we live in interesting times

June 17th, 2008 | Uncategorized


I’ve been meaning to do a formal post here about the Amazon Bookstore in Minneapolis closing. As I sat down to do this just now, I turned on CNN to see the news on all the California same-sex weddings happening today. Have you seen the pix of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon? Here they are in the Times. Looking much smaller than they did when they went through all this four years ago. Aren’t they awesome?

I was just noting what a vivid illustration these two events provide of the mechanics of assimilation—the subculture biting the dust as mainstream acceptance takes hold. Though if you follow that link about Amazon, you’ll see that Barb Weiser says the store closed not so much because it was a women’s bookstore as because it was an independent bookstore.

And indeed, it’s Amazon.com—no relation—that has changed the landscape of bookselling more than any other factor. I think that the increasing corporatization of our lives mirrors the assimilation process, in that it entails something authentic and genuine getting packaged up tastefully for mass consumption.

Just then, Billie Jean King came on the tv, doing a commercial for Nutrisystem.

The above cartoon is a panel from a 1993 piece called “Coming Out Story.” It depicts me at age 19, in 1979, buying my first lesbian book, “Lesbian/Woman,” by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. When I got it back to my dorm room, I read it cover to cover—then tore those covers off, put the book in a brown paper bag, and stuck it under my mattress so nobody would find out I was a big dyke.

All hail Del and Phyl.

And what the hell, Billie Jean King too.

P.S. In re: the “magical negro” discussion that came up regarding Jennifer Hudson’s character in the Sex and the City post. I thought Ellen O’s observation was very interesting. “As I was reading about this phenomenon, I was wondering if certain groups of white people saw Barack Obama as a Magical Negro.”

Check out Mark Morford’s recent column on SF Gate about Obama being a “lightworker.”


76 Responses to “we live in interesting times”

  1. Mame says:

    Yes. The times, they are a-changin’. Hopefully, for the better. I was sooo under the wire for about twenty years… but last year I was appointed a judge and this year i got civil unioned to my girlfriend. In the blink of an eye, I am not longer subversive and a person to be explained away or somehow “excused” by manstream culture…I actually am mainstream, middle-class culture. Nearly as odd as having a book on the Times Bestseller List written and drawn by the same cartoonist/artist who drew those paperbacks I used to hide in my knapsack twenty years ago….Here’s to us all…

  2. Anne Laughlin says:

    First time poster here, but I thought I’d pipe in to say that Amazon – the bookstore – lives on. A new buyer has come forth to save the day and the bookstore should continue on much as before. My hometown bookstore, Women and Children First, came close to folding a year ago and was saved by an awesome wave of support from the community.

  3. Dharma Kelleher says:

    It’s scary and confusing. I’m preparing to take my lesbian lit (not a romance or coming out story) novel to market.

    On the one hand, the vanishing of indy bookstores makes it harder to plug into my niche. On the other hand, perhaps the increasing acceptance of lesbians and gays opens the door to a readership that includes straight women. After all, if “Will & Grace” can be considered mainstream, why not literary fiction with a lesbian protagonist, right?

    As always, Alison, thanks!

  4. Hey, Anne! Thanks for the Amazon update. That’s great.

  5. Alex the Bold says:

    I notice that the “debate” in journalism is about whether to show photos or videos of the couples kissing. Because it might upset some people.

    I look forward to 15 years from now, when this will be regarded as equivalent to a debate on whether a black man and a white woman can get married: an embarrassing bit of our nation’s history that we all wish hadn’t happened.

    I hope I’m around to ask the editors and publishers to defend themselves.

  6. DeLandDeLakes says:

    OMIGOD! I was getting ready to say how sad I was about Amazon closing, and then I saw Anne’s post Hooray for last-minute saviors! I’m so glad that Amazon will live on! Seriously, one of my favorite memories of recent years is listening to Alison read from her book in the store’s basement. 😀
    On a more disheartening note, I must report that yes, last year Rush Limbaugh got in trouble for singing “Barak the Magic Negro” to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

  7. Kate L says:

    I live in the house I grew up in. Just up the road, out of sight of my house unless I drive up the hill to where the road dead ends and turn around, is what I still think of as THEIR HOUSE. An openly lesbian couple lived there for a year in the late 1960’s, until hostility from the neighbors drove them out. I have always wondered where they went, and how their lives worked out. Perhaps they live in California, and are getting ready for a big event at their county clerk’s office. Maybe.

  8. regis says:

    oh god, i had about the same reaction to getting my hands on a copy of “Lesbian/Woman”. although it was a loaner from my school counselor so i couldn’t rip the cover off. but it was SECRET and PRECIOUS and i read it cover to cover.

  9. The Cat Pimp says:

    I’m all excited. A couple of my friends had the civil union in San Francisco and the requisite party. I looked at that certificate on their fridge and felt like part of history. Then, they had a formal wedding and the requisite party. They are doing it again this week and, once again, I will attend the requisite party. Being a straight (so far) woman who doesn’t intend to marry, I might very well be the last subversive. As for the bookstore, woot! We had a Barnes and Noble across the street from the independent used book store for a while. One evening, I decided to spend an evening book browsing in both stores and was surprised to see that the indy bookstore was still there and the chain was not. So, individual outlets from a chain may very well be more vulnerable because of backoffice decisions.

