Julie's blog

2021 Pushcart Prize Nominations from Sinister Wisdom

The Pushcart Prize is one of the most honored literary anthologies in the United States. Publishing since 1976, the Pushcart Prize recognizes the best work of small presses.

Sinister Wisdom is pleased to nominate six pieces from the four issues of Sinister Wisdom published prior to December 1, 2020 for the 2020 Pushcart Prize.

The six pieces are:

“Fanny” by Joan Larkin
“Ezras Nashim” by Tovah Gidseg
“On These Streets, Every Queer Woman is Roadkill” by SE Swea
“Love Letters to Toshi” by Syd Westley
“Bess, You Is My Woman Now” by Jewelle Gomez
“Buoyancy” by Krystal A. Smith

PDFs of the nominated pieces are available on the links for all to read. Congratulations to all of these wonderful writers! Sinister Wisdom is proud to have published your work and to nominate it for this honor.

2020 Pushcart Nominations from Sinister Wisdom

The Pushcart Prize is one of the most honored literary anthologies in the United States. Publishing since 1976, the Pushcart Prize recognizes the best work of small presses.

Sinister Wisdom is pleased to nominate six pieces from the four issues of Sinister Wisdom published prior to December 1, 2020 for the 2020 Pushcart Prize. The six pieces are:

“Penelope’s Vision” by Natalie Eleanor Patterson
“Sunday Morning” by Shelonda Montgomery
“Blueprint for a Feminist Bookstore Future – A Personal History of Charis” by ER Anderson
“My Mother Doesn’t Teach Me Mandarin” by Nhung An
“Denver 2007: Chip, Drag Ball” by Katherine Fallon
“What the Trees Said” by Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz

PDFs of the nominated pieces are available on the links for all to read. Congratulations to all of these wonderful writers! Sinister Wisdom is proud to have published your work and to nominate it for this honor.

Review of Bar Dykes

Bar Dykes – a one act play by Merril Mushroom
Link for tickets: https://www.tososnyc.org

by DiAnna Fitztola

The year is 1958, when women were still called girls, and many lesbians were playing butch/femme roles to navigate their lives and desires. The tension women experienced having to keep their lesbian identity under wraps outside the bar plays out in relationship drama, family rejections, and the fear of being harassed, assaulted, and possibly arrested. Merril Mushroom animates all of these tensions to the audience of Bar Dykes, currently being staged in New York City at The Other Side of Silence (TOSOS), the oldest and longest producing LGBTQ+ theatre company. Mushroom also shows characters who love and laugh and dance and defy society’s constraints.


The women onstage in Bar Dykes embody butches and femmes as well as a couple of characters who “switch.” The multiracial cast strays from the reality of the segregated social scenes of 1958 but it works to bring the lived experience of lesbians to a wider audience. Throughout the play, lesbians see reflections of themselves. Linda struts and cruises femmes. Joyce breaks down when her mother learns that Joyce is gay (both women and men used “gay” then). Elaine, a new girl in town, is shy and nervous when approaching the more sophisticated Cynthia.

The entwined stories of the women in Bar Dykes reveal who dated who before now, who wishes they could get back together, and how this bar is one of the few places to be fully themselves. Within the play are a vibrant array of women: regulars and newbies, fragile and cocky, eager and reticent. The bartender, Bo, oversees everyone with a slight smirk, a practiced distance, and an eye to sort out trouble before it goes too far, most of the time.

The set features the bar on one side and the jukebox on the other, with formica and chrome tables in between. The lighting is wonderful; lighting and sound transitions show time passing effectively.


The show isn’t perfect. At times, the pacing of the dialogue feels rushed, especially since the action takes place all in one night. The staging is in the “round,” which allows for intimacy with the action but also inhibits some audience members from seeing fully (the back row of seats is not raised up for all sections). Some of the characters are less believable and given very little to say. It was obvious the actors were not regular smokers (in 1958 everyone smoked at the bar), though I appreciated the use of e-cigarettes that could be “lit” and used in all the ways that cigarettes were used for connection, flirtation, and timing of conversations. Overall, the depiction of what was known as a “girl bar,” is believable, and the progression of the night from first-drink flirtation through late-night drunken fighting feels all-too-relatable.

