Tag Archives: The Gilda Stories

Hyper-Realized: An Interview With Jewelle Gomez


Interview by Cassidy Foust

Recently, at WisCon 40 (a feminist sci-fi and fantasy convention in Madison, Wisconsin), we had the opportunity to sit down with the phenomenal Jewelle Gomez, author of The Gilda Stories, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year with City Lights Books! Jewelle Gomez talks vampires, community, and radical change in this interview.

CBSD: The Gilda Stories was one of the first stories that was a vampire story that wasn’t just about vampires. Why not just make it realistic fiction?

JG: Well, the first Gilda Story I wrote is really a story about retribution, and about a woman being harrassed on the street, and then she kills the guy.  And then I realized, “well, that was interesting,” but what I really wanted to write about was women feeling powerful. . . I wanted to write more about that character. Then I thought, well, maybe she’s a vampire, because then she can travel through time and she can be part of culture and yet apart from cultures. And I was very interested in an African American character, specifically a woman, being a part of history, and not only a slave (which is what she starts out as) but as a person who is acting on their own terms. Having her be a vampire made it possible for her to see time, see life over time, and to struggle with how to be powerful without being exploitative. Gilda’s growth over time was emblematic of the things that I hope for in any oppressed community—the opportunity to gain power without becoming oppressive yourself.  We’re still trying to get to that.

CBSD: One of my favorite things about The Gilda Stories is the way the long timeline allows for that complexity. It shows how different groups shift in social hierarchies, from their inception (or “discovery,” in the case of the vampires) to their acceptance, to their rejection.

JG: Exactly. That’s one of the things I was hoping to do. We only get a snapshot of the culture if we live to be ninety—such a tiny little snapshot. There’s the one line in the novel, in which the original Gilda says, “The real gift is to see people over time and still want to make a world.” Because people are really disappointing. Ha! And I think that’s what anyone who’s an activist, at their core, has to understand. People are really disappointing, but our role is to keep being activists. You have some gains, and that will be lovely, and some setbacks, and that will be disappointing, but at the heart of it, as activists, our role is to keep doing what we do. It does not stop at, “oh, I got what I want. I got marriage, so now I’m happy.” (I don’t know why you’d be happy with that, but, you know.)  Well, how is that person over there doing? And then knowing you have to protect those people. The rights, when you get them, they don’t stay. You have to protect them. Because you really want a shift in the culture, not just a law here and a law there.

CBSD: How did you first get started working with City Lights, and what has your experience with them as a publisher been?

JG: I knew City Lights already because I knew San Francisco, and of course everybody knows them, and I had a kind of friendly relationship with them already. I think they saw the political perspective that it had, and it really fit in with their kind of progressive, thoughtful publishing history. . . It’s been heaven. Having an independent press is really amagildazing for me. When I was first trying to get Gilda published, all of the commercial presses and the sci-fi presses turned it down. It was too … something. I don’t know. One letter from one of the editors at one of the mainstream presses said, “Gilda is a lesbian, she’s black, and she’s a vampire. That’s too confusing.” And my thought was, well, I’m two of the three… I don’t think confuse people. (I didn’t say which two of the three I was.) Twenty-five years later to have an important press like City Lights to reissue, for me, was such an honor. The team was so great, and they set up readings for me, a tour up the coast, and helped me figure out how to do the Twitter, and I know I’m not their only author! They still gave me everything they could possibly give me. . . How  lucky can a girl get?

CBSD: What has touring been like?

JG: I didn’t go “on the road,” per se [for The Gilda Stories‘ first publication]. With City Lights, this year, I really just had to say, “I think I want to go here,” and then they’d find a bookstore for me. Along the tour, I would ask, “Who here has read Gilda before?” And I got all of these stories—you know, “I was in graduate school,” or “I was giving birth to my first child, and I was trying to distract myself” … and I said, “Gilda’s good, but I don’t know if she can distract you from labor!” But people had all kinds of stories they wanted to tell me about where they were when they first met her, and that was very sweet.

CBSD: What’s next?