    I’d never heard of the Magic Negro ’till the kerfluffle about SATC by all the people who desparately wanted to dislike it. Now I am seeing Magic Minorities in just about every comedy I have watched.

  10. Susan D says:

    I just wanted to let you all know that two of my friends and I went to the Norwalk office of the Registrar, County of Los Angeles, to become a deputy commissioner of civil marriage!
    Today is the first day and I am here at home because so many people offered to help that today they dont need me. I guess there were 120 people that volunteered to perform the ceremonies. We dont get paid or any gas money but, oh well. I am happy to be a part of this historic event. At least I get to park in the employee parking lot.
    Offices that will be performing ceremonies are Van Nuys, Norwalk, Beverly Hills, Landcaster, and LAX.
    I’d love to marry any of you!!

  11. anonymous says:

    Speaking of milking or snowing in Brooklyn, someone sent this to me – I hope it’s okay to post it here for all you Ferron fans.

    FERRON, the folk music legend, is back with a
    beautiful new release, “Boulder,” produced by
    NYC-based indie rocker, Bitch. Ferron will be
    appearing in Hartland, VT, with Bitch, to promote
    their new album, “Boulder”.

    “Boulder” is intimate and sparsely arranged, and
    calls on pals like Ani diFranco, Samantha Parton (Be
    Good Tanyas), and the Indigo Girls – all avid Ferron
    fans – to contribute. On “Boulder,” we hear the voice
    of a legend – the story of an elder. Bitch’s
    production not only captures the essence of Ferron’s
    songs, but challenges the youth to do what youth is
    rarely encouraged to do: tune in to the ones who
    have come before us, hear their wisdom and grow from it.
    “Boulder” will be available in stores in June.

    Ferron and Bitch will be making one appearance in
    Vermont as they promote their new collaborative
    record. Saturday, June 28, Ferron and Bitch will play
    at Damon Hall in Hartland, VT. Doors open at 7:30;
    show is at 8:00. Tickets are $25 available at the
    door. For more information go to http://www.ferrononline.org

  12. anonymous says:

    ….sorry, correction. That’s actually http://www.ferrononline.com

  13. sebastianbound says:

    Talk about assimilation.

    Gay weddings shouldn’t be flamboyant?

  14. Andrew B says:

    If the defining characteristic of a magic negro is having a mystical, inborn connection to higher truths which you’re just aching to share with us white folk so as to feed our hunger for enlightenment, I think there probably are people who see Obama as a magic negro. He doesn’t seem to object, either. On the other hand, if a magic negro is essentially self-sacrificing, a la various Mammies or Christ figures (think of The Green Mile), then it’s not so clear that anyone thinks Obama is one. Obama is no more self-sacrificing than any other high level politician, nor does it seem that people expect him to be. Similarly, if a defining characteristic of the magic negro is having no life of his or her own, Obama does not appear to be one. He has if anything publicized his personal life more than most candidates.

    Obama is making a play for real power. Can a magic negro do that? Whatever the answer may be, thanks to Ellen for raising an interesting question. Perhaps Obama is adroitly using the parts of the stereotype that work for him while denying those that don’t.

    As for that guy in sfgate, one of his examples of a higher mystical being is JFK, so it’s hard to see how you can accuse him of having screwy racial ideas. The Irish are white and had been for some time before JFK was elected.

    Alison, I don’t know, can’t anything be made to “mirror” anything if you choose the right mirror? Like a fun house mirror? Is there a real relationship between marriage and commodification? I’m not sure there isn’t, I’m just skeptical about the value of “mirroring”.

  15. Jamie says:

    The cover of last week’s issue of The New Yorker says it all about the deat of independent bookstores:


    The image is small, but shows a woman living next door to a bookstore receiving a package from Amazon.com…

  16. Jaibe says:

    First — Dharma, good luck!

    Next — call me an atheist, but why do people have to go supernatural when something actually good happens? I’ve never been able to understand why politicians missed so many easy openings in debates, couldn’t organise their own campaigns, etc. Now there’s finally an *actually*, deservedly Harvard educated guy who was a professor the same place as Sydney’s dad running for president, someone both charismatic & brilliant, who isn’t afraid to hire or marry smart people.

    I knew about David Axelrod when I was in Chicago — I may even have met him when I was campaigning for Paul Simon, I can’t remember. But I remember him beating the machine & getting elected as a smart, honest independent alderman. All the intelligentsia & liberals were impressed with him then — this is the 1980s. I wish I’d gone to work for him!

    But I don’t think anyone is supernatural. I just think that as much as we all like to be egalitarian, not everyone is equally talented. If anything, we don’t misjudge famous people by mistaking them for being different & special. At least in America, we mistake them for being more like us than they really are.

  17. tylik says:

    Eep. I’m a witch, a member of a Buddhist order… and I guess a terrible cynic. (Okay, that’s not really a guess. I’m also a neurobiologist and a biochemist, and generally on the non-theistic side of things.) I’m glad we have a charismatic democrat who’s a good speaker. All the hope and change talk, though, makes me cringe and strikes me as so much vaporware until it comes with pretty specific plans.

    I guess people who elicit that kind of emotional reaction make me pretty uncomfortable.

