ERRATA and Notes
Okay, so if I said that when Marian blythely
recounts that one thing they grow in Iowa is "Huskie fans"
would you believe me if I said that was short for "Cornhuskers"?
That I couldn't have possibly confused Huskies with Hawkeyes? Which
would have been equally stupid, doncha think? *sigh*
Batgirl was a librarian. She wore purple spandex,
killer stiletto boots and rode a lavender motorcycle. My crush on
Batgirl was one of my first, but real life supplanted it when, as a young
girl, I watched a local librarian explain to a patron with great
firmness, that he was not allowed to destroy the books he checked
out no matter how offensive or profane he found them, and that the
library did not allow censorship. That was a real life heroine and
my admiration for the work of libraries and the steadfast support
of librarians for the First Amendment continues to this day.
I support the Freedom
Iowa City: More lesbians per capita
than any place not on a coast
of Iowa City (including the Java House and the Ped Mall)
Berkeley of Iowa
favorite photo of Iowa skies
Midwest Book Review
"Life is twisted" is a favored exclamation from Liddy,
a twenty-something dyke from Berkeley, California. Newly graduated
from Cal with her Masters degree, Liddy has taken a contract to
conduct research for a nationally known writer and finds herself
trapped in the Iowa corn-belt for the summer. Her goal was to get
away from the West Coast and an affair that ended very badly. She
has no intention of getting romantically involved with anyone this
summer. The women of Iowa City which boasts, arguably, the highest
concentration of dykes living in any town in the Midwest, have other
plans for "fresh meat." Even Liddy finds herself reconsidering
her goals when she meets "Marian the Librarian."
If you are a librarian living in the "River City," Iowa
and your name is Marian, you might as well surrender and embrace
the humor of the musical. Marian Pardoo, on the Reference staff
at the Iowa City Public Library, has done just that. Her dog answers
to "Professor Hill" while her cat is dubbed "Trombone."
Marian enjoys her work and is pleased with life in semi-rural Iowa.
However, she is nursing some major heartache. That pain sometimes
makes her life very difficult.
Neither Liddy nor Marian is prepared for the chemistry that strikes
when they meet. Their conflagration is wonderful, frightening, and
more than a little confusing. Or as Liddy wonders, "Was she
in a foreign movie with no subtitles? Or was this just the way the
dykes dated in Iowa City? Yes, no, yes, no, talk, talk, and more
The two women struggle to overcome their fears of getting hurt
by love again and find that sometimes communication is difficult.
When Marian looks for a greeting card to express her feelings for
Liddy, she finds, "There weren't any cards that said, 'Can
we do it like rabbits and still be friends?' Not one read, 'Ignore
what I'm saying and jump me, now!'" (p122)
Having a crush on a gym teacher is a fairly common element in the
school years of most future dykes. In One Degree, Kallmaker pays
tribute to what has to be a close second for many of the "nerdier"
lesbians, that of the crush on a librarian. Or as she has Marian
reflect of her decision, years ago to become a librarian, "It
always seemed like whatever I could dream I could find at the library.
And ever since I was a girl I thought librarians were the guardians
of all the mysteries of time. It never occurred to me .... That
I could be one of the guardians." (p43)
Kallmaker's romp through the lesbian community in a Midwestern
College town is entertaining, sexy and touching. While One Degree
is one of her most lighthearted novels, Kallmaker taps readers on
the shoulder with a few well-placed political observations. She
illustrates the realities of public library employment and points
out a frightening aspect of our post-9/11 world, i.e., the Patriot
Act and its assault on privacy and the free access to information.
One Degree is a delightful romantic comedy, filled with
humor, lust, and lots of intelligent, interesting dykes. Kallmaker's
characters have a familiar feel and it's easy to identify with them.
They are individuals, yet likely to remind readers of women they
know. As the novel opens, Marian is having a bad PMS day and she
writes in her journal, "Someone will die if my period doesn't
start tomorrow." (p1) When Marian self medicates with chocolate,
it's a sentiment with which most women can empathize.
The "square dance" of lesbians working together and loving
each other in a small community will be a familiar theme in the
lives of many readers. Kallmaker calls these dances with compassionate
understanding, a taste for irony, and a deliciously wicked wit.
Interestingly, she continues a dialog that has threaded its way
through some of her other romances, as Liddy and Marian discuss
definitions and nuances of the butch and femme "do-si-do."
One Degree of Separation is just plain fun to read. So get
out your dance cards and enjoy the music!