Aunt Lute Celebrates 30 years: Collections

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.

Making Face, Making Soul is a collection curated by an author noted in other sections, Gloria Anzaldúa. As we mention when discussing Anzaldúa’s personal work, she cleaved open a space for her own unique voice with Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. This collection brings a chorus of new voices into her sensibility; from poets to scholars, artists and activists, the theme is not birth or craft, but ideology. As with the best collections, this book is both specific in revealing personal truth yet inclusive of each diverse experience.

Part of the value in bringing different voices with a similar experience together is that it builds a legitimacy and community for women around that experience. In Positive/Negative, the twenty different plays about and by women of color struggling with HIV/AIDS bring their experiences to the forefront in an issue shrouded with myth, silence, and shame. Positive/Negative looks at both individual and community issues, ranging from deeply personal reckonings with grief and anger to the broader institutional problems of homophobia, racism, sexism, poverty, and access to health care. It challenges our assumptions about who suffers, struggles, and survives—and how.

While other collections are grouped by theme or the authors’ diasporic roots, another way we have grouped writing is by purpose or historical moment. Frontline Feminism is a collection that preserves the history of Sojourner: The Women’s Forum, one of the largest and longest lasting women’s newspapers. Each piece printed is a snapshot of a specific viewpoint produced for this audience in moments spanning 20 years of feminist history. In collecting into one book over 80 of the stories published from 1975-1995, Karen Kahn creates a lasting and fantastically interesting record of the women’s movement that can be returned to time and again. Without the editorializing and flattening of a retrospective written from one point of view, Frontline Feminism allows us to discover afresh the vibrancy and complexity of the past.

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