A HISTORY OF PUBLISHING PRIDE:
Alyson Publications
By Lisa C. Moore


Alyson Publications is the leading, largest—and oldest—publisher devoted to books by, for, and about lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people. Their audience is comprised of all ages, from children to adults. There are three Alyson imprints: Alyson Books, Advocate Books and Alyson Wonderland. Advocate Books, which publishes about two titles a year, also has a series called Advocate Life Stories. Recent titles were Hero of Flight 93 (about Mark Bingham’s Sept. 11, 2001 attempt to disarm the hijackers of that Pennsylvania flight) and Outlaw, about gay fiction pioneer John Rechy. Upcoming is Center Square, a biography of Paul Lynde.

Alyson Publications was started in 1980 in Boston by Sasha Alyson. Alyson, who also founded Bay Windows (a Boston LGBT newspaper) and Alyson Adventures (which coordinates LGBT vacations), wrote children’s books as well. He started Alyson Wonderland, Alyson’s children’s book imprint, in 1990 and published five books under his nom de plume, Johnny Valentine. (You can read more at www.johnnyvalentine.com.)

Some of the notable teen and children’s Alyson books in the 1980s were Reflections of a Rock Lobster, One Teenager in Ten, and the controversial (to the mainstream, at least) Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies. In 1995 Alyson sold Alyson Publications to Liberation Publications Inc., which owns the Advocate, Out and HIV+ magazines.

I recently spoke with Alyson editor in chief Angela Brown, age 33. She joined Alyson’s staff in 1998 as associate editor and became senior editor in October 2002. Brown edited the series Best Lesbian Love Stories 2003 and 2004, and the upcoming Mensch: On Being Jewish and Queer (Spring 2004).

LBR: Does being affiliated with LPI help with what you select?

Angela Brown: Since we’re so connected with Advocate and Out, it’s changed a lot of what we’ve published. We’re really in tune with what’s going on in the gay community.... We have our finger on the pulse. We have an inside edge of what’s going on through the magazines.
 
LBR:What’s Alyson’s best selling title?

AB: B-Boy Blues by James Earl Hardy.
 
LBR:What do you think has been the most successful title?

AB: Well, Alyson’s most important title is The Men With the Pink Triangle by Heinz Hegger. It’s the story of gay men in Nazi death camps. It’s been in print since 1980. It’s an important book, and so little is writtten on the topic. How many gay books have been in print for 25 years? Another important book was Keep Singing. It was not an overwhelming financial success, but it was the story of two women in North Carolina who fought Jesse Helms. I got so much feedback on that book. It wasn’t written by a gay person, and it affected so many straight readers. It crossed over a little more than some of our books do.
 
LBR: What is the best part of your job?

AB: Forging connections with different people. Another thing that’s so great is discovering a really great talent and nurturing that talent; really seeing a writer grow over his or her career and become a better writer with each book. It’s really amazing to have a hand in that process. Two that come immediately to mind are Jane Summer’s The Silk Road and Ann Wadsworth’s Light, Coming Back. My new favorite is Steven Cooper, whose With You in Spirit is just coming out, followed by Saving Valencia, in spring 2004. Steven is really a writer to watch out for. Saving Valencia is a book that’s hard to categorize; mystery and comedy in a sort of Kurt Vonnegutian way. He astounds you with these beautiful passages out of nowhere. One minute you have chills running up your spine, the next you’re peeing in your pants, you’re laughing so hard!
 
LBR: What else are you looking forward to?

AB: We have some young adult books coming: Clay’s Way by Blair Mastbaum; Young, Gay and Proud, an Alyson classic, how-to coming out book for teens,which I’ve edited for fall 2004, and Not the Only One (short fiction for gay/lesbian teens) revised and updated by Jane Summer.
 
LBR: What is your biggest regret?

AB: I wish I had more time to read manuscripts! When I go home I don’t want to read anything! I probably have thirty unread books at home, but I don’t have time.


Lisa Moore is the editor of Lambda Book Report.

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