For Immediate Release
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I Am My Lover: Women Pleasure Themselves Wins "Almost Banned Books" Award
I Am My Lover: Women Pleasure Themselves, (Down There Press, 1996) tied with Gardening the Arid Land (La Mesa) for the 1999 Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) "Almost Banned Books" award. The facetious annual award recognizes books that have been purchased by the fewest number of OCLC libraries in the United States. Entries are selected from books reviewed in the progressive library journal Counterpoise. I Am My Lover has been nominated for other awards, including a Lambda Book Award.
In his article "Really Banned Books" (Counterpoise, April 1998), Earl Lee, collection development librarian for Kansas State University and an associate editor for Counterpoise, focuses on the two largest supporters and holders of books in the United States: libraries and bookstores. Lee writes, " ... few, if any, books are banned outright in this country [United States]. But many books are overlooked, ignored, sidelined and squeezed out of the market place. Many small press books are unable to find a place in bookstores or libraries ... " Of the many books that aren't popular or that are overlooked, especially by libraries, according to Lee's observations, those with sexual content topped his list. Lee continues, "[T]he books found in the fewest number of libraries tended to be those that dealt with sex in a graphic "how to" manner ... Evidently masturbation is not a popular topic in libraries."
Censorship or being pushed out of the marketplace is an equal opportunity problem beyond the United States (also noted in Lee's article). Earlier this year I Am My Lover was seized and banned by French Customs officials, along with other books that explicitly deal with "body piercing, tattooing and alternative sex." According to Erick Gilbert, foreign sales representative for San Francisco independent publisher and distributor Last Gasp (Publishers Weekly, July 5, 1999), the French have "arbitrarily seized and banned 39 U.S. titles since 1996" imported by Last Gasp -- including another Down There Press title, Femalia.
At the same time, France is allowing the same books through Customs when larger wholesalers, such as Ingram, are the distributors. According to Gilbert, France has no official policy on censorship of literature; French law bans only books that promote narcotics.
Down There Press is the publishing arm of Good Vibrations, a nationally known women -- owned retail cooperative and mail order sexuality business. Down There Press specializes in sexual health titles.