Editor/Publisher, South End Press, Cambridge, MA
The feminist movement of the 1970s gave birth to an extraordinary number of literary endeavors, especially little magazine and bookstores but also publishing houses and academic programs. The bookstores in many ways provided the public access points into the movement. It was here that a woman new to town or new to feminism could find the words that described her life experiences and her dreams, not to mention the news of what her neighbors were organizing for and against, the flyers of apartments to rent, the concerts and religious congregations that might feed her soul.
New Words served this purpose for me as I worked on feminist and gay periodicals, as I visited Boston from rural Maine, as I enrolled in women’s studies classes, as I became engaged in local and national politics. Since becoming a book publisher, I have come to understand New Words’ role more intimately, relying on it and other feminist bookstores to link my authors with the readers most in need of their work. South End Press is a small, independent publisher of serious non-fiction. New Words has served as a natural ally to us as we built our list over the last 25 years and the Center for New Words promises to play a similar role in the future. Authors like bell hooks, who wrote her first book as an undergraduate feminist in the late 1970s, were nourished by the feminist bookstores and have in turn given nourishment to an ever-widening arc of women and feminist men. Without the feminist bookstore movement, I sincerely doubt that many feminist writers would still be publishing.
The Center for New Words builds on the tremendous strengths of the last three decades of feminist literary infrastructure. That this ambitious program is needed is without argument when one considers the continuing uphill climb for women and girls to be heard. That it can succeed is also without doubt, given the experience it draws upon and the beloved place it holds in the local community.