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Archive for the 'LGBT' Category

In wake of Orlando, Rheta Grimsley Johnson talks coming out in the South

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the SouthRheta Grimsley Johnson speaks truth to power in her newest column, published in the Daily Corinthian among other newspapers. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Orlando, Johnson notes the particular danger that LGBT Southerners face being out in the South, both from hate groups and from legislation that targets LGBT citizens.

In a column entitled “Coming out in the South is no walk in the park” Johnson cites the anthology Crooked Letter i: Coming out in the South, recently published by NewSouth Books, saying, “The true stories in Crooked Letter i have one thing in common: They all are heart-rending. Edited by Connie Griffin, they deal with the moment — or, in some cases, moments — these Southern members of the LGBT community first told kin, friends or the world the truth about themselves.”

Johnson berates “hate-mongers” and legislators for targeting LGBT taxpayers, but also observes, “Once your grandmother is in the loop, has pulled you to her accepting bosom, then winning the approval of backward, hypocritical, ignorant and often crooked politicians doesn’t much matter. Those guilty lawmakers will have to live with themselves.”

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s books Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, and Hank Hung the Moon . . . And Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Crooked Letter i named a finalist for INDIEFAB Book Award

Thursday, March 24th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinNewSouth Books is pleased to announce that Crooked Letter i has been recognized as a finalist in the 18th annual Foreword Reviewsí INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards.

Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd. “The 2015 INDIEFAB finalist selection process is as inspiring as it is rigorous,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “The strength of this list of finalists is further proof that small, independent publishers are taking their rightful place as the new driving force of the entire publishing industry.”

Congratulations to all the contributors to Crooked Letter i and to editor Connie Griffin!

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite book retailer.

Chapter 16 lauds Crooked Letter i, honesty of contributors

Thursday, March 10th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinChapter 16, the online literary review of Humanities Tennessee, continues the stream of praise for Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South with an exemplary review from Beth Waltemath.

The review notes that the book’s title reflects the fact that “words are merely symbols for a reality more complex than we can write down,” and praises the contributors to the book for elucidating their personal experiences of coming to terms with their identities.

Waltemath concludes, “In their honest depiction of struggle to find selfhood and love, the best gift these stories give us is the permission to be who we are, no matter which crooked path it takes us to get there.”

Crooked Letter i, edited by Connie Griffin and with a foreword by Dorothy Allison, is a collection of 16 non-fiction narratives that reflect the distinct “coming out” experiences of a complex cross-section of gay, lesbian, and transgendered Southerners from all walks of life and at different stages in their lives.

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite book retailer.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution excerpts Crooked Letter i essay by James Villanueva for Personal Journeys

Thursday, January 14th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinJames Villanueva’s essay “The Gathering” from Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, an anthology recently published by NewSouth Books, was excerpted in the “Personal Journeys” section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this Sunday. “Personal Journeys” features “stories that define” the Southern region and “connect our community.”

The chapter from Crooked Letter i recounts Villanueva’s Texas childhood memory of visiting an uncle dying of AIDS to celebrate his life, and his later experience coming out to his family. Editor Suzanne Van Atten called “The Gathering” “a touching story about how much strength it takes to be true to oneself and the riches to be gained as a result.”

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Dorothy Allison foreword to Crooked Letter i featured in Huffington Post

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 by Suzanne La Rosa

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinAn essay by bestselling author Dorothy Allison, which serves as a foreword to Crooked Letter i, has won the attention of the Huffington Post. The essay frames a smart and moving anthology of LGBT stories about coming out in the South, edited by Connie Griffin and newly published by NewSouth Books. In recalling the days before “this new wondrous age with Supreme Court decisions affirming gay and lesbian marriage,” Allison reminds us of the courage it took to self-identify as LGBT.

“Confronting the enforced silence of manners and social expectations, we claimed our lives for ourselves. Was it heroic? Was it audacious, marvelous, scary and day by day painful? Of course. Did we change the world? Look around you and marvel.” Allison’s passionate and precisely observed essay serves as a resounding “amen” to the diverse contributions that shape Crooked Letter i, which has received early praise from Kevin Sessums, Bennett Singer, and others.

“In this remarkable collection of essays,” says Sessums, “these writers not only claim their rightful place in the landscape of letters but also the geography of juleps and cheese grits and our fundamentalist families.”

