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CULTURAL MUSINGS: The best books for a complex year, from a lesbian perspective.

Long before there were feminist publishers and an LGBT section at your bookstore, women were writing about Sapphic issues, identity, and affections. Today, we're well beyond the "apparitional lesbian," as Terry Castle has called her, and in print at least, the 21st century lesbian is a woman who is at once both more comfortable with her sexuality and, statistically, more fluid-- especially when it comes to sexual orientation. Lesbian culture as manifest in print has broadened to be more inclusive, welcoming bisexual, queer, and trans women, as well as giving voice to cross-generational and multicultural experiences. This spirit of inclusion has given us a handful of newly published books, including the following.

Marriage of a Thousand Lies

By SJ Sindu

In her very impressive authorial debut, Sindu's Sri Lankan-American protagonist, Lakshmi, navigates closeted relationship waters out of respect for her traditional Sri Lankan family, but reaches a breaking point when she falls in love with her childhood friend, who has agreed to an arranged marriage with a man. Identity, in Sindu's novel, is strongly influenced by, and tethered to, ideas of community and belonging. A rare book--one that focuses on a South Asian queer woman's story.

We Were Witches

By Ariel Gore

Gore observes, with satiric sharpness, the life of a fictionalized protagonist named Ariel Gore--a teen mom and queer feminist witch whose survival strategy is humor as she tries to nurture her burgeoning writing career and raise her young daughter while pursuing a college education during the first Bush administration. Guiding her through this life of resistance are the works of seminal feminist writers like Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde--and, yes, the occasional hot professor.

Pages for Her

By Sylvia Brownrigg

Brownrigg queers the student-teacher sexual paradigm by having two academics as her female protagonists. Former lovers, both are now professors, but in the past, they'd had a tempestuous affair, when one was an undergraduate and the other was a graduate student who briefly served as her TA. After decades of following each other's careers and respective heterosexual relationships, they come together at a conference called "Women Write the World." A quick, pleasurable, and poetic read with rich psychological and corporeal underpinnings that will delight academics and romance lovers.

A Burst of Light and Other Essays

By Audre Lorde

Dover Publications has reissued this book with a new foreword by Sonia Sanchez. Winner of the 1988 Before Columbus Foundation National Book Award, A Burst of Light includes Lorde's controversial interview on S/M and her heart-wrenching "A Burst of Light" essay about living with cancer, as well as writings on race, gender, and sexuality that interrogate what it means to live in a white man's world as a black lesbian feminist. Today, these essays are as relevant as ever--if not more so, and required reading for anyone who wants to understand the importance of intersectionality.

Coming of Age: The Sexual Awakening of Margaret Mead

By Deborah Beatriz Blum

A fascinating study of one of the greatest cultural figures of the 20th century. Mead's "coming of age" was simultaneously intellectual and sexual, and Blum brilliantly weaves Mead's memoir and letters into a narrative that exposes this integral, pedagogical connection. Mead's sexual awakening--in which she carried on affairs with men and women at the same time--finds an interesting and revealing corollary in her groundbreaking anthropological work, Coming of Age in Samoa, in which she studied the sexual behavior of adolescent Samoan girls.

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray

By Rosalind Rosenberg

A mixed-race orphan who graduated first in her class at Howard Law School, Murray originated the idea of "Jane Crow," whereby, she argued, the same reasons used to condemn race discrimination could be used to battle gender discrimination. Rejecting arbitrary distinctions, she lived most of her life uncomfortably "in between" genders, often crossdressing to court female lovers. Jane Crow shows us that Murray's life and contributions to the various modern civil rights movements are well worth knowing, especially today.

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Author:Bianco, Marcie
Date:Dec 1, 2017
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