    On the book store thing –

    I have a great independent bookstore a couple of blocks from my apartment. Currently, when I want a book I send them email, they order the book, and I pick it up in a day or two – faster than Amazon, not much more expensive, and I actually set foot in a bookstore a bit more frequently. (Hey, I have no life.) They can’t get everything, but they can get a lot. Meanwhile, I get the convenience which drove me to Amazon in the first place. (I live online.)

    It always amazes me how rarely I find anything I want at a Barnes & Noble, despite the huge stores.

  18. Lucía says:

    Hey, alison! i just found dykes to watch out for about three weeks ago, and already read all the comics i could find in the blog and the archive. unluckily, i find it impossible to get one of your books here in argentina…
    will you keep on uploading old comics now that you´re having a break from dtwof?
    please dooooooo =)

  19. Ruta says:

    Hey – just wanted to comment that Amazon Bookstore lives on! Last Thursday I met with Barb, and I will be taking over the store. We’re in the process of transition right now. I’m convinced that Amazon can be successful, with the right marketing. The response from the lesbian literary community and the neighborhood has been nothing short of amazing. Alison, if you travel this way again, let me know, please. I’d love to have you do a signing/reading at the store!

  20. mary, in ut says:

    allison –
    what you did with del and phyllis’s book “lesbian woman” is exactly what i did with your coming out story. a friend had a copy and i borrowed it. i read it (quickly) cover to cover a few times, but then had to return it. i found my own copy one day at a queer bookstore in midtown atlanta and was thrilled to be able to have my own copy! by that time i didn’t need to hide because i was rather out.


  21. Duncan says:

    Y’know, I still do have trouble understanding why anyone would want to be part of the “mainstream,” which is not necessarily a majority of the citizenry. The mainstream media lie, as they always have. The mainstream wanted to invade Iraq (and had no problem whatsoever with Clinton killing half a million Iraqi children by disease and hunger — most of them don’t even know it happened). The mainstream wants more and cheaper gas so they can drive their SUVs. The mainstream is racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic (and same-sex marriage won’t get rid of the homophobia). I really prefer to be on the margins where I can lob brickbats at the complacent bigots who fancy themselves normal.

    Oh yeah, see IOZ’s fine discussion of the marriage issue:

  22. Anonymous says:

    Regarding enlighted people: I don’t think one need believe in God, a higher power or even have a particularly well developed spiritual life to believe that some people have something extra that creates and encourages positive change. In my limited experience these are usually the humble-est of people, so yeah, a politicial with this quality is rare. Not so rare we can’t name other people with this quality, but rare enough.

    I don’t think, ultimately, it matters what kind of package these people come in (for example what gender, race or physical abilities they have). But the fact that this person, Barack Obama, has the history he does, and the handsome black face that he does, works for me (and apparently a lot of other people).

  23. Sherry says:

    Cincinnati’s Pride festival was held on Sunday in Northside, the city’s “Greenwich Village” and liberal oasis in our conservative town. The contrast of the colorful and diverse groups marching past the now defunct “Crazy Ladies” bookstore was striking and also sad.

    The bookstore provided the much-needed soil for the nurturing of an affirmative GLBT community and now, marching past the store, those “seedlings” have grown into GBLT affirmative faith groups, parent groups, and teen groups. It is really heartening to see the mainstreaming of our people; yet sad to lose the inclusive culture.

    Here are some photos of the Cincinnati Pride – enjoy!


  24. Josiah says:

    David Ehrenstein of the Los Angeles Times wrote a column titled “Obama the Magic Negro back in March 2007. Obama’s appeal can’t be reduced to the “Magic Negro” idea, but that’s certainly part of it in some quarters. And that “Lightworker” column is a definite example.

  25. Maggie "Reid" Jochild says:

    I think Obama and his campaign strategists are very aware of how much white America depends on tokenizing minorities and imbuing them with “special powers” in order to internally overcome their own racist conditioning. It’s a shortcut through the real work of undoing conditioning, in the same way that women are put on pedestals or constantly portrayed as “sexually liberated” in order to sidestep changing the need to alter male conditioning which forces boys to see females primarily as sex/nurture objects.

    I don’t believe the majority of Obama’s supporters are riding the Magical Negro train. And while he’s aware of it playing a role, he’s not discouraging it, either, because a significant aspect of his success as the “first black candidate” depends on him being non-typical black. He is charismatic but, if you didn’t see his face, you would not recognize his voice or speaking style as American black. He is beautiful but clearly mixed race and more African than American black. These help him make end-runs around the racism that actually dominates our culture.

    Those who view him as redemption for America’s racism, who are subconsciously assigning him the Magical Negro role, are fairly easy to spot. They fawn on him — adulation is our culture’s way of finding/reinforcing our level in the power hierarchy, and has no relationship to reality, especially to the person being fawned over. (Right, Alison?) They are swept away by his speaking and presence, instead of simply being impressed or, god forbid, noticing his mistakes. They believe he has mystical leadership attributes — mystical because when you ask them for specifics, they fall back on “But just LISTEN to him!” (He’s a junior senator who has big gaps in his experience, folks.) The adulation slops over to his wife and children, again not grounded in firm reality. They take any criticism of him as a personal attack, assume it comes from racism (a little projection going on there), and simply cannot hear it without vicious reprisal. And — they hate Hillary, because she dared to present an alternative. Because they are not dealing with their own buried racism (the REAL deal, not the groovy I-can-vote-for-a-black-guy version), they have also not dealt with their sexism (big surprise) and their method/rhetoric used to assault Hillary reveals this in glaring fashion.

