2010 Year in Review: Books

2010 was a banner year for lesbian-themed books, which is great news considering the publishing industry has gone through a lot of changes. Longtime LGBT book publishers Alyson Books has announced it will sell books online only, and has kept several of their purchased manuscripts from being published, including Crossfire by Staceyann Chin and 100 Butches from Elisha Lim.

We lost Jill Johnson, author of Lesbian Nation, Mary Daly (Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism) and poet Laura Hershey, but we also saw many first-time authors publish their own spectacular pieces of work in several different genres, all adding something to the lesbian canon.

Lesbian presses like Cleis, Arsenal Pulp, Bywater and Boldstrokes Books have continued to be successful in their respective areas of expertise (erotica anthologies; fiction and shot stories; romance; lesbian crime and mysteries, respectively) and we continue to be an active reading community. Our participation in making lesbian-penned books best sellers is only more incentive for publishers and agents to publish the books we want to read and for writers to feel they aren’t able to include out gay characters or be out themselves, as history has shown that some have felt the need to shy away from.

Here’s an overview of what happened with lesbian lit in 2010.

Best Sellers

Stieg Larsson‘s Millenium Trilogy continued to rank highly on the New York Times‘s Best Sellers List, largely in part because the film adaptations were released in theaters this year. The Girl with the Hornet’s Nest was finally made available in the U.S., giving it an added boost in sales. The books follow bisexual hacker Lisbeth Salander, who engages in relations with her on-and-off girlfriend Miriam Wu. Lisbeth has been seen as one of the strongest and most important female characters of the last century, if not ever, and the fact that she’s comfortable in her sexuality just makes her that much cooler.

Lesbian author Emma Donoghue published two books this year. The first was Inseparable, an in-depth history of lesbian relationships in literature. It’s a comprehensive account of even the smallest and earliest signs of female-on-female eroticism. Following that was something completely different: The best-selling novel, Room. The book continues to sell incredibly well and be included on Best of The Year Lists, including The New York Times‘.

Portia DeGeneres‘s telling memoir, Unbearable Lightness, was also a NYT best seller, debuting at #3 in November. The book chronicles Portia’s eating disorder and struggle to come out as a young actress while she worked on Ally McBeal. Written without a ghostwriter, Portia’s words are striking and give readers a honest and revealing look into her otherwise very private life. Her highly publicized press tour included interviews with Oprah Winfrey and her wife, Ellen.

Also on the Times Best of list was Joan Schenkar‘s biography, The Talented Miss Highsmith. Schenkar is a lesbian herself, and the insightful, well-written biography delves into Highsmith’s sexuality as much as it does her work as a mystery writer. Joan also contributed an introduction to this year’s The Highsmith Reader, a collection of Highsmith’s best short stories and novels, including her only lesbian-themed work ever, The Price of Salt.

Patricia Cornwell‘s latest Kay Scarpetta offering, Port Mortuary, continues to keep her one of the top best-selling crime writers in America. It was also announced this year that her fictional heroine would come to life on film, played by Angelina Jolie.

One of the year’s best selling graphic novels was Batwoman: Elegy. Greg Rucka‘s reworking of the lesbian superhero came complete with an intro from fan Rachel Maddow. Issue #0 followed this winter, both issues having received high praise from inside the comic and lesbian communities.