Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Gilda Stories

Rate this book
The winner of two Lambda Literary Awards (fiction and science fiction) The Gilda Stories is a very lesbian American odyssey. Escaping from slavery in the 1850s Gilda's longing for kinship and community grows over two hundred years. Her induction into a family of benevolent vampyres takes her on an adventurous and dangerous journey full of loud laughter and subtle terror.

252 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 1991

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jewelle Gomez

18 books14 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,069 (34%)
4 stars
1,205 (38%)
3 stars
652 (20%)
2 stars
153 (4%)
1 star
49 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 470 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,626 followers
June 8, 2020
A remarkable book. I generally don't like vampire books for many many reasons, one of which is that the common trope of 'oh no, I am forced to be an exploitative predator, my trauma' makes me want to punch MCs in the fictional face. This is different.

Gilda (as she becomes) starts off as an escaped slave, a little girl who's fled the cotton fields now her mother has died, leaving her family. She's taken in by a vampire, who turns her with consent and care, and who teaches her the first lesson: you leave something of value in exchange for blood. So she uses psychic vampire powers to identify problems and help: open horizons, give self worth, repair memories. It may not be a voluntary exchange, of which she's aware, but it is still a form of payment and valuable, because demanding something for nothing and hurting people are in fact wrong. That's at the core of the story. Gilda moves through the decades learning how to trust and finding a place in the world, but it's over a century before she can begin to confront her experience of slavery, and start overcoming the trauma.

In the process she finds relationships (no less valid because they can't last) and slowly starts to build a found family. It's all about being Black and queer in America, about blood and home soil, giving and taking; about living in a greedy, exploitative, violent place and resisting those things. Lush prose, engaging episodic story, and masses to think about. Absolutely a classic.
Profile Image for Beverly.
835 reviews313 followers
January 12, 2023
A modern vampire story in which the protagonist is gay, black, and female which makes her viewpoint different and unique. The story begins as the young girl has run away from the plantation she was enslaved in. She wakes In the barn she's sheltered in to a white man who intends to rape her and return her to slavery. In her second act of disobedience she kills him.

She meets two extraordinary women, Gilda and Lake, who take her in. They own a brothel, but have no intention of forcing her into this lifestyle, only intending to let her work in the household staff until she decides what to do. Soon, they initiate her into a secret life in which she will never die and she doesn't have to kill either. We follow her through the years up until 2050 when she must make her toughest decision yet.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,437 followers
December 11, 2019
My first encounter with Gilda was by way of the 2015 anthology Ghost: 100 Stories to Read with the Lights On, edited by Louise Welsh. It includes a story from this book, ‘Off-Broadway, 1971’. I was instantly spellbound, and bought The Gilda Stories as soon as I’d finished it. (Literally. I read the story standing up in my kitchen, and ordered the book online before I’d even sat down; that's how rapt I was.)

The Gilda Stories introduces the title character as a slave girl in Louisiana, 1850. Some years later, she is made into a vampire, and each story relates a segment of her long and fascinating life. Yerba Buena (later known as San Francisco) in 1890; Missouri in 1921; Boston in 1955; New York in 1971 and 1981; plus two visions of the future, 2020 and 2050. (As the book was published in 1991, the way Gomez imagines 2020 is especially interesting! Once you get past the clunky technical details, the idea of people communicating with each other via private video channels is pretty prescient, as is the backdrop of increasing environmental decline.)

As my initial reading of ‘Off-Broadway, 1971’ proves, the stories can be enjoyed individually. But to read them in context is something else altogether. Despite the title, as I read I became more and more convinced that this is a novel – a more coherent work than any novel-in-stories I think I have ever read. The stories don’t just show us scenes from Gilda’s life, they build a bigger picture. What’s wonderful about that is that it has a genuine sense of scope; I believed in Gilda as someone who had lived for one hundred, two hundred years. Her character is developed slowly, meticulously. Her relationships deepen, grow in significance, and change in shape over the course of the years. There’s a rare thoughtfulness to Gilda’s progression.

The Gilda Stories is so rich with narrative and visual possibilities, I really can’t believe it hasn’t been made into a film. It’s basically Interview with the Vampire if the main character was a black lesbian. Plus there’s so much potential for sumptuous period settings and costumes. The time is now for someone to option it!

This book truly transported me. Just wonderful.