    These, in other words, are the Obamabots. They will not get him elected and, in fact, have hurt his cause. The rest of us who intend to vote for him are sick of their adolescent antics and ready for increasing substance in this campaign.

    I don’t expect Obama to make serious inroads in our national racism. I don’t think that is his intent, for one thing. He will have a huge impact on the self-perception of blacks, of course, especially children, and that’s extremely important. I’m counting on him to do what he HAS stated as his intent: To extricate us from a megalomaniacal war; to restore Constitutional balance to our government; to address health care reform (though his plan will not solve it); and to slow, if not stop, our slide into becoming a masculinity-worshiping police state.

    I also have my fingers crossed that when it comes time to appoint the next Supreme Court justice, his advisors will once again keep him from making the error he almost made in supporting John Roberts. The make-up of SCOTUS will affect our liberty for decades to come.

    He will be attacked constantly by the Right, and if the November election does not also bring into office a substantial number of Congressional Democrats with eggs of steel, he will be hobbled from making substantial legislative change. Once he falls from the pedestal (which is the fate of all charismatic politicians), the Obamabots will be the first to turn on him.

    I say all this because I watched progressives in 1992 (not radicals, but those left of center) cream in their drawers about Bill Clinton, his gift for speech-making, his good looks, his admirable family, his constant invocation of hope. I was at a neighborhood party the night he received the nomination and people were sobbing because he was going to lead us to the Promised Land. I looked around me in disbelief then, too. He was at best a moderate — and, by all concrete standards, he was more liberal than Obama (despite the right-wing smears, Obama is less liberal than most of Congress). He was an enormously popular President and did a great deal of national good. But all we hear now is the right-wing stereotype of Bill Clinton.

    His fall from grace resulted in impeachment. Obama’s fall will be more severe, because racism will come to the surface and punish him for not just failure, but failing while black.

    The road to undoing racism will follow other paths. It’s simply more complicated than that to undo millenia of lies reinforced by every single institution we have.

  26. Mothra in NYC says:

    Hey, Mame at the top,

    You made me cry with your recollection of stashing DTWOF books in your backpack … suddenly I am flashing back to college days, when I used to get this frisson of pleasure at reading and carrying around something as trangressive as DTWOF books. To read them was to provoke others, as well as to enjoy some engaging characters for one’s own pleasure.

    But you’re right, times have changed.

    The commodification of, what, literature and socio-political progress? that AB mentions has snuck up on me. You can in fact find the DTWOF books in Barnes and Noble now, if only the last few installments, and I’ll bet they weren’t there until Fun Home hit it big … I doubt that showing off one’s DTWOF fanaticism is as provocative today as it was when I first discovered the series.

    I think that’s okay, because I think the strip is about people (okay, characters) first and foremost, and while those characters hold ideologies and act in accordance with them, we keep reading because their relationships with one another are compelling. The strip certainly hasn’t become mundane, even if the lifestyles of its characters are more familiar to mainstream America nowadays than they were a couple decades back.

    Fun Home is more provocative in our time because it is a memoir, and its truths are etched onto the reader’s memory by AB’s finely rendered details … telling the story from inside the family, with herself as narrator and character, forces the reader to feel the story much more intimately than DTWOF, with its omniscient narrator and its lighter touch.

    I’m hugely grateful for Fun Home. Nowadays there are many stories of adult children dealing with a parent’s homosexuality, or (to be more accurate) with a parent’s struggle to both repress it and express it back in an era when a gay man often needed to marry a woman and deny his attraction to other men (for New Yorker readers, see Honor Moore’s outing of her late father, Bishop Paul Moore, on the pages of the magazine a month or two ago; it’s a different but not unrelated story).

    There are probably a lot more of us out there with a gay parent who suffered from the strictures of a narrower-minded society. My own father (an Episcopal priest) was very unhappy for a long time, and never even turned the handle on the closet door, let alone came out … but the porn I found on his computer the day of his funeral confirmed what I had suspected.

    It was a different time, back when to be gay was such a transgression that it wasn’t even spoken of, and people had to twist their lives into uncomfortable shapes to conform. We’ve lived though a transition time, and the challenges are different now for those of us in AB’s and Honor Moore’s generation.

    I treasure both memoirs, because they tell so much about fathers who couldn’t live their lives with full honesty, but who, in one way or another, with whatever amount of success, tried to pass on to their children a sense of self. All our fathers wanted us to grow up free to be who we really are, even if they had been denied it themselves, and they wanted to connect to that hoped-for future …

    Hence that wonderful final swimming-pool panel in Fun Home.

    I think I’m only really beginning to understand this now, starting to look at my own father’s life with a bit more sympathy, and appreciate whatever connections he was able to make, and whatever hopes he had for me …

    Thanks, AB, for a book with such compassion and power!



  27. Mothra in NYC says:

    PS Now that I have probably overshared, here’s the link to the New Yorker article where Honor Moore does likewise:


    From my standpoint, of course, it was not oversharing. Her siblings disagreed, vehemently but with perfect WASP manners, on the New Yorker’s letters page soon thereafter.

