I love to learn, and to read. In fact, two of my goals this year are to learn more stuff and read more books.
So far I’m not doing so great with either one, but hey – it’s still early and I’m still worn out from the holidays.
One thing I don’t feel I know nearly enough about is the history of the gay subcultures.
We’ve had a lot of historic movements happening lately, but what about honoring the people who brought us here? It’s not always easy to find the right stuff.
Thankfully, these books do exist, if you know where to find them. We have collected a list of eight glorious books every queer woman should add to their wish list – which ones will you be picking up?
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman
This book details the history of American lesbians in the 20th century, paying close attention to the evolution of the label as well as the cultures of that time period. Faderman cites a ton of sources from their respective time periods in order to make this book equal parts educational and interesting. Our only complaint about Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers is that Faderman chooses to absorb trans men into the umbrella of “lesbians”, even whey are living their lives as men.
Okay, is it just me or would The Lavender Menace make an awesome superhero name? This memoir is about a different kind of superhero, though – our feminist sisters from the ‘60s. Pairing humor with activism is always a nice touch, and it can be informative for “neo-feminists” to learn about what our predecessors in this movement stood for. The only downside is that Tales of the Lavender Menace lacks the emotional aspect that we often want from a memoir. While Jay did a wonderful job at explaining what was going on at the time, we don’t really get to see much of how it felt to be in it.
While this one isn’t technically a non-fiction piece, Feinberg’s novel is largely based on her own life growing up as a gay woman in the ‘60s. This book follows Jess Goldberg, a butch lesbian living in New York at a time when butch women were not widely accepted. Unfortunately, some critics think that Stone Butch Blues fell a little flat and failed to keep their attention. For those who did enjoy this one, Feinberg has also written other novels detailing the struggles of the gay and transgender community.
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
If you’re interested in hearing about the struggles of the women subjected to the ills of racism, sexism, and in some cases homophobia and transphobia all rolled into one, This Bridge Called My Back is a poignant look at the struggles of women of color throughout the years. Our only complaint here is that this fight is still not over, so we need to learn how to band together and deal with it!
Sister Outsider explores a wide variety of controversial topics, including racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and ageism. This book contains 15 essays and speeches by one of the most influential lesbian voices of the 20th century, and has been in print since 1984. One of our favorite things is that Lorde tells those in minority groups that it is OK to have anger in your toolbox – it’s okay to be angry when you are wronged! Too often we are silenced for speaking out against the things that deeply affect us, and we need more role models saying enough is enough.
Looking to pick up a bit of history about the transgender community and the movement toward acceptance? Stryker’s Transgender History covers a long range from the 1850s to the book’s publication in 2008. This book won’t tell you every detail, but it will help you understand the big points in the movement’s history. The only complaints from readers were that Stryker authorized use of the term “transgender” even in respect to those who do not choose to identify as transgender. Overall, the book showcases a large sampling of pivotal moments that deserve note.
You might notice that Anzaldúa’s name has already been on this list – and for good reason. One of the leading Latina lesbian writers of the 20th century, she uses La Frontera to illustrate the physical and metaphorical borders that exist in the cross section of Mexicans and Americans, as well as heterosexuals and homosexuals.
Excluded covers the cross-section between being inclusive and squeezing yourself out. When it comes to the gay community, it can be difficult to find the balance between what is sacred and what is communal. Serano takes a look at the process of queer women being included in the feminist movement, and is an important read for anyone looking to brush up on their history.