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Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  330 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Born in 1940, Lillian Faderman was the only child of an uneducated and unmarried immigrant Jewish woman. Her mother, whose family perished in the Holocaust, was racked by guilt at having come to America and left them behind; she suffered recurrent psychotic episodes. Her only escape from the brutal labor of her sweatshop job was her fiercely loved daughter, Lilly, whose po ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 12th 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2003)
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Feb 17, 2010 jo rated it liked it
there are many commendable things in this lesbian memoir, not least its unabashed lesbian focus. this is very much a story about making lesbian choices in times when lesbian choices were dangerous and politically unwise. faderman is a powerhouse of tough choices. suffice it to say that she becomes chair of her department and, subsequently, a high-ranking administrator of her university, in the early 70s, when she was two or three years past thirty. and this after a tremendously challenging child ...more
Sep 04, 2008 Faith rated it it was amazing
I've known for years that Lillian Faderman is a distinguished scholar of LGBT history, but I didn't know she practically single-handedly founded LGBT studies, thanks to the power she had when she became a university vice-president in her early 30s. I've known for years that Lillian Faderman paid her own way through college by working in burlesque, but I didn't know that she had a long career in acting and soft-core porn, starting as a child, trying to "rescue" her mother from back-breaking labor ...more
Dec 04, 2010 Ocean rated it it was amazing
what an underrated gem this book is! it's a beautifully-written memoir, about growing up queer and poor and jewish in the 1940's and 50's. i really felt like i was there with faderman, in the seedy gay bars and pinup photography studios, all the way to her tenured-professor, partner-and-a-baby life of the 70's and 80's. ms. faderman has made a career of keeping gay/lesbian history alive, and her own personal history is definitely worth reading too. i couldn't put it down!
Kathryn Bundy
Mar 23, 2015 Kathryn Bundy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This is probably my favorite memoir of all time. Her life is interesting and unexpected and the writing is outstanding. Clearly a five star book! I read it when it was first published and recently read it again, enjoying it just as much the second time around. Don't miss this one.
Talia Carner
Oct 01, 2011 Talia Carner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
Ms. Faderman's story could have been a riveting novel, except that the series of events would have stretched our incredulity for its bigger-than-life experiences that could only be believed in the real world, not in fiction.

Lillian goes through derivatives of her name as Lil or Lily, with each name representing a phase in her turbulent life. She tells the extraordinary story of growing as a very poor girl to an unwed mother who had made a series of very poor choices she lives to regret. These l
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Dec 04, 2013 Cindy Dyson Eitelman rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Excellent biography of a Jewish girl growing up with a near-crazy mother and a slightly less crazy aunt. The two sisters fight like cats and dogs--mostly over her--but somehow hold it together to give her a loving home. Or really, two loving homes.

The mother works as a mannequin dresser for the smallest of wages, but somehow keeps her daughter fed, dressed and housed--in cheap rented rooms, of course. She takes her daughter to the movies--Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer and endl
Jul 16, 2013 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After being completely engrossed in Faderman’s book, “My Mother’s Wars,” I immediately began reading “Naked in the Promised Land” to pick up where the last book left off in Lillian and Mary’s lives.

Faderman’s memoir is engaging, and although focuses on her life growing up and her journey into adulthood and beginning her university career as a gay woman during the 1950s and 60s, she also continues to reveal more insights into her mother and aunt’s influences on her life. Her life takes a lot of
Lillian Faderman, author, is merely one aspect of the complex and fascinating woman that is Lillian Faderman. In her memoir, Naked in the Promised Land, Faderman explores the seeds of her identity as a small child in New York City to her trial by fire adolescence and young adulthood in East Los Angeles. Her mother and her aunt were the sole survivors, due to their immigration to the United States, of their family's destruction by the Nazis. Faderman struggled to realize their dreams, as well as ...more
Sep 01, 2007 Cecilia rated it liked it
I chose to read this book because it was an American Library Association Notable Book. Sometimes reading a book based on this criteria is disappointing, but not this time! I really enjoyed this memoir of Dr. Lillian Faderman's life. She tells of her childhood with her mentally unstable mother (who lost her family in the Holocaust) who raised her as a single parent at a time when that was neither common or accepted. She also candidly, but not graphically, tells of her short-lived career as a nake ...more
this was great. it's a treat to read a memoir written by someone who can write, and Lillian Faderman really can write. the story of her upbringing was fascinating; in a lot of ways, it really helped me understand the impact of the Holocaust on diaspora Jews, and helped me understand the ways that American Jews interact with queerness. Ms. Faderman is a groundbreaker, worthy of all kinds of respect and admiration; and she tells her story with deep insight, compassion toward her self and her famil ...more
Kari Chin
Nov 27, 2011 Kari Chin rated it liked it
A great memoir of a Jewish lesbian growing up in the 50's and 60's, born to a single Jewish mother whose family was killed by the Holocaust, save the girl's mother and mother's sister, who had previously been sent to the U.S.. Against all odds, the author's education was somewhat her salvation, and led to positions of power at a university in the 70's, a time when women and minorities faced heavy discrimination. A leader in gay/lesbian publishing, deciding to conceive a child through inseminatio ...more
Oct 13, 2008 Liz rated it liked it
I wasn't impressed with the quality of least for the first 1/3 of the book. Then the story improved such that I didn't care how good the writing was. Lillian Faderman's memior is interesting--reading of her struggles to overcome her childhood--poor, Jewish girl with no discernable chance of getting out of the poverty cycle. She does though-I'm not giving anything away with that statement as her bio on the book jacket shows that she is a professor at Fresno State. Her struggles with l ...more
Jun 08, 2008 Katina rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
I wanted to like this book, since Lillian Faderman is supposedly a pretty awesome lesbian historian (from Fresno no less) and this is her autobiography. Unfortunately, I found it to be rather self-indulgent and congratulatory, which I suppose is an easy area for autobiographies to tread into... Though I admired her honesty in talking about her family and her affairs, I guess I just had a hard time liking her as a narrator.
Mary Ayres
Mar 25, 2012 Mary Ayres rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: younger women, especially lesbians, plus those of us who were coming out at that time
WOW - I rarely read non-fiction. My partner had read this for her book group and I needed something to hold me over until I could get to the library so....

