Artemis OakGrove, Nighthawk
Artemis OakGrove, Nighthawk
Denver: Lace Publications, 1987.
First edition, first printing. 189 pp. Paperback in pictorial wraps. Signed by the author to Moonyean [Grosch] and Nancy: “I can’t thank you enough for your constant support throughout this project. Love, Artemis.” In very good condition.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
An intense work of S/M erotic fiction by an author whose writing, as the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures explains, caused “explosive” argument within the feminist movement for its “controversial” sexual self-expression, alongside writers such as Pat Califia, Susie Bright, and the magazines On Our Backs and Bad Attitude. The the title character of the book is Nighthawk, known as ‘Hawk, a tough African American lesbian who protects her inner city neighbourhood and its local dyke bar—The Subway Club—at all costs. With ‘Hawk as the leader of the scene, one of the chief complexities Oakgrove takes on as a white woman is her treatment of interracial relationships, and their influence over the power dynamics of S/M relationships. The story opens with a visit to the Subway Club—a place described as existing exclusively for women of color and presided over by ‘Hawk—by Lori, a white woman who goes there in search of her Native American lover Cloud Three Eagles. When Cloud isn’t there, Lori is taken as the sex slave of Nighthawk.
The sexual fantasies that ensue can be hard to read: they are repeatedly and unapologetically described as rape, and for that reason give better context to the outrage of feminists like Andrea Dworkin in her writings on pornography, and the reaction of some second wave feminists to the subject more generally. Sex-positive feminist approaches have ultimately (& rightly) won out in the 21st century, and with them a resurgence of interest in publications like On Our Backs rather than the magazine whose title it parodied, Off Our Backs. But it is important to frame the argument equally on both sides, as well as to understand the full extent of its fuel, and for that reason this book is doubly influential as a work of erotic fiction and as a limiting case in understanding what feminist pornography might look like. To add to its interest in this debate, the volume is gratefully addressed by the author to Moonyean Grosch, a feminist bookseller who owned Womansplace Bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona, and who features frequently in the Feminist Bookstore Newsletter, a publication used to connect Grosch with similar bookshops across the USA, and a forum for discussion, debate, and collaboration.
Bonnie Zimmerman, editor. Encyclopaedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures, Volume 1. (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2000), 34.
Junko Onosaka, Feminist Revolution in Literacy: Women’s Bookstores in the United States (New York and London: Routledge, 2006).