Profile Image for Jesse.
446 reviews451 followers
January 6, 2015
As I enthusiastically told friends I was reading and immensely enjoying this cycle of lesbian vampire stories, I would get vaguely patronizing smiles in response–I guess anything vampire-related gets that reaction these days–forcing me to trumpet all the more Gomez’s dazzling ability to intricately braid together the stuff of history, race, desire, time, and (im)mortality into a series of narratives that are not only compulsively entertaining to read, but poignant and thought provoking as well. While there was admittedly a slight sense of diminishing returns as Gilda’s life narrative progressed over its 200+ year trajectory, the central character of Gilda herself–fundamentally invariable as the distinctive contexts around her change like so many grade school dioramas–remains ceaselessly riveting.

[Capsule review from the post My Year of Reading Queerly over at my blog, Queer Modernisms.]
Profile Image for Raul.
295 reviews210 followers
November 21, 2020
The first book about vampirism that I've read and this was really good. This book follows the life of Gilda for a two hundred year period, set in different parts of the U.S.

Beginning in Louisiana, we meet her as "The Girl", who has recently escaped the plantation where she and her family were enslaved. She is offered a home ina brothel named Woodard owned and operated by Gilda, and her lover Bird, who later brings her into her vampiric family and the protagonist takes her name too.

This was a thrilling read, one that examines power and cruelty and love. One of my favourite parts being "the exchange", in that the vampires here, the good ones at least, give something in return to what they take. Life in this fictional context can be an experience where individuals enrich each other by exchanging ideas, dreams, material and emotional support.

Each chapter was set in a different time and in a different location, this book was published in 1991 and the story itself stretches into 2020 and 2050. I'd say Jewelle Gomez correctly envisioned this year in a lot of ways, the destruction of the planet and mass panic and hysteria especially. This is a book that certainly deserves more readership, I don't understand why I've only come to know of this book's existence this year, and I would have probably gone a longer time without knowing of it had it not been for bookriot's "Black Queer Writers To Read" list. I'd highly recommend this to anyone that is interested in reading Spec Fiction.

Profile Image for Corrie.
1,522 reviews4 followers
August 10, 2018
I read my first Jewelle L. Goméz short story Storyville 1910 published in the Heiresses of Russ 2011 a year ago. It was about Gilda - the main character – visiting Woodards, the place that used to be her home. I found The Gilda Stories while I was looking for more information about the author and was so happy that I was able to read more about this intriguing black lesbian vampire.

Goméz wrote the book in the early 90ies, way before Buffy and those sparkling Twilight twats and I think if you are partial to the genre, you cannot miss having this book in your collection. I think it’s an essential read. Here are a few other indorsements:

“This revolutionary classic by a pioneer in black speculative fiction will delight and inspire generations to come.” —Tananarive Due, author of Ghost Summer

“The Gilda Stories was ahead of its time when it was first published in 1991, and this anniversary edition reminds us why it’s still an important novel. Gomez’s characters are rooted in historical reality yet lift seductively out of it, to trouble traditional models of family, identity, and literary genre and imagine for us bold new patterns. A lush, exciting, inspiring read.” —Sarah Waters, author of Tipping the Velvet

“Gilda’s body knows silk, telepathy, lavender, longing, timeless love, and so much blood. With sensory, action-packed prose and a poet’s eye for beauty, Jewelle Gomez gives us an empathy transfusion. This all-American novel of the undead is a life-affirming read.” —Lenelle Moïse, author of Haiti Glass

“Jewelle Gomez’s sense of culture and her grasp of history are as penetrating now as twenty-five years ago, and perhaps more so, given the current challenges to black lives. From ‘Louisiana 1850’ to ‘Land of Enchantment 2050,’ from New Orleans to Macchu Pichu, through endless tides of blood and timeless evocations of place, Gilda’s ensemble of players transports me through two hundred years and a second century of black feminist literary practice and prophecy.” —Cheryl Clarke, author of Living As A Lesbian


Themes: expect no vampiric grandstanding, this has a whole different approach, don’t expect explicit sex scenes either, the scenes are subtle and poetic, there is blood and there is violence but overall it is a positive story.

5 stars
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books751 followers
March 8, 2021
I had to sit with this one awhile. My expectations and the reality never once meshed. This *isn't* a vampire story. It's an allegory using the vampire mythos to discuss generational trauma. I'll talk about that more below.


