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Lesbian-Feminist Press Firebrand Books’ Former Home Now a Landmark

The building that once housed lesbian and feminist press Firebrand Books in Ithaca, N.Y., has been designated a local historic landmark.

The city’s Common Council approved the designation unanimously last Wednesday, acting on a recommendation from the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission, The Ithaca Voice reports.

Nancy Bereano founded Firebrand Books in 1984, and it was housed in a building at 143 E. State St. on the Ithaca Commons until 2003, the Voice notes. The move came under new leadership.

“As an editor and publisher, Bereano influenced not only feminist and LBGTQ publishing but print culture as a whole,” the preservation commission’s resolution says. “Her work established a platform for formerly unheard lesbian and feminist voices and brought these perspectives into the mainstream. As an activist, Bereano fought for the inclusion of women of color in the Women in Print movement and the passage of LBGTQ rights legislation in Ithaca.”

The books published by Firebrand include collections of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For comic strips, Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, Minnie Bruce Pratt’s We Say We Love Each Other, Ruthann Robson’s Eye of a Hurricane, Lesléa Newman’s Good Enough to Eat, Yvonne Zipter’s Diamonds Are a Dyke’s Best Friend, Victoria A. Brownworth’s Too Queer, and many, many others.

“The reason Firebrand was significant was that in those 15+ years, a staff of myself and one other person and freelancers published 104 titles, many of which changed the lives of the women who read them,” Bereano said at the council meeting, according to the Voice. “Firebrand was committed to publishing a wide variety, a great diversity of women in terms of race and ethnicity and cultural backgrounds; it was committed to publishing feminist and lesbian material, and perhaps a third of those books were published by not-white women.”

The historic designation will protect the building from radical changes. It also once housed a popular restaurant, Home Dairy, and it is expected to be renamed the Andrus-Home Dairy-Firebrand Books Building.

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