There’s a new YA publishing imprint in town, and lesbian writer and activist Victoria Brownworth is at the helm. The Philadelphia author and jack of all trades — she’s been an editor, columnist, fiction writer, and also runs a cat sanctuary — aims to make a home for YA books that aren’t getting published elsewhere, specifically books for young queers of color. Lambda Literary caught up with her to get the scoop on Tiny Satchel Press, and the lesbian Twilight-esque novel (two words: vampire cats!) they’ll be publishing this fall.
On how this revolutionary imprint came to be, Brownworth explains:
I’d been acquiring and editing young adult books for five or six years for a mainstream publisher. I was enjoying doing it, but I kept being aware that some books I pitched would get the “We don’t think there’s a readership or audience for that.” And consistently it seemed to me to be books with characters of color or queer. It started to irk me. I just don’t think anyone can be too young to have a range of characters with whom to identify. I wanted more range. So I wanted to provide books that I would want to read if I were nine or 12 or 15.
Those middle age readers (think the nine to 14 set) are especially in need of some LGBT books, as the publishing industry has always feared providing LGBT content to young demographics. But Brownworth wants to cater to tweens as well.
“Stepping outside the box scares the people who make the money decisions,” Brownworth said. “Everything is white on white and middle class and incredibly straight. A peripheral queer character is good, but a main queer character is best. And ten peripheral queer characters just do not make up for zero main queer characters. I was at a book signing for one of our recent books and a lesbian couple who have a few children between them were talking about this issue and I said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll have books for your kids in a few months.’”
Amen to that! What’s most remarkable about Brownworth is that she’s more than just good intentions — her ideas always produce results. This year she edited an anthology of African American writing called From Where We Sit, one of Tiny Satchel’s first publications. It’s dedicated to Toni Brown, a lesbian author who died suddenly, leaving an unfinished YA manuscript and Brownworth heartbroken about the lose of a great black literary voice.
“I had some trepidation about being a white editor doing a book by black writers,” Brownworth explains. “But what was most important to me was to have this really diverse collection. I live in a 95 percent black, 85 percent poor neighborhood in Philadelphia and I wanted a book that my next-door neighbors’ three kids could read. These are good stories, they are moving, poignant, funny, intense, meaningful, outrageous and just plain superb stories.”
Other titles Tiny Satchel is giving life to include LGBT mystery writer Greg Herren’s first foray into YA, Sorceress, and a “lesbian Twilight” novel by Diane Dekelb-Rittenhouse. “This book is really tremendous,” Brownworth gushes about Immortal Longings, Dekelb-Rittenhouse’s novel. “It’s beautifully written and has an exciting plot with two incredibly believable and engaging young lesbian characters, who are also working class and one is bi-racial. I’m psyched about it. It takes the Elizabeth Bathory story and updates it to present-day New York. It even has vampire cats. Teens are going to love this book.”
Watch out, teens — I bet you won’t be the only readers clamoring to get your hands on this one. With Brownworth’s energy and awesome devotion to true diversity in publishing, her vision for Tiny Satchel is only just beginning.