Things that were great:

-The vampirism. I thought this was an extremely clever use of the mythos, with nods to classic vampire stories and a fresh new set of eyes or uh...fangs, as the case may be.

-The concept. How do we heal from systemic abuses? How long would it realistically take? Can we fix it before it kills us? As this book smartly shows, the fear/greed combo that keeps racism ingrained in our society is the same that keeps us from dealing with the climate crisis.

-The joy. So often vampire stories are peak goth, (which I LOVE, not gonna lie) but this one was great because it asked why? Why can't they make communities? Why must they be territorial and solitary? And then it does! But also it is lovely to see black, queer, and feminine joy in times and settings that historically authors choose for the trauma they can discuss.

-The cast. I always look for my friends in books, and this book had so many of them!!! Black, queer women and fems, people outside the binary, sex workers, aspiring hearts, baby revolutionaries, dandies...it's just full of love for people who have always been in the story but who often get written out.

Things that got in my way:

-Very personal story. I feel that perhaps the author was speaking to or about real life people/places she knew and loved and wrote them in sort of her personal code. Which, not being "in" on that code made it hard for me to get into. There's a sense of distance, and the value of a relationship doesn't become obvious til one or more stories later. So, while I liked everyone, I understood none of them.

-Writing. Gomez is known for her poetry and short stories, so I expected tightly constructed stories that all say something. But we got slices of life instead, full of meaningless trivial anecdotes and pedestrian phrasing.

-No sense of location. Aside from the description of clothing and big movements going on in the world, I found little to ground me in a time and place. 1950s New York could well have been 1980s LA.

-The last chapter. I read the 25th anniversary version so there was a 2050 added. I liked that we see a lot about the climate, but I'm not sure what this whole chapter does for the ideas of the previous chapters. It felt out of place and inconclusive.

I had a really great conversation with my friend Puja that helped me find the gems in this book. It's hard because objectively I see things of great value, but subjectively I didn't enjoy reading it and had to do a lot of leg work to find the merits. Therefore I give this a grudging 3 stars because I think the things done well are exceptional and important, but I did not like the execution at all.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,204 reviews3,687 followers
August 29, 2023
3.5 stars rounded up

The Gilda Stories is really interesting as a piece of queer Black feminist fiction and feels like a modern classic. Re-conceptualizing vampire mythology around a formerly enslaved Black lesbian with a significant queer indigenous side character truly puts a different spin on this kind of tale. We see Gilda come of age across two hundred years as she interacts with different times, places, people, and Black movements. It ends in an imagined future that is quite cautionary.

As a novel, the writing style is a bit dense and it's covering a lot of ground in very few pages, which makes it a less than ideal reading experience. But I really think it's worth the trouble and would make for a great addition to curricula. I'm glad I finally got around to this one and would love to see more queer vampire stories centering people of color.
Profile Image for Silvia .
642 reviews1,429 followers
October 31, 2020
I was sent this book as a review copy by the publisher via Edelweiss for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

This book was so good. It’s about a Black runaway enslaved girl who's taken under the wing of two vampire women who are a couple. When she is old enough to be able to decide for herself, she lets herself be turned into a vampire under the promise of keeping alive the “ethical code” by which her mentors live (never take anything without leaving something behind). This is material of the first story: the one after that are all different stories that take place many years apart with the same protagonist, Gilda, who makes herself a life (or many lives) as a vampire.

This book is a both a classic for lesbian representation and Black representation. Black lesbian vampires are not something you see often even now and it was groundbreaking back then. This being older than the books I usually read meant it was not the easiest read for me, but it kept me engaged the whole time and I found the themes and lives that Gilda lives fascinating.

The different stories offer a great variety of themes ranging from love, attraction, friendship and morals. I did not expect to find such great queer representation and even a beautiful wlw/mlm friendship/found family but it was so heartwarming to see. My favorite thing was how we see Gilda many decades apart in each story and seeing how she had adapted every time to a new way of life, seeing her different struggles and the different people she surrounded herself with. I've read so many books where the protagonists are immortal but this is truly the first time I can say a book made me long for the kind of infinite possibilities you can have if you know you're not going to die unless you choose to. Trying out new jobs, new arts, deciding you've outgrown a place and finding a new one: this book captures these things perfectly and although it might have been marginal compared to the deeper themes it talked about, it also left a big nostalgic hole in my heart for the lives I'll never live because I'm, unfortunately, not an immortal vampire.

