This new video from Broken Beautiful Press comes just in time for the lesbian book reading group and right on time for Gay Pride Month. Her focus on the black diasporic figures in publishing reminds us of all of the women who have dared to speak when mainstream (and some independent women’s presses) found them too radical, too critically engaged in the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender, and too scary for their mainstream readership base. If these women, both the black women featured in the video, Chicanas pictured, like Moraga, and myriad of woc who wrote, helped edit, and got the word out with their white allies, had not braved the publishing world, we would not have the written documents of powerful lesbian feminists of color to fight against the wave theory that says we only enter in the 1980s.
More than that, I think Alexis’ video is a timely reminder as the switch to digital format and the demise of independent publishing has led to a narrowing of published material largely to the detriment of women authors in general, and LBT and woc women in particular.
A colleague and I were recently discussing a book by an African woman about colonial education. She looked it up online and discovered that it was not only out of print but available @ the highest price for under $2 used. We began looking up more famous texts and finding a similar occurence with both women of color and post-colonial authors, even once canonized folks like Achebe, especially those writing specifically about intersecting oppressions. Many of these books were not offered in digital format at all.
I began to recount a story of one of my gf’s favorite poets. She intentionally published with an independent lesbian press after having been initially refused publication of her first collection at a larger press. She was quite famous in the 70s and early 80s, but the press went under. When she died, there was no one to advocate for reprinting the collections or to move them to a new press. Her work was essentially gone. A woman whose presence was once so standard at feminist readings that it bordered on the annoying was now someone whose name none of my students knows.
My colleague mentioned a famous anthology by women of color that had also fallen out of print and also been hocked for pennies (literally) on used sites as well as ridiculous price gouging by those sellers who knew what they actually had. She wondered if it was b/c this anthology was published by the now a defunct press. And while I told her that there was a complicated back story to why this anthology had been kept out of print, unrelated to the press or its editors, that it too served as a reminder to the connection between feminist reader-feminist professor-feminist publisher-feminist bookstore-and-feminist thought. If you take just one piece of thread out of the feminist web and compress it to the experience of the mainstream over that of our diversity (all of our diversity), every other piece starts to strain and some occasionally snap. Add to that blogs and presses that champion the centering of their own mainstream experiences with the splattering of woc and LGB, and occasionally trans and differently-abled women, who claim they can only represent one thing at a time or that mainstreaming means “universal” not “erasure’ and the connected web of feminism contracts in on itself; it becomes a sticky mess people start to peel away from instead of a glistening, intricate, beautiful, lasting thing whose strenght is deceptively strong.
This is one of the reasons I am really excited about the black diasporic lesbian writers internet book group, b/c it encourages us to support marginalized voices and presses while expanding our own knowledge base. It dovetails nicely with something I have been working on ever since that conversation with my colleague: book and film giveaways for the blog that will incorporate book/film reviews and free product to lucky blog readers. I am still in the process of hammering it all down, but look for a Chicana Lit giveaway, LGBTQ DVD giveaway, and disability rights giveaways coming soon. 😀
Until then, check out one of my favorite black feminist creative minds and bloggers, Alexis Pauline Gumbs doing her thing.