Earlier this week, I sent out an interview with author Emily Hashimoto. (Read it here if you haven’t already!)
Among other things, we talked about the wealth of queer references in her debut novel, including several lesbian bars—and how sad it is that so few of these bars remain in business. Even the Lex (San Francisco’s “iconic dyke bar”), which Emily’s main characters visit in the book, closed as she was writing.
To put things into perspective, there were roughly 200 lesbian bars across the country in the late 80s. Today, that number has dropped to just 15. FIFTEEN!
In a bit of fortuitous timing, a new fundraiser called the Lesbian Bar Project launched just yesterday, with the goal of ensuring that the remaining bars survive the pandemic. They’ll be accepting donations for the next four weeks, and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the participating bars, split evenly.
If you have the funds, consider donating!
Then, find a good book to occasionally distract you from election coverage in the coming week. I recommend this one.
A World Between by Emily Hashimoto
Fiction, September 2020
I initially picked up A World Between because Emily wrote in this Lit Hub piece that she once referred to it as a “lesbian When Harry Met Sally.” So right from the start, my hopes were very high.
The book centers on Eleanor Suzuki and Leena Shah, who first meet in college in 2004 and fall into a whirlwind romance. They ultimately part ways, only to bump into each other on the street in San Francisco six years later.
The novel unfolds over the course of 13 years, skipping chunks of time and switching between perspectives to let us see their relationship from both points of view. They repeatedly drift out of one another’s lives (hence the When Harry Met Sally comparison), only to be pulled back together by either fate or circumstance.
Naturally, their relationship doesn’t follow a linear narrative.
While it starts off as a romantic one, Eleanor and Leena are later exes, friends, roommates with tons of sexual tension… etc. And none of it is without complication. Their relationship at every stage is messy in a way that feels true to real people in general, but especially to women who date women.
But the story isn’t only about Eleanor and Leena within the context of their relationship. Both are entirely three-dimensional characters with families, careers, and lives outside of one another, which brings necessary context to their dynamic.
As Emily explains, “...queer women, women of color, queer women of color, everybody—we don’t lead context-free lives... There’s so much that goes into how you exist in the world and what makes you comfortable and what doesn’t, and what you even know about love and relationships.”
Much like actual human beings, these women don’t exist in a vacuum. They have families and friends and partners and values that influence everything they do, including how they relate to and connect with each other.
And because their story spans over a decade, we get to see both of them grow and change and confront their own shit, both inside and outside of their relationship. The Eleanor and Leena we leave in 2017 are very different people from the ones we meet in 2004.
Things don’t tie up neatly at the end, which feels appropriate for a story that doesn’t really progress “neatly” at any point. Instead, it feels like a realistic, relatable depiction of two queer women, the love they have for each other, and the sometimes messy ways relationships play out over time.
+3 for literary references to Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and bell hooks
+5 for the fact that Eleanor and Leena make out while watching The L Word on their second date
+11 for multiple realistic sex scenes, which are somehow still a rarity in books about queer women