the blurb.
What happens when a lesbian samurai refuses to marry the king? He kills her lover and then orders his sorceress to curse her to immortality as a five-inch-tall woman, of course. Fast forward almost 600 years. Mae’s plan to try to meet a beautiful woman backfires and instead she befriends a young IT nerd who is all too excited to try to help her break her curse – which requires a woman to fall in love with her. Can a five-inch tall lesbian samurai find love? Can Mae’s curse be broken? Or will the enemies of her past come back to destroy everything?
Souls of Viridian by Ayin Weaver from NovelWeaver Press sounds like the sort of cross-time/parallel lives story that pops up regularly in lesbian fiction.
Souls of Viridian is a tale of love and courage, a journey of possibilities, and a dream of expansive horizons. A 15th century Italian child of a secret healer, a young Parisian woman and her father at the dawn of revolutionary France, a lesbian artist and her partner living in 21st century America, a modern middle-aged widow searching for answers after her husband’s death, and an apparition from an other-worldly dimension—what could they possibly have in common? What could it all mean? Widow Rachel Padini wants answers, especially as dreams and hallucinations of an odd child plague her life. Artist Rita Kerner wants answers too—to unlock the mystery of the strange portraits she paints. But they don’t know each other. Nor do they know what they have in common—or what fantastical phenomenon awaits them if they meet.
A Harvest of Sisters self-published by Emma Bawden sounds like an interesting slice-of-life story set in early 20th century England.
On holiday with her parents in Cornwall, sixteen year old Jessica Bradley, falls in love with Elizabeth Trescothick, during the summer of 1931. Through the remains of the decade, she experiences loss and love, gives birth to a daughter, eventually finding happiness, a life long partner, and becoming part of a group of women, who form an art school in London, before WW2. A story of independent women with a vision of equality and a refusal to commit to convention.
The Arrival of Lady Suthmeer self-published by Connie Valientis is a bite-sized novelette with a nebulously 18th or 19th century setting. I’ve reviewed it on my blog if you’re interested.
All Lavina wants is to quietly marry a man who will allow her to continue her current affair with the beautiful Lady Georgia Suthmeer. But with Lady Suthmeer herself objecting to any marriage, and with Lady Suthmeer’s husband pursuing Lavina for himself, it’s easier said than done. Can Lavina balance the men and women in her life, or will she end up losing her reputation–or worse, her lover?
The Plan by Kim Pritekel from Sapphire Books sounds like a classic tale of girls from opposite sides of the tracks.
As the dark days of the Dust Bowl came to an end, the midsection of the United States tried to rebuild and revitalize. In the small, dusty farming town of, Brooke View, Colorado, teenager, Eleanor Landry and her mother were dealing with her father, a self-appointment fire and brimstone preacher to his congregation of two. A plan to survive. As the dark era of the robber baron comes to an end, giants of industry and innovation emerged with fabulous fortunes manifested in the mansions that dotted the landscape across the country. Lysette Landon, the teen daughter of the wealthiest family in Brooke View, was everything a good, proper girl of privilege should be. Only problem was, she wasn’t dreaming of finding a young man to raise a family with. A plan to be free. One look, one touch, all plans are off. Secrets deeper and darker than the grave would bring Eleanor and Lysette together, their families connected by a web of lies and broken promises. A plan to escape. Be careful because, life has other plans…
Acts of Contrition is the 4th book in the Passing Rites saga by Elena Graf from Purple Hand Press. Be aware that this series has some intense content, including depictions of rape and sexual violence, as well the aftermath of war.
World War II has finally come to an end and Berlin has fallen. Nearly everything Margarethe, chief of staff of St. Hilde's Hospital and head of the aristocratic Stahle family, has sworn to protect has been lost. After being brutally abused by occupying Russian soldiers in her own hospital, Margarethe must rely on the kindness of her friends to survive. Fortunately, the American Army has brought her former protégé, Dr. Sarah Weber, back to Berlin. As Margarethe confronts painful events that occurred during the war, she must learn both to forgive and be forgiven. This is the fourth novel in the Passing Rites Series, which follows the aristocratic Stahle family through the 20th century. Set in Berlin during the aftermath of World War II, Acts of Contrition shows how survivors struggled with their guilt over the events of the war. It tells the story of how rape, crushing personal losses and grief can bring someone to the brink and how friendship and love can bring her back.
Manifold Press is putting out a Valentine’s anthology, Rainbow Bouquet, with a range of stories of queer love in the past, present, and future. At this time, I don’t know what the extent of the lesbian content might be. At some point this year I’ll be doing an interview with the new editor of Manifold Press to talk about her plans and vision for the publishing house.
Figuring by Maria Popova from Pantheon is a non-fiction book with a description that reads almost like a historic novel, and so might be of interest to my listeners.
Figuring explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries—beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the environmental movement. Stretching between these figures is a cast of artists, writers, and scientists—mostly women, mostly queer—whose public contribution have risen out of their unclassifiable and often heartbreaking private relationships to change the way we understand, experience, and appreciate the universe. Among them are the astronomer Maria Mitchell, who paved the way for women in science; the sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who did the same in art; the journalist and literary critic Margaret Fuller, who sparked the feminist movement; and the poet Emily Dickinson. Emanating from these lives are larger questions about the measure of a good life and what it means to leave a lasting mark of betterment on an imperfect world: Are achievement and acclaim enough for happiness? Is genius? Is love? Weaving through the narrative is a set of peripheral figures—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman—and a tapestry of themes spanning music, feminism, the history of science, the rise and decline of religion, and how the intersection of astronomy, poetry, and Transcendentalist philosophy fomented the environmental movement.
If you know of any forthcoming lesbian-relevant historical fiction, including historic fantasy and similar genres, drop the podcast a note to make sure we have a chance to include it.
I’d love to continue doing the “Ask Sappho” bit in this show, to answer questions or explore topics that are too brief for a show of their own. But it only happens if people send me questions or requests. If you like what you hear on this show, drop us a note and let us know. And get your personally-tailored information on lesbian history and historic literature.
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Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online
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