If you’re in NYC, go see Bar Dykes. We need to remember not only who we were, but how far we have come. It has been 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, and lesbians are still fighting for our rights as full human beings. In Bar Dykes, we can see that not only have we come out of the darkness and secrecy of the bar, we also have come a long way in understanding our worth and having pride in who we are and how we love.




Call for Submissions—LGBTQIA Anthology

Author Megan Volpert is seeking 75 queer writers in all genres to contribute to Closet Cases, a forthcoming anthology on queer fashion (Et Alia Press, spring 2020). Submission guidelines here: http://www.meganvolpert.com/closet-cases.html

As a verb, "fashion" is exceedingly queer. Our queer community learns to fashion its identity out of the clothes we wear, the costumes we choose, the fabrics we desire--and the statements these make. No other community of people allows clothing to serve as such a primary, dominant marker of subjectivity, both individually and collectively. And we don't simply permit it; we rely upon it. Queers communicate through what we put on our bodies. So this is not merely a "fashion book." It's a collection of artifacts that testify to the power of fashion as a verb, to the complex and lovely strategies that govern what we do in the LGBTIQ community to build authentic selves that are both comfortable and seen.

Each contributor will get a two-page spread with photo of their clothing and accompanying text explaining its significance. This gorgeous, full-color coffee table book will be published by Et Alia Press in spring 2020. Deadline July 15.


-Photograph must include item of clothing
-Author may or may not be pictured with item
-Hi-resolution files preferred, pixelated photos will be rejected
-Square-shaped photos preferred, photos may be cropped
-Full-color, relatively unfiltered/unedited photos preferred
-All-ages appropriate background, no drugs/violence


-Text must address item in photo
-All genres & mixed/experimental genres welcome
-Must fit on one standard page, about 350 words max


-Simultaneous submissions welcome
-Multiple submissions welcome, just fill out separate form for each
-Expect notification of your submission status by August 1, 2019
-Direct any other inquiries to the editor, Megan Volpert


2018 Pushcart Prize Nominations from Sinister Wisdom

Sinister Wisdom is pleased to nominate six pieces from the four issues of Sinister Wisdom published prior to December 1, 2018 for the 2018 Pushcart Prize.

The six pieces are:

“Weeds” by Kate Ellison
“Foreword” by Myriam Gurba
“Wind of Fury – Songs of Fury” by Oksana Vasyakina, Translated by Jonathan Brooks Platt
“Parable of the Sower” by Pamela Sneed
“Whole, and Nothing But” by Arisa White
“Seven Easy Questions” by Rosamond S. King

PDFs of the nominated pieces are available on the links for all to read. Congratulations to all of the writers!

Statement on the Cover Art for Sinister Wisdom 107: Black Lesbians—We Are the Revolution!