Overall I found this such a powerful read and I have no doubt that as a white woman I couldn't fully grasp the depth of many parts of it, but I still want to recommend it to everyone. Just like Gilda always leaves something behind after taking some, the time you dedicate to reading this won't go unrewarded, and you'll be left a richer person than you were.
Profile Image for True Reader.
30 reviews30 followers
September 14, 2013
First and foremost, I am not one for vampire novels. Vampires on the silver screen, or even the TV, I can deal with. But I’m afraid Stephanie Meyer ruined vampire literature for me. If you’re a Twilight fan, I’m very sorry, but I deplore the entire series for a number of reason–if you’d like them, well, leave some comments and I’ll write up a separate post for that. Anyway… the vampires I like are the ones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer–Spike, I’ll find a leather jacket like yours someday and bleach my hair for Halloween! (Ding, got my costume for this year.) The whole craze of the blood sucking undead is something don’t understand. Maybe I’m looking into it too much but the infatuation of the immortal seems a deep rooted issue when people question their own mortality–whether they are thinking of this consciously or not, the fascination with vampires stems from our fear of death. Books that have death as the most dire of consequences do not typically agree with me, as death seems to the most natural of occurrences once you make friends with that dreadful thing I mentioned before–mortality, and so vampire syndrome–the want to live forever and have airbrushed, yet chiseled abs, bores me to now end.

But The Gilda Stories takes a much different approach. Indeed, though the protagonist, and her friends are vampires, this is only a cunning construct the author uses to tell a much bigger story.

Deep down The Gilda Stories is about who we call family and why, where we call home and how we find it, how to constantly feel like an outsider and still be yourself. The vampire aspect of this books is secondary, Gomez only uses it as a way for her protagonist to live forever. Unlike most vampire novels who have a very US/THEM complex going on, between humans and vampires, The Gilda Stories uses this in other ways. Yes, Gilda is a vampire, and so immortal, set apart from humans, but she is nevertheless connected to humans in a more intimate manner than humans are connected to each other.

The structure of the this novel is quite intriguing. There are 8 chapters, each taking place in a different year. The first chapter is in 1850, the last 2050. The way Gilda and her friends change with the times is skillfully written, and serves as a mirror, a way for us to look at ourselves.

I can imagine that it would be easy to read the back cover of this book and dismiss it as escapist fantasy. But that would be a poor assessment of this novel. The issues it deals with are serious issues. Ones that do not let the reader escape from there lives, but makes them think about our cultures from the past, present, future. Who will we become? how do we want to shape our world? Do we have the power to shape it ourselves?

In the end The Gilda Stories will appeal to a larger audience than the Vampire Faithful. In fact it may turn some of the Vampire Faithful off because the plot is based in humanity, not the creates of the night. A good read. Look for it in your independent bookstore before going to the internet!
Profile Image for Kaa.
564 reviews50 followers
February 21, 2021
This was the second book I read in August that was 1) originally published in 1991 and 2) heavily informed by feminist and environmentalist thinking. Of the two, the Gilda Stories hold up much better today, 27 years on. There's plenty of technological detail in the futuristic settings that's outdated, but the ideas themselves are still extraordinarily relevant. There is some really gorgeous reflection in these stories about family, love, and community, about the tension between fitting in and finding your own way, and about power and mutuality. Sometimes the writing style was a little challenging, but all in all this is a really wonderful and important book.
Profile Image for nastya .
449 reviews289 followers
April 24, 2021
This is a cult classic of black queer literature, it's a vampire book with vampirism as a metaphor (but then isn't it always the case).
This is a book The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue wishes it can be.
It is episodic story of the life of an immortal lesbian ex-slave trough the centuries well into the 2050. It's about longing for a family and home, loneliness and people leaving you, and still the yearning for connection is there. It's about outcasts creating their narratives and fighting and winning. It's about nonconforming.

She didn’t want to offend her new and intriguing friend but recognized immediately what she would feel most comfortable in: pants—whatever effect that had on the society that Sorel proposed to introduce her into. She decided she was already outside of it. Most would only see her as a former slave, so why should she force herself to emulate them unnecessarily.

