Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Alyson Publications, founded in 1980, is the largest and oldest publisher dedicated to books focusing on gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, and their families. The company helped to energize and inspire the early years of GLBT publishing.

Summary of Event

In 1977 in Boston, Sasha Alyson had founded Carrier Pigeon, Carrier Pigeon a distributor for small progressive and feminist publishers in the United States and in Great Britain. Two years later, Alyson decided to start his own publishing company to fill gaps in the publishing industry, and in 1980, Alyson Publications was officially founded when it published its first books. The company’s early titles examined social, health, and environmental issues. Also in 1980, the company published Young, Gay, and Proud!, Young, Gay, and Proud! (Alyson, ed.) a book that set the stage for its successful future. Drawing on his experience working for small presses, Alyson built a company recognized still as the largest and oldest publisher of GLBT-themed books. [kw]Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books (1980) [kw]Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books, Alyson Begins (1980) [kw]Gay and Lesbian Books, Alyson Begins Publishing (1980) [kw]Lesbian Books, Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and (1980) [kw]Books, Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian (1980) Publishing;Alyson Publications [c]Publications;1980: Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books[1350] [c]Economics;1980: Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books[1350] [c]Cultural and intellectual history;1980: Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books[1350] [c]Literature;1980: Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books[1350] Alyson, Sasha

From its inception, Alyson Publications wanted to increase the quantity and diversity of GLBT literature. Young, Gay, and Proud! dealt with coming-out issues for gay and lesbian teenagers. Subsequent titles similarly addressed GLBT audiences who were historically underrepresented in literature. The release of Joseph Beam’s edited collection In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology In the Life (Beam) (1986) marked one of the first times that the writings of African American gay men were brought together for publication. Marcy Adelman addressed the lives of older lesbians in her book Long Time Passing: Lives of Older Lesbians (1986), Long Time Passing (Adelman) while Heinz Heger brought to light the persecution of gays and lesbians in Nazi Germany in his book The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True, Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps (1980). Men with the Pink Triangle, The (Heger)

In 1990, under the new imprint of Alyson Wonderland, Alyson Wonderland the company began publishing books Children’s books[Childrens books] for the children of gay and lesbian parents. In 1992, Alyson estimated that his company had published twelve of the eighteen existing children’s picture books featuring gay or lesbian characters. Although they received praise from gay and lesbian couples with children, the books were attacked from other quarters. The school Schools;and book banning[book banning] boards of four New York City boroughs rejected a board of education Education;curriculum debates curriculum guide because it included the books Heather Has Two Mommies (1989) Heather Has Two Mommies (Newman and Souza) by Lesléa Newman and Diana Souza, Daddy’s Roommate (1990) Daddy’s Roommate (Willhoite)[Daddys Roommate] by Michael Willhoite, and Gloria Goes to Gay Pride (1991) Gloria Goes to Gay Pride (Newman and Crocker) by Lesléa Newman and Russell Crocker. Meanwhile, the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance (OCA) spoke out against Heather Has Two Mommies, Daddy’s Roommate, and The Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans (1991) Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans, The (Valentine and Schmidt) by Johnny Valentine and Lynette Schmidt. Although the OCA initially planned to remove copies of Heather Has Two Mommies from the Eugene, Oregon, public libraries, it backed down after receiving negative publicity.

In 1992, Alyson announced his intention to sell the company because he wanted to devote more time to AIDS activism. In May of 1994, Alyson hired Alistair Williamson Williamson, Alistair to take over management of the company. Williamson, who had previously served as an editor at the Harvard Business School Press, wrote the first article on coming out in the workplace ever published by the Harvard Business Review.

While Alyson continued his involvement with decision making and editing, he was able to shift much of his attention to other causes. In 1995, Liberation Publications, Inc. (LPI), Liberation Publications a Los Angeles company that publishes several magazines, including The Advocate and Out, purchased Alyson Publications. In addition to retaining the Alyson Publications and Alyson Wonderland imprints, LPI added Advocate Books Advocate Books as a third imprint.


Sasha Alyson is widely credited for encouraging the publication of books written by, for, and about GLBT people. Alyson Publications increased the amount and variety of GLBT-themed material, paying particular attention to underrepresented populations, including teenagers and younger children. In addition to the books published for adult audiences, Alyson championed some of the first—and most popular—books for children of gays and lesbians. The company even operated a pen-pal program for children and youth who were gay, lesbian, or questioning their sexuality. Through these publishing activities, Alyson expanded the representations of GLBT people and added impetus to a burgeoning GLBT publishing industry.

Despite the controversies over the content of its children’s books, especially those in public libraries, the company continues to publish titles in multiple genres appropriate for various age groups. Alyson Publications has about two hundred titles in print and continues to publish about twenty-five titles per year, appropriate for various age groups and spanning multiple genres.

Alyson Publications also has been active in the GLBT community. In 1988, it solicited essays about what an average person could do to fight AIDS. Contributors included actors Whoopi Goldberg and Elizabeth Taylor and former U.S. surgeon general Surgeon general, U.S. C. Everett Koop. The writings were pulled together for a ninety-six-page book Bookstores;and AIDS epidemic[AIDS epidemic] called You Can Do Something About AIDS; You Can Do Something About AIDS (Alyson, ed.) 1.3 million copies of the book were distributed free in bookstores across the United States.

Alyson’s many other accomplishments include founding Bay Windows in 1983, a gay and lesbian newspaper serving the Boston area. He has written a number of children’s books under the pseudonym Johnny Valentine. After selling Alyson Publications, he opened a GLBT travel company called Alyson Adventures. Publishing;Alyson Publications

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barber, Karen. “Letter from Boston.” Lambda Book Report 4, no. 9 (March/April, 1995): 8-10.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gleason, Katherine. “Not in Front of the Children.” Lambda Book Report 3, no. 6 (September, 1992): 6.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Graham, Renee. “A Strong Voice for Gay Lit Is Moving On.” Boston Globe, June 8, 1992, p. 30.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Moore, Lisa. “A History of Publishing Pride.” Lambda Book Report 11, nos. 9-11 (April, 2003): 38.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Preston, John. “Gay Lit Goes Mainstream: The Big Business of Publishing Gay Books.” The Advocate, November 26, 1985, 51-54, 60.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Winchester, Mass.: Faber and Faber, 1995.

July 4, 1855: Whitman Publishes Leaves of Grass

May 25, 1895: Oscar Wilde Is Convicted of Gross Indecency

1924: Gide Publishes the Signed Edition of Corydon

1939: Isherwood Publishes Goodbye to Berlin

1947-1948: Golden Age of American Gay Literature

1956: Baldwin Publishes Giovanni’s Room

1963: Rechy Publishes City of Night

June, 1971: The Gay Book Award Debuts

1974: The Front Runner Makes The New York Times Best-Seller List

1975: First Novel About Coming Out to Parents Is Published

1980-1981: Gay Writers Form the Violet Quill

May, 1987: Lambda Rising Book Report Begins Publication

June 2, 1989: Lambda Literary Award Is Created

1993: Monette Wins the National Book Award for Becoming a Man

Categories: History