  28. Ian says:

    I was gonna be an Obama pollyanna but I don’t wanna. The temptation of hoping for real, positive change is too much.

  29. judybusy says:

    For those interested in more details about Amazon’s recent purchase, here is the local paper’s article about it: (Please note they got the address wrong! It’s at 48th and Chicago now, if you’re planning to go.)


  30. Andrew B says:

    That New Yorker cover (not the Bishop Moore story but the recent cover) is a ripoff of a dtwof from about 2000, in which Sydney ordered a book from Medusa while Mo was still working at Madwimmen.

  31. jaydee says:

    Seeing that photo of Del and Phyllis makes me tear up. Our lives are so much better because of the work they did – and at a time when it was immensely risky. And while on one hand I mourn the assimilation because there is indeed something glamorous and exciting about being part of a hidden subculture – the fact is I now live a middle class suburban life that is made a whole lot easier and even possible by that assimilation.

    I too read Lesbian/Woman when it was published. It was *amazing* to read that, to see it right out there on the bookshelves. I didn’t tear off the covers, but I recall it took a lot of effort to carry that around and try to be nonchalant about it. But I was still in denial, pretending it wasn’t about me. Ya, right!

  32. Andrew B says:

    According to Wikipedia, the magical negro in fiction is by definition a supporting character who helps the white protagonist. That certainly weighs against Obama being a magical negro. There may be people who are sufficiently egotistical to see a presidential candidate as a supporting character in their individual dramas, but surely most people would say the person running for president is the protagonist, not a supporting character. There are fictions in which the president is a supporting character — e.g. Escape From New York. But in the context of a real presidential candidacy, the candidate is the protagonist.

    I understand that Wikipedia is specifically intended not to be authoritative. Still, the article represents a kind of consensus among everyone who wanted to contribute and who was not blatantly trying to vandalize. It carries some weight.

  33. NLC says:

    One more Amazon vs local-book store horror story:

    Here in rural Vermont (is that redundant?) it is fairly common practice for folks living way out in the sticks to make arrangements to have delivery services (like UPS) drop off packages at an easy-to-find, centrally located place (say, the local General Store).

    This is especially common during winter when it may be all but impossible to get your place for days at a time –even assuming the poor driver could find it in the first place!

    One such “Conveniently-Located-Well-Known-Place” was Heartstone Books a well-beloved, lovely independent bookstore up the road from me in beautiful downtown Putney.

    I say “was” because, sadly, Heartstone finally closed up shop a couple months ago. (Its passing is lamented by all who knew it and its owners.
    BTW, One notable feature of the store was a basket which sat near the front entrance that filled with heart-shaped stones. I always wondered where they got all of those.)


    You can probably tell where this is headed, but while Heartstone were in the midst of their final “closing sale” my wife overheard the owner tell someone that over the last year or so that they actually had folks who were arranging to have their Amazon packages dropped off at Heartstone for later pick-up…

  34. liza Cowan says:

    Good grief, how rude can people be, having their Amazon packages dropped off at a local bookstore. The more I’m in retail the more I’m disheartened by the insensitivity of customers.

    Did Heartstone also have an arrangement for online sales? Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelbune VT does, and (I hope) it’s a good way for an independent bookseller to capture an online audience that would otherwise go to Amazon or Powells. If you are interested, it’s http://www.flyingpigbooks.com. Women owned. And no, I have nothing to do with them except to be a customer.

  35. NLC says:

    This is getting pretty far off-topic, but…

    liza Cowan: Did Heartstone also have an arrangement for online sales?

    I’m not sure if they ever had on-line sales. (Like I said, they were just up the road, so I never really checked.)

    But that said, one other interesting approach taken by another Vermont Bookstore:

    Northshire books (in Manchester Center) is one k*ck-*ss independent bookstore. A wonder to behold and well worth a side-trip if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

    Anyway they’ve just started this service:


    That is The Espresso Book Machine: a “print it while you wait” book-service. (They claim to be the only independent book store in the US to have this)

  36. advorunnermom says:

    what a crazy happy-sad thread. i too teared up seeing Del and Phyllis’ photo in the paper this morning. that they lived long enough to see the world shift a little…(see “iron jawed angels” if you haven’t about the fight for women’s suffrage, a similarly much-longer-than-it-should-have-been battle).

    @crazy ladies is no more? long live crazy ladies. I grew up in Cincinnati but haven’t lived there for half my life (which makes me sound a lot older than I am?) I moved out of town to the land of New Words and Crone’s Harvest, but I made sure to go in and spend money @ crazy ladies when I visited.

  37. ambystoma says:

    Here is a nice little bit about a fascinating couple of long, long duration from our local paper a few weeks back:


  38. judybusy says:

    Thanks, ambystoma–that was a really great story. I feel positively lazy after reading about those women!

  39. LondonBoy says:

    People getting married: George Takei and his long-time partner Brad Altman. I’m so happy for them (and for everyone else who’s getting married), but when I saw the news I did feel just the tiniest hint of teenage-ish envy: as a boy just starting to recognise my sexuality I saw the episode of Star Trek where Sulu goes mad and rips his shirt off. Gosh, that image had a formative impact! George is still darn cute today…

  40. Sherry says:

    Advorunnermom – Crazy Ladies closed a few years ago but thank heavens that Cincinnati’s fabulous women’s choic MUSE continues to thrive.

