Friday, October 9, 2015

Celebrating Queer Romance Month

A quick post today, to give a big shout out to Queer Romance Month celebrations. Check out the posts at for intelligent, funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking posts about the current state of queer romance, and for recommendations for future reading.

And check out these past posts for queer romance reads from RNFF:

Complicated Identities: Sara Farizan's Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

Complicating Dominance and Submission: Alexis Hall's For Real

Countering Orientalism: Sara Farizan's If You Could Be Mine

Feminist Guidelines for Reading M/M Romance?

Gay for You or Out for You?

Gay Romance and Professional Sports: Sean Kennedy's Tigers and Devils

Hiding In/From the Man Cave: Amy Jo Cousins' Off Campus

Late Bloomers? K. J. Charles' Think of England and Sarina Bowen's The Understatement of the Year

Lesbian Allies, Heterosexual Romance: Meljean Brook's Riveted

Lesbian Romantic Suspense: Mason Dixon's Date with Destiny and Andrea Bramhall's Clean Slate

Love in the Limelight: Nell Stark's The Princess Affair and Lynn Ames' All That Lies Within

Nancy Garden on my Mind

Negotiating the Gender Politics of Military Life: Lauren Gallagher's Razor Wire

Paying it Forward: Heidi Cullinan's Love Lessons series

Phyllis M. Betz's Lesbian Romance Novels and the state of romance scholarship

The Politics of M/M romance and Alex Beecroft's Blessed Isle

The Power and Limits of Labels: Bill Konigsberg's Openly Straight

Romance at the Roosevelt: Heidi Cullinan's Carry the Ocean

Spotlight on the Lambda Nominees: Karin Kallmaker's Love by the Numbers

Spotlight on the Lambdas, Part 2: Ann McMan and Salem West's Hoosier Daddy

Ways of Being Gay... Ann Herendeen's Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander

You Don't Complete Me: Solace Ames' The Submission Gift


  1. I was very interested to see that you considered Annie on My Mind worthy of a post under the topic of Romance Novels for Feminists. I sort of go back and forth between two conflicting questions: "Is there something inherently more feminist about a lesbian romance compared to a hetero one?" (after all, it mean no preoccupation with men, no emotional need for them, and less potential for the power issues that might come from the genders' different roles in society, namely, the boy trying to dominate the girl.) Or, does a book like Annie depict girls as too preoccupied with romance to the detriment of strength and independence? Today, I suspect that Liza and Annie's level of seriousness (and intimacy) at age 17 would be more controversial than their both being girls. There are lots of advice columnists and such urging young people to develop themselves in other ways and have other goals and not let love get in the way of that.

    I go back and forth about Liza and Annie specifically: since they are both depicted as "outsiders" - could they be clinging to each other, (and perhaps moving too fast), to overcompensate for feelings of isolation from everyone else? But, in fact, that is not really the impression they give off. We really don't get the sense, before they meet, that they have been lonely and looking to fall in love for the sake of falling in love. They do, in fact, have many other goals in life. Now, there is some indication that the relationship is distracting Liza from her goals - after she meets Annie she leaves the museum without studying what she went there to study. And of course, there is that missed meeting, on that fateful day.

    But overall, it seems like the career goals remain important, and particularly for Liza, remain the basis for her identity. There is never any discussion about changing their college plans to be together during college.

    And, did you notice that Liza and Annie seem to have very few of the usually-depicted teen-girl insecurities? Liza doesn't seem worried about being in a man's field, or that being too smart makes her uncool. If anything, she worries about being smart enough. And both seem pretty comfortable with being outsiders. At least, they don't try to change themselves to fit in with people whose standards they don't agree with. They worry about whether it's bad that they're gay, but not about each other finding someone prettier. And there are no rivalries with other girls, no backstabbing behavior like we see in so much teen media - even when they're fighting.

