Tag Archives: Author

Chinelo Okparanta Is Your New Badass Crush

You probably know Chinelo Okparanta from her fiery, controversial novel, Under the Udala Trees, one of the first Nigerian novels to support lesbian relationships.

With her innocent eyes and sweet smile, Chinelo looks like the friendly girl next door – but her books have hit the world like a nuclear bomb. If you’re not in love with her yet, you’re about to be.

She takes death threats in stride.

Before she wrote Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo wrote a short story collection called Happiness, Like Water. And yes, it also includes lesbians. Immediately, readers started sending her death threats. She couldn’t open her Facebook without finding people who wanted to slaughter her.

Did Chinelo hide?

Of course not. She brewed a cup of tea and made her next novel even gayer.

Her words will give you chills.

Maybe love was some combination of friendship and infatuation. A deeply felt affection accompanied by a certain sort of awe. And by gratitude. And by a desire for a lifetime of togetherness.

Haven’t you felt that when gazing into your girlfriend’s eyes?

Happiness is like water,” she says. “We’re always trying to grab onto it, but it’s always slipping between our fingers.”

She has simultaneously redefined both happiness and water, forever.

But we were in love,

or at least I believed myself completely to be.

Excuse me while I grab a tissue.

She’s politically aware.

Many lesbian books fall in one of two categories: a fluffy romantic lesbian novel written by a western novelist, or a vitriolic anti-gay manifesto written by a religious novelist. Chinelo simultaneously breaks free from and embraces both of these categories.

In Under the Udala Trees, she dialogues with the religious right, she includes a romantic ending, she avoids fluff and cliché, and she paints a realistic picture of lesbian relationships gone both well and disastrously.

Her writing is as complex as her political views. She says that her writing “incites us to take a look at ourselves and own up to the ways in which we’ve had a hand in our own corruption and exploitation.”

She also says, “I do write a lot about Christianity. I write also about colonialism. Sometimes I write about the two hand in hand, because it is often hard for me to write about one without the other.” She discusses how the West imported rigid morality, homophobia and Christianity into Nigeria, and yet the West blames Nigeria for being religious and homophobic. The West isn’t innocent.

She has won hundreds of writing awards.

…or at least, it seems that way. In addition to being the only woman nominated for the 2013 Caine Prize, Africa’s biggest literature prize, she’s also won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction (twice) and the O. Henry Award, and been listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Award. Her books were recommended by the New York Times, the Guardian, the L.A. Times and more.

Any aspiring writers should take note.

She takes mental illness by the horns.

It’s rare for artists to admit that they struggle with mental health. Sometimes they’ll discuss depression or addiction, but they almost never admit to more uncommon illnesses, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. And within the subset of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, scrupulosity is an extremely rare but potent religious/moral OCD that can be frightening at best and crippling at worst. She addresses it in this interview with the Iowa Review.

Chinelo: And, I suppose having a healthy dose of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder where morality is concerned does help to keep one from repeating a cycle of wrongdoing.

Interviewer: Interesting. You wouldn’t by any chance be referring to yourself regarding that condition?

Chinelo: Quite possibly.

Chinelo doesn’t explicitly state whether she’s struggled with it or not, but admitting that religious/moral OCD exists is an important step forward.

She’s just plain gorgeous.

How could so much wisdom and fire be hidden in such an open and friendly face! Abeg!


Was ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee Gay?

Famed for writing 1960’’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird, and, most recently, 2015’s controversial release Go Set A Watchman, author Harper Lee’s works have been the subject of much debate and discussion.

However, Lee’s sexuality was also a talking topic for some of her readers and following the author’s death in February of this year, these discussions have flared up once more.


Addressing the rumours that Lee was a lesbian is Gay Star News, which collates the speculation in a recent article.

One reason people believe the assumptions that the author was not heterosexual is the Marja Mills biography, The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee, as Mills asked Lee (as well as her sisters) if they’d ever dated people, to which Lee and her siblings said “a little”, but, Mills adds, “that was that”. (It should also be noted that Lee opposed the release of the biography).


Others have also looked at the content of To Kill A Mockingbird for clues. “Scout was a tomboy,” notes Lee’s best friend Tom Butts, who adds that so was Lee and that “she kind of kept that almost masculine way about her as an adult”.


Meanwhile, the character of Dill, who has what some people describe as having ’effeminate mannerisms’, is based on Lee’s childhood friend and gay author Truman Capote.

