We are pleased to present this year's Best of the Small Presses Award to New Victoria, a feminist, literary, and cultural publishing house in Norwich, Vermont, USA. 

While many of the titles in New Victoria's catalog run to mystery novels, humor, and tales of romance, there are captivating exceptions, and the non-fiction section takes a bold and exciting leap for cultural studies. Here, we found ground-breaking works that most often appear only at the edges of mainstream publishing houses; at New Victoria, they're featured center-stage.

We congratulate New Victoria on their fine work to date. Students, educators, and activists alike are invited to read our reviews, and to condsider implementing these impressive titles in libraries and classrooms everywhere.

 

 

     

STANDARDS' Signet of Excellence by Jim Davis Rosenthal

 

 

     
 

 

 

 

The scope of cultural representation in these few titles makes New Victoria a more than deserving recipient of our Best of the Small Presses Award: we found an emerging Black lesbian voice; one of the best compilations to date of the works of writer and photographer Tee A. Corinne; a humble, and sometimes humbling, assessment of the women's land movement in the U.S.; the impressively inclusive collection of unsilenced voices in Queer Japan; raw talent in Doe Tabor's first novel; and the striking insistence of both grace and sorrow, in New Victoria's tribute to the life and works of Michiyo Fukaya.

 

The six titles we selected from this small press include Callaloo & Other Lesbian Love Tales, by LaShonda K. Barnett; Dreams of the Woman Who Loved Sex: Fiction, Poetry, and Photo Art, by Tee A. Corinne; Circles of Power: Shifting Dynamics in a Lesbian-Centered Community, edited by La Verne Gagehabib and Barbara Summerhawk; Queer Japan, also edited by Barbara Summerhawk, along with Cheiron McMahill and Darren McDonald; A Fire Is Burning, It Is Me: The Life and Writing of Michiyo Fukaya, edited by Gwendolyn L. Shervington; and a first novel, Do Drums Beat There, by Doe Tabor.

 

Callaloo & Other Lesbian Love Tales

 

La Shonda K. Barnett's book is a quintessential first collection: fresh, vibrant, raw, and unmitigated. The short stories take on a variety of topics, ranging from adolescent longing and mixed-blood color lines ("The Homecoming of Narda Boggs"), to the gracious love lives of long-time companions ("Rituals"), and interracial learning and love between slave and mistress ("Miss Hannah's Lesson"). Drawing keenly on the rich heritage of early African American authors, Barnett's style also serves up a heady contemporary mixture of Black lesbian voices and experiences.

 

Dreams of the Woman Who Loved Sex: Fiction, Poetry, and Photo Art

 

Tee A. Corinne has been a formidable presence in queer arts since the mid-1960s. Her photography has been widely published in dozens of periodicals, and has been the subject of features in many anthologies and academic works, including Completely Queer : The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia (Steve Hogan and Lee Hudson); Women Photographers (Palmquist and Musso, WIP Archives); Nothing but the Girl : The Blatant Lesbian Image (Bright and Posener, eds., Cassell); Sexual Politics (Amalia Jones, ed., U. of Calif. Press); Finger Licking Good (Tamsin Wilton, Cassell); The Art of Reflection (Marsha Meskimon, Scarlet Press); Uncommon Heroes (Sherman and Bernstein, eds., Fletcher Press); The Contest of Meaning (Richard Bolton, ed., MIT Press); Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs (Jean Frazer and Tessa Boffin, eds. HarperSanFrancisco); and Forbidden Subjects: Self-Portraits by Lesbian Artists (Caffyn Kelley ed., Gallerie). She edited and supplied photographs for Riding Desire and Intricate Passions, which won the prestigious Lambda Literary Award.

As a writer and public speaker, Corinne has authored countless articles and appeared on panels across the nation. Her poetry books include Mama, Rattlesnakes, Key Lime Pie and Does Poetry Make a Difference? Corinne edited The Body of Love and the Lamba Award finalist The Poetry of Sex: Lesbians Write the Erotica. Her books of fiction include Courting Pleasure (1994); The Sparkling Lavender Dust of Lust (1991); and Lovers (1989).

In her introduction to the revised second edition of Dreams of the Woman Who Loved Sex, Corinne posits, "Why write about sex, anyway? What about political realities, social inequalities? ... Why waste time on sexual words and pictures?" Her answer:

Over the years I have continued to work with lovemaking images. I relate to them as that which is holy. They exhibit the mysticism which is inextricably bound up in sexuality for me. ... I believe that sexual knowledge can change the world in which we live, that loving on the physical, psychic, and spiritual levels can foster a different kind of cultural climate, a changed understanding of reality. ... For much of the world, any sexual touching of one woman by another is reprehensible. Sex is still a radical act. It is a sweet revolution. All the victories are far from won.

Corinne's work, while widely celebrated, has certainly had its detractors. But that hasn't stopped her contributions to the struggle. Nor from enjoying the sweetness of that revolution. Dreams of the Woman Who Loved Sex is yet another testament to that commitment.

 

Circles of Power: Shifting Dynamics in a Lesbian-Centered Community

This second volume compiled by Barbara Summerhawk (whose previous editorial work includes the formidable Queer Japan) is firmly grounded, importantly, by the perspectives of co-author La Verne Gagehabib. Investigating the sociopolitic impacts of lesbian separatism and the women-owned land movements brings to the fore a central issue the publishers at New Victoria are not afraid to examine: Where are the women of color in these movements, and what are their unique experiences?

