Carol Seajay, former publisher of Feminist Bookstore News, a San Francisco–based magazine that covered the feminist, gay, and lesbian book industry until folding in 2000, recently launched Books to Watch Out For (BTWOF), a series of monthly e-mail newsletters featuring reviews of gay and lesbian books. In August, subscribers began receiving BTWOF: The Lesbian Edition and BTWOF: The Gay Men’s Edition. By year’s end, BTWOF: More Books for Women to Watch Out For, a newsletter for readers of feminist titles, will complete Seajay’s simple, inexpensive, three-pronged effort to raise awareness of these often neglected categories of American literature.
Each newsletter costs $2.50 and contains 20 to 30 short reviews (“detailed enough to help you decide which books you want to read but short enough to scan on your lunch break”) of poetry, fiction, memoir, and nonfiction, as well as news and announcements written by Seajay and Gay Men’s Edition editor Richard Labonte, the former manager of A Different Light Bookstore in San Francisco and writer of the Gay Men’s Lit column for Feminist Bookstore News.
When Feminist Bookstore News folded three years ago, Seajay changed careers and went to work as a computer programmer and technical writer, but soon missed her first love—reading good books. “I came home at the end of the day and still wanted to—even if for just a half an hour—read something that mattered to me,” she says. “And I just wasn’t finding out about those books.”
So Seajay started BTWOF to provide a convenient way for busy readers of gay and lesbian literature to keep up with the latest releases from independent presses, and, even more important, to support those presses. Although the e-mail format of the newsletters attracts an international readership (one of the first subscribers was a woman in Spain), Seajay hopes BTWOF will find an audience in rural America, where lesbian and gay literature is difficult to come by. “I hope fifteen subscribers in northwestern Louisiana have a potluck book party,” she says. “There is so much potential!”
For more information, or to subscribe to BTWOF, visit the Web site at www.bookstowatchoutfor.com.
Courtney E. Martin is a freelance writer in New York City.