But is this enough to suggest that Lee was in fact, a lesbian, albeit one who wasn’t out to the general public? Many would argue that Lee’s friendship with Capote and her choice of clothing (“always pants and kind of baggy clothes sometimes,” says Butts) don’t prove anything and that drawing such conclusions is offensive.

Regardless of whether or not Lee was gay, though, there’s no denying the impact that To Kill A Mockingbird had on its LGBTQ+ readers.

As Gay Star News notes, the book was number 67 on the Publishing Triangle’s list of The 100 Best Lesbian and Gay novels while Lambda Literary’s Victoria Brownworth wrote that “no lesbian or gay reader of To Kill a Mockingbird came away from the book without feeling that there was someone else like him or her”.

So, even if questions remain about Lee’s sexuality, clearly the book means a lot to those who have found (or are looking) for answers about their own.

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Lesbian for a Year: Author Spends 12 Months as a Lesbian for New Book

Brooke Hemphill has just released ‘Lesbian for a Year’, an account of her quest to find out about her sexuality.

In 2010, Hemphill – a relationships and sex columnist living in Sydney, unexpectedly had a one-night stand with a woman. This lesbian experience led to a year of ‘sexual exploration’ where she dated other women.

She said the year of ‘dating only women’ was not a planned experiment, but rather a fit of passion, so she decided to write a book about it.

I have always been fascinated with dating and relationships and sex, but in terms of writing this book it was an experience that unexpectedly happened to me… It wasn’t like I woke up one day and thought, right I am going to do this for the next 12 months, it kind of just happened. And after talking to other people about it I realised that there are a lot of people who have similar stories or can relate to it, or have thought about doing something similar, so I decided to write a book.”

Brooke Hemphill

The title of her book, ‘Lesbian For A Year’ has seen her criticised from Sydney’s LGBT community, something she had anticipated.

It is a bit of a tricky one and I understand that a lot of people who identify as lesbian have issues with the title of the book. I have been getting a lot of feedback on Twitter and so forth about how you can’t really be a lesbian for a year and you are either straight or you’re bisexual or you’re a lesbian for a lifetime… But in my experience I had a one-night stand with a woman, woke up in the morning found her in my bed and thought, how did that happen?”

Brooke Hemphill

After this initial experience she went on to have a relationship with a women for six months.

I met a girl and we started dating, we ended up going out together for about six months. In that time I continued to kind of question what my sexuality was, was I gay? Or bisexual? Was I a straight girl kind of going through a phase, so the book kind of explores that journey.”

Brooke Hemphill

While she has copped flak for the title, Hemphill is quick to reassure the book has a serious message about breaking down barriers and stereotypes.

Generally, I think with everything that is going on in the country in relation to gay marriage if everyone went out and spent some time hooking up with their own gender we would probably be in a much more tolerant place and it would open up much more conversation and dialogue around this.

Connection with a person, not their gender, it could be male it could be female, I generally find I am more attracted to people’s personalities than gender or looks.

Some people would suggest that it puts a finality to what my label should be, but I think it is a bit more fluid than that and who knows what the future holds.”

Brooke Hemphill


Pioneering Author, Nancy Garden has Died Aged 76

Author, Nancy Garden – a lesbian pioneer in young adult fiction –  has sadly passed away

Garden was best known for the lesbian themed novel Annie on My Mind, about two girls at a New York high school who fall in love.

Published in 1982, the book received critical acclaim for its positive depiction of a same-sex relationship. Sadly, it was also attacked by social conservatives and the religious right and was banned by Kansas City schools for two years, until students brought a First Amendment lawsuit to put it back on shelves.

The book won Garden the ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Lee Lynch Classic Award by the Golden Crown Literary Society, and the Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom. It was also ranked in School Library Journal among the top 100 books to have shaped the 20th century.

Annie on My Mind was one of the earliest American novels to depict a lesbian relationship that did not come to a tragic end, and in the 32 years since it was first published the book never went out of print.

When I was growing up as a young lesbian in the ’50s, I looked in vain for books about my people. I did find some paperbacks with lurid covers in the local bus station, but they ended with the gay character’s committing suicide, dying in a car crash, being sent to a mental hospital or “turning” heterosexual.’

Nancy Garden

Her literary career spanned four decades, writing more than 30 books – most aimed at teenagers, though some were written with younger children in mind. Supernatural themes were a recurring theme in her works with many of the stories she wrote involving werewolves and vampires.

She is survived by her long term partner Sandy Scott and their golden retriever Loki and their cats.