Monday, January 15, 2007
In the Spotlight: Sistahs on the Shelf, promoter of black lesbian literature
Tell us why you decided to create Sistahs on the Shelf.
Sistahs on the Shelf is truly a labor of love for me. It basically started when I and other women like myself had a hard time finding books about our lifestyle. As a member of several online lesbian groups, I used to hear a lot of women say, "What good books are out there?" It seemed like we had all read the same ones, and I knew there were more. And I was determined to find them and put them all in one place for us. Hence, Sistahs on the Shelf was created.
SOTS has a website. What can readers experience by visiting the site?
Readers will find in-depth interviews with lesbian authors, a database with 80+ titles of black lesbian novels, book reviews, links and news, an advice column, and a forum where sistahs like us (and not like us) can congregate.
What has the response been to the site?
So far so good. I've gotten a great deal of women who thank me for creating Sistahs because they never knew that many books for them existed. And Sistahs has been mentioned on the popular lesbian website, afterellen.com. Every compliment and critique I've gotten has truly been a blessing.
Are you actively promoting the site? If so, how?
We're on MySpace, of course, but I visit lesbian sites and make myself and my website known. I also have a working relationship with Nghosibooks.com in that its site has truly supported Sistahs. But I've also been fortunate that the site has gotten a good word of mouth.
Are published writers of AA lesbian fiction able to send you books for possible reviews? If so, what's the contact information?
Yes, published authors of African-American fiction with lesbian/bisexual theme can always send their work for review. The address is: P. O. Box 11193, Tallahassee, FL 32302-3193. I'm definitely looking for more lesbian authors who have something to say. I love getting into a juicy novel.
Can authors of mainstream AA fiction send material to you as well? Do you have a separate site where you do those reviews?
I do take mainstream AA fiction as long as there is at least one lesbian/bisexual character in the mix. It has to be relatable for our audience.
What are three books that are out today that you highly recommend readers picking up, and why?
It's so hard to pick just three because I have read a lot of great fiction. As far as AA lesbian books, I would recommend Bliss by Fiona Zedde, Am I My Sister's Keeper by S. Stephens, and A Deeper Love by Shonia Brown. These three encompass whom lesbians really are, from sexuality to coming out to finding love in oneself. You will read these all in one night.
Are there any classics that you might recommend?
Anything by Ann Shockley or Jewelle Gomez or Becky Birtha would be considered "classic" in my genre, but there are some recent titles destined to become classics, such as Laurinda D. Brown's Fire and Brimstone.
What has been your favorite read of 2006?
Favorite read of 2006? Hmmm...probably I Am Your Sister by Ericka K.F. Simpson. It deals with a college basketball player's dealing with being gay and spiritual and trying to balance the two. A heartwarming novel that gripped me until the end (and that says a lot seeing as how I definitely not a sports fan). Ericka's writing is excellent.
Are there any types (genres) of books that you'd like to see explored in lesbian fiction?
I would like to see more of us come out the box (pardon the pun). It seems like we're so caught up in being contemporary that some of our stories are beginning to sound alike. That's why I like writers like Fiona Zedde who take me somewhere new every time. I think a simple love story, a la Love Jones, with a lesbian twist could just what we need. Lesbians aren't all one thing, and our novels shouldn't be either.
Do you see Sistahs on the Shelf expanding? If you do, in what ways?
I do see Sistahs on the Shelf expanding, though the changes would be gradual. The site’s been on hiatus but will be back this month, and will be have a new layout soon. I also would like to see advertising on the site and eventually having a Sistahs on the Shelf conference with lesbian authors and readers. For now I'm satisfied with the progress the site has made. I've always played Sistahs by ear--and it hasn't steered me wrong so far.