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Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America
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Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  2,427 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Lillian Faderman tells the compelling story of lesbian life in the 20th century, from the early 1900s to today's diverse lifestyles. Using journals, unpublished manuscripts, songs, news accounts, novels, medical literature, and numerous interviews, she relates an often surprising narrative of lesbian life. "A key work...the point of reference from which all subsequent stud ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1991)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Susannah Perkins
"The only constant truth about The Lesbian in America has been that she prefers women" (pg.308).

This book took me nearly a month to read simply because there was so much information to consume. I would never have dreamed that the history of American lesbians was so complex and ever-changing. Faderman paints a marvelously detailed picture of a subculture in constant flux as it adapts to the changing society around it. She maps the transformation of "The Lesbian in America" from 1) isolated and su
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Mo
I read this when I was in my early 20's, way before Ellen and Rosie and Margaret Cho and The L Word and Will and Grace were out and about. I was glued to this...it's amazing to me that now there's an entire gay TV channel. That was unimaginable just 15 years ago. We still have a long way to go, but wow...
Sara Jaye
Lots of really interesting facts, but troublingly glides over less enfranchised lesbian communities.
Vasha7
A history of the emergence of identities and subcultures. Lillian Faderman's political argument is omnipresent, interpreting her source material: to take a random example from early on, she writes about social reformers, "Some of those women were cultural feminists, fueled by their belief that male values created the tragedies connected with industrialization, war, and mindless urbanization and that it was the responsibility of women, with their superior sensibilities, to straighten the world ou ...more
Xander
Jan 17, 2008 Xander rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history and lesbians
This book was awesome--lots of primary sources, very interesting take on the cultural/historical background surrounding 'lesbians.' However, it was stolen along with the rest of the contents in my backpack when I was mugged, and I haven't found another copy--not that I've been looking, admittedly. Want to loan me yours?
Dana
I found Faderman to be stuck in middle-class gender biases, which may work for explaining some histories, but left others drenched in rehashed stereotypes.
Wendy Kobylarz-Chouvarda
VERY briefly at the moment, I will say this: Faderman's research is interesting, and the history of lesbianism in the 20th Century US is a good reminder of where we came from (and how far we still have to go).

But I take exception to Faderman's suggestion that romantic friends (what women who likely lived as lesbians before the term came into popular usage) were sweet and romantic with each other, but asexual. Despite female socialization, I find it difficult to believe that women who lived toge
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Becca
Apr 11, 2010 Becca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: LGBTQ women & allies
Recommended to Becca by: Anya
A relatively succinct, yet comprehensive history of lesbian women in America, which also touches on feminism, civil rights and relations between the gay and lesbian communities. As far as I am aware this is the most comprehensive work on lesbian history available. Faderman did extensive research and the book is rife with footnotes and comprised predominately of interviews conducted for this book.

Faderman is upfront about her biases, although her disbelief in "congenitalism" may make modern read
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Maggy
I can't really recommend this book unless you need it for an academic reason. Faderman's research is excellent, but the writing is sometimes dull and repetitive, so it's not an easy book to read cover-to-cover. More troublesome, her rhetoric is both obvious and extremely dated. The book was originally published in 1991, which should have put her into second-wave feminism, but her reasoning and politics come off as even older than that, and therefore anachronistic and occasionally irritating. In ...more
Bridget
This is a FANTASTIC book for any lover of history, especially the history of lesbians in America. The Notes section alone is worth this book's weight in gold.

The book chronicles the history of lesbians from the late nineteenth century into the early 90s. Some of the topics include homosexuality in the military and how it was condoned, butch-femme dynamic and how it ruled the working-class lesbian community, lesbian-sexual-radicals of the 70s, and much, much more.