Too often told from an exclusively White point of view, lesbian "herstory" in the United States is re-examined in Circles of Power to not only include, but challenge, all the meanings of lesbian separatism: from whom is "in" or "out" of the circle, based on sexuality and gender, to whom remains, based on class and race.

The book started out as two separate enquiries: Barbara Summerhawk, in her introduction, tells of wanting to document a powerful revolution in lesbian herstory; La Verne Gagehabib, meanwhile, was seeking to collect data on the experience of women of color living within the utopian dream of women-owned communities.

What has emerged, through the collaborative efforts of the authors, is an often nostalgic, yet unflinching look at The Southern Oregon Women's Community -- a large network of land-owners, residents, visitors, workers, and friends, who made a home between the northern border of California throughout areas of Oregon extending to Eugene. Begun in the early 1970s, the vision and lifestyle for this community continue to this day.

All the shades and textures of modern lesbian feminist dynamics are represented in the interviews with the women who have participated in this project: from gynocentric building and planting methods, to systems of government and spirituality. Due to the fact that they have each resided on the land or have had extensive experience in the women's communities in Southern Oregon, both authors consider themselves "observer-participants." Yet, no matter what the overarching principles for the establishment of "community," the authors and interviewees alike make no claims to either utopia or perfection. This book, like lesbian feminism itself, is a study in both revolution and evolution.

Things change. But how much? If the Southern Oregon Women's Community can be viewed as a microcosm of larger lesbian feminist issues within the United States, Circles of Power shies away from neither the questions nor the answers. So, while we learn that communities exclusively comprised of women can make abundant social change for their participants, we are also made keenly aware -- once again -- that this very exclusivity is still too often brought about at the cost of separating women of color from larger networks of support, thereby reinforcing persistently destructive politics of invisibility.

 

Queer Japan: Personal Stories of Japanese Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals

 

Queer Japan is one of the most revolutionary books to come across our desks in years. For those who have undertaken queer studies in the various cultures of North America, Latin America, and Europe, this ground-breaking volume from New Victoria Press represents only the incipient unsilencing of countless untold stories, as well as an in-depth look at a proudly emergent society.

Compiled and edited by Barbara Summerhawk, Cheiron MacMahill, and Darren McDonald, this rare collection of testimonies offers academicians, students, and the lesbigay communities a first glimpse into the sociopolitical framework challenging queer communities in Japan. And it's a task accomplished with both grace and finesse.

From the introductions to the first personal narrative by Kirara, "A Lesbian in Hokkaido," through Saho Asada's "Tachi, Mother, Woman, The Many Faces of Love," this collection challenges, informs, and inspires. That it is one of the very few volumes on the history and development of queer life in Japan is a milestone in itself. That the editors have brought together personal accounts from gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals, speaking with resounding voices against silence, is truly remarkable. Highly recommended for college-level teaching.

 

A Fire Is Burning, It Is Me: The Life and Writing of Michiyo Fukaya

 

The formidable presence of Michiyo Fukaya is sorely missed. Every woman who struggles, rages, accomplishes -- and is still routinely disregarded -- will find consonance, if not solace, in this tribute to Michiyo's life and works.

Compassionately edited by Gwendolyn L. Shervington, A Fire Is Burning, It Is In Me is the kind of testament to survival and depletion we can no longer afford to ignore. Through excerpts of Michiyo's own writings, interspersed with reviews of her works, anecdotal personal accounts, and memoirs mourning her death, we are reminded, again and again, that having too little costs too much.

Michiyo Fukaya was a Japanese American lesbian poet, activist, and single mother to a mixed-race daughter. She lived on welfare, and was in and out of the mental health system. Her struggles were ceaseless, and she touched the lives of many. She took her own life, at age 34.

This is an urgent, tough, charmed and necessary book. Highly recommended for teaching at the college level.

 

Do Drums Beat There

 

Doe Tabor's first book is a novel driven by both plot and characters -- in the best sense of the term. Reading this engrossing story means coming to care for its people and the events which propel them: the protagonist, 15-year-old Ritta, is sent away from her Lakota reservation by a caring uncle, following an episode of unforgivable brutality at the hands of the tribal police. Appealingly, there is an almost filmic sensibility to the narrative: Tabor has authored a book that would easily translate to an engrossing screenplay. To read this novel is to be encompassed by an uncommon attention to sensory detail and delight at the environments of nature, the constructs of humans, and the ideals of "home."

Despite its references to drug and alcohol use, this is the type of novel we strongly recommend for classroom teaching at the college or university level. Framed in the appropriate context, students will find much more here to inspire: for teenaged Ritta, surviving the onslaught of violence and political mayhem means moving forward on her own. And that movement brings to the fore new questions, issues, and concerns, in the form of a crew of characters and events primed for the civil rights foreground of the late 1960s and early '70s: the American Indian Movement; bonds between women of color; nascent understandings of gender and power; the rise of gay rights; and a steadfast respect for the elders who have come before us.

For readers unfamiliar with Red Power or American Indian Movement, Tabor has provided an excellent afterword, detailing an historically-accurate account of key events that shape her novel.

The recipient of the 1998 award of the Emerging Writers Fellowship in Fiction from Literary Arts, Inc., Doe Tabor is a writer from whom we will continue to expect the type of truth-telling that shatters convention.

.

 
 

 


 

Reviews © 2001 by Canéla Analucinda Jaramillo and the STANDARDS Editorial Collective

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

.
 

 

| Reviews |

| Contents by Author | Contributors | Copyrights | Home | About STANDARDS

| Volunteer Opportunities | Contents by Genre |

Email
.