Our monthly series Reading Is Fundamental brings to you the finest new literature queer and feminist writers have to offer. We take a look back at seminal works that have shaped such literature throughout the ages; suggestions are always welcome, so get in touch at @jonny_stone_ or @TSA_Newspaper to keep us in the know. Get out your library cards.
Let’s face it: everyday should be International Women’s Day. But, alas, this is only officially recognised once a year, in a month of glory celebrating the achievements of women across the world and galvanising us to continue working towards complete gender and racial equality. There is no better time to highlight the best queer women in literature; whether in fiction or non-fiction, the following women have created works of incredible value that should be on the top of everyone’s reading list.
And, of course, to find more from these women and beyond, be sure to support Glasgow Women’s Library, a brilliant resource dedicated to advancing the education of the general public by increasing the knowledge of women’s history, lives and achievements!
HOW. COULD. WE. NOT? Woolf is a pre-eminent author whose novel Orlando haunts the shelf of every English literature student, past and present, thanks to its bizarre and wonderfully queer plot. Written with her lover poet Vita Sackville-West in mind, Orlando follows a gender-fluid character lives who throughout several centuries as both men and women. Woolf was a pioneer stream of consciousness writer and became a hero for incorporating feminist ideas seamlessly into her work.
You may be familiar with the Bechdel Test, whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man: enter Alison Bechdel, the writer and cartoonist behind the benchmark measuring casual sexism in literature and film, who in fact credited it to Virginia Woolf. She is most famous for her long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, the adaptation of her graphic memoir Fun Home won the Tony Award for Best Musical and she is the recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant Award. In short, Bechdel is the business.
Lorde was a Caribbean-American poet and activist renowned for her groundbreaking efforts in queer, women’s and racial equality. Her radical thinking inspired black women to embrace politics rather than shun or fear it, and her work serves as the perfect blend of intersectional feminism. To quote Lorde, “When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
Dawson is an acclaimed YA author and former teacher. She also happens to be transgender has written a string of wonderful titles, from Hollow Pike to our first adult fiction novel The Gender Games. The incredible This Book is Gay takes over 300 testimonies from LGBT+ people to create something of a how-to manual, smashing the myths and prejudice surrounding sex, gender and identity under the queer umbrella, and she represents Stonewall as their School Role Model.
While there are countless queer female writers –Jackie Kay, Louise Welsh, Carol Ann Duffy and Zoë Strachan to name a few – we could include, but this space is dedicated to groundbreaking journalist Evelyn Irons. Govan-born, Irons was fired from the Daily Record for wearing no make-up and “looking unfashionable” before going on to covering WW2 for the Evening Standard. Despite there being no other women reporters on the battlefield, she gained the support of French General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny and became one of the first journalists to reach liberated Paris. She was the first woman journalist to reach Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest after its capture. This is only some of a quite incredible career from an unsung Scottish hero.