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Crooked Letter i authors talk coming out in the South at Decatur Book Festival and with Georgia Public Radio

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinCrooked Letter i had its public launch at the Decatur Book Festival, where book contributor and festival panelists Susan Benton, Christina Holzhauser, B. Andrew Plant, Ed Madden, and James Villanueva participated in a lively and thought-provoking discussion about coming out in the South. Thanks to the Decatur Book Festival organizers for arranging for such a great kick-off event.

A few days before the festival, contributors Suzanne Lea and B. Andrew Plant were interviewed on the Georgia Public Radio program On Second Thought on an episode concerning the opening of the LGBT Institute in Atlanta. Host Celeste Headlee spoke with the authors about the emotions related to the experience of coming out in the South. Plant and Lea discussed the personal nature of the stories they shared in Crooked Letter i. They talked about the importance of trying to reach the next generation of LGBT teens with a message of support and opportunity. They also discussed how the distinct character of Southern culture — including very specifically the element of strong religious fundamentalism — affected their decisions to come out. “Southern” makes the stories in Crooked Letter i unique to LGBT literature.

Crooked Letter i panelists at the Decatur Book Festival: Susan Benton, James Villanueva, Christina Holzhauser, and Ed Madden. (Courtesy RobinHenson.com)

Crooked Letter i panelists at the Decatur Book Festival: Susan Benton, James Villanueva, Christina Holzhauser, and Ed Madden. (Courtesy RobinHenson.com)

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Crooked Letter I LGBT Essayists Respond to Human Rights Campaign Alabama Survey, Part 3: Elizabeth Craven

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinCrooked Letter I, an anthology of Southern-themed LGBT coming out stories, will be published by NewSouth Books in 2015. This week we’ve been posting thoughts by some of the anthology contributors about a recent survey of LGBT Alabamians conducted by the Human Rights Campaign in Alabama. Read the first and second parts of this series, with thoughts from Susan Benton and B. Andrew Plant. The third and final submission is from Elizabeth Craven:

Kith and kin, faith and family, loyalty to the land, the culture and the lifestyle marks a Southerner. Yet all the institutions that defines a life: home, work, worship, these are the very places where Southern gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people feel most threatened. Fear of rejection feeds a the narrative that the South is a closed culture.

This survey of the LGBT community in Alabama paints a more complex picture. Perhaps not one of the urban gay life the media loves. Perhaps not a land of all happy endings … but a place where people with roots fight for another definition of family, an expansion of community, a challenge in and out of the church. One weapon in this fight is one of the most cherished in Southern life — the story. The coming out story of gay men in overalls, Grandmothers loving transsexual grandchildren, people in porch swings learning to accept another kind of difference. Sometimes slowly, sometimes painfully people in the South open their eyes to their “other” children, their “other” coworkers, their “other” choir members.

The South changes in a very Southern way The survey shows much work needs to be done. Yet, one by one, people in the South are speaking out. These changes can be forced by law but they are solidified by relationship. Gay culture needs some Southern spice, but the South needs her gay children, and their gay stories. After all, these are stories of home. The survey makes one thing very clear. More and more LGBT people are choosing to live, to love, and to raise their children openly in the South. Change is coming.

Crooked Letter I will be available direct from NewSouth Books or from your favorite bookstore in 2015.

Crooked Letter I LGBT Essayists Respond to Human Rights Campaign Alabama Survey, Part 2: B. Andrew Plant

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinCrooked Letter I, an anthology of Southern-themed LGBT coming out stories, will be published by NewSouth Books in 2015. This week we’re posting thoughts by some of the anthology contributors about a recent survey of LGBT Alabamians conducted by the Human Rights Campaign in Alabama. Read the first part of this series, featuring thoughts from Susan Benton. The second submission is from B. Andrew Plant:

Surveys like this are important because they underscore that, no matter how far we have come in terms of LGBTQ acceptance, many people live every day with discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Itís crucial for non-LGBTQ people to read that, in general, those in our community want the same things they do, like a home, family and to live and work without fear.

Too often, LGBTQ people have left their homes, whether it is the family home or their home state, so that they can be who they are and live openly. Obviously, the goal should be not just to realize that we are everywhere, but to work for a time when we will be able to live openly anywhere, without fear of harassment, job loss, denial of fundamental services like healthcare, or worse.

