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Aunt Lute Asks: Ginny Z Berson

Aunt Lute Asks is a series that features voices in our Aunt Lute family. Today we are excited to bring you this interview with Ginny Z Berson, author of Olivia on the Record and one of the principal founders of Olivia Records.

What is your favorite part of radical reading or writing? I love stories. I love a good story and when I was growing up there were no stories about people like me. And the stories that were available to me, for the most part, were of such a narrow piece of the world and that has changed so much. Aunt Lute of course is one of the reasons that that has changed, as well as the fact that queer people and Black people and brown people and Muslim people and people from other parts of the world have... their writing has become available much more widely. That's what I love about reading radically. Reading great stories that either reflect me or that open up worlds for me to walk into, worlds that I couldn't access otherwise sitting in my house in Oakland. And the same is true for the writing that I do. There is a place now for ideas that are not part of the “mainstream” and it's so important that these radical ideas that challenge patriarchy and racism and capitalism, and that actually talk about a different kind of world that we could create, that there's space for these. That's what's exciting to me, there's just so much more room for so many more kinds of stories of different kinds of people and experiences. That's radical to me. What was the first Aunt Lute book that you read or is there one that you'd like to talk about? I think the first Aunt Lute book that I read was the Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde. I read it a long time ago. I read it when I was at KPFA and I remember Audre coming into the station actually to read from her book and to be interviewed by a woman named Karla Tonella and she just kind of blew my mind. She had such a different way to me, at that time, of looking at life and looking at death and what it meant to be a Black lesbian woman. I know that now we say queer, but we didn't say that then. She identified as a Black lesbian and she was pretty amazing. So that book made a big impression on me. I've read a number of books, but the other one that made a big impression on me was Judy Grahn's memoir that Aunt Lute published, A Simple Revolution. I've known Judy for decades. In fact, at Olivia Records we recorded an album with her poetry and the poetry of Pat Parker because Judy really spoke to me. They both spoke to me, but I discovered Judy before I discovered Pat and it was Judy's memoir that inspired me to write to her. When I had decided I will write this memoir about the founding of Olivia Records, but I didn't know how to write, I had no idea how to write a memoir, inspired me to write to her and say, "So you've written her memoir, could you teach a class of how to write memoirs?" She wrote back and said, "Well you're like the fifth or sixth person who's asked me to do this so I guess it must be time." That's how I wrote my book, in a class that Judy Grahn taught with–I don't know–there were six or eight women. We met once a month, I went for over a year and I wrote the book as part of the class. Reading Judy's book was really important to me and that's a clear direct example of how Aunt Lute Books impacted me because it's because of Judy's book that I was really able to write mine. Why should people support Aunt Lute? I try to live in a way so that everything that I do reflects my values. As if I were living in the world that I want to create, and I have always believed in the importance of creating the kinds of institutions that do not exploit people, that uplift people and that give people space to be who they are and support to be who they are. That we create the world that we want to live in. Aunt Lute to me is part of that world. I want to live in a world where there are businesses, organizations, companies like Aunt Lute that are not designed to make as much money as you can possibly make and it doesn't matter who you step on on your way to the bank. There have to be organizations like Aunt Lute that are operating based on the kinds of values that we want to live in, that reflect the world that I want to live in. That's why people should support the institutions that give us the space to be who we are and that support our work. That enable us to do the work that will continue to change the world and make it the world that's that's that's a kinder world, that's based on really on values of love rather than based on values of money. That's that's why I think people should support Aunt Lute and I hope everybody does.

If you want to hear more from Ginny or learn more about Olivia on the Record, RSVP for our upcoming free event! Join us on June 28th at 6 p.m. PT for the Stay True to Your Shelf Reading.

Olivia on the Record Resource Guide

We are so thrilled to announce the next Resource Guide is here! Free to use and download, we hope this guide for Olivia on the Record will encourage people to read the book, teach it in classrooms and learn more about the history of Olivia Records.

Inside this guide are some goodies we hope you'll make use of, including:

  • Book Description

  • Author Information

  • Resources

  • Teacher testimonials

  • Classes assigned in

  • More about Olivia On the Record

  • More about Olivia Records

  • More about Ginny Z Berson

  • Further reading

  • Where to get a copy

#GiveOUTDay Continues!

Your support ensures the future of Aunt Lute Books. We've so appreciated the donations we've gotten for our #GiveOUTDay fundraiser.

If you haven't donated, there's still time! Your donation of $5 or $50 can help us keep going and qualify for extra rewards from the fundraiser.


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