Barbara Sjoholm arrived in London in the winter of 1970 at the age of twenty. Like countless young Americans in that tumultuous time, she wanted to escape a country at war and set out for Europe, where she spent the next three years living in Barcelona and London, hitchhiking around Spain, and studying at the University of Granada. Set on becoming a writer, she read everything from Colette to Borges, learned Norwegian and Spanish, and explored her sexual identity. With the ghosts of a painful childhood at her heels, she looked for a writing voice and subject matter that would reflect her emerging political and artistic vision.
Incognito Street is an evocative look at an adventurous, curious young expatriate and the forces that would shape her eventual career as a writer, translator, and publisher. Sjoholm captures the flavor of a time when the feminist and lesbian movements were just beginning, seen from the perspective of a girl searching for a voice and a self to call her own.
Sjoholm (The Pirate Queen, and Blue Windows as pen name Barbara Wilson) shares the story of how she became a writer. Barely 20 in 1970, with a small inheritance and a dream of becoming a writer, Sjoholm left boyfriend and America behind for a two-month ramble in Europe. As she wandered London, and then Paris and Barcelona, she was torn between living what she pictured was the writer's life partying and bar-hopping and actually writing. Suspecting that she hadn't lived enough to have anything to write about, she distracted herself with friends and lovers and marvelous adventures. When her travelmate Laura arrived, they attempted lesbian sex, but couldn't quite figure out what to do "there was no lesbian Kama Sutra to refer to" so they stayed friends instead. Sjoholm continued traveling, discovering other regions of Spain as well as Norway and Morocco. In the end, feeling more comfortable about herself as a writer, she returned to a more sexually liberated America than she'd left behind. She soon cofounded Seal Press, which has published most of her work ever since. Aspiring writers will be encouraged by Sjoholm's modest beginnings and honest writing style.