Articles in Books & literature
Winners of this year’s Nicole Blizzard Short Story Contest were announced last Saturday night during the 2012 Celebration of Change at UAA’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium.
Out North bring the lesbian classic Desert Hearts back to the big screen (free!) this Friday and Saturday, April 6 and 7. This groundbreaking 1986 film is loosely based on the equally-groundbreaking 1964 novel Desert of the Hearts by Canadian writer Jane Rule.
Every year, Radical Arts for Women (RAW) sponsors the Nicole Blizzard Short Story Contest open to all women living in Alaska. This year’s submission deadline is April 1, 2012. Winners will be announced at at Celebration of Change on April 21, 2012.
A self-proclaimed “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde was a Caribbean-American poet, writer, and activist in the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of Black History Month 2012, with thanks to GLAAD and the Equality Forum.
James Baldwin was an African-American and gay writer whose novels and essays captured the conflicted spirit of late 20th century America. Bent Alaska presents his story as part of our celebration of Black History Month 2012, with thanks to GLAAD and the Equality Forum.
Dan Savage, author of the wildly popular sex advice column “Savage Love” and cofounder with his husband Terry Miller of the It Gets Better Project, returns to University of Alaska Anchorage on February 9, 2012 with his honest and funny question and answer session on everything sexual. Tickets available at UAATix starting January 20.
Virginia Woolf was an accomplished 20th century English novelist and one of the founders of the modernist movement. She published nearly 500 essays and nine novels. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Virginia Woolf (born January 25, 1882; died March 28, 1941) was an accomplished 20th century English novelist and one of the founders of the modernist movement. She published nearly 500 essays and nine novels.
Born Adeline Virginia Stephen, she was privately tutored at home and never attended college. She inherited a love of literature from her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, who had an impressive library and was a magazine editor.
Woolf suffered emotional hardships from an early age. When she was 6, her stepbrother began molesting her. The abuse continued into her early adulthood. At 13, she suffered a mental breakdown following her mother’s death. At 22, Woolf suffered a second breakdown when her father died.
Upon recovering, Woolf and her siblings moved to Bloomsbury in London. There she involved herself with the Bloomsbury Group, a cadre of intellectuals who met for discussion of politics, art and literature. She began her literary career teaching at Morley College and writing book reviews.
In 1912, Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a member of the Bloomsbury Group. The marriage was described as passionless, but loving. Together they founded the Hogarth Press and published significant books, including Mansfield’s Prelude, T.S. Elliot’s Poems, and her own book Kew Gardens.
Woolf had a number of close relationships with women. It is believed there was only one sexual relationship, with Vita Sackville-West, on whom Woolf based the protagonist of her novel Orlando (1928). The plot of Orlando span over 300 years (1588–1928), during which Orlando ages only thirty-six years, and changes gender from male to female. Sackville-West’s son described the novel as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.” Orlando was made into a 1993 film with Tilda Swinton in the lead role and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I. From the novel:
For it was this mixture in her of man and woman, one being uppermost and then the other, that often gave her conduct an unexpected turn. The curious of her own sex would argue, for example, if Orlando was a woman, how did she never take more than ten minutes to dress? And were not her clothes chosen rather at random, and sometimes worn rather shabby? And then they would say, still, she has none of the formality of a man, or a man’s love of power. She is excessively tender-hearted. She could not endure to see a donkey beaten or a kitten drowned. Yet again, they noted, she detested household matters, was up at dawn and out among the fields in summer before the sun had risen. No farmer knew more about the crops than she did. She could drink with the best and liked games of hazard. She rode well and drove six horses at a gallop over London Bridge. Yet again, though bold and active as a man, it was remarked that the sight of another in danger brought on the most womanly palpitations. She would burst into tears on slight provocation. She was unversed in geography, found mathematics intolerable, and held some caprices which are more common among women than men, as for instance that to travel south is to travel downhill.
Woolf’s modernist style differed from other writers of the day. It concentrated more on communicating impressions and people’s inner lives than recreating reality. It often included techniques such as stream-of-consciousness writing. Many of her works contain strong feminist themes, such as her book-length essay A Room of One’s Own(1929) where she wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Other works by Virginia Woolf include the novels The Voyage Out (1915), Night and Day (1919), Jacob’s Room (1922), Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), The Waves (1931), The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). She also wrote volumes of short stories, essays, and other works. She is also the subject of numerous biographies and critical essays, and several of her works have been adapted into movies. The Hours (1998), a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham, focused on three generations of women affected by Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway — including Woolf herself — and was adapted into a 2002 film with Nicole Kidman portraying Woolf.
