By Renee Bess
Do you tend to write about what you know, or do you expand your body of knowledge and research topics heretofore unknown to you? Do you create characters who are racially or socio-economically different from yourself, or do you avoid taking the risks inherent in that task?
Many of the lesbian novels I read when I first came out offered me a mirror, but that mirror yielded an incomplete and somewhat distorted reflection of my realities. Within those books I found teachers, lawyers and bartenders, butch identified and femme leaning characters aplenty. But it wasn’t until I discovered the work of Audre Lorde, Ann Allen Shockley, Becky Birtha, Alexis DeVeaux, and Jewelle Gomez that I found a more accurate reflection of myself. During the black power era I neither read nor heard about Langston Hughes’ and James Baldwin’s true identities. And had I known Alice Walker was family, I would have enjoyed “The Color Purple” more profoundly than I did the first time I read it.