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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

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  2,260 ratings  ·  64 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 Using journals, unpublished manuscripts, songs, news accounts, novels, medical literature, and numerous interviews, she relates an often surprising narrative of lesbian life.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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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
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'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.
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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!
Couldn't really get in to this book.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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

Read it if you can
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!
Examination of the emergence of lesbian lifestyles during the twentieth century. Interesting and incredibly helpful look at the history of American sexuality.
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.
history of lesbian
Nov 23, 2014 Emilie added it
I read this, and then I think I donated it to a college GLBT organization.
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
Hannah C
Fascinating sociological read.
This one took me forever to read; not because it was bad- quite the opposite. It's very dense and informative without ever being too dry, and so it just wasn't one I could rush through. It's an excellent overview of the modern history of lesbians in America.

However, it was written in the early 90s, and of course, only covers up until that point. So much has happened in the last 20 years; I'd love to see a revised and updated edition.
Nov 25, 2012 Jenn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
After reading a book about Stonewall, I was thrilled to learn about this book since it's another side to the gay experience in America from the female perspective.

From the days when close female relationships were common to the butch/femme dynamic, this book gives a great history of the lesbian experience in America. From the 1800s onward, the view of lesbian life in this country is chronicled in Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers.
Wiley R
Compelling is a stretch. It's full of information but I found it very dry.
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Lillian Faderman (born July 18, 1940) 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.

(from Wikipedia)
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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