And you get to feel that Gilda lived these years, lived through history. She is changing with times but also she stays true to herself. She has meaningful connection through the years and these people leave their mark on her.

She had expected to only pass a night or two and then be on the road again. The darkness of night’s roads no longer seemed as inviting. The prospect of resting, healing, learning, drew her.
But many of the years were simply a broad strip of darkness into which she peered, out of which she could draw little. Whenever she wanted to remember them she read through her journal as she had just done, but still they held little meaning for her. Most decades were dazed watercolor views sketched from a distance. They provided a precise narrative of journeys but few sensations.
“Each time I thought taking a stand, fighting a war would bring the solution to the demons that haunted us. Each time I thought slavery or fanaticism could be banished from the earth with a law or a battle. Each time I’ve been wrong. I’ve run out of that youthful caring, and I know we must believe in possibilities in order to go on. I no longer believe. At least for myself.”
“But the war is important. People have got to be free to live.”
“Yes, and that will no doubt be accomplished. But for men to need war to make freedom… I have never understood. Now I am tired of trying to understand. There are those of our kind who kill every time they go out into the night. They say they need this exhiliration in order to live this life. They are simply murderers. They have no special need; they are rabid children. In our life, we who live by sharing the life blood of others have no need to kill. It is through our connection with life, not death, that we live.”

It’s a beautifully written tender story and how is it a debut?
Profile Image for Priscilla (Bookie Charm).
144 reviews151 followers
March 22, 2019
2.5 stars*

The Gilda Stories are a series of episodic tales spanning 200 years, beginning in 1850 and ending in 2050, that follow a black, lesbian vampire. Gilda is a young girl when she escapes slavery and is changed into a vampire as a young adult. The bulk of this story is centered on Gilda's aimless wandering as she comes to terms with her immortality and her connections to her found family.

Before I air out my grievances, I'll start by addressing all the themes I loved. Gilda and her family take a very thoughtful approach to feeding and drinking blood. They do not kill humans and even look at the feeding as more of an exchange or symbiosis. Vampires need blood as a life force so they also make sure to leave something behind. For instance a pleasant dream or resolve to do good. This exchange and writing surrounding the exchange when a vampire feeds were probably my favorite parts of the story.

Gilda has deep, meaningful connections with her vampire chose family. The idea of a found family is very common for queer folx and queer folx of color. I loved how Gilda is accepted and connects with other vampires which are her family. In a way, this is a vampire story used to explore queer identity and connections to both familial and intimate relations over bloodshed and death.

I had issues with the sense of the time and place with each of these chapters. The structure of the novel, often skips ahead decades, and while it was a gentle reading experience in allowing some time to gather information and settle in with Gilda (in each new place and with its set of new faces and friends and lovers), it was very disjointed. Once I finally acclimated to this new chapter in time, the story would often leapt to another. There are also hints of the social justice issues or political climates of each time period, but many times (especially towards the end) I wanted more in terms of the world building of each chapter.

The next gripe I have is a bit of a spoiler.

Later, the story drags on and I got frustrated because I didn't get a sense of Gilda's calling. The repetitive idea of finding Bird was a perpetual, lifelong motivation and I didn't even feel this was Gilda's own calling. It was more of a calling forced upon her by the nature of her being a vampire. I then doubted whether any of Gilda's motivations were her own or the original Gilda's or maybe even Bird's.

I also had some issues with the romanticization of some of the familial relationships with other family members - particularly with Bird. However, the intermingling of the nurturing motherly and sensual relationship were details which weren't for me.

So while I can say I am glad I read this novel - I do still feel very conflicted about it. The Gilda Stories explores issues of queerness, sexism, and racism without needless violence and provides an interesting look at human-vampire relationships. However, I felt the chapters lacked the strength of world building needed for such vast skips between time and space. Gilda, as a protagonist, also didn’t have complete agency over her journey for my liking.
Profile Image for Para (wanderer).
379 reviews199 followers
September 28, 2019
I first heard of The Gilda Stories from a Tor article a friend linked. I don't usually read vampire books as I don't like vampires as a trope very much (or urban fantasy as a subgenre), but it's one of this year's r/Fantasy Bingo squares and the concept seemed interesting enough.
"Each time I thought taking a stand, fighting a war would bring the solution to the demons that haunted us. Each time I thought slavery or fanaticism could be banished from the earth with a law or a battle. Each time I've been wrong."
The story follows Gilda from her escape from a slave plantation in 1850 up to 2050 - each chapter takes place a few decades in the future. It's pure slice of life, focused on how the vampires live, how they take blood, their relationships with humans, who do they decide to accept into their families. What I found unusual is that everybody is content to live their lives quietly - they avoid violence, try to leave something in return, and there's no immortal who'd want to, say, take over the world or help mortals in some grand way. Perhaps this is more realistic. And the afterword where the author explains her worldbuilding choices is excellent.