And I couldn't put it down. This is so well written. I have heard Lillian Faderman speak and thought she was a wonderful historian, lesbian advocate etc. I had no idea how she got there.

And the story is amazing. And fun. And heart wrenching. What a great book.
Nicki Hill
Aug 28, 2015 Nicki Hill rated it liked it
read this in london, the last half in the air home. interesting memoir. i've been reading so much poetry lately though, that i felt myself missing that in this book. this book is really about a girl and her mother. her education, her lovers, her trauma, her dreams are all incidental and essentially revolve around this dynamic. which i suppose is a story about so many mothers and daughters. i liked it a lot and found it compelling and sad and just so true.
Gorgeous, sad, uplifting, confusing... everything I'd hoped it would be. Sex work ain't easy, and Faderman speaks with candor about doing it before it was mainstream. Part memoir, part love letter to her family, part apologia, all heart. I'm not a huge non-fiction reader, but Amanda suggested I check out this story of an old-time stripteuse, and parts of it have stuck with me long after I finished. Thanks, Amanda Jane.

Highly recommended.
Sep 26, 2007 K. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
First-rate scholars seldom take off their masks and tell where they came from. In this incredibly brave memoir, Lillian Faderman, who is one of my favorite scholars, exposes her working class childhood, the strength of the women who pushed her forward, and her own history as a sex worker. I couldn't put it down.
San Jamous
*warning.. spoiler* i was really sad when Lilian broke up Binky.. after 7 years Binky has been patient and waiting. but the rest of the story was nice. she's definitely an upstanding woman. i was just so amazed by how she raised from the poor-nurtured environment she had as a kid to academician she ended up as. and the ending broke my heart.
Nov 21, 2008 Julie rated it liked it
From what I know about Faderman as an academic, I think I was expecting more from this book. It was a thoughtful and honest memoir, but it ended remarkably abruptly, and I didn't think it added anything particularly unique to what is already a bloated genre - autobiography. But it was juicy and well-written, and if you found yourself on an airplane with it, I think it would do just fine.
Mary Whisner
Mar 30, 2013 Mary Whisner rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mary by: Nancy C.
Powerful memoir, covering childhood with a troubled single mothers Hollywood dreams, jobs with girly magazines and strip clubs, and -- as a young adult -- struggling with relationships and an academic career.
Toni Mufson
Mar 20, 2013 Toni Mufson rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written memoir about a girl being raised by her single mother and how she grows and develops into a leader in the feminist movement.
May 09, 2007 Stephanie rated it really liked it
an engrossing memoir!
Apr 22, 2015 Ace rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Amazing story. Amazing life. Amazing book... with all the momentum of a novel.
Aganita Varkentine
Sep 25, 2013 Aganita Varkentine rated it it was amazing
Full of surprises.
Dec 07, 2010 Jill rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt
Lillian's life is an amazing journey and a testimony to the reality that we are not caged by our past. I also thought it was an incredible love story, of self and of others.
Ellen Hemink
Aug 23, 2016 Ellen Hemink rated it liked it
Interesting, amazingly resilient person, insights into CSUF 1967- ( still at universe in late 80's)
Feb 24, 2011 RUSA CODES rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the 2004 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
She had an interesting life and I could certainly identify with her. SHe did seem a tad egocentric towards the end. All in all a good read.
Beatrice rated it it was amazing
Dec 28, 2010
K Kriesel
K Kriesel rated it it was amazing
Jan 04, 2012
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Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship. She is the author of The Gay Revolution and the New York Times Notable Books, Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls ...more
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