JG: Once I’ve gotten this Gilda launched, probably this winter I’ll start again. I have about five chapters… it’s not a prequel—somebody called it an “intra-quel,” because the chapters take place between the chapters of the current novel. I try to track more of Gilda’s emotional growth . . . I love being able to think about Gilda as a human. I mean, she’s not mortal, but she is a human being, hyper-realized, so everything she feels is huge.

CBSD: That sounds fascinating. We can’t wait to see where Gilda goes next!

The Gilda Stories: 25th Anniversary Edition is available now from City Lights Books. Find out where to purchase this and other titles here on the Consortium website.


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10 Books to Read for Pride Month

June is Pride Month, a time known for its colorful parades and endless amounts of glitter (which stick around for months after the celebrations are over). Though June was only officially established as Pride Month in 2000, members of the LGBTQ+ community have been celebrating their identities for hundreds of years. As members of the LGBTQ+ community know, pride is not always loud. Pride can be quiet, bittersweet, or even lonely. Pride does not always mean “out.” But pride can also be jubilant, victorious, and cathartic. This round-up is dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ pride in all of its many stages and forms.

fair playFair Play: How LGBT Athletes are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports (Akashic Books) by Cyd Zeigler examines the ways in which sports have been transformed for LGBT athletes. From locker rooms to lawsuits, sports haven’t always been the friendliest places for anyone who doesn’t identify as straight or cis gender. In Fair Play, Zeigler shares the stories of those athletes who are working to bust through the prejudices and stereotypes, including NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox, and NFL hopeful Michael Sam. This book is one part history and one part anthem, and will resonate with anyone who has played on a team but not felt a part of one. Jon Wertheim, the executive editor of Sports Illustrated, called Fair Playthe definitive book on LGBT issues in sports.”

Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers (Alternative Comics) by Hazchainmail bikiniel Newlevant and Sophie Yanow is a collection of comics about the ups, downs, and inside-outs of being a “gamer girl.” While not explicitly an LGBT-anthology, many LGBT authors are featured, and there’s an emphasis on how gaming can build safe and accepting spaces for identity expression and reclamation. This book is the definitive guide to navigating geek culture as an LBT+ femme. As Anna Anthropy, a trans woman, gamer, and artist, shares in Chainmail Bikini, “We don’t have much input in the stories we’re given: they’re written for us, and we aren’t usually consulted. But we learn to tell our own stories. . . The names we pick for ourselves are our true names. The way we see ourselves is the True Sight.”

gildaThe Gilda Stories (City Lights Books) by Jewelle Gomez is the original cult classic lesbian vampire story. If you’re a fan of Buffy, Twilight, or TrueBlood, but have ever found yourself thinking, “hmmm… this seems like the same story over again,” please, pick up The Gilda Stories. This novel follows the journey of Gilda, a young black woman in 1850s Louisiana who learns about freedom while working in a brothel, where she is soon initiated into eternal life (and, you know, falls in love with women and stuff). But don’t stop there: The Gilda Stories isn’t all romance and fluff. It dives unflinchingly into explorations of blackness, radical ecology, re-definitions of family, and the politics of eroticism. 2016 is the 25th anniversary of the original publication of The Gilda Stories, proving that powerful literature is the best brand of immortality.

yoltYou Only Live Twice: Sex, Death, and Transition (Coach House Books) by Mike Hoolboom and Chase Joynt is a genre-transcending book that explores two artists’ lives before and after transitions: from female to male, and from near-dead to alive. It takes an unapologetic look at the struggles and joys of being LGBT+ that are often swept under the rug during mainstream discussions of gay rights. Part memoir, part cultural theory, this book maintains a stubborn optimism, asking intimate questions about what it might mean to find love and hope through conversation across generations. Maggie Nelson, critically acclaimed author of The Argonauts, says that, “Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolboom here give each other the gift so many people only dream of: ample, unhurried space to unspool crucial stories of one’s life, and an attentive, impassioned, invested, intelligent receiver on the other side.”

beijingBeijing Comrades (Feminist Press) by Bei Tong, translated by Scott E. Myers is the first English language translation of the cult novel originally published anonymously on an underground gay website within mainland China. If you’ve ever wished for a healthy dose of socioeconomic critique with your paperback romance, this is the book for you. It’s the story of a tumultuous love affair between Handong, a ruthless and wealthy businessman, and Lan Yu, a naïve, working-class architectural student. Beijing Comrades is unafraid to ask difficult questions about love, power, and what we’re willing to do for both.

