LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month, and I’ve had it drawn to my attention how few new UK Lesbian voices are getting published, which sent me off to peruse my shelves. Now, I think of myself as having a fairly comprehensive collection, but actually there isn’t a vast swathe of stuff there, and most of it I’ve had a while. So here’s an unscientific survey  of what’s on the shelf – inclusion doesn’t mean that the author is a Lesbian (sadly) but that they have written about lesbians with conviction, or in some honourable cases so badly as to make me weep with laughter. Having had a sift through I realise I’ve got rid of a lot of the books I bought in the 80’s, when I was devouring books at a rate of 3 a day. Some of them gave me hiccups, these are the ones that survived the cull.

Oldies but goldies (Mostly from the 20’s or earlier)

Radcliffe Hall: The Well of Loneliness, a book that probably caused more women to think they couldn’t possibly be lesbians than any other. (UK)

Rosamund Lehmann: Dusty Answer – I don’t think Lehmann can have been a lesbian herself, but she gave a lot of people a good laugh with this book. oh dear, oh dear. (UK)

Colette: The Claudine books, esp Claudine & Annie (France)

Miles Franklin: My Beautiful Career (Australia)

Nella Larsen: Passing – I read this without realising it was about a Lesbian affair. Only when I read the preface (never read the preface before the book!) did I cotton on. Very discreet! (USA)

Mary Renault: The Friendly Young Ladies. There’s an argument for Mary Renault’s entire oeuvre being designated as Lesbian books, all her male gay characters are like lesbians in disguise. (UK)

Josephine Tey: Miss Pym Disposes mystery with Lesbian sub plot. Very sad.(UK)

60’s 70’s 80’s

Rita Mae Brown: Ruby Fruit Jungle another classic of its time, but really annoying. (USA)

Rosemary Manning: The Chinese Garden (UK)

Jane Rule: Lots of books. (USA)

Penelope Lively: Nothing Missing but the Samovar – a short story collection included here for one story, one of the best, most matter of fact depictions of elderly lesbians I’ve ever read.

Anna Livia: Relatively Norma (UK)

Maureen Duffy: The Microcosm (unreadable) and That’s How It Was (Brilliant) (UK)

Caroline Natzler Water Wings. (UK)

Nicky Edwards: Stealing Time (UK)

Mary Dorcey: Noises from the Woodshed (UK)

Isabel Miller: Patience & Sarah (A book I didn’t realise was funny the first time I read it, so starved of Lesbian texts was I) (USA)

Patricia Duncker: James Miranda Barry  A magnificent book(UK)

Ellen Galford: Moll Cutpurse, Fires of Bride, The Dyke & the Dybuk (UK)

Katherine V Forrest: lots of detective fiction (USA)

Nicola Griffith: Ammonite, Stay, several others (USA)

Stevie Davies: Impassioned Clay (and others but this one especially) (UK)

Elizabeth A Lynn: The Northern Girl (and others but this one especially) (USA)

More recent:

Emma Donoghue: Hood, Stir Fry, Kissing the Witch (UK)

Helen Humphreys: Leaving Earth (US)

Ursula Le Guin: The Sea Road (Included for a single story, but Ursula’s been playing games with gender for ever, everyone should read The Left Hand of Darkness it turns your brain inside out.) (USA)

Marion Foster: The Monarchs are Flying (US)

Tracey Chevalier: Falling Angels, Remarkable Creatures (UK)

VG Lee: Diary of a Provincial Lesbian, As You Step Outside (UK)

Manda Scott: Hens Teeth, The Boudicca series (UK)

Sarah Waters: of course. (UK)


U A Fanthorpe (UK)

Jackie Kay (UK)

Kate Foley (UK)

Carol Ann Duffy (UK)

Marilyn Hacker (USA)

Adrienne Rich (USA)

And loads of anthologies of both fiction and poetry, which probably deserve a good root through and a post of their own.

I realise now that learning to drive slowed up my consumption of books considerably, as did the job-from-hell. I go on about how I didn’t write for eleven years, but actually I didn’t read much then either. What kind of a life is that? Shocking. Something to consider: If you don’t have time to read, how are you feeding your brain?

Happy LGBT History Month! Go read a good, lesbian, book – quickly.

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