Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 37a - On the Shelf for August 2019 - Transcript
(Originally aired 2019/08/03 - listen here)
Welcome to On the Shelf for August 2019.
Setting up the blog and podcast for August is being a bit more chaotic than usual as I'll be off in Ireland for two weeks in the middle of the month to attend Worldcon -- the World Science Fiction Convention -- in Dublin, with a bit of sightseeing and visiting along the way. If, by some chance, you also happen to be attending Worldcon, I'd love it if you track me down to say hi and let me know that you listen to the podcast. In fact, I'm scheduled to be on a panel discussion about podcasting as well as a couple other programming items.
That's not the only item complicating my life at the moment because I've also gotten the edits for my next novel Floodtide, so I'll be adding revisions into the schedule for this month. Floodtide will be coming out in November, so expect me to take shameless advantage of this podcast and boost it a bit as the date approaches. I'd only just barely started this podcast when my last novel came out and didn't have space in the format for book promotion.
And because I'm not multi-tasking well or tracking calendars carefully, I got blindsided by the due date to get the next story set up for the fiction series. Last year all the fifth Saturdays were evenly distributed at three month intervals, but the fact that this year there was only two months between the June story and the August one took me by surprise.
And speaking of the fiction series, keep thinking about next year's fiction series for the podcast. As I announced last month, we're opening it up a little to include stories with certain types of fantasy elements. See the call for submissions for more explanation. And because of that "calendar creep" thing, I'll buy looking to buy five stories this time because there will be an open slot in January 2021 and I won't have time to fill it with a January submission period that year. Now that's looking far ahead! I really enjoy helping bring new lesbian historical fiction into the world. I hope you're enjoying listen to it just as much!
Publications on the Blog
In July, the Lesbian Historic Motif Project blog covered several publications I picked up at the Kalamazoo medieval conference, finishing up with a book I bought several years ago, Daughters of London: Inheriting Opportunity in the Late Middle Ages by Kate Kelsey Staples. Although I hadn't originally intended it as a book for the blog, the subject--daughters' inheritances and financial expectations in medieval London--contributed to last month's essay on the lives of unmarried women. I'm continuing that theme in August by working through the papers in a collection titled The Single Woman in Medieval and Early Modern England: Her Life and Representation. That collection will take me into early September.
There are books that I don't necessarily expect to find much new material in, but that might be useful to point out to readers of the blog. I picked up The History of Sexuality in Europe: A Sourcebook and Reader for that reason and will add it to the growing stack of general purpose books that I need to review. I ordered another rather exciting looking book Invisible Agents about female spies in 17th century England. I suppose it might have tie-in potential since I expect that it will include Aphra Behn, but mostly I bought it as background research for a future fiction project.
This month’s author guest will be Penny Mickelbury, talking to us about her new historical novel Two Wings to Fly Away.
I haven't decided on an essay topic for August yet. At the moment, I'm still drafting the show that came out last week. (Time is getting tangled as I write this.) So it will be a surprise--maybe even a surprise to me!
But the month will end with our next fiction episode: "The Black Handkerchief" by Gwen C. Katz.
Recent Lesbian Historical Fiction
Now for the recent, new, and forthcoming lesbian-relevant historical fiction list! As usual, I'll begin with catching up on a few titles I missed in the last couple of months' releases.
June books included a couple of cross-time stories--my term for any book that blends events in multiple eras. The Pages of Adeena by C. M. Castillo from iUniverse starts out in the mid-20th century, but it isn't clear that it stays there.
It’s the summer of 1952, and Adeena “Addie” Kahlo loves her life in Chicago, where she helps run her close-knit family’s nightclub on the south side. But Addie has a dream that she is determined to make a reality; attending college in New York and becoming a published author. Through a blind date, she meets Alan, who becomes her best friend and closest confidant. They share a secret that they can never divulge. Together, they discover a door that opens to a magical place that leads to other worlds and to times past and future; Cafe du Temp, a nightclub like no other. At Cafe du Temp they listen to soulful jazz, drink fancy cocktails, and slowly begin to understand that its opulent and stunning ambience means something unique and special to each person who enters its doors. It’s here, in this strange and elegant place, where Addie meets and falls in love with the beautiful poet, Isabelle Androsko. Their chemistry is immediate and powerful. Despite this, they soon discover that their vastly different worlds pose near impossible obstacles to the life they want to build together. Addie believes that the mysterious Cafe du Temp, and its serendipitous existence in their lives, is the catalyst to their future, but can this belief transcend time and heartbreak to bring her to her ultimate destiny?
