This month, the first lesbian publishing house opened in the Czech Republic. LePress has a portfolio of two titles so far, both translations from American originals. The aim of the publishers is to introduce Czech lesbians to the sort of lesbian fiction that is being written overseas. The woman behind the project is Marketa Navratilova. She told Radio Prague where the idea came from:
“Well, I lived in the UK for two years and I saw bookshops which sell these books, and huge shelves in bookshops full of them. I read some of these books, and I discovered that some of them are published by lesbian publishing houses. So I realized that actually there were publishing houses which specialized in publishing books for lesbians, so I thought it might be a good idea to try it.”
Why did you decide to set up one here in the Czech Republic?
“My friend and I, we thought about this long and hard. We like reading lesbian books in English, and lots of our friends who don’t speak English, they always look at our bookshelves and say ‘oh, you have so many books, it’s a shame we can’t read them!’ So we thought; ‘why not try this? Maybe there will enough people out there who want to buy these books’. In the beginning we chose two books which we liked, it’s a coincidence that they are both by American writers. They are lesbian romance books.”
“We don’t want to do anything depressing, we want to publish books that people can enjoy, something that gives them a chance to read about lesbians leading normal lives, not having any horrible crisis about their sexuality or anything.”
Can you tell me a bit more about the authors of those books?
“One of the two books we have published is by Karen Kallmaker, who is a best-selling lesbian writer in the United States. She has written over twenty books. And she is a really nice person, I actually spoke to her when I was trying to obtain the translation rights to the books. And she seems really excited about the whole idea as well. In English, the book is called ‘Just Like That’ - it’s a lesbian take on Pride and Prejudice.”
Is it really necessary to have a lesbian publishing house, can lesbian fiction, or fiction written by lesbians, not be published by other Czech publishing houses, and isn’t it published by other Czech publishing houses?
“There have been I guess about half a dozen of what you would call lesbian books published in the Czech Republic by general publishing houses. I don’t think it is necessary to have a lesbian publishing house. But maybe the books that we want to bring to our audience are not high art. They are romance books, and that’s why they might not be of interest to other Czech publishing houses.”
At the moment you can buy these books over the internet from your website, and that is about it. Are there any plans to bring these books to the bookstores of Prague?
“Not at the moment. We are hoping we can get enough readers by advertising and bringing them to our website. We also sell books at some gay and lesbian events, like recently at the Mezipatra Film Festival - we were selling the books there. So for now, this is how we are going about selling the books.”
It’s obviously quite new, but how has the reaction been so far amongst the Czech lesbian community, how has your publishing house been received?
“We have received lots of excited and supportive messages from people,
from lesbians who have seen our website and who have ordered books from it.
We hope that we have found something that women here want to read.”
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