(Originally aired 2019/03/16 - listen here)
Heather Rose Jones: Last week, we had Katharine Duckett on the show to talk about her own historic writing with queer female characters. In this segment, she's here to talk about some works in the field that she's particularly enjoyed. Welcome back, Katharine.
Katharine Duckett: Hello.
H: So, tell us about the books you like.
K: The first book that I want to talk about is one that I loved when it came out, and I'm actually rereading right now, and that is The Last Nude by Ellis Avery. And this is a terrific novel that is real, not a takeoff on the real history. Tamara de Lempicka who's a terrific artist, queer artist, and who was living in Paris in the 1920s. And so this novel is steeped in the history of that time and has many amazing shout outs to real history in Paris at that time--Shakespeare and Co.--and it's just beautifully written, a really lovely story of someone discovering their own sexuality, and the real history of this artists who actually has long been one of my favorite artists.
H: Yeah, that was a fabulous time for queer women in Paris as I recall. So, next book.
K: The next book is actually a novella, and this one is Passing Strange by Ellen Klages.
H: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, we had her on the show. [laughs]
K: I was lucky enough to work on this actually when I was working at Tor.com in publicity, so that was such a treat to get to work on this book. This book unfolds in 1940 in San Francisco, such a fascinating time for the queer community. San Francisco, obviously, a bastion of queer culture, long a haven for queer people. It's just so alive with the sense of these real women and their real relationships and their real struggles. It brings in also the history of the pulps, which is fascinating and as someone who has been long a science fiction fantasy genre fan, that was something I loved as well. And there's a touch of magic as well. It's a really lovely story.
H: Yeah, I really enjoyed having Ellen on the show to talk about it, it's been so lovely seeing it gather all the awards.
K: Yes, it's great. Then my third book is another incredible historical fiction story. This one, like my book, draws on real history but then also draws in a lot about what can't be known about certain things of the period, and that is Hild by Nicola Griffith.
H: Oh, yeah.
K: That is this great exploration of the life of this woman who clearly was this incredible, intelligent-
H: Well, let's remind the listeners where and when it's set.
K: Yeah. So, in seventh century Britain, Hild was actually a woman who was basically someone who clearly had quite a lot of power and insight and was a very learned person, but we know very little about her. And Nicola Griffith actually writes quite a lot about this on her blog and wrote as she was writing the book about how little is extent in the historical record about this person. And so from what little is available, she creates this tome really, I have the hardback and it's just a beautiful text [laughs] that explores what this woman's life might have been like, and what life as a queer woman might have been like for her at the time. It's just an incredibly detailed vision of life at that time from what little is actually known.
H: And she envisions an approach to sexuality that it's an imagined approach, but how queer sexuality might fit into Anglo-Saxon society at a time on the cusp between the pre-Christian society and the introduction of Christianity. And it's a very lovely way of imagining other settings, other categorizations.
K: Yes, and not defined by our idea of sexuality as it stands now. And so it's just a really amazing look at that.
H: Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much for sharing some of your favorite historical books with queer women with us.
In the Book Appreciation segments, our featured authors (or your host) will talk about one or more favorite books with queer female characters in a historic setting.
In this episode Katharine Duckett recommends some favorite queer historical novels:
Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online
Links to Heather Online
Links to Katharine Duckett Online