Anna Livia Julian Brawn

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Anna Livia in Nedlands.jpg

Anna Livia Julian Brawn (November 13, 1955 in Ireland – August 5, 2007 in California), who used the pen name Anna Livia for her novels, was a "widely read lesbian feminist writer and linguistic theorist",[1] well known for her fiction and non-fiction regarding issues of sexuality. From 1999 until the time of her death she was a member of staff at University of California, Berkeley.


When Anna died, an article by Nina Wakeford appeared in the Guardian newspaper on 26 September, 2007, which stated as follows: -

"The 1980s London lesbian feminist world gave birth to some of the most witty, politically astute and challenging women's writing of the late 20th century, and Anna Livia, who has died unexpectedly aged 51, was one of the most widely read of that generation. More recently, she had established a reputation as a linguistic theorist.

Born Anna Livia Julian Brawn in Dublin, she spent her early childhood in Africa. When she was six, her father, Patrick, began making films for a copper mining company in Luanshya, Zambia, subsequently moving the family to Swaziland. Anna's mother, Dympna, was an author and secretary. With her two brothers and sister, Anna attended primary school in Luanshya, and then Waterfold-Kamhlaba school, Mbabane; all spoke some Bemba, Swahili, Zulu and Afrikaans. In her 1995 essay Tongues or Fingers, Anna contrasted the sensual pleasures of African food with the lentil-eating of her 1980s contemporaries and the obsession with organic greens of the subsequent decade.

In 1970 the family moved back to England. Anna attended the Rosa Bassett grammar school, in Tooting, south London, before graduating in French and Italian at University College London. She then worked as a bus conductor, taught English in Paris, ran a university database and worked for the lesbian feminist publisher Onlywomen Press."

In the late 1970's, on holiday, she travelled to Australia where mother had moved to - and where her sister and family were living at the time. Components of her first novel Relatively Norma stem from that visit.

Guardian article continues: - "In March 1983 she worked on the till in an Ideal Home Exhibition cafeteria. A year later, she published the short story 1 Woman = 7 Cups of Tea, in which she observed the beauty of a butter wrapper neatly folded so that the waitress does not get her hands greasy when she clears up. Such careful observation of daily life characterised her writing, and was the springboard for her sharp humour. Her first novel, Relatively Norma (1982), was a wry exploration of coming out; in an early indicator of her move towards radical feminism, all the men were called John.

Issues of housing and homelessness loomed large in the lesbian feminist community, and Anna, despite no longer identifying herself as a socialist, was always attentive to such realities, for example in her second novel, Accommodation Offered (1985). Having lived in a communal house in Stockwell, south London, for several years, she and her housemates faced eviction. Asked about the nature of their relationship by Lambeth council housing officers, they declared "lesbian lovenest".

By the early 1990s, wearying of the more extreme cultural mores of her community, Anna had embarked on a PhD in French linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. She fell in love with the climate and range of San Francisco's intellectual and social activities, and after a brief stint as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, returned to Berkeley, where she taught literature and linguistics until her death. Bruised Fruit (1999), her fifth novel, reflected shifts in lesbian politics and sexual practice, and was suggestive of her personal move from radical feminism to a queer lesbianism.

As an academic, she is best known for her contribution to the field of gender and language through the development of queer linguistics. Her volume Queerly Phrased (co-edited with Kira Hall, 1997) explored the impact of language on the construction of sexuality. Pronoun Envy: Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender (2001) developed a feminist analysis of the use of pronouns in novels, prose poems, film scripts and personal testimonies in French and English. She also published translations of the earlier lesbian writers Natalie Clifford Barney and Lucie Delarue-Mardus.

Despite this productivity, Anna found plenty of time for relationships. For her, the connection between life and writing was always intimate. Had she been writing this obituary, she would, no doubt, have found an arresting way of expressing her deep attachment to her ex-lovers and their ongoing importance in her life. In 1999, with her then partner, Jeannie Witkin, Anna had twins, Asher Julian and Emma Livia. After her relationship with Jeannie ended, they continued to co-parent across two homes in North Berkeley which were five minutes apart. She had just completed the manuscript of a children's book, with the twins in mind.

Recently, she found great happiness with her partner Patti Roberts, who survives her, as do her children."



Short stories[edit]

  • Minimax (1992)


  • Incidents Involving Warmth: A Collection of Lesbian Feminist Love Stories (1986) London : Only Women Press. ISBN 0-906500-21-4
  • The Pied Piper : lesbian feminist fiction, with Lillian Mohin. Publisher: London : Onlywomen, 1989. ISBN 0-906500-29-X OCLC 60022644
  • Saccharin Cyanide (1990) Onlywomen. ISBN 0-906500-35-4
  • Incidents Involving Mirth: Short Stories (1990). Publisher: Portland, Or. : Eighth Mountain Press, 1990. ISBN 0-933377-14-2


  • Unleashing Feminism: Critiquing Lesbian Sadomasochism in the Gay Nineties (1993) (with Kathy Miriam and Pat Parker)
  • Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality (1997) (Book) (with Kira Hall); New York : Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-510470-6 ISBN 0195104714
  • Pronoun Envy: Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender (2000) Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513853-8
  • "Doing Sociolinguistic Research on the French Minitel", (Article) in American Behavioral Scientist, 43, no. 3 (1999): 422-435 ; Sage Publications OCLC 89434156
  • A reading with Bart Schneider, Anna Livia 4/29/1999; with Bart Schneider; San Francisco State University. Poetry Center.; San Francisco State University. American Poetry Archive. (VHS tape) Publisher: San Francisco : Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives, ©1999. OCLC 70634326
  • "Oral History: Snapshots from a Family Album" (Article), in International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies, 5, no. 2 (2000): 215-219. Springer. OCLC 90686787
  • Public and Clandestine: Gay Men's Pseudonyms on the French Minitel, in Sexualities, 5, no. 2 (2002): 201-217. Publisher: Sage Publications OCLC: 89287475
  • France: A Traveler's Literary Companion (Traveler's Literary Companions vol.16), with William Rodarmor, Whereabouts Press, 2008, ISBN 1-883513-18-9




External links[edit]