Books by Victoria A. Brownworth

Released: Dec. 10, 1997

Believing ``the history of women in cinema has yet to truly be written,'' filmmaker Redding and Brownworth (Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life, 1996) begin the task with 33 profiles of female filmmakers and moguls. They range from pioneers like Ida Lupino to popular feature directors like Jane Campion to art-house players like Su Friedrich; many of them discuss difficulties of the male- dominated industry. The reports of some are amusing, as when Alison Anders asks the studio to include her son's child-care providers in the credits for Grace of My Heart: ``I know you've never done this before, but you probably haven't had many single moms directing films for you, either.'' Others eschew the industry completely, such as experimental director Trinh T. Minh- ha. Most, like Donna Deitch, note the lack of ``equal access'' in the industry for women. Also discussed are feminism, the experiences of lesbians in film, and minority filmmaking. The profiles are earnest, often enlightening, sometimes whiny. But readers—especially film students and would-be filmmakers—should stick with it and think about the questions raised here about the nature of women's films. For example, a recurring theme of many films discussed is female identity, often rendered in terms of female sexuality. These films deal with self-definition (Donna Deitch's lesbian romance Desert Hearts), re-examination (Lizzie Borden's prostitute drama Working Girls), and cultural oppression (Pratibha Parmar's documentary Warrior Marks, about female genital mutilation). As opposed to male-directed films that define characters mainly through action, women are more concerned with exploring states of being. How do these aims affect the popularity of women's films? That the book provokes such thoughts is its best quality. Read full book review >
Released: July 15, 1996

A veteran journalist reflects on politics—queer, feminist, and global—with sporadic clarity, insight, and creativity. Brownworth (editor of the fiction collection Night Bites: Vampire Stories by Women, 1995), who has been a radical queer journalist for two decades, wrote most of these essays in 1995, a year that marks, she asserts, a turning point in human history, for reasons she does not explain clearly: The O.J. Simpson verdict and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, she suggests, are emblematic of a unique ``fear and despair'' that is gripping the world. (One could, however, locate just such fear and despair in any grim series of events and in other years.) However, she expresses many of her other ideas far more lucidly. She argues against gay assimilation into straight culture and against trying to win entry to the two institutions that have come to symbolize such assimilation: marriage and the military. Why concentrate on the most oppressive aspects of mainstream culture, she asks; these traditions are not even healthy for straight people. In one particularly moving piece, she describes being sick in the hospital and wanting her girlfriend to stay with her, and having no guarantee that the doctor would accept her definition of ``kin.'' Her essay on the institutionalized celebration of the Stonewall riot is thoughtful; when we reduce history to a single moment, she points out, much gets lost—particularly a complex understanding of the politics and human experience involved in human rights struggles. Brownworth does fall into the clichÇs of queer political writing at times (breaking ``silences,'' etc.), as well as the clichÇs of queer personal writing (she always felt different growing up, etc.). Not always original, but for anyone trying to understand the political landscape of the late 20th century, Brownworth's observations are worth a look. Read full book review >
NIGHT BITES by Victoria A. Brownworth
Released: Feb. 14, 1996

Sixteen original queer, bi-, and hetero tales of blood and lust: the first vampiric sheaf ever solely by women, with a feminine and feminist view of the genre. Most contributors are unknowns, many quite literary and taking their first night bite. Introducing the collection, Brownworth and her unlisted helper/coeditor, Judith M. Redding, give a rubber-fanged, seven- page survey of vamp-fi that offers nothing new, nor anything personal. Brownworth's own story, ``Twelfth Night,'' has a terrific idea, that of a female vampire journalist who never murders but instead feeds nightly on deserving murderers in the world's bloodiest hot spots—Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti, and so on. Brownworth, however, mutes everything with endless exposition and local color about New Orleans and with a wispy climax. Redding's ``Unexpurgated Notes from a Homicide Case File'' is all story and tells (in police file notes) of a rash of teenage deaths in Philadelphia and of some vampires who apparently need geraniums to purify themselves after taking blood from victims of crack or AIDS. In Meredith Suzanne Baird's ``They Have No Faces,'' Lydia hopes that a trip to Romania will cure her husband's alcoholism and make him the man he used to be. It doesn't. Meanwhile, the most strikingly imaginative tale here, ``Anita, Polish Vampire, Holds Forth at the Jewish Cafe of the Dead,'' features Judith Katz's truly amusing lesbian bloodsuckers, who sit gorging on fresh hearts in a dusty cafe filled with vampires that were murdered in a pre-Holocaust pogrom. Mystery writer Nikki Baker offers the volume's tightest, liveliest story, about an Afro-American, former-lesbian Chicago homicide detective who finds strange likenesses in three murders: The victims have lost half their blood, but despite their slashed throats, there's little of it in evidence—and all have terminal AIDS, though they sure didn't have it a week ago. Strong and satisfying, even when coasting. Read full book review >