Over the course of Woolf’s life, she was treated for mental illness. She was likely suffering a mental breakdown at the time of her death. After weighing down her pockets with stones, she drowned herself in the River Ouse in Lewes, England. According to her suicide note, she feared her suffering would not end.
The only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice is from a talk called “Craftsmanship” in a BBC radio broadcast from April 29, 1937 (transcribed here). The text was published as an essay in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942). YouTube user Atthis22 prepared a slideshow of photographs of Virginia Woolf to accompany the audio. Watch:
Image credit: Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford, 1902.
Dan Savage is an award-winning author, journalist, newspaper editor and political commentator. He launched the “It Gets Better” video project to combat bullying and prevent LGBT teen suicides. Bent Alaska presents his story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Dan Savage (born October 7, 1964) is an award-winning author, journalist, newspaper editor and political commentator. He launched the It Gets Better video project to combat bullying and prevent LGBT teen suicides.
Born in Chicago, Savage was the third of four children in an Irish Catholic family. He attended Quigley Prep, which Savage describes as “a Catholic high school for boys thinking of becoming priests.”
At 18, Savage came out to his family. After initially having a difficult time, they became supportive. Savage enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in theater.
In 1991, Savage’s sex-advice column, “Savage Love,” first appeared in The Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle. The internationally syndicated column has been called funny, sarcastic, informative and outrageous.
Savage’s columns were compiled into a book, Savage Love: Straight Answers from America’s Most Popular Sex Columnist (1998). He has also written The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (1999) and The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family (2006) and won a Lambda Literary Award for Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America (2003).
In 2010, reacting to the suicides of bullied LGBT youth, Savage started the It Gets Better Project, which encourages adults to submit videos assuring gay teens that life gets better. As of 2011, the project generated more than 5,000 video submissions, including testimonials from President Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Gunn, Anne Hathaway, Ke$ha and other celebrities. For creating It Gets Better, Savage received a Webby Special Achievement Award, the leading international award honoring online excellence. With his husband Terry Miller, Savage compiled a book based on It Gets Better videos, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, about which Bent Alaska wrote in March. Introducing the book, Savage expressed the frustration LGBT adults have had as they were forced to stand idly by while homophobic parents, ministers, teachers, and kids battered the bodies and spirits of LGBT youth:
The culture used to offer this deal to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: You’re ours to torture until you’re eighteen. You will be bullied and tormented at school, at home, at church — until you’re eighteen. Then, you can do what you want. You can come out, you can move away, and maybe, if the damage we’ve done isn’t too severe, you can recover and build a life for yourself. There’s just one thing you can’t do after you turn eighteen: You can’t talk to the kids we’re still torturing, the LGBT teenagers being assaulted emotionally, physically, and spiritually in the same cities, schools, and churches you escaped from. And if you do attempt to talk to the kids we’re still torturing, we’ll impugn your motives, we’ll accuse you of being a pedophile or pederast, we’ll claim you’re trying to recruit children into “the gay lifestyle.”
That was the old order and it fell apart when the It Gets Better Project went viral. Suddenly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adults all over the world — all over the world — were speaking to LGBT youth. We weren’t waiting for permission anymore. We found our voices.
Savage has been a contributor to Out magazine and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” As a political commentator on LGBT issues, Savage has appeared frequently on CNN and MSNBC.
Savage and his husband Terry Miller, who married in 2005, live in Seattle with their adopted son.
The It Gets Better project got its start when Dan Savage and Terry Miller uploaded a video on September 21, 2010, in response to the suicides of teenagers bullied because they were, or were believed by their peers to be, gay. Watch:
Photo credit: Dan Savage, 12 June 2005. Photo via Wikimedia provided by Dan Savage; used in accordance with Creative Commons license.
A celebrated poet and writer, Langston Hughes is one of the most significant voices to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance. A major contributor to American literature, his legacy includes 25 published works. Bent Alaska presents his story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
A celebrated poet and writer, Langston Hughes (born February 1, 1902
died May 22, 1967) is one of the most significant voices to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance. A major contributor to American literature, his legacy includes 25 published works.
Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. After his parents divorced, he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where his grandmother raised him until her death. By the time he was 14, he had lived in nine cities with various families.
Hughes showed impressive literary aptitude. In eighth grade, he began writing poetry, short stories and plays and was elected “class poet.” His breakthrough poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” was published shortly after he graduated from high school.
In 1921, at the urging of his father, Hughes enrolled at Colombia University to study engineering. He left after two semesters due to racial discrimination. Over the next few years, Hughes worked odd jobs while pursuing a writing career. He traveled to Africa and Europe on the crew of a shipping vessel before moving to Washington, D.C. While employed as a busboy, Hughes met poet Vachel Lindsay, who helped promote his work.
