Aunt Lute Celebrates 30 Years
In 1982, Ronald Reagan was president, 51% of Americans thought homosexuality was abnormal, and
a little press that would become Aunt Lute Books was just getting started. A full generation later, the
press is still publishing work by and for women usually ignored by traditional publishing—and keeping
each work in print. To celebrate our 30th anniversary, we are now running a month-long series of
features that will bring our older, yet pressingly relevant, texts back into the spotlight. Each week we
will acknowledge a group of titles that relates to an aspect of our mission or history and discuss both the
impact and continuing legacy of those titles. As always, Aunt Lute would love to hear any reflections you
have in response to our posts or about your experience relating to our press or published works.
Click the banners below to read more about our featured titles, and join in on the conversation in the comment section!
Aunt Lute Books was founded 30 years ago as an alternative press that would explicitly seek out and publish women authors who were not being represented by mainstream publishing. Therefore, some of the books we are most proud of include those that were, in some way, the first of their kind. Selections featured this week opened fresh avenues of expression, forged new genres, or put a name to something in women’s lives that was before unspoken. Books like Our Feet Walk the Sky opened inventive avenues of expression, forged new genres, or put a name to something in women’s lives that was before unspoken. From Babaylan, the first collection of Filipina short stories in the U.S., to Maidenhome, a collection from post-Cultural Revolution China, these Unsung Voices brought something entirely new to our readership. For the first week of our 30th anniversary celebration, we would like to honor these original texts not only for themselves, but also for the texts and traditions they made possible.
Although all of our authors are fearless in raising their voices to an often dismissive and even hostile world, this week we are recognizing those who expose truths about their lives that are especially uncomfortable for mainstream culture. From the reclamation of female power within Puerto Rican communities in Reclaiming Medusa to the raw, taboo passions of Junglee Girl, to the South African activism in Call Me Woman, these authors open their most private selves to harsh criticism. Yet it is their willingness to write honestly in the face of demeaning reactions that broadens our understanding of what it means to be a woman, and empowers other writers to speak honestly about once-shameful truths. Aunt Lute would like to honor these authors for lending their Fearless Voices to us, and for pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior for women.
One of the main goals at Aunt Lute Books is to represent the variety of women’s experiences, and our collections directly reflect this aspect of our mission. Collected works such as Making Face, Making Soul, Positive/Negative, and Frontline Feminism reflect on pressing issues such as race, HIV/AIDS and feminist history in all their complexity. Unlike “human interest” stories that present women as token curiosities and take one experience as a reflection of broad truths about an entire gender, through our collections we strive to illustrate the unique perspectives that different women take. It is deeply important that the world understand how women, like any group, have unique experiences and ideas that are shaped but not determined by their gender. This week we honor the editors who saw a need and found the stories to speak to it, as well as each woman who has contributed her side of the story.
While many of our authors express ideas that challenge patriarchal culture’s view of propriety, some of our books have been actively suppressed and censored. For our final week, it is these books that we honor. Even though these books, including Borderlands/La Frontera, have attained respect in certain circles of the academy, it is important to remember that their revolutionary ideas still hold the power to offend. In fact, just this year in Arizona, Borderlands was among many books banned from the high school curriculum. This list reminds us of how much the world has changed—as well as how fragile our gains can be. By standing against institutional powers and continuing to challenge racism and patriarchy, these Dangerous Voices remind us of the real cost of standing up for one’s beliefs, and this final week we would like to especially honor the bravery of these women for doing so despite the risk.