Katherine V Forrest and the lesbian fiction: the gift of finding each other

Katherine V. Forrest is not just a writer. She is the writer that merges lesbian fiction into crime and sci-fi fiction. She started writing in her forties and published a masterpiece: Curious Wine. It was published in 1983 by Naiad Press and it sold 300.000 copies, but like every other works of her, it doesn’t have an italian translation.

Since then she continued writing and she hasn’t stopped. She is the creator of the first lesbian detective in crime fiction: Kate Delafield. With her sixteen works of fiction she consolidated her position in History. A History that concerns a community not a minority. She is an activist, pioneer and she worked as an editor, she is active on social media and she promotes other LGTBQ writers.

Her talent is recognized, in fact, she won many prizes of which: the Lambda Literary Awards, the Pioneer Award, the Alice B Readers Award; and in 2008 the Bill Witehead Award and the Trailblazer Award.

She lives with her wife Jo Hercus in Palm Springs, California.

We interviewd her in order to know better what she thinks about the LGTBQ community today, but the main reason was to pay homage to her and to express our admiration.

Clicca qui per la versione in italiano

Who is Katherine V. Forrest today?

«Today I’m a writer whose time has passed into history. I became one of the recorders some of that history in my sixteen works of fiction written during a time of unprecedented achievement in our LGBTQ civil rights and today I live in lasting pride in my courageous, pioneering generation and all we did in the face of lethal hostility».

Your debut novel was “Curious Wine”, an absolute masterpiece. You often say that your novel is political: «Curious Wine is universally considered a romantic story without political issues. But my artistic choices were indeed political and challenged many stereotypes of that day»Can you tell us about how you have seen these stereotypes changing in the course of your life?

«These are some of the stereotypes I addressed in Curious Wine: we were lesbians because we were too ugly to attract men. Diana Holland is attractive and Lane Christianson is beautiful. We were lesbians because someone perverted us as children into the lifestyle. Diana is 32, Lane 34. We were lesbians because we didn’t have a good man to show us the difference. Both Diana and Lane have heterosexual experience. Lesbians existed amid the dregs of society. Lane is a lawyer, Diana a personnel rep. They are women with every option wide open to them and they deliberately, rationally choose the most difficult one: each other. Today stereotypes like the ones I addressed between the lines in Curious Wine are virtually nonexistent for one basic reason: We came out. We showed our faces to the world and demolished many of their baseless stereotypes».

You did a lot for the LGTB+ community with your novels and your work. Do you feel that nowadays the spirit that led to the constitution of a community with a political aim is somehow lost or, on the contrary, do you feel that the community is even stronger?

«I have the great benefit of historical perspective over a span of many decades. Of having grown up at a time when we were criminals, when we were thrown out of our families, our churches, our jobs, institutionalized as mentally ill. So while I see continuing threats all around me and throughout the world, I also see a burgeoning worldwide community that can never be forced back into the closet because we are no longer isolated. There’s no going back to where we were because we have finally found each other».

You are considered a mentor by many writers, but who do you consider your mentor. Besides, which are women that you admire?

«I stand on the shoulders of pioneering lesbian writers such as Ann Bannon, Isabel Miller, Jane Rule, Rita Mae Brown, Radclyffe Hall. I have countless mentors in all the women writers who came before me, whose books showed what was possible in the glorious realm of fiction. Today I admire many women writers, many of them international, prominent among them your own Elena Ferrante who deserves a Nobel prize for her Neapolitan quartet, in my estimation the most magnificent portrayal of the true lives of women (and the nature of art) in all our literature».

You live in the U.S and the life of LGTB+ people improved a lot in terms of rights. But these rights are constantly threatened. In Italy, in 2019, there are many politicians that try to negate our own existence or worse, they promote false information thus trying to intimidate the more vulnerable with the bugbear of “the gender theory” (in Italy this indicates something completely absurd and taken out of context, according to politicians, homosexuals use the theory of gender to indoctrinate children and make them homosexuals too. Italy is ahead and there is a lot of ignorance). Do you think that culture or politics (or both) is the answer to ignorance?

«I don’t know that there’s ever an answer to willful ignorance. Or any end to it, ever. Ask any Jewish person. Any person of color. Tribalism is on the rise again, warring with the ideal of shared humanity. We LGBT people are of course our own tribe, the only subculture in the world that encompasses all races, all colors, all creeds, all genders. We represent the world as it should be, and our visibility has brought notice that we are not inconsequential in our economic and political power. There’s hope always for a better world, but bigotry seems an entrenched aspect of human behavior and most regrettably, religion continues to be its legitimizing agent».

How did internet and globalization change the representation of the LGBT+ community in your opinion?

«The internet is the greatest technological gift to LGBT people in my lifetime. It’s ended the isolation experienced by my entire generation, it’s opened and connected us to a world of community, told us who we are, where we are, that we have a history, that we have books and music and film and culture. The internet has given us social media, it’s given us the ultimate gift of each other.

There are a lot of TV series and movies that include LGTB+ but in literature it is still extremely difficult to find novels like Curious Wine».

What is the added value of literature (if there is one) in your opinion if compared to other media? I believe that film can hold a power like no other, that a picture can indeed be worth a thousand words; we can all point to a film with greatest impact on us. I also believe that literature is cherished because it gives us a deeper, nuanced experience of each other unlike any other art form. You write: “The emphasis in my work has been on coming out – the great-unfinished business of our community and the great lesson learned from my own lesbian life. Speaking the truth of ourselves is the most important, most empowering step any of us can make to achieve personal dignity that any community can make to achieve political stature”. do you feel that coming out nowadays is still an unfinished business?

«Coming out will always be unfinished business so long as any of us are fearful of being ostracized from family, employment or religion because of our sexual identity. The great achievement of my generation has been the example we’ve set of leaving our closets for lives lived in openness, freedom, courage».

We always conclude with this question: “What is your favorite song”. But I’d like to ask this one, if you were to associate a song to Curious Wine what would it be?

«The easiest question of all. My choice of song for Curious Wine would be Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”».


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redazione@sguardidiconfine.com – Testata registrata presso il Tribunale di Busto Arsizio n. 447/2016 – Direttore Responsabile: Valentina Colombo