Regardless: the approach to vampires was interesting and subversive, but sadly I didn't enjoy it at all. The narration is incredibly distant and I struggled to connect with the story or the characters. This is something that often happens with older books - I was surprised it was published only in 1991. It felt like watching the characters from a mountain, or a hazy dream. I don't think it's bad per se (I'm particular about prose), but I definitely prefer a closer, more modern approach. Especially with slice of life.

Enjoyment: 2.5/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: those who can tolerate distant narration and want a new take on vampires, fans of intersectional books
Not recommended to: those who prefer more modern prose, content warning: on-screen rape

More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.
Profile Image for Megan.
Author 16 books482 followers
July 19, 2017
I wanted to love this but found the protagonist pretty dull and too right all the time. My illustrious book club co-leader Liza pointed out that Gilda functions as a Black lesbian superhero which I get behind 110%; would love to see this as a graphic novel or movie--lots of action and so much scene; transhistorical storyline; epic potential! As a book, the language and description kinda drag and the protag has too much darn integrity to fully capture my interest.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,510 reviews855 followers
July 22, 2023
This was quite a sombre look at Vampires- definitely a more mature and persuasive view of what it might really look like through the ages. I loved the historical settings and it was so refreshing not to have the sparkly mesmeric trope for once. I really liked this but it was quite slow. A book in the same vein that I also enjoyed is Fevre Dream by George R Martin. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,591 reviews76 followers
June 22, 2021
“The past does not lie down and decay like a dead animal, Aurelia. It waits for you to find it again and again.”

3.5 stars. I'm so grateful to have finally read this black lesbian classic! It was really fascinating; a look at vampirism as I've never seen it done before. A lot of the themes are the same, but the places the author chooses to put emphasis are different, and it makes for a really lush and unforgettable narrative. I adore the way this moves through history and time, the way Gilda lets life form around her, not able to hold herself apart from humanity. Each time period we're dropped into has a different significance, and a different set of lives that are irrevocably touched. The writing is really really lovely, and more than a few times I found myself entranced by it. I really liked the rituals and intricacies of this type of vampirism (especially the emphasis on community and native soil), as well as the ways the book talked about chosen family, the frank explorations of queerness and blackness. The chapters set in the future, where things get a bit more speculative, are also really interesting, in the way they parallel the past.

“They don’t know that we easily forget them, who they might be. All we ever remember is their scars.”

My biggest complaint is something I feel like I always talk about, so I won't harp on about it too much: I really hate omniscient POV. Head-hopping can break a book for me, and it almost did so with this one. I can't describe how frustrating it is for me to jump from mind to mind in a single scene, clumsily giving the reader information that we either don't need or could have been given to us in a different way. This is a personal thing but IMO it's never effective, and this book didn't change my mind about that. There are so many scenes that I think would have been doubly effective if only from Gilda's POV: the very opening, that night in the barn with Bird, that one conversation with Effie. And if different POVs are really needed, separate them scene by scene.

I think this book was strongest in the realm of character interaction, and the various bonds that Gilda formed over the years. I would have loved it if we got more time with characters like Aurelia and Eleanor, especially since they had such a marked effect on Gilda. I would have also enjoyed a little more... idk, history? Sometimes the writing got a little bogged down by introspection, which I can usually enjoy, but in this, it got a bit dull.

This was really wonderful all in all, and so unique. Very glad to have read it, even if it didn't live up to all my expectations.