  41. Feminista says:

    Sherry–Your fair city also has Women Writing for (a) Change workshops; I’m attending a drop-in session tonight given by a former Cincinnatian as my regular writing group’s on a break. The NAWSA (Nat’l Women’s Studies Assoc.)Annual Meeting is or was taking place in the river city as well.

    Hooray for Amazon! Perhaps they should rename it Phoenix Rising.

  42. April says:

    Thanks for the trip down literature lane AB – I was too young (honestly) for Lesbian/Woman when it came out, but I have it in stained and treasured 3rd-hand paperback. A picture of Del & Phyllis standing with their foreheads together in communion (getting married the 1st time in 2004) just made me tear up – that’s how I feel about my honey!!

  43. safrika says:

    Hey, Im from Spain. My English is shitty but I wanted to tell you that I bought Fun Home, and to congratulate you because we have had a blast reading it. And re-reading it. Great drawings and brutal sensibility… Thanks!

  44. Matron says:

    As a European I am not familiar with the “magic negro” concept but I have to say that reading Mark Morford’s column scared me more than anything else I have read about Barack Obama so far. Call me a cynic or a philistine, but it is this mass appeal that is the one thing that actually keeps me from supporting the guy (albeit only in my head, given that we can’t vote for him over here).

    In the more serious German media, which is slightly less affected by Obamamania than the rest of Europe, many column inches have been dedicated to the question if people see Obama as the new Messiah. Calling him a “lightworker” seems to answer that question quite decisively. I don’t find it motivating, heartening or the beginning of a new dawn. I find it intensely frightening to watch sensible people react to someone in this ecstatic way because he speaks “not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul”. I for one am frightened of, rather than encouraged by, people who have the power to make others say, do or believe things on any other basis than reason.

    And what is all this talk about “enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned and advanced people” being blown away by him? Apart from, obviously, suggesting that those of us who “just don’t get it”, are none of the above? Talk about liberal elitist BS (and I am very much a member of the so called liberal elite myself). Yes, America and all the rest of the world got a bum deal during the last two administrations. Yes, we are all desperate for hope, change and something, anything, that promises to be better. But can people please keep their head on and look behind the spin?

    Having said that, I do of course want a democrat in the White House and the prospect of McCain appointing the next two or three Supreme Court judges frightens me even more than the US being led by Jesus 2.0, so may the force be you, Obama! But I can still not help feeling that all of liberal America is currently going to the Asylum in a handcart and my guess is that, in a few years’ time, a lot of people will be very embarrassed by the gushing eulogies they now write. I speak from the country that gave us Tony Blair and that should be enough warning to anyone.

  45. LizGig says:

    All is not lost for independent bookshops. In the UK they are seeing an increase in sales. A lot of this is to do with customer service, well informed staff, and making that extra bit of effort.

    In our shop, we will often find items for people that Eason’s (the major Irish bookseller) say they can’t get or that they don’t have in their stock system. But it also appears that Eason’s don’t bother using (you can gasp if you like) Amazon for finding information or, indeed, sourcing something they can’t get elsewhere.

  46. Sherry says:

    Feminista – Women Writing 4 a Change is a great group. Really neat group of women who attend – enjoy – and enjoy the City.

  47. advorunnermom says:

    @sherry: Thanks! Will check out MUSE when I’m in town next time.

  48. DeLandDeLakes says:

    I just got done reading the Star Tribune story on Amazon’s revival that judy busy posted, and now I am seething with rage at some fucking yuppie idiot calling him/herself “romperroom,” who posted a comment on the story that he/she “likes independent bookstores” but when he/she and his/her family goes to that part of Minneapolis, he/she has to steer his/her kids away from the store window “because of the soft-core porn they display.”
    Forgive me for fuming here and not on the Star Tribune’s website, but this kind of shit makes me livid. While I have no idea what this person is referring to, I assume it must be some sort of nudity, which I guarantee that RR’s kids HAVE ALREADY BEEN EXPOSED TO in one way or another- trying to keep little kids and nudity apart is like trying to part the Red Sea. So the only conclusion I have to draw here is that RR is falling back on the notion that when a lesbian-feminist bookstore displays anything having to do with anatomy, then it’s porn, because naturally all homos are child molesters/perverts, right?
    I want to run people like this out of my town with pitchforks. It’s mind boggling to contemplate how fucked up their kids are going to be.

  49. Jana C.H. says:

    I’m with you, Matron! For me, Obama’s charisma—originally a religious term—is the thing I mistrust most about him. I prefer politicians that appeal to my reason first and foremost, though a certain amount of emotional appeal is nice if it goes along with the other stuff. I get all tingly with excitement when Al Gore turns wonky; raw, naked competence is such a turn-on! But appealing to the soul? “Soul” is just emotion with reason not only ignored but stomped into cowering submission. When I feel anything like that, I take it as a warning to look at the situation very, very carefully.

