When I graduated from college I went on a binge of trying to read all the classic works that I didn’t read in school but thought I should have. I made it through the Brõnte sisters, Charles Dickens, Faulkner, Cooper, and others but totally and completely stopped a chapter into Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
For all of you readers out there who have read this classic piece of literature you have my respect, I, however, was not caught and couldn’t find the motivation to keep turning the page. Where to go from there, though? Science fiction? Biographies? Westerns? Mysteries? Romances? Surely not romances because those were stories with little to offer right? I was an English major! I couldn’t read such things, right? I couldn’t spend hours reading about a husky male rescuing some distraught female from boredom with promises of throbbing sex, right? Luckily, it was around that same time that I discovered independent bookstores and, more importantly, women’s bookstores.
I truly feel sorry for anyone who was not able to frequent such a store due to location or to time and the passing of these great spaces of womeness (no that’s not a word but it should because it captures that idea of everything woman). I wish they still proudly stood on the corners in the eclectic parts of town. I was like a kid walking into a candy store each time a trip to such a store was planned or I happened upon a new find in a new town. I remember looking through the Yellow Pages, back when that was an actual book, and finding all the listings for Bookstore. Some made it obvious they catered to female interests others had names that could pass either way. It was so wonderful to slide my finger down to their entry, find the address, and plan the inevitable spending spree.
The idea that there might be stories I could relate to started while I was in college and I was given a copy of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, a whole new type of classic. A type of story that hadn’t even been on my radar until much later but it was that glimpse of what was possible that simmered in my book-a-holic brain. Finding bookstores with shelves full of lesbian stories was a heat lamp causing all those simmering seeds to explode! Bookstores offered so much more than that secret copy of Rubyfruit Jungle getting passed around in the underground lesbian network, they offered an out and proud approach to new stories. Stories that offered hope and connection. And best of all, they showed love. Love stories. Was that romance? Was I reading stories that I had previously thought held no significance in the literature world? I WAS and even more importantly I WAS LOVING IT!
We have so many talented authors in this genre who are willing to wrap us up in a warm cocoon and show us those precious moments of connection between two women. Connections that develop into love with all the challenges that go along with it. It’s all about being a lesbian and it is awesome!
But there are some stories within our genre that I truly respect for how they digress from my go-to. Stories that focus on a challenge that any person could be facing except in these stories that person happens to be lesbian. They might get the woman in the end, but the story seems to have a different force behind it other than a love relationship.
My first encounter with such a work was Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s Working Parts.
It’s about an incredibly talented bike mechanic whose challenge isn’t finding a love interest but rather in overcoming the biggest challenge in her life: illiteracy. Another one, J.E. Knowles’ Arusha. There is an exploration of human connections but the story focused me on the emotions rather than on the sexuality of the main character. It showed the devastation to the spirit sacrifices can cause and how one woman chooses to change her life.
One that especially touched me was Family Jewels by Kate Christie. A story that seemed to emphasize how it is when we are challenged the most we find the strength we need to grow and become stronger.
Most recently, The Return by Ana Matics showed me that to gain forgiveness one must start inside and forgive yourself before you can expect others to forgive you. I know there are more. They may not get the notice or recognition of other stories in the lesfic genre but they are so awesome for their approach! Fellow readers help me out- what are some novels that expressed a message featuring a lesbian character? What was the message and how did it impact you?
Maybe none of these stories will end up on some English majors list of classics to read upon their college graduation, but I think they have some very significant messages that span to any sexual orientation. I guess the saying is a cross over. A crossover to mainstream. But we all have friends and family of various sexual orientation. Why not recommend some of these? Let everyone know the depth of feeling and emotion our lesfic authors are so amazing at nurturing on the pages.
So, fellow readers, what story would YOU recommend? Put your recommendations in the comments!