Over the past week, I’ve read two novels that I enjoyed very much: Katherine Forrest‘s Curious Wine and Michelle Tea‘s Valencia. I’m making a concerted effort to read some lesbian fiction over the next several weeks in preparation for my Lesbian and Gay Lit class in the spring.

When I read my evaluations from last winter recently, a few of the lesbian students mentioned that they thought we should read more works by women than we did that term. I usually include Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues as an honorary lesbian text, but at least one student thought that wasn’t right: she argued that this novel was really about being transgendered, not about being a lesbian. That’s kind of debatable, but I take her point. Last year, we read Feinberg, Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Isabel Miller’s Patience and Sarah, and a few poems by lesbian writers. (One of these poems, by the poet Chrystos, is one of my favorite poems ever: “I Suck” is the title. I highly recommend it. I also love Susan Griffin’s “In Response to a Man’s Question ….”) We also read a chapter from Song of the Loon, a chapter from Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance, Larry Kramer’s Faggots, and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. So, the number of texts by women and by men were roughly the same, but the amount of class time spent on “lesbian texts” and “gay male texts” favored the men a little.

Ultimately, there are three problems that make this favoring difficult to address. First, OU is on 10-week quarters. This means that we simply don’t have time to read as much as I would like. So, I tend to change the reading list from year to year to address the changing demographics and tastes of my students. Of course this means that I’m always a year behind: this year’s class will address last year’s suggestions for improvement. Second, I know less about lesbian writers and texts than I do gay male authors and their works, and the lesbian texts I do know about don’t always stand up in quality and importance to the male-authored ones. I recognize my own bias in making that assertion — to some degree, I’m sure that I think some of the male texts are better and more important than some of the female-authored texts because I’m a gay male, but it’s not just that inherent bias. As much as I like Rubyfruit Jungle (a novel that I teach from time to time), it’s simply not in the same league as Angels in America or Stone Butch Blues. And finally, I am the only member of my department that teaches this course. If someone else taught the course, students would undoubtedly get a different take on Lesbian and Gay Lit, one that might include more (or at least different) knowledge and discussion of lesbian works.

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