‘LIBER’ Marries Women’s History and Contemporary Feminism

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Jennifer Baumgardner, founder and editor of LIBER: A Feminist Review, believes {that a} literary journal could be a place the place girls’s historical past intersects with immediately’s most urgent feminist debates. The bimonthly print publication, additionally obtainable on-line, calls this formidable mission a technique to have interaction with “the tangle of views, priorities, and entry factors” of latest feminist concept and apply.  

Visually gorgeous, the journal brings guide evaluations, new fiction, poetry and long-form essays to subscribers. All through, content material straddles the private and the political. Poetry editor Katha Pollitt selects new work by well-known and rising poets. Though the journal is new—its first challenge got here out in early 2022—it has already attracted contributions from distinguished writers together with Catharine Stimpson, Chris Kraus, Alicia Ostriker, Laurie Stone, and Michelle Tea. 

Baumgardner a author and documentary-maker, publishes LIBER by her feminist imprint Dottir Press. Previously the editor of The Girls’s Evaluate of Books, and director of The Feminist Press (and a one-time editor at Ms.), she is enthusiastic however sensible concerning the challenges of making and selling a publication dedicated to books, language, standard tradition and progressive social change. Baumgardner and senior editor Charis Caputo sat down with Ms. contributor Eleanor J. Bader in late summer time to debate LIBER—which suggests ‘guide’ and ‘free’ in Latin—and their targets for the overview.


Eleanor J. Bader: What was the impetus for beginning LIBER

Jennifer Baumgardner:  I edited the Girls’s Evaluate of Books from 2018 by 2022, and Charis and Katha labored with me for many of that point. WRB was based and housed on the Wellesley Centers for Women, however within the final fifteen years or so, it was owned by Outdated Metropolis Publishing—principally two gentleman in Philadelphia who personal a bunch of journals together with American Poetry Evaluate and Girls’s Artwork Journal. They had been beautiful and by no means interfered editorially, however they managed the structure and thus the aesthetic. When Charis and I made a decision it was time to maneuver on from WRB, we couldn’t let go of the thought of making a publication of our personal, and specializing in the elements of the job that we beloved, together with design. We believed there was a necessity for extra writing by feminists, particularly in a print kind you can maintain in your fingers. 

We put feelers out to our circles to see what folks considered the thought. There was a whole lot of enthusiasm. Of the hundred or so writers we reached out to initially, most stated they might subscribe, write for it, or each. That gave us the push to create LIBER.

Why did you resolve to merge archival supplies and historic reflections alongside newly written items?

Baumgardner: Girls’s historical past tends to get misplaced after which rediscovered years later. These rediscoveries are vital, however typically when the historical past is recovered and circulated, it’s watered down or incomplete or oversimplified or blurred—like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photograph. However historic paperwork or first-person accounts, nevertheless messy, are often fascinating and illuminating. 

We wish LIBER to have an archival ingredient, a approach for feminists to work together with accounts which can be neither romanticized nor changed into one thing they weren’t. Among the latest writing and different media concerning the Jane Collective in pre-Roe Chicago is an instance of those distortions. 

Proper now, girls’s historical past is being misplaced. Consider the handfuls and dozens of feminist and lesbian feminist presses from the Seventies and Nineteen Eighties whose output just isn’t archived, cataloged, and even a part of a web-based community for researchers or readers. We’d like to assist repair this omission. We try to be one other brick within the constructing of feminist historical past and would like to function one thing of an archival hub.

Do you solicit contributions to the Evaluate?

Baumgardner: We do. We’ve 5 – 6 folks whose work we love, that we all know we will rely on and who contribute to most points, like McKenzie Wark, Noelle McManus, Kathleen Rooney … and Charis! We get a whole lot of over-the-transom pitches, too. Moreover, there’s serendipity. For instance, our copy editor, Larissa Melo Pienkowski, can be a literary agent. She launched us to one in every of her authors, a Brazilian poet named Aline Mello. Katha accepted new poems from Aline, and in a subsequent dialog we acknowledged that Aline had an incredible story to inform about what it’s wish to be an undocumented MFA pupil post-DACA. Aline wrote an exquisite essay about this within the Fall challenge of LIBER. 

