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the most notable lesbian books of 2004

In an effort to honor and promote outstanding new lesbian literature, the Publishing Triangle asked fourteen lesbian book reviewers, booksellers, librarians, and/or authors to name the most notable lesbian-themed books by lesbian or bisexual authors published in 2004. The Top 10 Notable Books consists of titles that were named most frequently, while the Additional 20 Notable Books includes those titles that sometimes also appeared on participant lists. Books are listed alphabetically by author.

Contributors to the 2004 Notable Books list are: Charlotte Abbott, Book News Editor, Publishers Weekly; Lucy Jane Bledsoe, author, This Wild Silence; Kim Brinster, manager, Oscar Wilde Bookstore; Cheryl Clarke, author, After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement; Suzanne Corson, former manager, Boadecia’s Bookstore; Katherine V. Forrest, author, Liberty Square; Regina Marler, reviewer, The Advocate; Catherine McKinley, author, The Book of Sarahs; Lisa C. Moore, editor, Lambda Book Report; Carol Rosenfeld, co-chair, The Publishing Triangle; Helen Sandler, Books Editor, Diva magazine; Carol Seajay, Editor, Books to Watch Out For; Sara Wan, Editor, AfterEllen.com; and Cal Zunt, committee member, GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association

Top 10 Notable Books (listed alphabetically by author)

A Seahorse Year by Stacey D'Erasmo (Houghton Mifflin)
Set in contemporary San Francisco, this new novel from the author of Tea tells the story of an extended family transformed by the emerging breakdown of a troubled adolescent boy. The lives of those who love Christopher--his mother, Nan; her lover, Marina; his gay father, Hal; and Christopher's loyal girlfriend, Tamara--are pushed to the edge by something new in him that mystifies them all. When he runs away, far into the woods of Northern California, their assumptions about themselves and one another are sorely tested.

Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis De Veaux (W.W. Norton)
The long-awaited first biography of an American icon of womanhood, poetry, African American arts, and survival. Drawing on the private archives of the poet's estate, personal journals, and interviews with members of Lorde's family, friends, and lovers, De Veaux assesses the cultural legacy of a woman who personified the defining civil rights struggles of the twentieth century.

Life Mask by Emma Donoghue (Harcourt)
The bestselling author of Slammerkin turns her attention to the Beau Monde of late eighteenth-century England, turning the private drama of three celebrated Londoners into a robust, full-bodied portrait of a world, and lives, on the brink of revolution. In a time of looming war and terrorism, of glittering spectacle and financial disasters, the wealthy liberals of the Whig Party work to topple a tyrannical prime minister and a lunatic king. Their marriages and friendships stretch or break; political liaisons prove as dangerous as erotic ones.

Hancock Park by Katherine V. Forrest (Berkeley Publishing)
When Detective Kate Delafield and her partner, Detective Joe Cameron, get the call to investigate a homicide in the secluded, old-money neighborhood of Hancock Park, Kate has the feeling it's not going to be murder as usual. Her hunch is correct.

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver (Beacon)
Mary Oliver has been writing poetry for nearly five decades, and in that time she has become America's foremost poetic voice on our experience of the physical world. This volume of forty-two new poems is imbued with the extraordinary perceptions of a poet at the height of her power, considering the everyday in our lives and finding reasons to marvel at all around her.

Luna by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown)
A national book award finalist for Young People’s Literature, Luna tells the story of Liam, who can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom he has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna reveals herself only at night. For years, Liam has transformed himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be with help from his sister's clothes and makeup in the secrecy of their basement bedrooms. Now, everything is about to change--Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives?

Name All the Animals: A Memoir by Alison Smith (Scribner)
A luminous, poignant true story of grief and secret love: the tale of a family clinging to the memory of a lost child, and a young woman struggling to define herself in the wake of his loss. As children, siblings Alison and Roy Smith were so close that their mother called them by one name: Alroy. But on a cool summer morning when the author was fifteen, she woke to learn that Roy, eighteen, was dead. This is Smith's extraordinary account of the impact of that loss--on herself, on her parents, and on a deeply religious community.

Venus of Chalk by Susan Stinson (Firebrand)
Take the trip of a lifetime with Carline, a home economist and woman-of-size, Tucker, a bus driver, and Mel, a retiree, as they journey from Massachusetts to Texas to unload an old city bus. In the process, these friends also leave behind their preconceived notions about one other, drop their inhibitions and become fully who they were meant to be.

Rent Girl by Michelle Tea, illustrated by Laurenn McCubbin (Last Gasp)
Publishers Weekly called Michelle Tea "a modern-day Beat, a kind of pop ambassador to the world of the tattooed, pierced, politicized and sex-radical queer-grrls of San Francisco. [She] dramatizes the hopes and hurts, apathies and ambitions of young lesbians looking for love in the Mission District." Rent Girl continues Tea's graphic and uncompromising autobiographical bender, telling the story of her years as a prostitute, with provocative and richly illustrated work by Laurenn McCubbin.

Alice Walker: A Life by Evelyn C. White (W.W. Norton)
The first full-length biography of the author. We learn of Walker’s activism in the 1960s freedom movement and her leadership of the debate on black women's art, politics, and sexuality. The Color Purple garnered Walker the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction--the first awarded to a black woman writer. Drawing on papers, letters, journals, and extensive interviews with Walker, her family, friends, and colleagues, and with leading American cultural figures including Gloria Steinem, Quincy Jones, and Oprah Winfrey, White assesses one of the most influential writers of our time.

Additional 20 Notable Books (listed alphabetically by author)

1. Baby Steps: How Lesbian Alternative Insemination is Changing the World by Amy Agigian (Wesleyan University)
2. Pinned Down by Pronouns edited by Toni Amato and Mary Davies
3. Becoming: Young Ideas on Gender, Identity and Sexuality edited by Diane Anderson-Minshall and Gina De Vries (Xlibris)
4. Margaret Webster: A Life in the Theater by Milly S. Barranger (University of Michigan)
5. I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse: An Illustrated Memoir by Suzy Becker (Workman)
6. The Dead by Ingrid Black (St. Martin’s)
7. Love Conjure/Blues by Sharon Bridgforth (RedBone)
8. On Our Backs Guide to Lesbian Sex edited by Diana Cage (Alyson)
9. Woman in the Mirror by Jackie Calhoun (Bella)
10. As You Desire Me by Fiona Cooper (Red Hot Diva)
11. Crybaby Butch by Judy Frank (Firebrand)
12. Summer of Her Baldness: A Cancer Improvisation by Catherine Lord (University of Texas)
13. The Eleventh Hour by Lauren Maddison (Alyson)
14. Songs of a Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism by Dawn Prince-Hughes (Harmony)
15. The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004 by Adrienne Rich (W.W. Norton)
16. Lucky Stiff by Elizabeth Sims (Alyson)
17. The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea by Barbara Sjoholm (Seal)
18. Back to Basics: A Butch-Femme Anthology edited by Therese Szymanski (Bella)
19. Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class edited by Michelle Tea (Seal)
20. Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778-1928 by Martha Vicinus (University of Chicago)