I’m on the tail end of my vacation and I am definitely not ready to get back to work. Last week I visited San Francisco on a week-long road trip down the West coast. It’s been on my fantasy list of places to visit for most of my life. The closest I had ever been prior was a camping trip in the Redwoods 8 years ago and vicariously through my older sister’s high school year book trip. I have a lifetime of pop culture-colored glasses and history stored up in my mind. You’d think that could be the recipe for a major let-down. Reality versus fantasy. The only disappointment I experienced was my lack of time to explore all of the nooks and crannies. I’ll return someday and go on that drag queen historian tour while munching on some savory sourdough!
Being the super bookworm that I am, I made the requisite pilgrimage to the iconic City Lights Bookstore. Perched on the edge of Chinatown, it occupies an unassuming space. Inside, two floors of bookshelves line hardwood floor with the occasional postcard. Downstairs I found my vacation date (to pair up with the 3-4 other books I brought on the trip ‘cuz you never know what you will be in the mood for on any one day): Wild Mares by Dianna Hunter.
Wild Mares: My Lesbian Back-to-the-Land Life shares author Dianna Hunter’s lesbian farm life and activism from the 1960s-1980s. She acknowledges the vagaries of memory don’t always leave crystal clear recollections; so she checks in with friends, family, correspondence and diary entries, and others to square up details of events. I love memoirs and biographies of queer women. Their everyday lived experiences, activism, and careers captivate me. I guess you could say I’m very nosy, but I think it’s just my appreciation for the countless, and often anonymous folks, whose lives made it a difference for how the world looks today. If not for these kinds of memoirs, I wouldn’t necessarily have heard about certain feminist and queer organizations in Minnesota; lesbian publications like So’s Your Old Lady; and farms with names like Haidiya Farm, Rising Moon, and Happy Hoofer Farm, products of the back-to-the-land feminist movements.
Hunter’s memoir pulled me in even more so because she illuminates lesbian community outside of major coastal hubs like Los Angeles and New York. Having grown up in a small county, I enjoy connecting with novels like Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller and author Catherine Friend’s memoir about raising sheep in Minnesota, Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Farm (2006). Ivan Coyote’s storytelling and Lucas Crawford’s poetry collection Sideshow Concessions feature small-town life in Canada. All of these titles are hard to put down and imprint you forever after the final page. If you have any suggestions for lesbian herstory, historical fiction, and queer life in small and rural areas, please let me know in the comments below. I have one related book on the back burner, Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies (2016), edited by Mary L. Gray, Colin R. Johnson, and Brian J. Gilley. An important project, Country Queers, gathers contemporary stories of queer country life in the United States.