Very informative. Very interestin
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Joey D
this book, though incredibly cerebral is super interesting. having been a natural sciences student in school, i missed all the women's studies and gender theory classes. i think this book does a good job on tracing the history of american lesbianism from the 1900s until now.
Ladywilde
Fantastic book and really insightful. I couldn't put it down. One of the best, if not the best book I have ever read on Lesbian history in the US. A wonderful book!
AJ
Couldn't really get in to this book.
Abby
for all intents and purposes, this is a good, extensively researched book on the history of lesbianism as it stands in the united states (although she does occasionally bring in a bit of history from britain, france and germany). so why three stars? well, there are a few reasons, firstly and mostly to do with personal taste, and secondly to do with tone/inclusivity. but before i delve into all of that, let’s talk about the book itself a little first. i love lillian faderman’s conclusion that “th ...more
Korri
Lillian Faderman's book clearly & elegantly draws together the history of women loving women in the United States. I acquired a new reading list from perusing her endnotes and bibliography! Other readers have pointed out the problematic parts of Faderman's work--her focus on white women's experiences at the expense of marginalized communities-- but overall this book is a valuable academic & personal resource. It is lovely to be able to refer people to such a scholarly yet accessible work ...more
M. L.
A stellar, engrossing read. 70s lesbian-feminism and 50s bar culture are here sometimes simplified to the point of cartoonishness (and perhaps also 19th century "romantic friendships"?), though I'm not sure that was entirely avoidable in so sweeping an overview. Overall, though, Faderman has done an excellent job of enlivening the history of lesbian life in America, providing an essential backbone for pursuing more specialized areas of study.
Tris
A decade-by-decade history of lesbian history and culture in the 20th century. I found it really refreshing (especially at the time -- about 15 years ago) that this history doesn't tell lesbians' stories in the context of the gay men that lived at the time. The oral histories offer insights that are, as far as I know, unique to this book. Only moderately dry in a few spots; generally very interesting and well paced. Great photos.
Julie
Lillian Faderman presents an accessible, thorough look at the development of lesbian consciousness and life during the 21st century (in the U.S.). She further informs the text with a review of romantic friendship and the cultural constraints on women during the 20th century. I couldn't put it down and recommend it to anyone with an interest in women's history.
Sharon
This was pretty interesting, especially the oral history interviews with women who lived as lesbians in the 1940s and 1950s. The chapter on bisexuality/lesbianism in Harlem during the 1920s was also fascinating. Except for that chapter and the chapter on the 1970s, the author focused primarily on white women, which seemed like a missed opportunity.
Michele
Even though there was alot left to be desired...especially in the realm of history relating to more marginalized communities...this was a good and informative read. I realize that one book cant cover everything, and that sometimes I shouldnt judge based on if my own reality is reflected...so...

Read it if you can
Yadiell
Fantastic review of lesbian culture in the twentieth century. Extremely informative and helped to teach me how so much of lesbian culture has infiltrated into popular culture. Good read for sure!
Beth
Examination of the emergence of lesbian lifestyles during the twentieth century. Interesting and incredibly helpful look at the history of American sexuality.
Alison
A fascinating lens into American cultural history. I especially liked the insights into how women's colleges shaped the women's settlement movement.
Tony Canas
Read it for a woman's studies class. Very interesting historical look at lesbianism in the US.
Mostakim
history of lesbian
S
Review initially published on my blog, Writing by Numbers, here.

This sweeping nonfiction work examines the evolving sociocultural construction of American lesbianism. Faderman contextualizes lesbianism’s changes within other shifts in gender, political, and, to a lesser extent, racial identities. In Faderman’s analysis, lesbianism has historically reflected and responded to our wider collective understanding of men and women’s roles in society and the norms governing sexual and romantic relatio
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Freyja Vanadis
This should be required reading for any young woman who's just coming out as a lesbian. Hell, for any lesbian, no matter how long she's been out. This is a breathtaking tour of the history of lesbianism, from the "romantic friendships" of the mid-1800s to about 1990 when the book was published. I don't know if Ms. Faderman has published a sequel to capture the 20+ years since, but if she does it would be the book to read. Her style of writing is incredible, and she packed a lot of information in ...more
Jen Appell
This book gave a very in-depth history of lesbians in America. It was interesting, yet the chapters seem to repeat themselves too often. One chapter, which was about 20-30 pages, could have easily been dropped down to about 10-15. There were a lot of examples, which was helpful, but they were all saying the same thing. It made it more difficult and tiresome to read. It was still a very interesting look at the history of lesbians, though! I learned a lot, and the book isn't written in a textbook ...more
smokeandsong
Somewhat dated (it ends at the early 90s, and doesn't do a good job of dealing with trans issues when it briefly touches on them), but otherwise a great historical survey.
Rumi
This was the most fascinating and well rounded history book I've ever read. I appreciated the author also taking on the bisexual and trans perspective when it was relevant. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a history book about lesbians in the 20th century! Though the 90s chapters are scarce
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Lillian Faderman is a scholar whose books on lesbian relationships and romantic friendship in history have earned critical praise and awards.

Faderman studied first at the University of California, Berkeley and later at UCLA. She was a professor of English at California State University, Fresno and a visiting professor at UCLA. She retired in 2007.
More about Lillian Faderman...
Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir Chloe Plus Olivia: An Anthology of Lesbian Literature from the 17th Century to the Present To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America - A History Gay L. A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians

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