Another book that weaves together lives in different eras is Jobyna's Blues by Jane Alden from Desert Palm Press.
Jobyna’s Blues is a multi-generational love story, set in post-WWI American South and flashing forward to the mid-1960’s in New York City and London. In 1924, Jobyna, the Empress of the Blues, and Lily, a dancer in her chorus line, fall in love as they travel in a custom train car and play to adoring crowds in theaters from Nashville to New Orleans to Mobile. Life is both exciting and dangerous in the young country, only sixty years past the Civil War. Looking forward to the mid-1960’s, Jobie Greene, a folk singer in Greenwich Village, meets the charismatic English pop star, Deedee. They struggle to manage their long-distance relationship and their careers against a backdrop of social change. The connections between the love stories and the women’s challenges and triumphs, as they echo through time, keep us surprised and challenged and rooting for their happy endings.
Paris for Two: Til Death Do We Part by Dolores Maggiore from Sapphire Books looks like a mash-up between a schoolgirl romance, a travelogue, and a thriller. Honestly, I'm not sure how to categorize it from the cover copy.
As eighteen-year-olds Pina Mazzini and Katie McGuilvry speed ahead toward graduation from Albert Academy and the natural evolution of their relationship, Pina flees to Paris to escape the demands of moving on with her life and possibly away from Katie. Pina’s burning desire to hang on to Katie and the status quo traps her in the past along with Europe’s seductive antiquities. Does she imagine the haunting return of Craney and her death threats? How toxic is her anxiety over getting on with her life? Katie and old friends from Albert Academy, along with a cadre of quirky spiritual guides, join Pina on this psychologically thrilling voyage for answers throughout France, Germany, and Italy. Foremost on Pina’s mind: Will her relationship with Katie survive her great escape? More importantly for all, will the eerie lure of Craney and the past swallow Pina up psychologically—or in her entirety?
Amy Selvidge's self-published The Snow Queen is a fictionalized story of a real historic person from the 17th century who was reputed to have same-sex relationships.
Queen Christina of Sweden was raised to be strong, unyielding, and powerful. Her desires and personal curiosities drove her to make increasingly outrageous decisions creating a whirlwind in Europe. Follow her exploits in this powerful historical fiction based on real events in her life.
The next two books, from July and then starting on the August titles, are also fictionalized accounts of historic women. I wouldn't be surprised if this next book, The Moss House by Clara Barley (from Bluemoose Books), is only the start of a flood of Anne Lister fiction.
In the mid 19th century, neighbouring landowners Anne Lister and Ann Walker find their lives entwined in a passionate, forbidden relationship, but the world isn't ready for Anne Lister, the larger than life scholar, traveller, mountaineer and lesbian.
Valerie: or, the Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner) published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux dramatizes a story out of sensational entertainment news of the '80s. Not your usual feel-good lesbian fiction fare but a powerful and painful story.
In April 1988, Valerie Solanas—the writer, radical feminist, and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol—was discovered dead at fifty-two in her hotel room, in a grimy corner of San Francisco, alone, penniless, and surrounded by the typed pages of her last writings. In Valerie, Sara Stridsberg revisits the hotel room where Solanas died; the courtroom where she was tried and convicted of attempting to murder Andy Warhol; the Georgia wastelands where she spent her childhood, where she was repeatedly raped by her father and beaten by her alcoholic grandfather; and the mental hospitals where she was shut away. Through imagined conversations and monologues, reminiscences and rantings, Stridsberg reconstructs this most intriguing and enigmatic of women, articulating the thoughts and fears that she struggled to express in life and giving a powerful, heartbreaking voice to the writer of the infamous SCUM Manifesto.
From a similar era, though more solidly fictional, comes Chelsey Engel's A Summer of Fever and Freedom from Labor of Love Communications.
