Book Review

A Baker’s Dozen

by Kiki

Originally published in Arise Magazine July 2001

A baker’s dozen essential nonfiction books for, by, and about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) folks of African descent both in the United States and on the African continent.  These titles are a must for individual libraries as well as schools and public libraries.  They are for folks in and out of the closet and also for family and friends.

One More River to Cross:  Black and Gay in America – by Keith Boykin

Boykin, an out, gay black man who served in Clinton’s administration explores core issues around being both black and gay in America.  He examines racism in gay communities and homophobia in African-American communities and debunks myths about both.  The “river” to be crossed is that of prejudice.  Both autobiographical and historical examination using the 1993 March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights which paralleled the 1963 Civil Rights March.

Respecting the Soul:  Daily Reflections for Black Lesbians and Gays – by Keith Boykin

Inspired by the plethora of books about spirituality, few of which addressed the specific issues around race and sexual orientation.  The daily reflections were inspired by quotes from a wide variety of folks, straight and gay, out and closeted.  The list of luminaries quoted includes Alvin Ailey, Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Peter J. Gomes, Lorraine Hansberry, E. Lynn Harris, Carl Lewis, Little Richard and Ru Paul.  After the famous quotes, Boykin does his take on the issue and then an affirmation is offered.  A Lambda Literary Award winner.

The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities, Delroy Constantine-Simms, Editor

Twenty-eight essays written by folks representing diversity in sexual orientation, gender, race and ethnicity, all exploring the relationships between gays and lesbians of African descent and their straight counterparts.  Essays revolve around modern African American culture as well as 19th century slaves and post-apartheid South Africa.

Zami:  A New Spelling of My Name A Biomythography – by Audre Lorde

Written by the late great poet laureate of New York, godmother of African-American lesbian writers.  As the title implies, although often classified as fiction, it is a melding of fact and fiction as moist memoirs are.  Lorde was self-described as “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, lover, and poet.”

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

Fifteen essays, nine after she discovered she was dying of cancer.  The title indicates the status of black lesbians.

Home Girls:  A Black Feminist Anthology edited by Barbara Smith

Although not all the entries were written by out black lesbians, most of the subject matter deals with black lesbian issues.  Thirty-two writers and artists contributed to this seminal work.  Many went on to greater fame later.  Audre Lorde, Jewelle Gomez, Alice Walker, Pat Parker, Ann Allen Schockley, Cheryl Clarke, June Jordan, Alexis DeVeaux, Bernice Johnson-Reagan (Sweet Honey in the Rock) and Barbara Smith herself.  Essays, short fiction, art and poetry.  Published by the only U.S. publisher specializing in works by women of color, founded by Barbara Smith.  The first such anthology.

In the Life:  A Black Gay Anthology edited by Joseph Beam

Following closely on the heels of Home Girls, pieces by the late Joe Beam and 32 other writers and artiest.  The first anthology by black gay men.  “in the life” is the slang for being gay.

Does Your Mama Know?: An Anthology of Black-Lesbian Coming Out Stories – edited by Liza C. Moors

Forty-eight stories, poems, essays, and interviews by black lesbians coming out.

Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities – edited by Will Roscoe and Stephen O. Murray

Articles about GLBT on the African continent.  Debunks myths, that by being SGL (same gender loving) is a “European thang” or was introduced to African cultures by Euros.  Discuses marriage, transvestitism in 50 societies throughout the continent.

Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing edited by Catherine E. McKinley and L. Joyce Delaney

Twenty pieces including usual suspects: Audre Lorde, Alexis DeVeaux, Evelyn C. White, Michelle Cliff, Pat Parker, Jewelle Gomez, Linda Villarosa, and Helen Elaine Lee.  Afrekete is the name of a character in Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.

One of the Children; Black Gay Men in Harlem by William G. Hawkeswood

The late white New Zealander anthropologist studied black gay men in Harlem for two years as part of his doctoral studies.  It is the first formal cultural study.  Consisting of 57 interviews by the author who lived in the community.  His ultimate thesis was that there was an active public life not subsumed in the white gay Manhattan culture.  “one of the Children” is also slang for being gay.

The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom – by Barbara Smith

Twenty-one essays on a myriad of subjects including Zara Neale Hurston, Pat Parker, James Baldwin, and Rodney King, the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing, and more. From the perspective of this prolific black lesbian, writer and scholar.For

Forty-three Septembers: Essays by Jewelle Gomez

Autobiographical essays by the author of Lambda Literary Award winner, The Gilda Stories: A Black Lesbian Vampire Novel.  On the life of a feminist, activist, scholar, and writer.  Self-described as a “middle aging black lesbian.” Gomez is featured in many of the other lesbian and feminist anthologies.

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