In 1926, Hughes’s first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published. Well received by literary critics, it earned him a reputation as the country’s leading black poet. A year later, his second book of poetry, Fine Clothes to the Jews, was published. Heavily influenced by blues and jazz, his work portrayed life in black America and addressed racism and oppression. He continued to write and publish poetry throughout his life.
In 1929, Hughes graduated from Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where Thurgood Marshall, later a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was a classmate. He later traveled to Haiti and to the Soviet Union, where he studied communist theory, but lived in Harlem as his primary home for the rest of his life.
His first novel, Not Without Laughter, about a black boy in 1920s rural Kansas, was published in 1930, and his first collection of short stories The Ways of White Folks, was published in 1934. He continued to write stories throughout his life, many of them featuring the character Jesse B. Semple, often referred to as “Simple,” a representation of the the every day black man in Harlem. He also wrote several works of nonfiction, plays and screenplays, and works for children.
In 1934, Hughes became head of the League for Negro Rights, the main African-American branch of the Communist Party. A victim of McCarthyism, he was subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations in 1953.
Like most artists of his time, Hughes was not open about his sexuality. Literary scholars point to his poems “Joy,” “Desire”, “Cafe: 3 A.M.” (about police harassing “fairies”), “Waterfront Streets”, “Young Sailor”, “Trumpet Player”, “Tell Me”, “F.S.”, and some of the poems in Montage of a Dream Deferred as having gay themes; his short story “Blessed Assurance” deals with a father’s anger over his son’s effeminacy and “queerness.”
Hughes died at age 65 from prostate cancer. His ashes are memorialized in Harlem at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Langston Hughes’ poem “Weary Blues” was one of 21 poems featured in short films in the Moving Poetry Series “Rant Rave Riff” by Four Seasons Productions. “Weary Blues” is spoken in the film by author and Harvard Professor Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan. Watch:
Image credit: Langston Hughes by Winold Reiss. Pastel on illustration board, 1925, 76.3 x 54.9 cm (301/6 x 215/8 in.). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of W. Tjark Reiss, in memory of his father, Winold Reiss.
An author and screenwriter, Rita Mae Brown is best known for her semi-autobiographical lesbian-themed novel, Rubyfruit Jungle. She is a groundbreaking activist for lesbian and civil rights.. Bent Alaska presents her story as part of our celebration of LGBT History Month 2011, with thanks to the Equality Forum.
Rita Mae Brown
An author and screenwriter, Rita Mae Brown (born November 28, 1944) is best known for her semi-autobiographical lesbian-themed novel, Rubyfruit Jungle. She is a groundbreaking activist for lesbian and civil rights.
An only child, Brown was adopted and raised in York, Pennsylvania. At age 11, her family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Brown’s interest in political activism began with the black civil rights movement. In 1964, after losing her scholarship at the University of Florida due to her involvement in a rally, Brown was forced to drop out of school. She hitchhiked to New York where she lived in an abandoned car before enrolling at New York University (NYU).
At NYU, Brown cofounded the Student Homophile League. In 1968, she joined the National Organization of Women (NOW). She worked there until a schism over whether or not to support lesbian issues caused her to resign in February 1970. She says she was “kicked out” for raising the gay issue. Betty Friedan is largely blamed for Brown’s expulsion from NOW. Years later, Friedan publicly apologized and admitted her actions were wrong.
After severing ties with NOW, Brown became a member of Lavender Menace, an informal group of radical lesbian feminists formed to protest the exclusion of lesbians and lesbian issues from the feminist movement at the Second Congress to Unite Women in New York City on May 1, 1970. Brown was also a member of the Redstockings, a radical feminist group. She helped form the lesbian feminist newspaper Furies Collective. Thereafter, she earned a Ph.D. in political science from the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.
Brown’s coming-of-age lesbian novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, sold over 70,000 copies and made her a champion of lesbian rights. The book’s success encouraged her to author other lesbian novels.
In addition to more than 50 books, Brown has written numerous television screenplays. She received Emmy nominations for the variety show “I Love Liberty” and the miniseries “The Long Hot Summer.”
Brown lives on a farm outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. She is a Master of Fox Hounds and advocates for animal rescue.
In December 2009, Rita Mae Brown sat down with Emmy-winning interviewer Ernie Manouse (InnerVIEWS) for a wide-ranging discussion on her memories of the Civil Rights Movement, the qualities that go into being a good writer, and her often rocky relationship with the National Organization for Women. Watch: