FEW hopes to empower queer writers at book fair

Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) feels that LGBTQ characters and themes are often underrepresented in mainstream publishing and want to give queer writers an opportunity to showcase their published work and help those struggling to publish their manuscripts.

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JOHANNESBURG - "The Queer Book Fairs empower queer authors to find the stories that speak to them. They create community as we safely join each other in a shared love of reading and help provide the support in queer literature," said FEW Programs Coordinator Jade Madingwane.

Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) will be hosting their Queer Book Fair on 14 May at Constitution Hill.

FEW is a black lesbian feminist organisation that engages in advocacy, education and action to ensure that black lesbians enjoy holistic freedom, wellness, dignity and bodily autonomy in all aspects of their lives.

The organisation feels that LGBTQ characters and themes are often underrepresented in mainstream publishing and want to give queer writers an opportunity to showcase their published work and help those struggling to publish their manuscripts.

"We hosted the same activity in 2018. We feel that queer literature is essential because representation matters. In mainstream literature, we only ever see gendered literature that does not speak to queer lives or and literature,” Madingwane said.

READ: The award-winning Maneo Mohale on why queer poetry is the new black

According to Hachette Book Group, LGBTQ characters and themes are often underrepresented in mainstream publishing due to censorship and arguments that LGBTQ content is “niche", and therefore not commercially viable.

The group argues that books about LGBTQ characters and history can have a profound effect on readers, and LGBTQ visibility in media has a valuable place in the world of representation. Not only can these stories educate and inform readers who do not identify as part of the LGBTQ community, they can also portray a path in life that LGBTQ readers may not have thought possible.

"We want to have a conversation and readings of people's books or manuscripts. The reason behind it is to have more queer literature amongst queer people," said Madingwane.

Throughout history, literature with LGBTQ themes has faced challenges and objections and in some countries, queer people are still being persecuted and even killed for being part of the LGBTQ community.

Queer representation has come a long way since the days when the only allowable queer representation in literature had to be negative.

“We are looking for publishers as well to be in the space to answer questions the queer authors have but also recommendations that the publishers or publishers can give to these queer authors,” said Madingwane of their hopes and plans for the upcoming Queer Book Fair.

FEW said they plan to have panel discussions with published authors, as well as reading circles.

AUTHORS
Rosie Motene - Reclaiming the soil
Tiffany Mugo and Kim Windvogel - Touch The Experience
Tshego Magolego - Sipho's Pink Dress
Lebo Diverse - Pieces of Expressions