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We welcome your suggestions of websites, books, films and any other media of interest to lesbians and queer women.

Peggy Seeger – First time ever
A children’s novel for adults
Advance notice – new Ngaio Marsh novel
Pot Luck returns for season 2
Renée: a life patched together

We appreciate the original cartoons provided by Helen Courtney. This one, Flight of fancy, seems to fit particularly well with Media.

A review of Peggy Seeger’s First time ever – A memoir

Peggy memoir coverIt is not only because folk music is a great love of mine that I was excited to be lent a copy of Peggy Seeger’s memoir. Whether or not you know her music or have heard of her activism, this book is an engrossing read about an astounding woman who produced more than 20 folk albums.

Peggy is often written about in relationship to her music and her famous family – composer mother Ruth Porter Crawford and folklorist father Charles Seeger, brothers Mike and half-brother Pete Seeger and first life partner Ewan MacColl. Her life was shaped by this, but she is also a fierce individual. Even if folk music had not been an integral part of her life we may have still been reading about this woman.

Peggy Songs of love and politicsIn the book, she entwines folk music with travelling on her motor scooter, busking in Moscow, having three children, having four abortions, protesting at Greenham Common, going down a coal mine and more recently undergoing back and intestinal surgery and a mastectomy.

She often comments in the first parts of First Time Ever that “I wasn’t a feminist back then”, but well before the story finishes she can claim feminism, activism and being an eco-environmentalist. Many of her songs such as ‘Gonna be an engineer’ and ‘Carry Greenham home’ became anthems for the feminist movement.

Peggy first met Irene Pyper-Scott in 1964 and they sang together at demonstrations. Irene supported Peggy after the death of Peggy’s first partner Ewan MacColl and says “After Ewan’s death she picked me up, dusted me off and we became more than friends”.

Peggy Seeger nowPeggy wrote in the memoir: “I’m not bisexual, I just happen to love a woman. I loved a man.” She describes Irene as “my second life partner”. Irene has made her home in New Zealand in the Marlborough Sounds and Peggy in England.

Peggy has spent her life telling stories of injustice, love, politics and humanity through folk music. She tells the story of her life with soul and beautiful prose. First Time Ever shows that her life has been and is still lived with intensity.

Anne Stephens

A children’s novel for adults

Photo from Wikipedia

Emma Donoghue is probably most well known for her 2010 novel Room (and the film of the same name, 2015), but she has been publishing, mostly fiction, since the early 1990s.

Her latest work, The Lotterys Plus One is technically a novel for children, and is told mostly from the perspective of a nine-year-old girl, Sumac, the fifth of seven in a family that has four parents: two same-sex couples.

Donoghue has a great imagination – her wide variety of published work is evidence of that – visit her website for details. She has also a great talent for writing in distinctive and unusual voices. Room shows that, as the story unfolds from the viewpoint of five-year-old Jack. So does Hood, a fascinating novel of love and betrayal and hope, told from the perspective of the bereaved partner. Pen, the narrator, knows herself to be the uninteresting, unattractive half of the couple. She is not an unreliable narrator, but she is hugely lacking in self-awareness, as well as lacking in confidence. A different view of her circumstances emerges, with the reader becoming aware that Pen is not as knowledgeable as she thinks she is. Jack is unreliable, given the extremely limited circumstances of his life. Donoghue manages to maintain these voices, consistent and credible in themselves, while unfolding another story for the reader.

She does the same with The Lotterys. It’s an implausible family, with absurd names. Some of the seven children are born to (some of) the parents; some have come from other parents. It’s not really clear who is a biological parent or how the children are related. It doesn’t matter, of course, or it shouldn’t. And partly this is because it’s either not known or not important to Sumac. She is a precocious child (helpful for a writer), but she is also naive, and this perspective, her voice, is maintained consistently through the book. The ‘plus one’ of the title is a grandfather, an estranged and unhappy homophobic father of one of the fathers. The book takes us through both an introduction to the family (useful, because there is a sequel already planned for publication in 2018), and the story of the family dynamics with the introduction of an unwelcome addition.

You don’t have to be or have young children to enjoy this novel. Read and enjoy it; share it with anyone who enjoys good writing and a challenge (not in a difficult way) to think about people differently.

Advance notice – new Ngaio Marsh novel

Photo from Wikipedia

Fans of Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895 – 1982, Aotearoa-born Anglophile) and fans of Stella Duffy (website, twitter, Pākehā Londoner) are in for a treat in early March when Money in the Morgue is released.

At the time of her death, Marsh had three chapters outlined, and no indication of whodunnit. It had been put aside in 1945, so is set in WWII, and is appropriately complex: multiple characters, various motives, isolated spot (Canterbury). Duffy was asked to complete it …

Pot Luck returns for season 2

Toni (Abby Damen, left), Mel (Nikki Si’ulepa)

Season 1 of this original Wellington-based webseries covered the adventures of three lesbian flatmates. Debs, Beth and Mel met weekly over dinner in the first season; you can watch all six episodes on YouTube or TVNZ On Demand.

It was hugely popular and award-winning, and was selected for several festivals. Season 2 launches on December 10, online and in a Wellington screening at the Roxy cinema (4pm; 5 Park Rd, Miramar; $20).

Debs (Anji Kreft, left) with director Ness Simons

This season is not organised around the dinners, but life, drama – and humour – continue. Debs is working out how to trust in a relationship again, Beth is wrapped up in her romance with Anna, and Mel is left wondering what to do when her friends have moved on without her. Keep up-to-date via the website and Facebook.

Renée: a life patched together

Renée was an honoured guest at the launch of her memoir: These Two Hands at the Women’s Bookshop in November. (There had been earlier events in Dunedin and Wellington.)

