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Last week, we lost Barbara Grier, a founder of Naiad Press. I didn’t know Ms. Grier personally, but she had a profound effect on me.
In these times of The L Word and The Kids Are All Right, it may be difficult to imagine that not too long ago lesbians were all but invisible in literature and popular culture. Those we did see ended up, as the Los Angeles Times recently noted, “. . . one of three ways: they married a man, went crazy or killed themselves.” Grier changed that.
Grier and her partner Donna McBride founded Naiad Press in 1973 to publish the books of lesbian authors at a time when no other publishing house would do so. As a young and coming out lesbian living in southwestern Virginia, the titles published by Naiad were pretty much the only confirmation I had that there were happy and healthy women like me in the world and that there was actually a community out there I could become part of. Later, I passed those books along to working class women in Roanoke, Virginia, so they, too, would know they were not alone.
When icons and legends pass on, we often honor them with statues and speeches. Barbara Grier, however, is best memorialized by the more than 500 books she published and the image in my head of a young woman in Virginia with her nose in a book. I still have my copy of Curious Wine. Thank you, Barbara Grier!