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BOOKS: Tiny Satchel Press gives LGBT youth of color a voice
by David-Elijah Nahmod
2011-10-05

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Victoria Brownworth understands the power of words.

A writer since childhood, her first book of poetry was published when she was 17. That was only the beginning. As an investigative journalist for both mainstream and LGBT publications, she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 after a series of articles in which she exposed corruption at a Philadelphia based social service agency. There was much more to come.

"I became an AIDS reporter," she wrote in an email to Windy City Times. "I won a series of awards for my pieces on women and AIDS, pediatric AIDS, and people of color and AIDS." She has worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, where she was the first lesbian in the country to have a column in a daily newspaper that was devoted to lesbian issues. She also contributed extensively to many other publications.

However, sometimes life can interfere while you're busy making other plans. "In 1993 I was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, which altered my career radically. I began focusing on writing books and editing anthologies." Since her diagnosis, Brownworth has had thirty books published and has been included in dozens of anthologies. She also authors a syndicated column in which she discusses and critiques television from an LGBT point of view.

Recently, Brownworth entered a new phase of her career. As the owner of Tiny Satchel Press, she offers a much needed platform to some of our most marginalized citizens.

"I had begun working as an acquisitions editor for another publishing company doing young adult books. I felt that my concerns about more LGBT centered books and books for teens and tweens of color weren't getting attention. I knew from my own experience how important having characters that represent you can be to kids. I thought that there were gaps to be filled. I live in a mostly African American neighborhood where the majority of the kids are poor or working class. There is no access to books. So I wanted to provide books to these kids."

"As someone who has been dealing with the marginalization of being a woman, a lesbian and now disabled, I really appreciate what it means to be searching for representation. I have always made an effort to have people of color well represented in my anthologies."

Brownworth walks the walk. Recent releases from Tiny Satchel Press include From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth. The book offers short stories by 13 writers who explore what it means to be a Black child or teen in the United States. Contributors include famed author and LGBT activist Jewelle Gomez, whose "Caramelle" tells a tale of the underground railroad of the 1860s. Other stories address young Black life as it might be today, as in Kahlil Almustafa's "Discovering 'Pac."

"I know that most people don't read outside their own groups," said Brownworth. "Straight people don't read queers, men don't read women, whites don't read Blacks, etc. So I wanted to put together a book for Black teens and tweens where everyone had to read about each other. So you have stories by straight Black writers and queer Black writers together. It's a fabulous collection!"

The publisher is also particularly excited about Dreaming in Color, the newly available novel by Fiona Lewis, a Jamaican-American lesbian. The very topical tale deals with racism and bullying in high school, and with the dislocation of immigration.

Tiny Satchel also prides itself in its diversity of genres. Brownworth stated, "Last Christmas we published Sorceress, a young adult novel by gay mystery writer Greg Herren, who has won many awards for his work. His main character was a young girl whose parents had been killed and dealt with a lot of issues young girls face—sex, isolation and bullying. The book came at the gothic thriller from a different perspective than we're used to seeing where the girl was self-empowered rather than just another victim."

Books have always been very important to Brownworth. "My mother taught me from a very early age to always take a book with me wherever I went and I would never be bored," she stated. "One of the things that made me a writer was the power books had over me when I was a child. Telling a story is one of the oldest abilities we have as humans."

For more information, visit www.TinySatchelPress.com .


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