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Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast Episode 50a - On the Shelf for September 2020

Saturday, September 5, 2020 - 07:00

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 174 (previously 50a) - On the Shelf for September 2020 - Transcript

(Originally aired 2020/09/05 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for September 2020.

LHMP Goes Independent

There are some significant changes coming for the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast. As of January, we’re leaving the nest at the TLT podcast group and going independent.

At this time, I’d like to thank Sheena, the founder of TLT and continuing head of The Lesbian Review, for encouraging me to start this show and giving me an easy ramp-up process at the start that overcame my anxiety about learning curves. I can honestly say that it’s unlikely I would have started the podcast without having the supportive environment of TLT as a place to do it. When Sheena and I began discussing the logistics of me going independent, it was an entirely positive decision on both sides.

What does this move mean for my listeners? In order to make the transition easier, for the last couple months of this year I’ll be releasing episodes in parallel both through TLT and through the new LHMP channel. Don’t worry, you’ll get regular reminders to switch your subscription, if you listen through one of the podcast apps. Wouldn’t want you to miss a show!

And what about the existing four years worth of programming? I’m re-mastering the shows as “legacy episodes” with new introductions and changing the links from the website. My intent is to have all the existing material continue to be available. These re-released episodes will be numbered sequentially rather than using the complex letter-and-number format.

Format Changes

I’ll also be taking the opportunity to reorganize the show a bit. Rather than a weekly schedule, starting in January, I’ll be podcasting twice a month on the first and third Saturdays, plus, of course, the fifth Saturday fiction episodes as before. Each month will have an On the Shelf episode, with a slightly scaled-back version of the current topics, plus optional author interviews, book appreciation, and other publishing-related content. Then in the second half of the month, I’ll do an essay topic. This will give me more flexibility and a bit less risk of burnout. If you have strong ideas about what youwant to keep in the new, revised Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast, this is an excellent time to make suggestions and provide feedback.

And, of course, on 5th Saturdays, we’ll have original fiction. I’ll be taking submissions for the 2021 series in January, so check out the Call for Submissions on the website if you’re thinking of writing something for us.

One consequence of this change is that the LHMP Patreon is going to have more of a practical function. I’ll be paying for my own hosting, rather than being included under the TLT hosting, and it would be lovely if listeners show how much they value the show by pledging enough to cover that expense. I will not be trying to monetize the show through ads--not really a practical idea anyway, since it’s pretty small potatoes in today’s podcast market. Your support, both by plugging the show and if you feel able to make a Patreon pledge, mean a lot to me.

There are a couple other minor changes. The Lesbian Historic Motif Project now has its own Twitter account @LesbianMotif so I can do a lot more promotion of the blog and podcast there without spamming my personal account too much. And having been introduced to the Discord platform for social media, I’ve set up a Discord server for fans of the LHMP and of my fiction. It will be a place to chat and ask questions in a community of like-minded people, and I hope to do some live events there as well. If you’d like an invitation, contact me through any of my usual social media, which are linked in the show notes, as always.

Publications on the Blog

The blog has finally finished posting all the articles I set up at the beginning of this year. I still have a handful of items from that last “shopping trip” to the JSTOR terminal in the UC Berkeley library, but it’s time for a change of pace.

So August covered the politics of sexuality and gender in 18-19th century Egypt, a look at the mythology of same-sex pregnancy in medieval India, a textbook on the history of pre-modern sexuality, and a sensational case of same-sex desire, obsession, and murder in late 19th century America.

In September, I’m going to start tackling four books that all look at the overlap of friendship, romance, and desire between women starting from the 17th century. These are all substantial books, so I probably won’t be doing one a week! In chronological order, they are Elizabeth Wahl’s Invisible Relations: Representations of Female Intimacy in the Age of Enlightenment, Betty Rizzo’s Companions without Vows: Relationships among Eighteenth-Century British Women, Martha Vicinus’s Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778-1928, and Sharon Marcus’s Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England.

The two most obvious organizing models for women’s same-sex relations in history--though far from the only ones--are passionate friendship (in which the erotic potential of the relationship is tacitly ignored while the emotional bonds are normalized as an expected part of women’s lives) and what we might as well call the butch-femme model (in which one partner is, to some degree, viewed as performing a masculine role and the erotic potential is viewed as arising from the contrast in performative gender). Historical reality is, of course, much more complicated than two over-simplified models. But when I look over the field of sapphic historical fiction, it sometimes feels like the passionate friendship model is seriously overlooked in its plotting potential. So it will be interesting to trace the themes across the last four centuries in these in-depth studies.

