Daily Archives: June 20, 2024

Celebrating Pride 2024 Exhibit: The spectrum of representation in SCARC’s rare books collections

In honor of the new guide created to showcase the LGBTQIA+ rare books within the SCARC rare books collection, some of these rare books are being exhibited in the display case outside of the SCARC Reading Room on the 5th floor of the library! 

While looking at the collection as a whole and trying to separate the books into two themes, there was one clear theme, that being books written by and for Oregonians, which will be the second exhibit going up at the end of August 2024. With those books removed, we surveyed the remaining books, and another theme emerged: the good, the bad, and the misrepresentation. This set of materials deals with the ways that queer people have been referred to and used within media historically. While there are more good representations than bad representations, the bad cannot be overlooked and ignoring them would not accurately represent the historical record that exists. 

Below a picture of the exhibit can be found, as well as copies of the statements that are placed within the bookcase:

The Exhibit, mid-June – August, 2024

The Good……

These books and magazines represent some of the more positive depictions of queerness within the rare books collection. While all have not been confirmed to have been written by someone in the queer community, all of them show positive representations of queer relationships and allow space for queer stories to be shared. 

The Strange Path (Reprint 1953) was written by Gale Wilhelm, a pioneering lesbian writer who wrote two lesbian books in the 1930s, the other being We Too Are Drifting (1935), which is also available in the collection. 

Davy (1964) by Edgar Pangborn is one of those that may not have been written by a queer person, as he was not openly out, but he is often read as a queer author due to the relationships and themes he crafts within his stories. 

Kaliflower (1977) is a collection of art, poetry, and prose written by members of the Kaliflower commune. One tenet of their commune was sexual exploration, and relationships were encouraged between all members of the commune referred to as “mutual marriage.” 

On our backs (1974) is a magazine that, though being mainly focused on straight feminist issues, had a large lesbian readership and it featured lesbian focused content from time to time. Ultimately the lesbian members of the collective left to found their own periodical, the Furies, published in 1972-1973, but on our backs still holds a place within lesbian feminist history. 

…the Bad, and the Misinformation

These books are some of the books within the collection that portray negative stereotypes of queerness or spread misinformation. These contain themes or plot points that are centered around historical events such as the Cambridge Five in the UK, the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. in the 80s, and the anti-gay hysteria occurring in the 90s in the U.S.   

Purple 6, published in 1962, is nuclear suspense fiction set in the UK, that utilizes opinions about the Cambridge Five as plot points. The Cambridge Five were a ring of spies in the UK during the cold war from the 1930s to the 1950s of which at least two, possibly three, were gay or bisexual, and claimed to be spying under threat of blackmail from the Soviet Union. Within the book, as they come to understand that there is a spy in their midst, everyone’s sexualities are investigated because of this stigma that if you were queer then you were more liable to blackmail or treason. 

The AIDS Plague (1986) is by Dr. James McKeever, who was a fundamentalist physician. He combines surprisingly accurate AIDS information and education with religious aspects from Christianity, and blames not just homosexuality, but all deviant sexual behavior outside of marriage. Not the worst representation, but certainly not the best.

7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child by Scott Lively was published in 1990, and is described on the book jacket as “A concise, practical guidebook for parents who wish to protect their children from pro-homosexual indoctrination and the possibility of recruitment into the homosexual lifestyle.” Lively is known for being an aggressively anti-gay pastor who helped introduced anti-gay laws into Uganda and possibly Russia. This is possibly as far from a queer-positive book as you could get. 

~ Jozie Billings, SCARC Student Archivist, 2023-2024