Particularly for us Southerners, itís important to see that many LGBTQ people are indeed people of faith. Weíre not outside those communities; we are part of them. Or many of us want to be. Maybe until those communities of faith welcome us on equal footing we need to redirect our time and dollars to organizations that do support us and which work to educate others.

Itís easy to compartmentalize organizations like HRC as being by and for gays of privilege or just for those of us in more urban areas. Surveys like this underscore broad outreach and the need for more of the same. After all, much of the South is not urban; we should be able to embrace that and be who we are where we are.

Crooked Letter I will be available direct from NewSouth Books or from your favorite bookstore in 2015. Come back tomorrow for another response to the survey from a Crooked Letter I contributor.

Crooked Letter I LGBT Essayists Respond to Human Rights Campaign Alabama Survey, Part 1: Susan Benton

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie Griffin

According to a recent survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Alabamians conducted by the Human Rights Campaign in Alabama, most of those surveyed have lived in Alabama “for more than 20 years, donate to charitable groups and non-profits, want to have children one day, and many consider faith an important part of their lives, but large percentages of respondents also reported harassment throughout their lives, from school to work to church,” according to an article about the survey from AL.com.

In 2015, Alabama-based NewSouth Books plans to release a book of Southern-themed LGBT coming-out stories, tentatively titled Crooked Letter I and edited by University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Dr. Connie Griffin. Three of the essay contributors — Susan Benton, B. Andrew Plant, and Elizabeth Craven — sent their thoughts on the survey. Today’s submission is from Susan Benton.

The results show that LGBT Alabamians are just like their friends and family members — living, working, volunteering, and going to church within their communities.

These words resonated with me more than any others in the HRC LGBT Alabamians survey. I often tell people that “I escaped from Alabama in 1981.” My college years were not happy ones for a young lesbian due to blatant discrimination. As an active church member, and church employee, I was always acutely aware of the danger I might be in should someone find out I was gay.

The USA has come a long way since I was a fifteen-year-old and finally finding a word to describe what I was feeling. The Supreme Court decision to overturn Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013 has led to rapid change in many peopleís way of thinking. While Iím not holding my breath that Alabama joins the Marriage Equality bandwagon any time soon, I do know that time will eventually bring Alabama into the fold.

We have made great progress, but in Alabama, I still have reason to be afraid. I am married to an Australian. When we visit my parents in Alabama, my spouse must always carry her documentation showing she has a right to be in the country. We must have copies of our marriage certificate, and our Medical Power of Attorney in case she must be admitted to a hospital, so that I am considered next-of-kin. Since Alabama does not recognize our marriage, we cannot and will not consider moving to Alabama.

The survey proves that we are human beings — no more and no less — than the people in our communities. We love our country, we love our families, we love our children, and many of us still try to find homes in religious organizations. I applaud the efforts of HRC Alabama to bring human rights to ALL people, and fervently hope that one day, I might be able to come home.

Crooked Letter I will be available direct from NewSouth Books or from your favorite bookstore in 2015. Come back tomorrow for another response to the survey from a Crooked Letter I contributor.

Publishers Weekly talks with Suzanne La Rosa on South Carolina book defunding controversy

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Publishers Weekly quoted NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa in a recent article about the South Carolina state house’s controversial decision to cut funding to two schools that assign books with gay and lesbian characters to their freshmen. The University of South Carolina Upstate assigns their students Out Low: The Best of Rainbow Radio, edited by Ed Madden and Candace Chellew-Hodge, and the College of Charleston assigns their students the novel Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

The South Carolina state house cut almost $70,000 in funding from the schools, citing separately to Publishers Weekly issues with books that promote “the gay and lesbian lifestyle.”

“I believe itís important to publish on these topics,” La Rosa told Publishers Weekly reporter Paige Crutcher. “This is shameful, hurtful, punitive behavior on the part of the state of South Carolina. Sadly, itís also curiously revealing about the role the state believes it has to play in the life of its academic community.”

In their conversation, La Rosa told Crutcher, “To the degree that we can better educate people to be compassionate and not to fear ‘the other,’ then we will succeed in creating a society more hospitable to and accepting of the value of books like these in question. That is, after all, our mission as publishers. Keep in mind: Even legislators are not beyond redemption.”

NewSouth plans to release a book of Southern-themed LGBT coming-out stories in 2015, tentatively titled Crooked Letter I and edited by Connie Griffin.

Read “Booksellers and Publishers React to the Defunding of S.C. Universities” at the Publishers Weekly website.