The Cosmopolitans (Feminist Press) by Sarah Schulman is a modern retelling of Balzcosmopolitansac’s classic Cousin Bette. It’s a raw and compelling tale of two unlikely friends, cast out of their own families, who search for understanding in 1950s Bohemian New York City. The vivacity of Schulman’s characters, from Earl, a black, gay actor working in a meatpacking plant, to Bette, a white secretary, to the city itself, stay true to the grit and gloss of midcentury Manhattan. The truths The Cosmopolitans draws from the human need for love and recognition will linger with you long after the book is closed.

priestessPriestess of Morphine: The Lost Writings of Marie-Madeleine in the Time of Nazis (Process Books) by Marie Madeleine and Ronald K. Siegel is a collection of writings from the lesbian poet and novelist, born Gertrud Günther. Marie-Madeleine is the definition of a boss. She wrote erotic gay poetry and graphic accounts of drug use in the middle of Nazi Germany, publishing almost 50 works over the course of her lifetime, and never letting fear for her wellbeing or reputation stop her. Her stylings range from the meditative and thoughtful to the raw and sexy. If you think poetry is boring, you haven’t read Marie-Madeleine. This collection is the first time her writing has been translated into English.

Choir Boy (Theatre Communications Group) by Tarell Alvin McCraney is a stirring new drama abochoir boyut navigating life as a black gay youth. The protagonist, Pharus, wants nothing more than to take his perceived rightful place as the leader of the Charles R. Drew Prep School For Boys’ legendary gospel choir, but can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key? This play is one of the most crucial pieces of literature, asking what it means to occupy multiple conflicting identities, particularly in a time when the poster boys for LGBT+ rights are typically white gay men. It’s heartwarming, lyrical, and difficult all at once. The Village Voice praised New York Times’ Outstanding Playwright Award Winner McCraney’s writing in Choir Boy as “holding its own, locating poetry even in the casual vernacular and again demonstrating his gift for simile and metaphor.”

The pride continues all year long, starting with these titles, available in July!

perfect pairingPerfect Pairing (Bywater Books) by Rachel Spangler is the ultimate foodie lesbian rom-com. It tells the story of Hal Orion, a free-spirited chef, and Quinn Banning, a driven investment banker, whose paths collide when Quinn makes Hal an offer she can’t refuse: a restaurant under her own name, complete creative control, and secure financial backing. But Hal utters the one word Quinn can’t stand to hear, “No.” Will their physical attraction grow cold as they argue over their ideals, or will they find that the most distinctive ingredients often make for the perfect pairing? Written with equal parts humor and candor (and, of course, grilled cheese!), Perfect Pairing is a heartwarming romance novel for anyone who’s ever wished the Food Network also aired dating shows. This novel will be published on July 12.

Gentlemen Prefer Asians: Tales of Gay Indonesians and Green Card Marriages gentlemen(Stone Bridge Press) by Yuska L. Tuanakotta is a funny, incisive, and touching collection of personal essays. When Tuanakotta and two of his friends immigrate to the United States from Indonesia, they are inundated with shirtless joggers, same-sex displays of affection, and a constant drive to psychoanalyze. Tuanakotta uses humor to look at the nuances and hierarchies in American gay culture that are often taken for granted. Gentlemen Prefer Asians will be published on July 12.

Find out where to purchase Fair PlayChainmail BikiniThe Gilda StoriesYou Only Live Twice, Beijing ComradesThe CosmopolitansPriestess of MorphineChoir BoyPerfect Pairing, and Gentlemen Prefer Asians here on the Consortium website!

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