The GCLS con always leaves an afterglow. Face muscles tired from smiling, arms still warm from the hugs. Excitement from the awards, from dancing the night away. Utter exhaustion.
This year, though, something else is lingering. Frustration, outrage. Resolve.I had the great pleasure and honor of spending several hours with Rita Mae Brown in NOLA, much of it talking about the state of the world. The woman is wicked smart. And, as you may have noticed, she isn’t shy about expressing her opinion. What else would you expect from someone who took on Betty Friedan as part of the Lavender Menace?
In case you somehow missed that history lesson, Rita Mae Brown almost single-handedly forced the inclusion of lesbian voices in the feminist movement of the 1970s. She has a message for today’s lesbians, those who came out to a world that was more accepting than it was 30-50 years ago: It’s not over.
Rita Mae spoke to us, not only as a roomful of lesbians, but also as a roomful of writers. Fiction is a powerful tool for shaping behaviors, opinions and values — bold stories written well enough to stand the test of time. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Lorax. Rubyfruit Jungle. Beloved.
Is a niche-market romance writer going to change the world? That’s a fair question. The very idea of giving lesbians happy endings was once a bold idea. Today, our books are both a lifeline and a roadmap for women who ache to see others like them living joyous, fulfilling lives.
I don’t plan on switching my genre, but I know readers are hungry for strong women who lead. Diverse characters with feminist and activist chips on their shoulders. Women seeking justice and equality, and getting it. If we’re to take up Rita Mae’s challenge, those stories will have to do more than entertain — they must inspire.