Author Guest

At the time I’m writing this, I don’t have an author guest lined up yet this month, though I have hopes that I might pull one out of a hat.


To align with the upcoming blog theme, this months essay will return to biographical topics and look at 17th century English poet Katherine Philips. What did her contemporaries intend when they compared her to Sappho? We’ll take a look at the themes of passionate female friendship in her life and poetry.

[Sponsor break]

Recent Lesbian Historical Fiction

The recent, new, and forthcoming books have picked up a bit this month. I found one August book I haven’t mentioned before, which puts an unusual twist on familiar tropes.

Grey Dawn: A Tale of Abolition and Union by Nyri A. Bakkalian from Balance of Seven starts out looking like a typical American Civil War romance involving gender disguise. And then it takes a turn into time travel...

The year is 1862. Driven by a leading from the Spirit, Chloë Parker Stanton leaves the woman she loves to enlist in the Union Army and fight for abolition in war as she has in the streets of Philadelphia. At home, her lover, Leigh Hunter, eagerly awaits Chloë’s letters, anxious to hear of her survival without discovery, for women are not allowed to wear the Union blue. Three days after Gettysburg comes the news: the Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry has survived, but Chloë Stanton is missing, presumed dead. The year is 2020. Sergeant First Class Leigh Hunter came of age during her seventeen-year stint in uniform. Since childhood, she’d been drawn to the Army in search of something, all the while fighting her inner truth as a trans woman. After her final combat tour, Leigh left the military a decorated combat veteran and finally transitioned. She was quickly recruited by the Joint Temporal Integrity Commission: a new, secretive government agency tasked with intercepting temporal refugees and integrating them into present-day society. Two years after joining the JTIC, Leigh is entrusted with a special assignment: personal custody of a Pennsylvania cavalry soldier from three days after Gettysburg. Her name: Chloë Parker Stanton. Grey Dawn is a tale of war, abolition, union, and women who forge ties that carry them from one life into the next. When the grey dawn breaks on a new era and a new cause, who can you trust to fight beside you?

The first two September books fall comfortably in the lesfic romance genre, starting with the erotic romance Barbed Wire, self-published by Erin Wade.

Set in West Texas where cattle & oil were king and men were masters of their fate. A woman didn't have a chance of making it in the straight shooting, fast riding, hard drinking world of the Texas cowboy or did she? A novel about a love so forbidden it wasn't even whispered. A heroine so unlikely she wasn't believed. This novel scorches the Texas badlands and runs over hearts like a herd of Texas Longhorns.

We also have the second book in Luci Dreamer’s self-published Heart series: Heart Sings. The cover copy rather assumes that you’re familiar with the first book in the series, which regular listeners are, because Luci came onto the show to talk about it.

What happens when someone from Thomas' past threatens her and her family's future? When the Millers begin a new chapter in their lives, not even a year in the harsh environment of the Klondike could have prepared them for the types of obstacles they’ll face. Thomas and Rachel will need to rely on their bond like never before to overcome the threat neither saw coming. Will they be strong enough to weather the storm? And can they trust each other to make the right decisions for their family, even if it will end in heartbreak?

The Testimony of Alys Twist by Suzannah Dunn from Little, Brown Books is something of a surprise: a book with sapphic themes from an established historical novelist at a major publisher. This is definitely going to go onto my “hope I find time to read this” list. Hmm, that is, it goes on my list when it gets a US release. Looks like it’s only UK and Commonwealth to start with. Hope I still remember I want it when it’s available.

1553: deeply-divided England rejoices as the rightful heir, Mary Tudor, sweeps to power on a tide of populist goodwill. But the people should have been careful what they wished for: Mary's mission is to turn back time to an England of old. Within weeks there is widespread rebellion in favour of her heir, her half-sister, princess Elizabeth, who is everything that Mary isn't. From now on, Elizabeth will have to use her considerable guile just to stay alive. Orphan Alys Twist has come a long way - further than she ever dared hope - to work as a laundress at the royal Wardrobe. There she meets Bel, daughter of the Queen's tailor, and seems to have arrived at her own happy ending. But in a world where appearance is everything, a laundress is in a unique position to see the truth of people's lives, and Alys is pressed into service as a spy in the errant princess's household. Alys herself, though, is hardly whiter than white, and when the princess is arrested she must make a dangerous choice.