At eighteen years old, Jane is teetering on the cusp of womanhood, a rite of passage complicated and painful for even the most stable of hearts. For Jane, who is anxiously awaiting her brother’s return from the war in Vietnam, the heavy journey is cracking her already fragile foundation. When she attends a party in Greenwich Village and meets twenty-three-year-old gay rights and anti-war activist Maria, the ground threatens to crumble completely under the weight of unexpected infatuation and desire. Maria has been on her own for years since her mother kicked her out in high school. The activist and writer has had to erect a fierce shield around her heart in order to navigate a world actively fighting against her humanity, and she certainly doesn’t expect the quiet, bookish Jane to tug at those defenses. Maria is sent for a rare tailspin when the walls break just as she prepares for a major life transition that leaves her and Jane at a vulnerable crossroads. From Beatnik cafes and student protests to the Stonewall Riots and Woodstock, Jane and Maria explore the bustle and beauty of New York in the summer of 1969 while exploring their friendship, as well as their own hearts. As the heated season nears its end, the young women are forced to make monumental decisions and come to terms with realities neither of them wishes to face, ones that will shape them for the rest of their lives.
And for a rather complete change of pace, we have a light-hearted Regency Romance: A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian from Harper Collins.
A seductive thief. Lady’s maid Molly Wilkins is done with thieving—and cheating and stabbing and all the rest of it. She’s determined to keep her hands to herself, so she really shouldn’t be tempted to seduce her employer’s prim and proper companion, Alice. But how can she resist when Alice can’t seem to keep her eyes off Molly? Finds her own heart. For the first time in her life, Alice Stapleton has absolutely nothing to do. The only thing that seems to occupy her thoughts is a lady’s maid with a sharp tongue and a beautiful mouth. Her determination to know Molly’s secrets has her behaving in ways she never imagined as she begins to fall for the impertinent woman. Has been stolen. When an unwelcome specter from Alice’s past shows up unexpectedly at a house party, Molly volunteers to help the only way she knows how: with a little bit of mischief.
Back to the first half of the 20th century for the last two books.
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor from Park Row doesn't give any indication of character sexuality in the cover copy. But the author says, "My debut is WWII fiction featuring a badass lesbian smuggler and her equally badass partner, who pull off the most elaborate feat of satire in modern history. It’s based on a true story."
Brussels, 1943. Twelve-year-old street orphan Helene survives by living as a boy and selling copies of the country’s most popular newspaper, Le Soir, now turned into Nazi propaganda. Helene’s entire world changes when she befriends a rogue journalist, Marc Aubrion, who draws her into a secret network publishing dissident underground newspapers. Aubrion’s unbridled creativity and linguistic genius attract the attention of August Wolff, a high-ranking Nazi official tasked with swaying public opinion against the Allies. Wolff captures Aubrion and his comrades and gives them an impossible choice: use the newspaper to paint the Allies as monsters, or be killed. Faced with no decision at all, Aubrion has a brilliant idea: they will pretend to do the Nazis’ bidding, but instead they will publish a fake edition of Le Soir that pokes fun at Hitler and Stalin—giving power back to the Belgians by daring to laugh in the face of their oppressors. The ventriloquists have agreed to die for a joke, and they have only eighteen days to tell it. Told with dazzling scope, taut prose and devastating emotion, The Ventriloquists illuminates the extraordinary acts of courage by ordinary people forgotten by history—unlikely heroes who went to extreme lengths to orchestrate the most stunning feat of journalism in modern history.
And we finish with Heroine of Her Own Life by Constance Emmett from Creativia.
In early 20th century Belfast, working class Meg Preston struggles to accept her own sexuality and yearns for forbidden love. Battling the customs and hardships of their time, Meg pursues a relationship with her childhood friend, Lillian Watson. But soon, tribulations of war, violence, and emigration threaten to tear everything apart. Seeking refuge for herself, her love, and her family, can Meg find the courage to become the heroine of her own life?
These lists are cobbled together from publisher listings, Amazon keyword searches, and word of mouth. If you have, or know of, a forthcoming book that would fit with the theme of this podcast, drop me a note to make sure I don't overlook it.
What Am I Reading?
And what have I been reading since the last On the Shelf show? I finished up Theodora Goss's European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, a fantasy about the daughters of various 19th century gothic novel protagonists forming a "found family" and having adventures in pursuit of their origins and to rescue new recruits. There was a minor background lesbian motif when the title character from Sheridan LeFanu's vampire novel Carmilla makes an appearance. The book I'm now in the middle of is Two Wings to Fly Away by this month's author guest, Penny Mickelbury. I'm way behind on reviewing the books I've read this year and keep hoping I'll have time to catch up, but somehow it never comes. And now that the tv series Gentleman Jack is available through iTunes, I have another distraction, though I'm virtuously ignoring the fact that it's now sitting on my computer while I get other things done.
What are you reading these days in lesbian history?
Lists and Links