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Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  270 ratings  ·  24 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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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
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
Kathryn Bundy
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.
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!
Talia Carner
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
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
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
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
Kari Hayes
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
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
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
Amazing story. Amazing life. Amazing book... with all the momentum of a novel.
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.
Mary Ayres
Mar 25, 2012 Mary Ayres rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
Jun 17, 2008 Katina rated it 2 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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.
Mary Whisner
Aug 19, 2013 Mary Whisner rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Dec 07, 2010 Jill rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
This was one of the 2004 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Toni Mufson
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.
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.
an engrossing memoir!
Aganita Varkentine
Full of surprises.
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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...
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present 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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