Typically, like with Aline, serendipity works out. Typically it doesn’t and typically the work submitted requires a whole lot of surgical procedure, however I wish to be open-minded about new writers. It’s definitely worth the threat.

Charis Caputo:  We wish an attention-grabbing mixture of writers. I not too long ago graduated from New York College’s MFA program in inventive writing, so I’m engaged with a whole lot of youthful writers. Jennifer has an enormous cohort of her friends in addition to second wave period writers she labored with at WRB, Feminist Press and Ms.—LIBER is dedicated to together with completely different generations of feminists. 

LIBER consists of many nonbinary and trans writers as a matter after all. Is that this intentional?

Baumgardner:  Sure. Persons are, after all, organic creatures however we don’t use the phrases feminist or girls in a approach that reduces these classes to a couple physique elements. This permits us to make use of our platform to have a look at socialization, the deeply entrenched misogyny that surrounds something female. We refuse to get into the outdated, apparent debate about who’s a lady or generalizations about feminine expertise. Gender essentialist arguments get loads of actual property—in feminist-identified areas and on, like, Tucker Carlson—we don’t want or must rehash them. 

As a substitute, we publish work that explores the philosophical and political alternative that nonbinary or trans views supply to feminist concept. 

Caputo:  An implicit stance of LIBER is that we don’t consider essentialism is legitimate. There aren’t any ironclad definitions of what it means to be a person, girl, or particular person of one other gender.

How have readers responded to the journal to date?   

Baumgardner:  Some items we’ve revealed have been polarizing which will get debate going. We’re completely satisfied about this. General, although, the journal has been warmly obtained and suggestions has been positive-to-rapturous. Individuals appear completely satisfied to learn it. It’s visually legible, which helps! 

Nonetheless, we’ve to scale up if LIBER goes to be sustainable. We now have a distributor and quite a few huge unbiased bookstores throughout the nation inventory the journal (like Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Powell’s in Portland, and Skylight in LA). Whether or not we will develop it to the place it must be is an open query. We pay our writers, artists, and workers, besides me and Katha, so we’ve to have sufficient subscribers—particular person in addition to institutional—to allow the journal to pay for itself. If this doesn’t occur, we’ll need to face the truth that this experiment didn’t fairly succeed. For now, although, we’re completely satisfied to create a correctly designed feminist print publication.

Caputo: From the start, we knew that we wished to incorporate a whole lot of completely different views and be an enormous feminist tent for as many individuals as attainable. That is each a possibility and a problem.

Feminism in some methods has been mainstreamed. Actually, I grew up taking it as a right. Then, after I began working with Jennifer, I noticed I used to be not very educated, particularly concerning the Second Wave. Bringing my era—I’m 32—into the dialog is vital to me. It is a function that LIBER can play, serving to to bridge the generations. To do that folks must know LIBER exists, so we’ve to search out new and higher methods to advertise. 

I don’t envy you… These are tough occasions, between COVID and a seemingly widespread financial downturn. Do you have got a technique to maneuver this ahead? 

Baumgardner: First, Charis is correct that feminism has been mainstreamed to some extent. Nonetheless, folks usually come to establish as feminists by private expertise. The ingredient of getting one thing occur to you and connecting that have to earlier generations of feminists provides feminism its glue. If LIBER can present a hyperlink that avoids the floor stuff and invitations newer feminists in for a deeper dive, we will probably be making a contribution and offering an ideological toehold for understanding the world. 

I consider LIBER as a collage, a mixture of new concepts, outdated concepts, tutorial theories and commentary about novels, historical past, memoir, and artwork. If LIBER will get to develop, our pages will embody extra reported tales, like a round-up of the constellation of feminist supplies that had been created by the now-defunct girls’s presses or an oral historical past of early Second Wave teams just like the Furies.

We’ve so many concepts and are enthusiastic about increasing our attain and readership. This fall we’ll be doing a sequence of in-person occasions which we hope will usher in new readers, new writers, institutional subscriptions, and perhaps some promoting {dollars}. Time will inform.

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