British lesbian novel stopped at Canadian border

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 03 2002 11:00 PM ET

Canadian authorities have banned Cherry, a lesbian novel written by British author Charlotte Cooper. Copies of the book were en route to the Bleeding Rose bookshop in Victoria, Canada, last week when Customs seized them as well as additional copies headed for the novel's North American distributor. Cherry, an erotic novel about a woman's adventures in London's lesbian scene, published by Red Hot Diva, but bookseller Mark MacDonald disputed Customs' argument that the book is obscene. "I think there is a high level of artistic merit in Cherry, with plot development, character development, and sophisticated use of language," said MacDonald.

MacDonald's store, Little Sister's in Vancouver, is involved in a long-running legal battle to overturn Canada's obscenity laws, which many believe have victimized gay, lesbian, and bisexual authors. Supporters point out that while novels like Irvine Welsh's Porno and Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho are allowed into the country, books by small independent gay and lesbian publishers are targeted by Canadian Customs.

"Canada Customs' decision to ban the book Cherry just shows their flagrant disregard for the directions of the supreme court of Canada," adds MacDonald. "Their actions continue to be heavy-handed and blatantly homophobic. While this book is seized en route to queer suppliers, it can be ordered from Amazon.ca and other 'straight' retailers across the country. We are outraged that Customs continues to apply the obscenity legislation so clumsily and so inconsistently and in ways that do not reflect current Canadian jurisprudence."

The list of authors whose work has been confiscated because of Canada Customs' obscenity policies include, among many others, Kathy Acker, Dorothy Allison, Susie Bright, Patrick Califia-Rice, Dennis Cooper, Diane DiMassa, Marguerite Duras, bell hooks, John Preston, Jane Rule, and David Wojnarowicz.

"Whilst I am honored to find my name among these venerable writers," said Charlotte Cooper in a statement, "and whilst I look forward to the publicity and sales this ban will--ironically--bring me, state censorship by Canadian authorities is absolutely sickening. Banning my book is an entirely pointless exercise. The Canadian government is deliberately picking on small-scale, independent lesbian and gay businesses and artists, a practice which will not solve any social ills. This ridiculous policy has to stop."

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