Te ao pāpāho
We welcome your suggestions of websites, books, films and any other media of interest to lesbians and queer women.
We appreciate the original cartoons provided by Helen Courtney. This one, Flight of fancy, seems to fit particularly well with Media.
Wantok*, an exploration of Melanesian cultural values expressed through relationships to hair, will show at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt from Saturday December 8 to April 28, 2019.
Curated by Auckland-based Fijian lesbian artist Luisa Tora, it features work by Dulcie Stewart (Fiji/Australia); Jasmine Togo-Brisby (Vanuatu/Aotearoa New Zealand); Salote Tawale (Fiji/Australia); Tufala Meri (Reina and Molana Sutton, Solomon Islands/Aotearoa New Zealand); and Luisa.
She describes the exhibition as expressing de-colonialised views of beauty and mana, using the lenses of spirituality, symbolism and rites of passage associated with hair.
At 11am on Saturday 8, hear a free talk between artists Jasmine Togo-Brisby and Tufala Meri (Molana and Reina Sutton) and artist/curator Luisa Tora about knowledge and practice for Melanesians living outside Melanesia. RSVP here.
Wantok was first exhibited at the Mangere Arts Centre earlier this year. Pictured is a detail from Jasmine Togo-Brisby’s 2018 Post-plantation series.
* Wantok refers to a person with whom one has a strong social bond, usually based on a shared language.
Auckland lesbian writer Sandi Hall has written a musical play about little-known suffragist, Meri Te Tai Mangakahia, and raused $2,000 in a Boosted campaign to pay a theatre deposit for an Auckland performance in 2019.
Meri (Ngati Te Reinga, Ngati Manawa, Te Kaitutae) was born in 1868 on the Hokianga Harbour, studied at Auckland’s St Mary’s Convent and was a skilled pianist. Her husband Hamiora Mangakahia was premier of the Kotahitanga parliament from June 1892.
In 1893, the Speaker of the Kotahitanga lower house introduced Meri’s motion that women be given the right to vote for and become Kotahitanga members. This proposal went further than the aims of Pākehā suffragists at the time, and Meri was the first woman to talk to the Kotahitanga in its support.
Says Sandi: “When I read Meri’s speech, I realised that here was a woman who was as passionate about the vote as Kate Sheppard, yet almost unknown in her own country”, and Sandi wanted to change that.
Sandi, who describes herself as “manuhiri pākeha kuia with a Canadian accent”, has worked with Meri’s direct descendants and whānau on the play, When Piwakawaka Fly. “I chose that name because of the piwakawaka (fantail) is a message-bringer.” They have also collaborated on a website about Meri, and created the When Piwakawaka Fly Charitable Trust to make her better known.
The trust’s goals were to ask secondary girls’ schools to use the play in their drama selections, and then to take the play overseas, including to indigenous theatre audiences. “However, before a play can be offered to schools, it first must have one successful season in a theatre,” says Sandi.
The trust’s Boosted campaign runs until Wednesday 12, and any funds over the $2000 will go towards the performance in Suffrage Week 2019. See the video on the Boosted page. JR
Summer holidays are coming, Lesbian News Aotearoa won’t update till February, so that means … lots of time for reading! Summer reading can mean something light, as some of these are; it can also mean you have more time and attention to give to works that will offer you more in return, as some of these do.
Here is one collection of suggestions; feel free to make your own. If you are like me, you can make it a mix of your own books (if you have a large-ish collection of To Be Read) and library books. Your own might be those you have bought new from your favourite independent bookshop, finds from second-hand bookshops, and gifts.
You might want to include some you have read before – re-reading can be a real joy, some works by authors you know but are a title you haven’t previously read. Maybe something recommended by a friend. Maybe a genre you wouldn’t usually read. (Note, I have still to add some poetry to this collection – I’m thinking about Jackie Kay or Carol Ann Duffy.)
And your focus of ‘lesbian literature’ may be one or more of written by lesbian/s, written about lesbian/s, written for lesbians.
How To Keep An Alien is the script of an autobiographical play that tells the story of immigration and lesbian love of Sonya (Ireland) and Kate (Australia). It was written and is performed by Sonya Kelly, who brought the play to Aotearoa in 2017. It’s got love and contemporary culture.
