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
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
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
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
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.