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NEW YORK CITY- As Michael Bronski, a longtime LBGT journalist and activist, taught classes on LBGT theories at Dartmouth he realized something. Books about the issues facing the queer community were either lacking in information or nonexistent. And books that did exist were not written for the consumption of the everyday reader.
Bronski started looking for material but it was not easy to find.
Then an editor at Beacon Press asked him to write a forward to a book and in discussions which followed, the two determined a news series was needed.
“We don’t want academic books, we wanted smart books that deal with real topics,” Bronski said in a telephone interview.
The first two books in the groundbreaking series, Queer Action/Queer Ideas, launched June 2. They are “Come Out and Win,” by National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change coordinator Sue Hyde, and “Out Law” by Lisa Keen, a journalist living in Boston and national news contributor to BTL.
Interestingly, Beacon is launching the series at the same time many mass market publishing houses are moving away from LBGT genre books. The national InsightOut Book club has been cancelled and recent shuffling in the industry has left many editors of LBGT genre books looking for work.
“Beacon actually has, as a part of their mission, to work on social justice issues. So this very much fits into what Beacon is mandated to do. They have prioritized this,” Bronski said. He added the fact the press is run by the Unitarian Universalist Church is also helpful.
He says not to read too much into the move away from LBGT genre books, “It’s an industry and they are going to look at their profit margins. If that company can do better putting out a series of diet books, that is where the money is. It’s not that they (consumers) aren’t buying the books, other books are more profitable.”
According to Bronski, the move away from the genre is in part a response to the LBGT community’s growing representation in mass media.
“To a large degree more people come out now. It’s easier for people to come out,” he said. “In the early days after Stonewall people were hungry to find representation of themselves. Book sellers and buyers responded to that. Now we have ‘Will and Grace,’ ‘The L Word,’ there are gay sitcoms, a whole thriving industry of independent films with LBGT themes,” Bronski said. “An LBGT person who wants to see himself represented can do so in a variety of places.”
Then, with a laugh, he added, “I am not saying watching ‘Will and Grace’ every night is better or worse than reading great literature.”
“What makes the series unique is the fact that it understandt that there must be a direct connection between how we think about LGBT issues and what we do with those thoughts in the actual world. To pretent that creative thinking and action – the mind and the body – are not, and should not be connected is a fallacy that has hurt both LGBT academic writing as well as activism.”
So how does Bronski solicit book ideas? He doesn’t.
“Anybody can come to us too. We have not put out a call for proposals,” he said. “I am more than happy to speak with anybody about the ideas they have. One thing we have been trying really hard to do is publish books other people have not done yet.”
“I want to sign up books that I want to read that have not been written yet,” he said. “I think about what I want to read and I can’t find and then I find someone to write them.”