Recent dialogue about the cover photograph on Sinister Wisdom 107 provides an opportunity for us to articulate why we, co-editors, cover photographer, cover model, and editor and publisher of Sinister Wisdom 107, view this cover as revolutionary.
JP Howard, Editor of Sinister Wisdom 107: While readers may not be aware of the back story, this photograph was part of a larger photo shoot, specifically curated for this issue. This was one of numerous photographs that Amber and I considered. The cover photograph of black lesbian model, Amadi Agbomah, titled Liberation, was submitted for consideration, along with an artist statement by black lesbian photographer, Akinfe Fatou. Akinfe’s statement, submitted and viewed in conjunction with the photograph, immediately resonated with both of us. Akinfe’s artist statement reads “Black lesbians have always been at the forefront of change leading the charge for equality and redefining beauty standards and cultural norms. Liberation depicts afro expressionism, womanism and protest: a Black lesbian in full authority of her agency and her faculties fiercely proclaiming to the world... my divine body, my human rights, my conscious choice.” When Amber and I first saw “Liberation” and accompanying artist statement, we too saw a Black lesbian in full “authority of her agency” staring confidently at the lens and agreed that we needed to include this bold and visionary photograph.
Like the multiple and diverse genres of writing and unique artwork selected for inclusion in the journal, the cover photograph is a representation of the diversity of work produced by brilliant Black lesbian artists. Black lesbians are not a monolith, and our revolution takes on different shapes and dimensions for each of us. We, brilliant black lesbians, have a long-standing history of producing work that is both dynamic and thought provoking. Our cover art reflects and complements the bold, unflinching voices that line pages and pages of this issue. Liberation, as depicted and celebrated in this cover photo, pays homage to the statement by late Black lesbian poet and activist, Pat Parker, who once said “The day all the different parts of me can come along, we would have what I would call a revolution.” I view this photograph as revolutionary and see it as functioning on multiple levels. It embraces our blackness, owns our lesbianism, celebrates our “afro expressionism” and ultimately, documents our strength and agency over our own black lesbian bodies. If that’s not REVOLUTIONARY, then what is!?

Amber Atiya, Editor of Sinister Wisdom 107: I was immediately drawn to this image titled Liberation, which challenges dark-skinned femme invisibility in LGBT/Black lesbian communities and within larger culture and media. When dark-skinned women are given air time, it's as mammies, nannies, best friends, desexualized entities, the butt of the joke, especially when played by Black male comedians in drag whose character (manly, awkward, unattractive) is almost always juxtaposed with a high femme, light-skinned love interest. Also, as I told JP, I've noticed over the years how a lot of dark-skinned Black women, especially women with fuller, thicker, rounder, wider features, are posed looking down or away from the camera—but not Amadi, who stares defiantly into the camera. This gives me so much life, and why can’t The Revolution reflect that? Why can't The Revolution be both body and sex-positive? Why, instead of finding a million things wrong with Liberation can't we see everything right and yesss about it?
Why not ask ourselves why this photo is called Liberation in the first place? Perhaps we as Black lesbians need a revolution of perspective, an ability to use a Black womanist and loving gaze to contemplate our bodies, our sexualities, to experience Liberation without being afraid of or intimidated by it, to know there is power and beauty and something greater than beauty there.

Akinfe Fatou: photographer, poet and provocateur: Issue 107 echoes the inspiration of our many Black lesbian heroines with its imaginative and transformative art and literary offerings. I've been so moved by the groundswell of support and praise for the cover. I am truly grateful that the work has been well received. Particularly, as a Black lesbian photographer in an industry dominated by white men.

The photograph was created in collaboration with model Amadi Agbomah and centers Black queer eloquence set as a powerful radical act of self love, defiance and fearlessness in a climate that seeks to control and strip Black lesbians of our autonomy and ability to make decisions concerning our bodies, reproductive and basic human rights.

The cover photograph speaks to and embodies the brilliant multidimensional work in issue 107, challenging the white gaze of Black lesbian bodies, conventional patriarchal norms and oppressive inequitable beauty standards. Black Lesbians: We Are The Revolution is a definitive proclamation holding brave space and drawing from the courage of its editors and contributors who are redefining the visual landscape and literary canon as we know it.

It embraces and lifts up the profundity of our complex identities, resilience, intelligence, creativity and sexuality, inspiring a fluid dialogue around perception, erasure, body shaming, and the ways in which Black queer women have been marginalized and silenced. Bringing to bare the haunting traumas, weaponization and misrepresentation that our bodies have endured. The pose of the model is a reclaiming of our magic, our spells, and our divinity, channeling our experiences in a way that harnesses and calls our power back to us.

