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Start your year off with a good read.

Although we may have missed this one for Halloween, if you like scary stories, you may want to check out The Ghost of Carmen Miranda: And Other Spooky Gay and Lesbian Tales (edited by Julie Trevelyan and Scott Brassart, Alyson Books $11.95). Our favorite book title this season. this collection includes stories by both men and women, with names like "A Midsummer's Haunt" and "The Case of the Sapphic Succubus."

Also new from Alyson in paperback is Aimee & Jaguar:A Love Story, Berlin 1943 (by Erica Fischei $12.95). Translated from the original German, this book tells the true story of two women, Lilly Wust, the wife of a German Nazi officer, and Felice Schragenheim, a Jew living underground in Berlin. Their unlikely relationship is both sad and ultimately unsatisfying, but makes for interesting historical reading.

A fresh new voice in lesbian fiction is Bett Williams, whose Girl Walking Backwards (St Martin's $12.95) is one of the best novels I've read in a while. Her main character, Skye, is a bisexual teenager who's trying to survive high school and find a girl who moves her more than her sometime-boyfriend Riley does. Living with her mother, an alcoholic who's into New Age workshops, Skye skirts the edge of her mother's obsessions and does eventually find love. While the novel's plot mainly concerns Skye's friendships and crushes,what's enjoyableabout Girl is not so much the action of the story but how it's told. Unapologetic in tone, this is a con-temporary tale that's written for an adult audience, but teens may enjoy it too.

Another book I've been enjoying, although there's no lesbian content in it, is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman (Noonday $13). Winner of many prizes, including the National Book Critic's Circle Award, this book, subtitled A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, tells the story of a young girl's epilepsy. More than the story of a singular illness, however, it is the fascinating account of the Hmong people's culture and history, and what happens when a first-generation family of immigrant Hmong bump up against Western medicine. The title refers to the way the Hmong, an Asian people with roots in China who settled in Laos, think abou epilepsy, and is only one of the hundreds of fascinating things you will learn in this impeccably told tale. It's also a relevant tale for gay audiences since it depicts what can happen i you try to buck a system-in this case, the medical establishment-that's more powerful by law than you are, yet.

With so many women getting breast cancer, there's certainly no shortage of factual information hitting bookstore shelves. Less common is something like Art.Rage.Us. (Chronicle $24.95), an art book sponsored by The Breast Cancer Fund and the San Francisco chapters of the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Chock-full of photography, art, fiction, poetry and prose, this book captures the voices-and the courage-of women who have faced the disease. Originally published to coincide with an exhibit in San Francisco, the book certain-ly stands alone as an important document of our time.

Since we're talking about body parts here, let's also not pass by Cunt: A Declaration of Independence (by Inga Muscio, Seal Press $14.00). Far from a farce, this book takes a look-both serious and playful-at our most private female body parts. With chapters on menstruation ("Blood and Cunts"), and ovulation ("Your cervix is the doorway of humanity"), Muscio's book is a reminder that, as she writes, "Womankind is varied and vast. But we all have cunts."

Body image is one of the main themes of Adios Barbie: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity (edited by Ophira Edut, Seal Press $14.95). More than 25 young women here explore a wide range of topics ranging from body hair (Carolyn Mackler's "Memoirs of a (sorta) Ex-Shaver") to facial features ("My Jewish Nose" by Lisa Jervis) to stripping and pregnancy.

Most of us love to travel, even if it's just in an arm-chair. Lesbian Travels: A Literary Companion, edit-ed by Lucy Jane Bledsoe (Whereabouts Press $14.95), is a collection of 18 pieces from writers like Susan Fox Rogers, Nisa Donnelly and Audre Lorde that will take you to places like Grenada, Paraguay and even Kathmandu. As Rebecca Brown writes in the book's introduction, "The writers whose stories fill this collection begin their journeys knowing they are lesbians. They are fully aware that though they are sexual outsiders, they are also members of an international clan of self-made women. They have access to secret and glorious lesbian subcultures invisible to other travelers." Fasten your seat-belts, and enjoy the literary ride!
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Rachel Pepper
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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