I just found out that Barbara Grier passed away a week ago at the age of 78. I couldn’t let that go by without writing.
There are many people in this world who devote their lives to helping others and making the world a better place. I have benefited from many of those people, but it’s almost always in an indirect manner. Barbara Grier made my life and my world better directly. Without ever even knowing that I exist, she touched me in a very personal way.
Ms. Grier was one of the founders of Naiad Press in the 1970s. A small, independent publisher of books. Lesbian books. Books by lesbians, about lesbians, for lesbians.
As an avid reader in the process of coming out as a lesbian in the mid-1980s, one of the first things I looked for was books. Trying to find other gay people to associate with was important too, but that came second. Reading has always been my primary means for understanding the world, learning about new things, and sometimes, especially in this case, understanding myself.
I was already a regular shopper at the various independent bookstores on Capitol Hill in Seattle (there were many back then), and living on Capitol Hill I had some exposure to gay culture simply through osmosis. But as I became a little more convinced of my orientation I hungered for confirmation. Which led to those first nerve wracking visits to the sections with gay and lesbian books on the shelves.
There were several small publishers putting out quality gay books, but almost immediately I learned to recognize Naiad Press on the spines of novels. It was a signal and an invitation – here is a book for you.
Because Ms. Grier was a visionary and cared about making the world a better place for lesbians in a concrete way, by putting books especially for us in our hands, my life has been so much the richer. Naiad Press closed up shop a few years ago when Ms. Grier and her partner, Donna McBride, retired. But they left a lasting legacy. There aren’t words enough to say how much it meant to me over the years, and how thankful I am.
Wherever your spirit wanders on, Ms. Grier, I hope it’s a wonderful place, with lots of lesbians, and lots of books. You are one of my heroes.