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I Got Your Book: The Gilda Stories

Like always, we gotta start with some celebrations!

Princeless has been nominated for an Eisner!

Mary Anne Mohanraj’s collection of SF erotica looks fantastic!

Charles SaundersDamballa, was just awarded Best Pulp Novel of 2011! Here’s an excerpt of a review:

All of the wondrous trappings of pulp are here in this incredible work: action, adventure, evil scheming Nazis and a hero determined to foil their plot to embarrass the United States, politically, in the boxing ring – the key component here is that Damballa is a black man.
Given the classic pulp elements present in the novel, it would have been easy for Saunders to just trot out a pulp archetype and just changed the color of hero’s skin but an author of his skill and ability would not be limited to taking the easy way out. Instead Damballa has deep, African roots and an intriguing origin and supporting cast, the surface of which has only been scratched by this first adventure.
Hooray! NK Jemisin is working on a new trilogy!
Julia Rios is joining the editorial board of Strange Horizons. 
Here’s a discussion of the ongoing race problem in YA. 
Here’s a link to “The Battle of Little Big Science“, a short story by Pamela Rentz, who writes SF featuring Native characters.  
This coloring book features a natural diva. 
There are some very familiar names on this list of books to watch out for… like Walter Mosley and NK Jemisin
On to the review.  The Gilda Stories/Bone and Ash follow two centuries in the life of Gilda, a black lesbian vampire. She escapes from the plantation whose brutal masters claimed the life of her mother, only to be nearly raped by a slave catcher. She kills him, and is eventually found by the first Gilda, the madam of a brothel in New Orleans. This brothel, Woodard’s, will define “home” for our heroine for the next two centuries. It’s here that she learns about the power of the written word, the significance of women’s friendship, and the basics of what it means to be a life-affirming vampire. When Gilda the elder turns our heroine into a vampire, and then chooses for herself the true death, Gilda the younger must navigate a human world where her opportunities are defined by her race and gender, and an immortal world where she’s inherited a loving (though sometimes distant) family.
The novel’s in an episodic format, so basically we jump through moments in Gilda’s life — like her friendship with Aurelia, a black club woman passionately working against poverty in her community — and moments in American and global history — like the gradual collapse of the nation-state in light of environmental degradation. This collection of short stories is also a meditation on time, and the inevitability of outliving people and things you love. In many ways, this last contributes a kind of elegic quality to the narrative. Gilda can’t help but hold herself apart from the current of the everyday, because the waters of time will always leave her untouched. Each story explores a moment in time where Gilda is forced to confront the fallacies in her own emotional distance, where she has to navigate ephemeral relationships with no easy lines of descent or convenient resolutions. In this way, The Gilda Stories fit into a longstanding tradition in LGBT literature of exploring “a queer time and place“, as well as family and friendships that defy conventional understandings of gender and lineage. 
I selected this collection because it recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Here’s a quote from the author:

Gilda being black is core and informs how she makes meaning of her world, and how she is responded to. Gilda understands the various ethnicities of the girls in the bordello. She knows that Bird is a Native American. When Gilda visits Sorrel’s salon in Yerba Buena, she understands that people look at her askance because she is black. As a female, Gilda knows she is vulnerable on the road alone so she dresses as a boy. It is from Gilda’s perspective that we learn these things. For me, people of color and women are the center of the universe; it’s natural. Assuming this centrality allowed me to address people’s racism without having the racism take over the story.

As a black woman, Gilda recognizes situations that put her in jeopardy. As a vampire she has power to overcome these situations, but she knows that other people don’t have that same privilege. She experiences life as a black woman, but she has privilege as a vampire.

Gilda’s a really quiet narrator. I think fans of Parable of the Sower will find her especially charming; she’s a really sharp narrator, not at all a kid, and navigates the ethical quandaries facing her with a surefootedness now rare in paranormal fiction. She regrets having to kill, and does so rarely, but it’s not something she hesitates over, and she never, ever spends pages and pages thinking about how she’s some sort of secret monster. Gomez also avoids defining Gilda by her vampirism; she does hunt, yeah, but she’s also a traveler, a theater person, a writer, a singer, etc.  The one thing that she carries with her throughout all these careers and adventures is her understanding of herself as part of a community of vampires, and a member of a family. She’s loved, and that love (and needing to make family outside of conventional lines of descent) are what really set this vampire apart from others.
If you pick up this collection in the near future, you’ll be really super lucky; Gomez is presently working on a new set of Gilda Stories. Here’s a 2011 excerpt

3 thoughts on “I Got Your Book: The Gilda Stories”

  1. Space Crip says:

    Jewelle Gomez is amazing. I had the privilege of meeting her when she spoke to my class and she was incredibly generous, reading for us the beginning of The Gilda Stories. She also shared with us a few stories about Audre Lorde, like when she was interviewing Audre Lorde and Yvonne Flowers for After Stonewall, both of them were flirting with her and kind of teasing her as a younger lesbian with their boldness. Jewelle Gomez said she was sitting behind the camera very flustered because here was Audre Lorde flirting with her! To go back to The Gilda Stories, Gomez also told us how Lorde read a draft even though she didn’t like short stories and later was actually the person who suggested that The Gilda Stories was really a novel-in-the-making.

    1. Maria says:

      Thank you so much for sharing that! I read a few interviews with Gomez in prep for the review, and I gotta say, she sounded like a sincerely kind, generous, awesome person. It’s so great to hear that confirmed. :)

  2. Katie says:

    All I can do about new Gilda Stories is make an excited kind of EEEEEEE!!!!!!! noise.

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