She had eyes like the rabbits in Watership Down. Kind, blameless, cheeky, brown, and they were locking onto mine like the perfect game of Tetris.
Marguerite Yourcenar was an important French writer, notably as the first woman elected to the Académie française, and the author of Memoirs of Hadrian. This work was translated into English by her partner Grace Frick.
Just quietly, in spite of it being a magnificent work, I found Hadrian difficult to read. So this summer, I am tackling the biography, Yourcenar, by George Rouosseau. It’s a thoughtful, comprehensive work, concluding with an epilogue: “Is Yourcenar a GayHadrian Writer?” – because while openly living with the same woman for over 40 years, she did not publicly identify as lesbian, or bisexual. And her work celebrated male homosexuality, not women.
Tove Jansson is forever, for some readers, the Moomin person. They are worth reading, of course (a project for another summer, for me), but she wrote for adults too, and this is a great find: 13 stories first published in 1991 but only translated into English in 2017. More about her on the Moomin website and Wikipedia.
I picked up Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist on the basis of its beautiful cover and the cover quote from Neil Gaiman. It is added to this collection on the strength of the biographical note that describes her as “living and working with Jane Ellen Harrison”, although the information on either of them, let alone their relationship, is limited: try Wikipedia for Mirrlees, Harrison, and the novel.
Lud-in-the-Mist is a fantasy work, and social commentary mixed with some social satire. It was first published in 1926, but the language and style could easily be 21st century.
The wealth and importance of the country was mainly due to the Dawl river. It was thanks to the Dawl that girls in remote villages wore brooches made out of walrus tusks, and applied bits of unicorns’ horns to their toothache, that the chimney-piece in the parlour of almost every farm-house was adorned with an ostrich egg.
Grandzilla, Lisa Williams’ latest novel, was reviewed in the November LNA update. It has a number of themes, particularly around ageing and youth, also exploring the consequences of our actions.
The Lotterys More or Less is the second in Emma Donoghue’s younger reader series. (Yes, I have read the first, see comment below – we reviewed it in February this year.) She is an author with outstanding strength in the power and consistency she brings to the voice of her narrators. if you have read Room, you will have observed this. It’s also evident in Hood – see a review by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian. (As an aside, search that site for more reviews.)
In her Lotterys series, Donoghue gives us an improbable and improbably constructed family: 2 gay dads, 2 lesbian mothers, 7 children of varying parents plus a grandfather. It could be seen as an ‘issues’ novel, and in the hands of a less skilful writer, that might be all it is. But here, with the strength of her narrator Sumac, aged 9, slightly precocious, often just slightly missing what must be obvious to parents and older siblings, you get a moving, challenging, interesting story for any age reader.
If you are going to read a series, you need to start with the first book. Beloved Poison is the first of (so far) three Jem Flockhart medical/crime historical novels. The story is told in Jem’s voice. The world of apothecaries and pre-antibiotic hospitals was dirty and dangerous, and it is explicitly described. “Jem has a secret” the cover tells us, but there are really two: she presents to the world as a man, and she’s a lesbian.
Susan Calman will be known to some as a stand-up comedian, and to others as a contestant in 2017’s Strictly Come Dancing. Cheer Up Love, Adventures in depression with the Crab of Hate is a memoir, an account of living with debilitating depression, quite possibly a self-help book on mental health, and certainly a good read. Notice how the library’s cataloguing system abbreviates her surname to ‘CALM’ – that’s a nice touch.
This is both an easy read – she writes in a friendly, chatty, accessible way, and she’s a comedian – and not easy to read: there are some challenging descriptions of low points in her life.
Read this for the humorous commentary on society (“Television is obsessed with a particular idea of women. And it seems that their idea of the perfect woman is a woman who is caked in so much make up that when she smiles large cracks appear in her façade.”) and the serious (“Whenever people ask me why I am so open about how I feel and about my life, I know it’s because of that one time in my life when I felt completely alone. I can’t sit with you in your house and hold your hand but I can tell you that you are not alone.”).
Enjoy your summer!
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.
Diverse 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.”
Lesbians Over Everything A place where lesbians can share our own stories. Segments include “Aaah real lesbians” and “Everyday lesbophobia”.
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.
Not writing but blogging is Stella Duffy, Pākehā Londoner, also on Twitter as @stellduffy.
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.