The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 20th February

Here we go: A Woman of Mystery…don’t know when her birthday was, don’t know who she is, beyond she wrote a book Either is Love which explores the life of a woman who first has a lesbian relationship and then a heterosexual one. Published in 1937. I have a vague recollection of having read this book, but remember next to nothing about it – but I recorded a quote!

A so-called Lesbian alliance can be of the most rarefied purity, and those who do not believe it are merely judging in ignorance of the facts.

…oh, sorry, who am I on about?

Elisabeth Craigin.

Some speculation as to possible pseudonym, but for whom??

So feel free to do some research, or make something up! A Scottish surname, so perhaps a whisky or three would get her to enlighten us as to who she really is – she’s not on any UK census…

Inspirations – Dancing in the Darkroom

Getting a book ready for publication (Typesetting, proofreading) even second time round and twenty years later, does send me back to the roots of the stories, and with so many of the stories in Mosaic of Air I can remember exactly where and when the idea first stuck its claws into me.

Ladies Pleasure, the cover story for Mosaic of Air this time round, came from a session in the darkroom. I like the radio on when I’m printing up photographs, and normally that would be radio 3 or 4, but in this case there was nothing I wanted to listen to, so I spun the dial and got Radio 2.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve listened to R2 (apart from the folk music programmes). It was an afternoon, midweek in about 1984 and Michael Aspell was talking to elderly women living in a care home.

All I remember about the programme was one woman saying how difficult it was to get a male partner for  dancing, and how it wasn’t the same dancing with a woman. I laughed quoted Alix Dobkin to myself and got on with what I was doing,  but the seed was sown.  What if like me, that woman had prefered dancing with women? What if she had always wanted to dance with women, or what if due to circumstances, women and dancing had always gone together? And there she was, Grace Carew-Petrullo, a minor character in one of those movies about brave gels on the home front, a bit player in a book from sixty years earlier, given her own voice, her unspoken jealousy of, and desire for, the glorious Jessica Markham still fresh after a lifetime of experience.

Mosaic of Air by Cherry Potts (cover Melina Traub)

Grace and Jessica confront each other on the cover of Mosaic of Air by Cherry Potts (cover Melina Traub)

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.