Daily Archives: June 14, 2024

LGBTQIA+ in the Rare Books Collection

The LGBTQIA+ Rare Books LibGuide started with curation of books from the Rare Books that had any connection to LGBTQIA+ people or topics, which was done by Anne Bahde, Special Collections Librarian for Research and Learning. Once all of the materials had been paged, I got to spend more than a few hours poking through all of the materials. The trouble with doing work like this is that everything is so fascinating, it can be hard to stay on task without getting lost in the materials. Regardless, I was able to take pictures of all of the books, take some notes on the content, and then start on the LibGuide.

I decided to separate the books into 5 categories: Magazines and Newspapers, Music and Arts, Fiction and Queer Pulps, Non-fiction, and HIV/AIDS. What follows is a highlight of the materials in each category, as well as information that was found through some light researching. 

Tip: Right Click on an image and hit “Open image in new tab” for a larger view of the image so that the text is readable.

Magazines and Newspapers

The Lavender Network

The magazines and newspapers were by far the most interesting set of materials to me, and the one that I found myself spending the most time on. One rather interesting one was the Lavender Network, or “Oregon’s Lesbian and Gay Newsmagazine,” created in Eugene, Oregon.


Kaliflower, with its colorful covers and wonderful artwork, was quite an eye-catcher. I spent some time flipping through the pages, trying to ascertain why a self-published magazine from a commune about communal-living was in a curation of queer books, but I soon found out. Their articles on sexual freedom and exploration, and “mutual marriage” elucidated that for me, but their other articles on their anti-capitalist practices and advice for communal living were just as interesting. 

Off Our Backs

But the materials that I kept finding myself coming back to was the run of off our backs (lowercase stylized as oob). It had an array of queer and lesbian focused features, those being columns, interviews, artists, and letters from lesbian subscribers. There were comic strips from Alison Bechdel’s “Dykes To Watch Out For,” advertisements for other lesbian periodicals, groups, and retreats, and statements from lesbian groups and organizations. And yet lesbians were still marginalized within oob.  

This lesbian-marginalization spawned not only one, but two separate lesbian-focused magazines. Furies, a lesbian focused periodical that was founded when the lesbian members of the collective left, but was only published for a short year. Another publication that was created out of spite against oob was On Our Backs (OOB), a lesbian erotica magazine that ran from 1984 to 2006. Its existence sprung out of the anti-pornography stance that oob held, particularly during the sex war period of the 80s in lesbian and feminist communities (interesting further reading here).

Despite the faults, this set of oob is a really incredible time capsule back to feminist culture in the 70s. Reading these even inspired me to subscribe to a new queer magazine that is created and printed in Portland, in hopes that one day I could look back on them as I am looking at oob now.  

Music and Arts

Turned On Woman Songbook Come Out Comix

I do have to say that I am an enjoyer of comics and graphic novels, especially queer focused ones, so Come Out Comix was a real treat for me. It was really interesting to read it as someone who lives in the Willamette valley, as it is set in Portland, and Coos Bay was also mentioned. Turned On Woman was also interesting, but as I can’t read sheet music, I think it’s intrigue was lost to me. 

Fiction and Queer Pulps

Torchlight to Valhalla (Original Cover and Title) The Strange Path (Reprint Cover and Title)

The queer pulps are definitely the catchiest bunch of this collection, but seemed different from what I expected at first glance. The Strange Path was written by Gale Wilhelm, a pioneering lesbian author, but this edition is a rename of the original book titled Torchlight to Valhalla, with the new name being paired with a new pulpy cover. This printing occurred in 1953, almost ten years after Wilhelm stopped writing and 25 years after the book was originally published. Barbara Grier, who is known for essentially building the lesbian book industry, speculated in the foreword of one of the publishings of Torchlight to Valhalla that she stopped writing “because the world would not let her write the books she wanted,” that being books with lesbian characters, as her last three novels featured heterosexual themes. Looking at the title, the Strange Path, through the lens of this information makes me a bit sad. Wilhelm probably didn’t think that this path was a strange one, but at the time, the world did think that. This led not only to Wilhelm writing stories she truly didn’t enjoy, but to a misbranding of one of the stories where she was able to share her true self.   

The other pulp fiction that has an eye-catching cover does not do any better, with the content of this one being the main offender. The Men Between has been described as what “seems to be anti-gay propaganda in disguise” by a reviewer of the book. The tagline on the back of the seems to say the same, reading “Mike thought he was normal until he was raped by another man – and he liked it!” 


It Could Happen To You 7 Steps to Recruit Proof Your Child

It Could Happen Happen To You was my favorite of the non-fiction books, mainly for all of the inserts that were seen within it. There were a lot of comics, posters/flyers, and advertisements relating to the Local Measure 51 in Eugene that these activists were working against. Two other books that are really interesting include the Homosexuality Bibliography and Supplement, which could be a really great resource if you are looking for works published earlier than 1975. Lastly, Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child, although rather homophobic, does have a lot of interesting illustrations, including queer right’s groups posters and ads that they took out of context. This book was also created in Oregon and contains a lot of Oregon related content. 


The AIDS Time Bomb

I chose to separate out the HIV/AIDS related books as they are not necessarily about queer people or written by them, but they are included in this collection due to the stigma in the US surrounding HIV/AIDS as being something that only gay men contract, which is far from the truth. One of these books, AIDS: The American Roads of Denial by Richard Caper, shines light on that fact. It details his story as a person with AIDS (PWA) as an intravenous drug user and the social rejection he faced when his diagnosis got out, and his walk across the country to raise awareness. It is by far the most positive representation of queerness in any of the AIDS books, as the other two contain rather negative depictions of queerness in relation to AIDS. 

~ Jozie Billings, SCARC Student Archivist, 2023-2024