Is CRASHING AMERICA "lesbian fiction"?
When I wrote my first novel, CRASHING AMERICA, I thought of it as a story about a tough 17-year-old street kid, not a story about a lesbian. I never thought of my book as lesbian fiction for lesbian readers, although occasionally I described it as a book about "a San Francisco queer runaway," or "a lesbian Huckleberry Finn."
I don't spend much of my life thinking about writing lesbian fiction or gender-queer fiction. Yet my book was rejected by 69 agents and publishers before it found a home at an LGBT press, Alyson Books. When my book came to market in 2005, it was placed on the Lesbian Fiction shelf. The reviews I got were mainly in gay and lesbian magazines; my television appearance was at QTV, a gay channel in Burbank. CRASHING AMERICA was nominated for awards sponsored by organizations who believed in promoting gay and lesbian fiction. And many of those who generously embraced my work also turned out to be categorized as writers of lesbian fiction or gender-queer fiction.
On one hand, I was thrilled. On the other hand, it felt strange to have my work placed in a corner, unseen by the general public.
Why complain, though. Let's face it. Most literary fiction is placed in a dark corner, unseen by many, whether it's about lesbians or not. In retrospect, I see that CRASHING AMERICA was lucky to get any attention at all. To be part of a wave of fiction written by lesbians was rewarding and I loved doing readings and meeting authors. I was lucky to get to know such writers as Ali Liebegott, Eileen Myles, Mattilda, Michelle Tea, Elizabeth Stark, Lauren Sanders, and many more.
Now that I have the rights to my novel, and am publishing it as an eBook, I look forward to again getting the attention of lesbian readers, gender-queer readers, and those who want books about characters that are not in a gender straightjacket. I hope for feminist readers looking for non-binary-gender fiction or YA LGBT fiction. But most of all I hope to satisfy readers looking for adventurers and rogues who are tough in an unclassifiable way, like Girl, my protagonist. I needed to write the kind of person I hadn't seen in fiction. It didn't have so much to do with being lesbian, as with being female and young and unformed, rough-edged and brave. (And I can't help but hope someday fiction won't need to be divided into categories.)
We'll see. If I'm lucky enough to get more readers, maybe CRASHING AMERICA will get a broader readership this time. One thing is for sure: some people will be moved, others will be indignant; some will call Girl a psychopath, others will fall in love. Whether lesbians or not, readers come in all stripes.
P.S. Upon some reflection many exceptions come to mind. One of the most surprising was when I got an email from a minister. He sees CRASHING AMERICA as a story of liberation, and being a storyteller
and playwright, someday hopes to adapt the book
for stage or film.
Another was being invited by the Santa Barbara Women's Literary Festival to read for at least 1,000 women. They value diversity, and I was chosen because I'm a lesbian, but there you go,
sometimes it works for you.
Many authors and organizations invited me on panels and to do readings for the general public. People were incredibly supportive at the Northern California Book Awards, Writers with Drinks, Litquake, Book Group Expo, as well as the members of my women's writer group, WOMBA, Word-of-Mouth Bay Area.
And what is lesbian fiction anyway?
A brilliant exploration can be found in Terry Castle's
The Literature of Lesbianism:
A Historical Anthology From Aristotle To Stonewall
An interview with lesbian novelist Sarah Waters.
Michelle Tea's Radar Productions
Excerpt of Ali Liebegott's THE BEAUTIFULLY WORTHLESS
Ali on writing for the TV show Transparent
From Jewelle Gomez's play
WAITING FOR GIOVANNI
Excerpt of Eileen Myles' INFERNO
Wikipedia on lesbian fiction