Land Beyond Maps
Land Beyond Maps tells of lesbians and their friends in Santa Fe and the Navajolands through the boom and bust of 1929, based on the true story of Laura Gilpin (1891-1979), considered America’s most distinguished woman landscape photographer. Ambitious archaeologists, zealous missionaries, quietly forceful Navajo women, and overeager tourists intensify this fast-paced historical novel. More
*Finalist, 2010 Lambda Literary Foundation, Lesbian Debut Fiction
*Winner, 2009 New Mexico Book Award, Gay/Lesbian
*Finalist, 2009 New Mexico Book Award, Historical Fiction
*Winner, 2010 Arizona Book Publishing Award, Gay/Lesbian
*Finalist, 2010 Arizona Book Publishing Award, Multicultural
*Finalist, 2010 Golden Crown Literary Society, Dramatic/General Fiction
*Winner, 2000 Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Full-Length Lesbian/Gay Historical Fiction Competition
*Maida Tilchen won Honorable Mention, 2007 Astraea Foundation Lesbian Writers Award, Fiction
Land Beyond Maps tells of midlife lesbians and their friends in Santa Fe and the Navajolands through the boom and bust of 1929, closely based on the true story of Laura Gilpin (1891-1979), who is considered America’s most distinguished woman landscape photographer.
Ambitious archaeologists, zealous missionaries, quietly forceful Navajo women, and overeager tourists intensify this fast-paced story. Based on extensive research, Land Beyond Maps is a novel of women’s history, travel, biography, and adventure, drawing the reader into the lives of women who find new adventures, new careers, and new passions later in life. It depicts a romantic era not previously portrayed in contemporary fiction, despite the current interest in books about the Southwest and women’s history.
Just before the 1929 Crash, middle-aged Gilpin accompanies her life partner, nurse Betsy Forster (1886-1972) to an isolated Navajo community. There Betsy provides medical care while respectfully learning about Navajo culture and healing methods, and Laura finds her artistic vision by taking her classic photographs of the Navajo and the southwestern landscape. From the Navajo friends that they make, including medicine man Setah Begay, who shyly examines Betsy’s medical tools: Lilly, who would rather go to college than weave, and Mrs. Manyskirts, who has learned to hold her own against white exploitation, they learn the complexity of the choices introduced to traditional people by modern culture.
The composite characters who become Laura and Betsy’s friends include Gloucester fish-packer Jonnie Bell, who finds more satisfying work at an archaeological dig in a desert canyon; Bronx-born Ruth Weinstock, who is sent to die in a Santa Fe TB sanitorium but breathes fresher air exploring the wild lands and creatures of the Southwest; and Greenwich Village artist Morna, who goes west for her art but ends up desperate to escape a scenic but forlorn trading post.
These are stories many of us will recognize and identify with: older working women struggling to pay the bills, but determined to accomplish meaningful artistic, scientific, and social justice goals.
Ann Bannon, author of The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, described Land Beyond Maps: “A time—the early 20th Century; and a place—the American Southwest—cast a net of enchantment around an intriguing cast. Here is fiercely shielded Navajo treasure, the interweaving of distant cultures, religious hellfire, and all the delicate and explosive power of forbidden love. Historical characters move through the rooms of story to mingle with the singular humans whom Maida Tilchen infuses with vivid life. Spellbinding people, enmeshed in the stark beauty of a Land Beyond Maps.”
Alix Dobkin, Lesbian musician and activist, says:
The novel convincingly describes a complex Lesbian relationship in New Mexico at the turn of the last century, complete with villains to boo and heroes to cheer. Timeless and believable characters suffer slings and arrows that completely resonate with this Twenty-First Century Dyke. They connect contemporary Lesbians to our Line, our heritage, and lend us a wide historical perspective in which to value our own lives today."