Our Lesbian Roots

Article excerpt

BOOK BY BOOK, THESE COURAGEOUS WOMEN PLANTED THE SEEDS OF 20TH-CENTURY HERSTORY

A hundred years ago homosexuals hid between the lines of vaguely gay stories. But 20th-century writers gradually abandoned queer-coded literature and began a literary tradition rich with gay and lesbian characters and situations. These trailblazers and their contemporaries, represented here, have crafted a legacy of defiant prose and poetry chronicling our lives.

A CENTURY OF LESBIAN WRITERS

1996 African-American author Sapphire herself stops the bidding on her first novel, Push, at a reported $500,000. Even so, the size of the advance sets new (and unpopular) standard at major houses, which are at last willing to pay for gay and lesbian stories.

1995 Urvashi Vaid's remarkable Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation argues that gays and lesbians are being distracted from the goal of full acceptance by the mainstream's counteroffer of surface tolerance.

1994 Achy Obejas's We Came All the Way From Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? is among a group of newly popular writings by Latina lesbians. During the 1990s poetry collections by Cherrie Moraga and Erika Lopez's Flaming Iguanas also show up on lesbian best-seller lists.

1989 Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, with illustrations by Diana Souza, is a groundbreaking children's book that features openly gay characters. The book inspires a pile of similar titles from mainstream publishers all over the country.

1988 Two women who blend fictional experimentation with political critique become literary stars: Dorothy Allison publishes Trash, a collection of feminist stories, and Sarah Schulman brings out After Delores, a "narrative of loss" that wins the American Library Association's Gay and Lesbian Book Award.

1977 M.F. Beal's lesbian crime novel Angel Dance kicks off a new subgenre of queer women's fiction. Katherine V. Forrest's Kate Delafield mysteries (including 1984's Amateur City) and Claire McNab's Lessons in Murder (1988) are among the most popular entries.

1974 Patricia Nell Warren publishes The Front Runner, an all-time favorite love story for gay and lesbian sports fans. Jenifer Levin and Carol Anshaw later join the ranks of lesbians who write movingly about sports and love. …