We don't see Black lesbians featured enough in mainstream publications, cinema and television productions, on the cover of magazines, on stages, in board rooms, in front of and behind the camera. Representation is central to how we see and position ourselves in a society indifferent and/or in favor of violence against Black lesbians in America and around the world who face constant abuse, corrective rape and death. Issue 107 is a means of reframing, creating, and controlling our narratives and increasing the visibility of Black lesbians globally.

Amadi Agbomah, Model: Being a BLACK Queer Model means embracing the beauty of being Black. The struggle, the passion, the magic. Queerness is synonymous to being Black because I am intersectionality exemplified.

Julie R. Enszer, Editor and Publisher of Sinister Wisdom: The cover of Sinister Wisdom 107: Black Lesbians—We Are the Revolution! joins a long line of visually provocative covers that have featured lesbians of all races, ages, and sizes with ample nudity and presentations of unabashed sexuality. As the publisher of Sinister Wisdom, I was pleased to work with editors JP Howard and Amber Atiya to fulfill their vision for the issue, including the selection and presentation of the cover images. Rather than centering a white male gaze—or even a white female or lesbian gaze—the cover of Sinister Wisdom 107 centers a radical, Black lesbian gaze that challenges ideas that Black lesbians are only sexual or not sexual at all. The cover photograph, artfully staged and executed by Akinfe Fatou, brings a powerful young woman in control of her sexuality into view of a variety of lesbian audiences. The variety of reactions to this cover is a welcome joyful noise of thinking about and engaging with contemporary Black, lesbian, and feminist politics across generations. In short, the cover image—and the entire issue—contributes to the mission and work of Sinister Wisdom in the world.

Statement on the Cover Image of Sinister Wisdom 107
Love the cover? Order a copy of the full cover (with front and back images) in an 8.5" x 11" reprint, signed by the co-editors and photographer!
Just $8.25, including shipping, and suitable for framing!

2016 Pushcart Nominations from Sinister Wisdom

Sinister Wisdom is pleased to nominate six pieces from the four issues of Sinister Wisdom published prior to December 1, 2016 for the 2016 Pushcart Prize.

The six pieces are:

“Lulu’s Pleasure Palace” by Cherry Muhanji
“Animus” by Courtney Hartnett
“Womanworks at BK and Mary’s” by Lynette Yetter
“Outer Banks” by J.M. Latham
“BME II” by Imani Sims
“From A Year from Today” by Stacy Szymaszek

Congratulations to all of the writers! Fingers crossed that one or more will be selected for a Pushcart Prize this year!

2016 Awards from Rainbow Williams

HERE ARE THE 2016 AWARDS from rainbow williams
no cash just appreciation

Best Lesbian Feminist Quarterly. Sinister Wisdom
Best Lesbian cartoonist. Diane F Germaine
Best Activist. Alix Dobkin
Best Landdyke publication. MAIZE Jae Hazzard
Best Old Lesbian Newsletter OLOC REPORTER
Best Radical Newsletter. Rain and Thunder
Best National Newsletter. Lesbian Connection
Best Regional Newsletter C O E Jacksonville
Best Childrens Biography FAITH RINGGOLD. If A Bus Talked could
Best Art Guide SALLY WILLOWBEE, Found Artists South
Best Video ARDEN EVERSMEYER, Our Stories, Our Voices
Best Memorial Memoir BLUEBIRD Pink Hats for Wendy
Best Historical Novel. RONNI SANLO The Soldier, Avatar, Holocaust and The Holoc

Submit to Rain & Thunder!

Learn more about Rain & Thunder and support this sister publication!



Subscribe to RSS - Julie's blog

"Empowerment comes from ideas."

Gloria Anzaldúa

“And the metaphorical lenses we choose are crucial, having the power to magnify, create better focus, and correct our vision.”
― Charlene Carruthers

"Your silence will not protect you."

Audre Lorde

“It’s revolutionary to connect with love”
— Tourmaline

"Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught."

― Leslie Feinberg

“The problem with the use of language of Revolution without praxis is that it promises to change everything while keeping everything the same. “
— Leila Raven