Rose Tremain is another established and award-winning British novelist who has included sapphic themes in her newest novel, Islands of Mercy, from Chatto Windus.

She was ‘The Angel of the Baths’, the one woman whose touch everybody yearned for. Yet she would do more. She was certain of that. In the city of Bath, in the year 1865, an extraordinary young woman renowned for her nursing skills is convinced that some other destiny will one day show itself to her. But when she finds herself torn between a dangerous affair with a female lover and the promise of a conventional marriage to an apparently respectable doctor, her desires begin to lead her towards a future she had never imagined. Meanwhile, on the wild island of Borneo, an eccentric British ‘rajah’, Sir Ralph Savage, overflowing with philanthropy but compromised by his passions, sees his schemes relentlessly undermined by his own fragility, by man’s innate greed and by the invasive power of the forest itself. Jane’s quest for an altered life and Sir Ralph’s endeavours become locked together as the story journeys across the globe – from the confines of an English tearoom to the rainforests of a tropical island via the slums of Dublin and the transgressive fancy-dress boutiques of Paris.

Deesha Philyaw’s short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, from West Virginia University Press tells stories of how religious conflict and hypocrisy affect the lives of African American women, including at least a couple of queer characters.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions.

Testimony by Paula Martinac from Bywater Books tackles the volatile and hazardous world of mid-20th century academia.

In rural Virginia in 1958, history professor Gen Rider has just secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. With two strikes against her―she’s a woman in a men’s field, and she’s a race traitor who teaches “Negro history”―Gen has accomplished the near-impossible and should be celebrating. Instead, she’s mourning the break-up of a long-distance relationship with another woman―a romance she has tightly guarded, even from her straight female mentor. Danger hits close to home when a nearby men’s college uncovers a “homosexual circle” involving its faculty, staff, and students. Suspicion spreads across the two campuses, threatening Gen and her friend Fenton, the gay theater director at Baines. When a neighbor spies Gen kissing a woman in her own home, hearings into moral turpitude at the college catch her in a McCarthy-like web. With both her private life and her teaching methods under scrutiny, Gen faces an agonizing choice: Which does she value more, her career or her right to privacy?

What Am I Reading?

I sometimes think I should skip the coda where I talk about what I’m reading because my reading slump is getting more and more embarrassing. Though I have started a beat-the-heat program of spending evenings out back in my hammock reading a real physical book: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Restoration England.

I’ve also ventured into some audiobooks, both fiction and non, and finished Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, about a boarding school for children cast out of the portal fantasy worlds they found a home in. It isn’t historic but it’s definitely queer.

Here’s hoping, once again, that I’ll get my reading groove back again by next month.

Show Notes

Your monthly update on what the Lesbian Historic Motif Project has been doing.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The LHMPodcast is going independent!
  • Call for submissions for the 2021 LHMP audio short story series. See here for details.
  • Recent and upcoming publications covered on the blog
    • Hatem, Mervat. 1986. "The Politics of Sexuality and Gender in Segregated Patriarchal Systems: The Case of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Egypt" in Feminist Studies vol. 12, no. 2 250-274.
    • Vanita, Ruth. 2005. "Born of Two Vaginas: Love and Reproduction between Co-Wives in Some Medieval Indian Texts" in GLQ 11:4 547-577.
    • Phillips, Kim M. & Barry Reay. 2011. Sex Before Sexuality: A Premodern History. Polity Press, Cambridge. ISBN 978-0-7456-2522-5
    • Duggan, Lisa. 1993. “The Trials of Alice Mitchell: Sensationalism, Sexology and the Lesbian Subject in Turn-of-the-Century America” in Queer Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader, ed. Robert J. Corber and Stephen Valocchi. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.73-87
    • *Wahl, Elizabeth Susan. 1999. Invisible Relations: Representations of Female Intimacy in the Age of Enlightenment. Stanford University Press, Stanford. ISBN 0-8047-3650-2
    • Rizzo, Betty. 1994. Companions without Vows: Relationships among Eighteenth-Century British Women. Athens: University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-3218-5
    • Vicinus, Martha. 2004. Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778-1928. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 0-226-85564-3
    • Marcus, Sharon. 2007. Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 0-691-12835-9
  • This month’s author guest is to be announced.
  • This month’s essay is about 17th century poet Katherine Philips.
  • New and forthcoming fiction

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