    As for the Magic Negro, you Europeans have it. It’s just a specialized version of the Clever Servant. Other colonizing nations seem to have similar myths about their colonized peoples (“You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din”). It’s not necessary that the special helper be of another race, just of a lower social status, so he or she can’t possibly compete with the Hero. All white Americans are considered, in theory, to be of the same potential social class, so with us the Clever Servant has to be non-white. If he has his own special subculture as a source for his magical insights, so much the better. In this regard, American Indians are even more magical than blacks. Americans don’t have the Clever Servant per se, because we hate the word “servant,” either having one or being one. Our usual term is “the help”. Fanny Trollope mentions it in the early 1830s. I once saw a modernized production of “Cosi Fan Tutte” in which the clever servant girl was called a “personal assistant”, and her two mistresses were her “bosses”. (It worked!)

    I think a big part of the appeal of Obama to white people is the fact that he’s not really black. Yeah, he looks black and that means he treated as if he’s black, but in fact he’s biracial and was brought up by his white family. The latter part is what’s important. White middle-class American culture is his native culture. His black father wasn’t even American; he was Kenyan. Obama learned black American culture as a second language, the way most blacks in this country learn white American culture. Black American culture includes, as is only logical, a certain hostility to white people. Whites are threatened by it, and black politicians can’t keep it from peeking through on a subliminal level. Obama can express that threat because he’s black, but he can also turn it completely off because he’s white. It’s almost like magic!

    Jana C.H.
    Saith JcH: If I can’t have Big Al, gimme Little John!

  50. Feminista says:

    Maggie–A well-reasoned post on Obama,better than I’ve seen in other publications.

    Sherry–No,I’m not *in* Cinc.now; I was singing progressive praise for the river city because it’s been,well,maligned. I’m a member of NWSA so I read about the conference. And I have a good friend who lived there for many years.

    The writing workshop was great.

  51. Red Genie says:

    My Wife and I, wait, I have to say that again, MY WIFE and I were the second license issued to same sex couples in Solano County at 8:19 on the 17th. No protesters, no bells and whistles, a couple of reporters, not asking us any questions, most likely because we weren’t the ones in the rainbow tee shirts or matching tuxes we just looked like any other radiant couple applying for a piece of paper that said our marriage was as valid as any other married couple, wait I have to say that again, like any other married couple.
    We suffered the fate of many other independent books stores not long ago. Our dream had to change focus but this makes us see that there are many other dreams which can become a reality.

  52. Judybusy says:

    Congratulations, Red Genie! May you have many more happy years!

  53. Metal Prophet says:

    The funny thing is that Obama’s charisma is not something that originally came naturally to him, though he’s so good at it, it does seem natural. He’s actually quite the wonky type, but he’s got a gift for expressing his ideas in very inspiring speeches. It is yet to be determined if he’ll advance the progressive adgenda (he’s got a good record in the US Senate and the Illinois senate) or if he’ll disappoint us like Bill Clinton did. But for now, I’m somewhat hopeful.

  54. Ellen O. says:

    The California weddings are a step toward equality (whether it is a desired equality is another matter), however, since they don’t offer all the federal advantages of straight ones, they unfortunately aren’t like “any other [straight] married couple.”

    Still, it’s making a lot of people happy for a variety of reasons, and that’s a good thing. Personally, I’d rather see legislation that benefits a wider portion of queers beyond the 30% (50%?) of us who are choosing a state-sanctioned union.

    Did EDNA ever pass?

  55. ready2agitate says:

    @Jana – “I think a big part of the appeal of Obama to white people is the fact that he’s not really black. …..”

    I’m gathering that the idea here is that Obama is not seen by white US as being the same kind of black person we see in many of the African-Americans around us, in that he was raised by whites, is bi-racial, and is of recent African ancestry. Not that he’s not really black, right? Surely it’s an indignancy to have one’s racial identity (however socially constructed) defined by white folks, right? The issue of ‘who is black’ in the US has deep historical roots and high emotional content. I’m just assuming this was said somewhat tongue-in-cheek?

    @deLanddeLakes – Hear ya. I’ve had to promise myself not to read the posts attached to most on-line articles. Even at progressive sites like Common Dreams I’ve been alarmed by the comments. I’ve come to realize that these views rarely if ever represent the majority of those reading.

    @Red Genie – Mazel tov! (Congratulations! Best Wishes!)

    @Maggie – thanks for that piece.

  56. Anonymous says:

    liza Cowan Says– “Good grief, how rude can people be, having their Amazon packages dropped off at a local bookstore. The more I’m in retail the more I’m disheartened by the insensitivity of customers.”

    Ummmm, liza. There is a lot more on Amazon than just books. One can buy food there, as well–and particularly one can get organic products that are not available in many small towns.

    If the owners were open to having the packages dropped off, it might have been to get people physically into their store where they might impulse-buy a book or two, at the very least out of gratitude, and make it look like there were people in the store, attracting other customers.

    I have rewritten this last line four times but cannot get it not to come out nasty. So, I’ll just stop now.

  57. Lea says:

    Hi Ruta,
    a great thing to do.
    I wish you all the best for your new business.
    (independent lesbian book seller)

  58. Ellen O. says:

    There may more than books on Amazon, but my understanding is that Amazon.com donates an awful lot of money to the Republican Party. If you are going to buy organic food on-line, why not support a smaller, independently-owned online business?

  59. Robin B. says:

    Yes, it’s true that Amazon.com sells stuff other than books. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any better. When Amazon.com started selling sex toys, for example, they took a huge bite out of Good Vibrations’ sales. Rumor has it that there’s a directly causal relationship between Amazon.com’s sex toy sales and the demise of Good Vibes as a workers’ collective (it disbanded as a collective and became a corporation in 2006–see ). Sigh.