Content warnings: .
Profile Image for amanda.
68 reviews33 followers
April 12, 2021
this is amazing! i cant believe that it exists and that i haven't read it until now, but i am also just really grateful that it was written and has been made more available to read. it is a beautiful depiction and (hopeful) prophetic imagining of black queer community and mutual aid while also being a story of resilience and the contentious struggle against white-supremacy, colonialism, and ecological destruction. this novel also manages to depict a life that is adjacent to (simply by proximity and time) but not trapped within a framework of capitalism and heteronormative family forms.
Profile Image for Pujashree.
434 reviews40 followers
February 22, 2021
4.5 rounded down. I feel as if I have been consuming vampire stories all my life in search of this book, which is the only vampire tale that ever needed to exist. The slightly dated writing style and voice took a little getting used to, but very quickly I was breezing through this, hungrily surrendering to this epic yet understated tale of being black and indigenous and queer in America through the ages. This is a celebration of found families and community-building by those who aren't meant to survive. But what if they did survive and thrived and engaged in the mundanity of humanity that is denied them in their natural life. I'm blown away by the gentle audacity of this story being published when it was and how relevant it still feels in our current times. I'm rambling but that's because this really moved and spoke to me in a visceral way that I'll be revisiting for a long time to come.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
18 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2009
Yes, my spouse got me to read another novel!

When left to my own devises, I tend to stay up into the wee hours of the morning and don't rise again until well into the afternoon, I hate garlic, and I avoid direct sun exposure. These and other habits might expose me as a vampire, except that the closest I come to drinking blood is an occasional glass of sangria.

I'm not really interested in the vampire genre of popular literature, but this one is different. Vampire literature is usually about how evil it is to be one of the "creatures of the night," either through the vampire's own angst, or the violent, compassionless and ghoulish tendency of the "undead" to prey upon their mortal food sources. Gilda is more a celebration of life seen through the eyes of one who has it in abundance, and shares her experience with the reader in the light of her times, through oppressive and inspirational periods of American history, and on into a surmised future still endangered, but still celebrating family connections that were made throughout her long life.

Gilda carries much for the reader to identify, with none of the Gothic disturbances of similar literature. As I was reading I came to the conclusion that there is a free flowing identification with Gilda that the author imparts to the reader in that one still shares the same hopes and dreams whether one shares the blood or not.

(Being kosher presents an interesting conundrum at this point--blood being forbidden in a kosher diet. Still, being alive or being dead is quite binary, and therefore, all of us who live are by definition "undead.")

I have to recommend The Gilda Stories, for the poetry, not just in the usage of the language, but in the poetry of the heart. Besides, these are great bedtime stories for all of the "undead" among us.
Profile Image for Alex (The Bookubus).
386 reviews433 followers
July 12, 2020
In a nutshell The Gilda Stories could be described as Beloved by Toni Morrison meets Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. But it's also so much more than that. It begins in 1850 and follows a girl escaping from slavery who is taken under the wing of a brothel owner. Adjusting to her new life and connecting with other people, she takes a step further and is introduced to the life of the vampire. The story then spans the next two hundred years and each chapter is devoted to a particular time and place that she finds herself in, the people who enter her life and those who leave it, and what gives her life meaning over time.

I really enjoyed Gomez's writing and I found this to be a captivating read. I loved the format and the vignette-style chapters that focus on each time and place, as well as the overall through-story.
The characters are varied and interesting. Most of all Gilda is a unique and fascinating character.

I would say this novel is a mix of horror, speculative fiction, historical fiction, dark fantasy, and it combines them excellently. It includes themes such as racism, feminism, chosen family, journeys (both literal and personal), activism and learning.

Being a vampire story, it's always interesting to see which parts of vampire lore are included or which new elements are added. I thought there was a great mix of both here. There is blood taking but also a psychological part too as the vampires see it as an exchange rather than only taking.

Part of the story takes place in what is now the present day and there are a couple of elements here that felt very prescient especially with regards to technology and the environment.

