International / Intervention

It is hard to imagine now that there was a time when it was very difficult to find gay and lesbian books. Even in major cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

There were two reason for this. The first is that there weren’t that many books at all. When Melbourne’s Gay Teachers and Students Group produced a bibliography in 1976, they found several dozen works of fiction (going back to the 1890s) and a smaller number of non-fiction works and gay-lib journals

The second problem was actually finding someone to sell you what little there was: mainstream bookshops simply weren’t interested. Enter the Communist Party, whose book shops in Melbourne (the International) and Sydney (Intervention) were repositories of very good collections.

For many an anxious young poofter or dyke, the opportunity to drift casually from the shelves of Althusser and the Grundrisse towards Body Politic and Patricia Nell Warren was a godsend.

The close association between gay and lesbian politics and far left radicalism over the 1970s made this a natural place to find such stuff, but originally the International’s collection came from Adelaide. The Dr Duncan Revolution Bookshop had been run by gay libbers, first as a mail order service and then as an actual shop for a few years before financial problems forced it to close. Quick action by the International Bookshop brought the stock to Melbourne.

Brought to you by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Posted in History Bites.