elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Bertha Harris (December 17, 1937 – May 22, 2005)

Bertha Harris (December 17, 1937 – May 22, 2005) was an American lesbian novelist. Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, she moved to New York City in the 1960s. She is highly regarded by critics and admirers, but her novels are less familiar to the broader public.

She is best known for her stylistically bold novel Lover, published in 1976. She published two other novels, Catching Saradove (1969), and Confessions of Cherubino (1972). Lover and Confessions of Cherubino were brought out by the independent house Daughters, Inc., a small publisher of women's fiction. In all three novels, Harris engaged the aesthetics of late twentieth-century literature; they may be considered examples of literary postmodernism. Her novels are stylistically akin to the work of modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes (whom she greatly admired), and she has acknowledged as inspiration the work of Jill Johnston and the dancer Yvonne Ranier. She once proclaimed that Djuna Barnes's work was "practically the only available expression of lesbian culture we have in the modern western world" since Sappho.

Much of Harris's work, most notably Lover, is written with the Women's Movement of the 1970s as its primary inspiration and its audience. Indeed, Lover might be viewed as a literary mother of Queer Theory; her novel resonates almost as strongly with third-wave feminism as it does with the second-wave feminism of its origins.

Harris co-authored The Joy of Lesbian Sex in 1977 with Emily L. Sisley, and in 1995 she published Gertrude Stein, a biography for young adults. Lover was reissued in 1993 by the New York University Press with a new introduction by the author, mainly recounting her involvement with Daughters Press and its two owners.

At the time of her death she was completing her fourth novel, a comedy, Mi Contra Fa. She died in New York City.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertha_Harris

Bertha Harris

Bertha Harris, Franklin Philip and Harlan Lane, 1993, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123955)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

Lover (Cutting Edge: Lesbian Life & Literature) by Bertha Harris
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: NYU Press; First Printing edition (October 1, 1993)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0814735053
ISBN-13: 978-0814735053
Amazon: Lover (Cutting Edge: Lesbian Life & Literature)

A landmark work of lesbian literature, Lover was first published in 1972 by the now-defunct feminist press, Daughters, to tremendous critical acclaim. Emerging out of the women's and gay liberation movement alongside the early work of such writers as Rita Mae Brown and Jill Johnston, the novel features fictional and historical characters who run the gamut from saint to poor white trash, and who are by turn vulnerable and strong. One of the finest examples of early post-Stonewall lesbian fiction, Lover is poised to entice a new generation of readers.

In this new edition, Harris reintroduces her work, providing engaging background on the cultural and personal milieu in which it was produced and painting a scathing and witty picture of the book's original publisher. Revealing the real-life personalities behind some of the novel's characters, the introduction is an amusing retrospective sure to entertain those who remember the heady post-Stonewall days, and to enlighten younger readers.

Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South by James T. Sears
Hardcover: 440 pages
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (July 30, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0813529646
ISBN-13: 978-0813529646
Amazon: Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South

While Scarlett O'Hara may resemble a drag queen, and Mardi Gras inspires more camp than a gay pride parade, the American South also boasts a rich, authentic and transgressive gay and lesbian history. In this chatty, free-ranging cultural survey, Sears (Growing Up Gay in the South) presents a vivid kaleidoscope of the mores and political activities of many gay Southerners following the 1969 Stonewall riots and leading up to the 1979 march on Washington. Sears unspools this history through portraits of activists and community organizers including Merril Mushroom, Jack Nichols, Lige Clark, Vicki Gabriner, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Sgt. Leonard Matlovitch who helped shape the social and political climate below the Mason Dixon line and often in the rest of the country. While giving a nod to historic events like Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign, Sears focuses more closely on obscure but important local political events, like the founding of the lesbian journal Sinister Wisdom, the emergence of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance and community response to a deadly firebombing that killed 31 patrons in a New Orleans bar in the mid-1970s. Sears's multifaceted approach pays off when he sketches such relatively unknown players as comedian Ray Bourbon and radical fairy Faygele ben Miriam, and he conveys well the complexity and intensity of the political activity of the decade. While not as historically conclusive or theoretically astute as John Howard's masterful Men Like That (2000), Sears provides a panoply of emotionally riveting snapshots that aptly portray Southern gay experience in the 1970s.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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Tags: author: bertha harris, particular voices

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