A wonderful and important read that I definitely recommend!
Profile Image for Aimee.
80 reviews18 followers
March 3, 2023
I love “The Girl” / Gilda. She's a vamp, a true queen. She’s a force of all that is good. 🖤
I'll admit the book has a fun original hook with “gay black vampires.” but it's a disservice to to limit it to just that. It’s a beautiful story that grapples with the main character, Gilda, searching and questioning her humanity. She wrestle’s with her attachments to people she’s loved in the past and present and yearns for connections that always seem fleeting. The chapters were segmented into significant time periods throughout her life, which is quite a scale of time since she's immortal! But there's action, romance, interesting characters in the vampire family, and all the other words I can use to gush over this book!
Profile Image for ambyr.
909 reviews79 followers
January 14, 2022
Sometimes you read an old book and think, “Oh my God, how did this slip out of the canon?”; sometimes you realize some forgotten classics are justly forgotten. The ideas and themes here are fascinating and ahead of their time, but the text itself is awkward and ungainly, with characters and places that never really come alive.
Profile Image for anna marie.
410 reviews89 followers
February 17, 2021

[vampyers drinking blood but ... make it mutual aid!!!]
Profile Image for X.
683 reviews
September 3, 2023
Just a story depicting what it’s like to be a regular person living in the world - in Louisiana in 1850, or Peru in 2050, or anywhere before or after or in between. Historical/speculative fiction at their most human, ironically enough!

I started this book thinking “alleged queer classic, saw it on a shelf at a bookstore and bought it so I guess I gotta read it or whatever” and was fully crying by the end. This is a book that exists to remind you that time doesn’t matter - the human experience is always the human experience. (We always want to be free to be ourselves within a loving community, basically!)

The structure of this…. !! Reading that last chapter, the way it recalled the first chapter as Gilda flees capture and enslavement… The way it echoed back to the original Gilda, centuries if not millennia before that! And even though I guess you could walk away from this thinking that it’s so depressing how things haven’t changed, in each and every time period in this book you’re left instead with hope - for the future, and for the community that’s being built.

Thinking about history is always an exercise in empathy with people who were exactly as human as us. This book never forgets that - not for one second. I think one of the reasons it succeeds the way it does is that it’s not that humans are the same from year to year, although they are - it’s Gilda. She is such a clearly written character and even as she grows and learns more (about the world, about other people, about herself, about what she wants and how she wants to live her life and who she wants to live it with) she’s still, always, the same person. And isn’t that life!

On a practical level too, I loved that this book is broken down into these chapters that focus on particular places and times, typically 20-50 pages each. For a physical copy especially, the chapters were exactly the right length that I could pick this up, read a section, and then set it down for a bit. Some books, you do that and you forget the plot. This book, though, is *built* for you to take time in between each section if you want, to reflect and to live your life - because Gilda’s doing that too.

And I didn’t realize the book’s timeline went into the future (!) so when I turned a page and the next section was called “Hampton Falls, New Hampshire: 2020” I gasped. And then when the final chapter was in 2050! (And the way Gomez incorporates trans characters - if this book were published now people would be reading this saying “love the casual trans rep, this is how it should be” so the fact that this book was published in 1991… it makes me both glad and very very pissed off.)

Anyway, genius. The kind of thing where you read something and you’re like “oh, this is the *perfect* version of itself.” And in this case: “oh, this is (one of) the perfect book(s) about existing in the world.” Can’t believe it isn’t more widely known - everyone should be reading it. That said, I was like “how has Jewelle Gomez not written more novels” but don’t worry about it, I found her Instagram and she literally posted yesterday about a Gilda Stories-related book project she’s currently working on so just give it time haha.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
117 reviews1 follower
September 26, 2023
Read for my 1900-now Black lesbian literature class. Overall, I enjoyed the story! It was interesting to read from the main characters perspective.
807 reviews131 followers
December 12, 2017
[This was the first book I read on a e-reader. It went very quickly, perhaps too quickly. I felt I was eating empty calories or swallowing without chewing. I did greatly appreciate the magnification and the bright backlight of the e-reader. But at what cost or tradeoff to the reading enjoyment? I remain quite agnostic about reading in this format. Please recognize these factors in my review. ]

I enjoyed the story and the writing. I think the premise of an escaped African slave who becomes a vampire and her life as a Black lesbian in about 2 centuries was innovative but I did not realize how radical or revolutionary it was at the time the book was published in 1991(until I read background information about the book, linked via the e-reader).

Here are a few quotes (easily "taken" and "transferred" via the e-reader):

"She held the girl’s body and mind tightly, letting the desire for future life flow through them both, a promising reverie of freedom and challenge. The woman absorbed Gilda’s desire for family, for union with others like herself, for new experience. Through these she perceived a capacity for endless life and an open door of possibility."

"When their eyes met, the exchange was a spark as sharp as flint on steel."
Displaying 1 - 30 of 470 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.