Firebrand Books

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Firebrand Books
Founded 1985[1]
Founder Nancy K. Bereano
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location Ann Arbor, Michigan
Publication types Books
Nonfiction topics feminist and lesbian works
Official website

Firebrand Books is a publishing house established in 1984 by Nancy K. Bereano---a lesbian/feminist activist in Ithaca, NY. Karen Oosterhouse, publisher since 2003, describes Firebrand as "the independent publisher of record for feminist and lesbian fiction and nonfiction," championing "authors whose work has been marginalized: women of color, women coming out of poverty, transwomen, the genderqueer, and other underrepresented voices." [1] It is among the many feminist and lesbian publishing houses that grew out of the Women's Press Movement; other presses of that period include Naiad Books, Persephone and Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.

From 1984 to 2000, Firebrand Books published literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry on lesbian and feminist themes, placing publisher Nancy Bereano "at the forefront of lesbian and small press publishing."[2] Firebrand was the first publisher of Dorothy Allison's short story collection Trash, which subsequently won double Lambda Literary Awards in the categories of Lesbian Fiction and Small Press, and of the "Dykes to Watch Out For" series by Alison Bechdel.

The press has published poetry, fiction, and non-fiction by many luminary authors, including Jewelle Gomez, Leslie Feinberg, Cheryl Clarke, Ruthann Robson, Lesléa Newman, Mab Segrest, Leslie Feinberg, Judith Katz, Audre Lorde, and Minnie Bruce Pratt, earning four American Library Association Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Book Awards and 12 Lambda Literary Awards, including the Publisher's Service Award for Bereano, in 1996. On Bereano's influential role as an editor and publisher, Alison Bechdel writes: "she discovered me and published my first book when I was a punk kid....She also urged me to write a graphic novel long before the current craze, and that was the beginning of Fun Home."[3]

Bereano has emphasized the importance of small independent presses in supporting and promoting "new ways of thinking," especially for readers marginalized by large publishing houses. Citing her experiences publishing the work of Audre Lorde, Bereano writes:

The fact that [Lorde's] prose was published exclusively by small independently owned women’s presses was both a result of the major houses’ narrow perspective and the fact that Audre Lorde’s prose, particularly her myth-shattering essays, was instrumental in framing a changing reality for many women, primarily lesbian women (a readership long dismissed by the mainstream publishing world).[4]

After Bereano's retirement in 1994, Firebrand Books was sold, first to distributor LPC Group, and eventually to Karen Oosterhouse, who relocated the press from Ithaca to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2003.[5] In a 2009 interview, Oosterhouse stated that, "perhaps there will come a day when there is no longer a need for a specifically lesbian and feminist press, but for now Firebrand is that press."[1]

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  1. ^ a b c "Scenes: Firebrand Books: an interview with Karen Oosterhous". American Book Review. 30 (5): 31. 
  2. ^ Marsten, Brenda (2001). "Guide to the Firebrand Books Records, 1984-2000, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University. Description of Organizational History". Guide to the Firebrand Books Records, 1984-2000. Cornell University Library. Retrieved March 5, 2016. 
  3. ^ Bechdel, Alison (April 13, 2008). "Ithaca: archival kisses, drunken birds, firebrand". Alison Bechdel. Retrieved March 5, 2016. 
  4. ^ Bereano, Nancy K. (February 19, 2014). "Dismantling the Master's House". The Feminist Wire. Retrieved March 5, 2016. 
  5. ^ Blake, Amy (April 15, 2004). "Firebrand Books Rises from the Ashes". PrideSource. Between the Lines. Retrieved March 5, 2016. 

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