Unsung: the queer books that tell our story – the video

As part of this year’s LGBT History Month, Bob and Sigrid took part in a live webinar conversation on 24 February with Chris Creegan about how queer books tell our story. The conversation ran long over time with thought-provoking questions and comments from those who attended virtually – and their enthusiasm for the books, writers and publishers of the 1980s and 90s who made so much possible today. Thanks especially to writer and mental health campaigner Chris Creegan, Cleo Jones of Edinburgh City Libraries who introduced us, and Pretty Bright who produced our video on unsung queer writers and the webinar. If you missed the conversation or the video, now’s you chance to catch up.

Feel free to leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Unsung: The queer books that tell our story from Howard Elwyn-Jones on Vimeo.

We want your books

Lavender Menace’s queer books archive is growing. We are cataloguing several recent donations, including one from LGBT Health and Wellbeing, and making some exciting finds.

Image: Stack of books in Babelplatz
Book sculpture in Babelplatz, Berlin, the square where the Nazis burnt books.

We’re always looking for out of print and hard-to-find queer books. As everyone who loves books knows, collections can outgrow the space available. If you’ve been thinking that some of yours need a new home, we’re here to help! We can collect donations from your door with all safeguards in place.

We want to keep queer books safe and make a record of them. This image of a sculpture in Berlin shows why. Babelplatz is the square where the Nazis came to celebrate their takeover in 1933 – by burning books. LGBT+ communities suffered terribly under the Nazi regime and afterwards. The Babelplatz sculpture reminds us to safeguard and treasure the books and other materials which trace  our history.

If your collection is manageable for now, you can still help us – by using our app, Libib, to make a digital record of your books, and share it with our queer books archive. Some of these books changed lives and we want to make sure they are all remembered.

You may be young, or older, but you could also think about leaving books in your will – many archives are built on this kind of generous bequest.

If you want to know more about donating books, or making a digital record of your collection, you can find out more at our How To Get Involved page.

The collection and the amount of work are growing, and if you are interested in helping us as a volunteer, we’d love to hear from you.

Rebecca by Daphine du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Gollancz, 1938; Virago (present publisher).

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s best known novel, has never been out of print in 82 years. It’s generated sequels, retellings, films, tv series, an internationally staged musical, fanfiction, and a system of codes used by a Nazi spy. Some are better than others – but they keep coming.

Only one character in the novel – the villain – is openly lesbian. But to those in the know, the novel was probably always part of queer culture.

Book cover: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Penguin paperback edition) 1962
Penguin paperback edition, 1962

It’s a novel of two women who fight for a beautiful, ancient house. The male character, Maxim, wears the trappings of a gothic hero. But the story is about the power of Manderley and the war between the female characters: the 21 year old second wife and the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, who claims the house for the dead first wife, Rebecca.

The story works on many levels and there is something in it for everyone. But gradually the queer content has emerged and, if anything, increased the novel’s appeal.

After du Maurier’s death in 1989, biographies revealed her bisexuality. She saw her creative side as ‘the boy in the box’. He escaped in fantasy and sometimes, in reality. Married with children, she quietly had affairs with women.

Meanwhile, the book, once viewed as a superficial gothic romance, is now seen as a classic – a brilliantly plotted mystery whose characters, like Rebecca herself, have survived – and deepened – long after their time.

This is a summary of a much longer blog which is a queer insight du Maurier and Rebecca. One more book in the Lavender Menace Queer Books Archive.

Create your own queer LGBT+ digital books library

You’ve got your own collection of queer LGBT+ books at home, right? We are encouraging you to create your own queer LGBT+ digital books library and then share it with us. Our long term aim is to create a digital archive of queer LGBT+ out of print and hard to find books which will be interactive and accessible on our website.

Here are a few simple steps to set you on your way.

Logo: Libib graphic square
  • Sign up at libib.com
  • Download the Libib app onto your phone or tablet or use the web version on your desktop
  • Start by naming your own digital books library
  • Add all your queer LGBT+ titles using either your phone to scan their barcodes or enter the details yourself
  • Include a description and tag them, eg, queer fiction, lesbian history, trans politics.

Have a look at our Libib page on our website for more detail and for a simple presentation you can download to keep.