  60. Robin B. says:

    For some reason the link about Good Vibes didn’t appear in the comment above. Here it is:


  61. stranger says:

    This is totally off-topic, but I think many of you might relate. It’s sad, pathetic, and a bit disrespectful of Alison’s need for a break, but I check this site daily in hopes that she is as much of a DTWOF addict as I am and will be unable to stick to her well-deserved sabbatical and post a new strip. When the panel accompanying this post popped up on my screen my heart skipped a beat in anticipation, only to meet with crushing disappointment a moment later. Kind of a sad statement of my mental health, eh? I hope you are enjoying your freedom to work on your book Alison!

  62. I had a dream last night that I did another strip! I only just remembered it after reading stranger’s comment.

    That’s weird. I never dream about the strip. But I somehow had come up with an idea for the next episode, and had it all sketched out and ready to ink before I remembered I was on sabbatical.

  63. Jessie says:

    I’m sure you know this, but you and Amazon book store are footnote #2 for Ch 2 (page 289) in Anne Enke’s totally awesome new-ish book “Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism.”

    It seems that you are, amongst other things, challenging the text that historians consider scholarly!

  64. Kate L says:

    Congratulations to Red Genie and her wife! : ) Here in Kansas a few years ago, I had an interesting (and uplifting) experience in campaigning against the local state version of an anti-gay marriage amendment, even though the amendment (which banned gay marriage and even civil unions) passed statewide. The vote here in this county was 51% Yes, 49% No, meaning that we had the second highest “No” vote in the state, second only to Douglas County, where the no-gay marriage amendment was actually resoundingly DEFEATED, 60% No to 40% Yes. Buncha wild eyed sisters over there at the University of Kansas!:) But I digress. I knocked on over a hundred doors here in my home town, and in the town next to the US Army base down the interstate, asking for a vote against the anti-gay marriage amendment. The uplifting part was that most people, even if they had never thought of gay marriage before, did NOT want government telling people who could and could not enter into unions with one another. I have to say, the libertarian argument nearly carried the day! Live Free or Cry, I always say…

  65. julissa says:

    did you like “lesbian woman”? i started reading it but it was weird to read about myself (as a lesbian) in such a matter-of-factly way, i feel like it generalized a lot. but then again i only read like the first 10 pages so i might be wrong. but anyways, i am glad that you are a dyke. and del and phyl look adorable in their wedding pics.

  66. shadocat says:

    Kate L, are you in Johnson Co. by any chance? Just curious.
    My dream is to move to Lawrence when I retire…

  67. Aunt Soozie says:

    Love that dream… did you remember the content of the strip when you woke up? I hate those dreams where in the dream you have this great idea and when you wake up you can’t remember what it was…

  68. Alex K says:

    @Andrew B.: To be president is to be central, yes. Objectively viewed, that excludes Obama from a role as “mystical Negro”.

    But who among us view our lives objectively? Who doesn’t believe that she is truly, essentially central?

    Around whom else is it all SUPPOSED to revolve, anyway? (No YOU shut up.)

    “There may be people who are sufficiently egotistical to see a presidential candidate as a supporting character in their individual dramas.” That’s all of us, honey. Every last one. Heaven is high, and the Emperor is far away.

  69. ksbel6 says:

    Shadocat…funny, my dream is to move to Columbia, MO when I retire…the only city in the state where there is a policy banning work discrimmination based on sexual orientation, AND, carrying less than 2 joints worth of pot is legal 🙂 Go big college towns!

  70. shadocat says:

    ksbel6…Columbia would be cool too! But did you know that KCMO also has an anti-discrimination law? I found this out the hard way, when I lost a job in Independence for my “lifestyle”. I went to a lawyer who said to me, “If only you had worked in Kansas City…”

  71. kiki says:

    I loved your piece in the new entertainment weekly! What a great surprise.

  72. C. says:

    Are school-owned College bookstores that also sell general titles “independent”?

  73. Kate L says:

    No, I’m not in Johnson County (suburban Kansas City), but my sister is. Amazing as it may sound, rural Riley County had the second highest “No” vote against the anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution, where it was almost defeated. I did live in the city of Lawrence in Douglas County while I was getting my Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, though…

  74. C. says:

    In the same EW issue as the essay, Fun Home has been declared the 68th best book of the past 25 years.

  75. ksbel6 says:

    shadocat…no, I didn’t no that about KC…my mom lives in Independence currently…yuck. I have a much fonder appreciation for Columbia since it is a short jump from Kirksville (where I have now lived for an amazing 18 years) and I spend lots of my fun time there.

  76. Rosa says:

    I just want to thank you all for being here. The Catholic side of our family visited from the suburbs this weekend and I am awfully glad to be able to come and have my reality reset this morning.

    I will say that for every birthday and Christmas we go to Amazon and buy books for all those Catholics, and they go to B&N and buy us gift cards. It’s depressing, but predictable.

    Also – C., are there still school-owned book stores? My experience is only with Big 10 colleges (Iowa & Minnesota) but I was under the impression that most colleges had switched to leasing space to big college book store corps. I’d be glad to hear that wasn’t true.