Rainbow of Books | Photo: John Nakamura Remy, CC BY-SA 20
June is Pride Month, and so I thought I would take a moment to celebrate the queer women authors and genderqueer authors that have made an impact on my reading habits, my work, and my life. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the amazing authors that fall into that category, merely the ones that have had the most impact on me (and probably not even all of those, because there are a lot. I read so much stuff you guys. So much). Because I’m selfish that way. And because if I let myself I would fall down this rabbit hole forever.
Alison Bechdel: I have no choice but to fangirl over this woman. She’s a genius, and has a McArthur Grant to prove it. Her name is used as a baseline test for gender representation in the movies. Her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For is amazing, her graphic novel Fun Home is possibly one of the greatest things I’ve read in my life, and the musical based on it made me bawl my eyes out. I literally wrote my thesis on this woman’s work. And got to tell her about it. And she said it sounded interesting. (Please write “Alison Bechdel Thought My Thesis Was Interesting” somewhere near “Gail Simone Liked My Costume” on my tombstone.)
Audre Lorde: It is hard to get more badass and awesome than Audre Lorde. Activist, poet, and critic, she has split her time between pointing out the ways that white feminism can be used to oppress black women and writing amazing poetry.
Charlie Jane Anders: I have admittedly only read her material on io9, because I am a bad fan (and a busy lady. These online rants don’t write themselves, you know) but I always found her writing on the site engaging, and I’m looking forward to reading her fiction. (Also, quoth Richard, “All the Birds in the Sky was fantastic.”)
Virginia Woolf: I probably can’t say anything about her that hasn’t already been said, but I urge to you read one of her lesser-taught works, Orlando. Orlando is freaking weird, my friends. But I adore it. What if you just happened to live almost forever, and you sometimes decided to change gender? For funsies? Equal parts love letter to Vita Sackville-West and biting critique of most literary movements from the Elizabethan period forward, it’s a bizarre gem.
Susan Sontag: Her work Illness as Metaphor was literally life changing. It helped me drastically change how I see and speak about illness and disability, and was additionally immensely helpful in my academic work. She was a brilliant writer and activist, and she and Annie Leibovitz are like my dream creative power couple.
Alice Walker: She reclaimed the work of Zora Neale Hurston, for which we owe her a thousand “thank yous.” She’s an awesome activist who writes truly amazing prose. Go re-read The Color Purple.
Sarah Waters: Just go read Fingersmiths. Go. Do it.
Gertrude Stein: … I mean, she’s Gertrude Stein. Go read her again. She taught Hemingway how to write and was also just awesome in her own right. (See what I did there? Gertrude Stein would disapprove of that, probably.)
Andrea Gibson: A fantastic poet, I had the privilege of seeing her perform her poetry at an event in Boston. Again, with the making me cry.
Octavia Butler: Octavia Butler writes such amazing things, everyone. The fact that she isn’t deified with the likes of Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov is a goddamn shame, because that woman knows her science fiction, and has done something that no one else has ever managed: Create aliens so alien that I have a hard time picturing them. You never think about how familiar (and humanoid) most aliens end up being until you are puzzling your way through one of Butler’s novels. (note: there is some discussion of whether or not Octavia Butler was queer, but I’m including her anyway. Because Octavia Butler is a goddamn treasure.)
As I said, I’m sure there are many people I could (and should) add to this list, but this is what I have for now. What have I missed? What work by these authors have you read and loved? (or hated, I’m somewhat capable of allowing you to have that opinion, too.) Let me know in the comments!
Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not buying tickets to see Wonder Woman in theatres, she studies gender in popular culture.
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