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the crowd were ‘lesbians of a certain age’, to re-work the phrase. Memories were experienced and shared: Broadsheet, the reviews, the plays, the books, … That made it a noisy crowd, too, so it was helpful to have Hilz start things off. Renée temporarily stopped signing copies of the book. Her publisher Mary McCallum and Carole Beu spoke about Renée’s contribution to feminism, arts (poetry, fiction, plays), and lesbian and feminist communities. And Renée gave us two little snippets (‘patches’) of her time in Auckland. Followed by more of Hilz’ music, and another queue to get more books signed!

The Wellington launch event earlier in the month was part of the Playmarket Accolades event, where Renée received a significant award. Everyone, except Renée, Mary told us, knew who this interesting, imaginative and talented playwright was they were describing; the only person astonished to see face flashed up on the large screen as they announced the name was the winner!

As to the book itself. I come to it from having read all the novels, having seen some of the plays and reviews. Some of these stories are mine, those of friends of mine. Does This Make Sense To You? is still one of the most powerful, painful and hopeful books I’ve read.

I love the format of the book: 88 patches, one for every year of her life. (It started being planned at 86, so you can imagine what would happen if you procrastinate too much about getting a book like this published.) Some are pieces from other works, and have a lovely familiar feel. Some are newly written for this work. The style is friendly, chatty, and has a sense of a real New Zealand voice. One of the consequences of that is you come across brief passages that bring you up short: “I look at twelve-year-olds now and wonder how they’d go working for forty hours a week.”

You can dip in and out, trying – or not – to make order out of the jumbled time. Or you can accept the author’s presentation (and why wouldn’t you?), and read it in order, building up a picture of her life, piece by piece.

How would this work for younger lesbians? Obviously they haven’t lived in the same time; detail of poverty in the 1930s and 1940s is very different from being poor in the 2010s. Other details are different too: prior to publication there was a discussion about whether there needed to be a glossary of terms no longer in use. But much of life’s experiences are universal: absence and presence of parents, emotionally and physically; growing up, understanding identity.

It’s not that there is ‘something for everyone’ in These Two Hands; it’s that there is much, for anyone. Read this book, more than once. Share it with friends. Think about your life, the life of people who are important to you.

You can follow Renée on her website and on Twitter. Listen to her talk with Kim Hill on Saturday Morning. Buy the scripts and read what Playmarket had to say, in awarding her the $20,000 cash prize to a playwright who has made a significant artistic contribution to theatre in Aotearoa.

See Renée speak at 2018 events: the Auckland Pride Festival’s Same Same But Different runs Friday February 9 to Saturday 10 (programme not yet launched). The Wellington Writers and Readers events are Thursday March 8 to Sunday 11 (full programme launch is Thursday February 1).

Blogs and pages you’ll like

Who are you reading?  Here’s our blog roll; send us links for other lesbian blogs.

Blogs and sites from Aotearoa

The Charlotte Museum “The Charlotte Museum Trust is part of a network of archives preserving lesbian culture for the benefit and understanding of future generations in New Zealand. This is where the Charlotte Museum blogs about her exhibitions, events, archives and lesbian history.”
Making a Peanut, chronicles Grace & Em’s baby making adventures, and a collection of information that may help fellow kiwi lesbians navigate the road to motherhood.
We don’t have to be the building, a blog about Sian Torrington’s project of the same name, about lesbian, bi-sexual, queer female bodied, trans* and female identified activists both 30 years ago during Homosexual Law Reform, and now” who are telling our personal stories as a form of activism”. Sian drew and interviewed lesbian, queer and trans* women for an exhibition in Wellington in 2016 and Auckland in 2017.
Renée’s Wednesday Busk
He Hōaka Kim Mcbreen’s queer Māori political blog.
Out There Pat Rosier’s perceptive comments on her reading and the writing process, the last posts very poignant after her death in 2014.
The Hand Mirror Lesbian, queer and other feminist writing by a variety of bloggers.
Egg Venturous Claire Gummer’s whimsical writing about her backyard chooks and beyond.
Butch on Butch A Facebook page of photographs and comments.
I’m local Info and resources for queer & gender diverse youth around Aotearoa.

Blogs from elsewhere

Carolyn Gage A playwright, also a writer of lengthy and thoughtful blog posts.
diva grp2Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA) Fiji An active group of young lesbians linking their human rights with gender, social, ecological and constitutional justice; also on Twitter (@diva4equality).
Feminine Moments – Queer Feminist Art Worldwide An art blog that “presents fine art made by lesbian, bisexual and queer women artists worldwide”.
Isle of Lesbos “A place of art, culture, and learning dedicated to lesbian and bisexual women.”
The Lesbrary “The humble quest to read everything lesbian: a lesbian book blog”. Maintains its own “(Lesbian) Book Blog” roll (16 at last count).
Listening 2 Lesbians A page recording women’s experiences of being abused or silenced as lesbians and of being subjected to misogyny and lesbophobia within and outside the community;news stories on lesbian rights, violence and discrimination against the lesbian community.
Lizzy the Lezzy Lizzy started as an animated stand up comedian. The website hasn’t been updated since 2016, but she also has a Facebook presence.
Robin Morgan is an American poet, author, political theorist and activist, journalist, lecturer and radical feminist.
Sister Outrider is the award winning blog of Claire Heuchan, a Black radical feminist from Scotland, with a website, Facebook and Twitter online presence.
The Total Femme “Your friendly neighborhood femme mom bookworm” has a Meditation for Queer Femmes posted Mondays, links to other blog posts or articles in “Pingy-Dingy Wednesday”, Fridays highlight queer femmes from all walks of life.
Women You Should Know “a digital media property and community all about dynamic women …” with a website and Facebook presence.

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News, pix and profiles about lesbians and queer women in Aotearoa/New Zealand

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