    On the flip side, you referred in your post to their "estrangement," namely, Liza goes several months without answering Annie's letters because she is, apparently traumatized. And there are other times in the novel when Liza seems like she's pulling away, or trying to, because of her confusion. If a male did that to a female, it would be seen as treating her badly, and the female would be seen as clingy for coming back. Do we have to make allowances for gays behaving that way, just because of the extra angst caused by internalizing homophobia?

    Indeed, it is often said that cutting off contact for months is the ultimate mean way of breaking up. And realize, their conversation with the teachers, when the teachers said "let love win," (which, for us, comes at the end and feels like a resolution), actually took place before they left for college. And remember, right after Liza went back to school after spring break she argued with her homophobic ex-friend, defending the relationship? So, right AFTER the trial, in the immediate aftermath, she is still seeing Annie, and they have that conversation with the teachers that is supposed to resolve everything, and then Liza goes to college and THEN months later she feels too traumatized to write to Annie? Like a delayed PTS thing?

  2. Male writers are sometimes accused of writing their fantasy women; I think Annie is the lesbian version of that, in a way. She's a bit too good to be true - performing artist, quirky, free-spirited, imaginative in a child-like way, yet mature - she kind of sits by the phone waiting for Liza, and is ready to jump back in as soon as Liza is ready.

    Which all leads, I think, to less sympathy with, how could NOT have a great time being with this person (as a friend, if you were a hetero girl.)

  3. It seems like there was an era of feminism when some women deliberately explored lesbian relationships as a statement...I wonder if that still comes across as a statement today, or if the media have ruined that by depicting lesbianism as entertaining to men. But to be fair, many women seem to like the idea of male gay romance, too. Most "slash" fiction writers seem to be women. A lot of female readers of Sherlock Holmes, for example, are into the idea of Holmes and Watson as a couple. And there's a LOT of fanfiction about it.

    1. Wow, Jess, thanks for sharing your thoughts about ANNIE. At the time it was written, I think feminism was in the process of shifting away from a celebrating women/femininity as inherently better than men/masculinity model. A celebrating woman model certainly led some feminists in the 60s and 70s to reject heterosexuality altogether, and to argue that lesbianism was the only real option for women who wished to have sexist-free relationships. But I don't think that is a view that many feminists today embrace.

      I attribute Annie and Liza's comfort with their "outsiderness" to their being New York City kids--in a place of such diversity, the myth of the insider/outsider binary is hard to maintain.

      I like your idea about Annie being a fantasy version of a lesbian girlfriend. And why not? Lots of writers focus on romance novels being fantasies in many ways. The question is, is the fantasy demeaning to the person/group being depicted? I'd say no, in the case of Annie. Would you?

      Yes, tons of women readers love reading gay male romance (or m/m romance). But lesbian romance has not yet become so popular with heterosexual female readers--perhaps because they can't see themselves in that "fantasy"?

    2. Good point about NYC - but that argument supports that it's a better place to be gay, too, relatively for the times. Not better than now, but better than other places at the times. I would think that would be the case in SF, too. I've said I liked that Liza was so goal-oriented, but a part of me wanted her to start looking for architecture schools in Berkeley area - not just to be closer to Annie but because there was probably a gay community there, if anywhere at the time.

  4. The book REALLY made me wish I was a New Yorker...and NOT just because of the diversity...SO many fun things to do without needing a driver's license or money for a car...and Liza and Annie are more sophisticated about navigating the big city at age 17 than I am today.

    I found myself wondering if Liza and Annie would meet today...would Liza be doing architecture modules online instead of frequenting actual museums? Would they be at the museum but see only their ipods instead of each other? Or, can you almost picture Liza and Annie (perhaps mostly Annie) rejecting the technology craze, even if they were around today? Doesn't it seem like they were supposed to be unusual teenagers, whatever their era? They do do the technological things that WERE around at their time. You can find other stories about teenagers, as early as the 50s, where they spend a lot of time at the movies, for example.