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A Restricted Country

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  345 ratings  ·  29 reviews
A proud working class woman, an "out" lesbian long before the Rainbow revolution, Joan Nestle has stood at the forefront of American freedom struggles from the McCarthy era to the present day. Available for the first time in years, this revised classic collection of personal essays offers an intimate account of the lesbian, feminist, and civil rights movements. ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Cleis Press (first published 1987)
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mark monday
in college, in the late 80s and early 90s, i discovered that i had two aunts. this is one (and this is another). aunt Joan was kind, amiable, flirty, sweet-tempered, clear-eyed. she was filled with gentle strength; her spirit glowed. a generous aunt, one who loved the world around her and who shared that love with me. she loved women, she loved life. she told me stories of that life and those stories were filled with poetry and passion. she told me about her jewish identity; she told me what it ...more
Written in the Reagan & feminist sex wars era, this collection of essays is an essential piece of queer, feminist, femme, and butch/femme history & lineage. Included here are stories of working class 50s dyke bar culture, early involvement in Movement work including the march from Selma to Montgomery, tracings of the relationships between Joan Nestle’s femmeness & her mother who liked to fuck, an explicit but brief history of how lesbians & sex workers have always shared community & struggle, an ...more
Just wonderful. Inspiring, heartbreaking, poignant, truthful-an absolute revelation. From the first story, I was hooked. Thank fuck for Joan Nestle. This book gives me hope. One to revisit. Recommended!
T’Layne Jones
Oct 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is very much a book of its time, particularly in terms of Trans people - there aren’t any. All diversity of gender, in people assigned female at birth, seem to be attributed to gender expression, being butch, or hiding a lesbian relationship by passing as a straight couple. No apparent consideration that any of this diverse representation may have included Trans men. There are also mentions of attending the Michigan Women’s Festival, but no mention of the controversy about excluding Trans w ...more
May 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It is one I will keep, refer back to, read again, and lend to people. I had never read any of Joan Nestle's writing before. Now I plan to look up her other work and would like to read it all. I truly enjoyed this book. Although it is history, it reads like a novel. It consists of short essays and stories that deal with her life, politics, her experience living as a working class, Jewish, lesbian, feminist woman. She deals with so many important ideas and issues including the in ...more
Sarah Campbell
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This important book from lesbian HERstory details the author's experience of coming out in the 1940s and then being out in the 1950s and onward. The book is a collection of essays and short stories, all arranged chronologically. Of course, Joan Nestle was instrumental in starting the Lesbian HERstory Archives in Brooklyn, so this slim book felt like a particularly good find in the library shelves. Every lesbian searching for a sense of her history and community should read Nestle's account of he ...more
I will never be able to put into words what reading this book meant to me. I'm so glad I've read it and I have it and Joan wrote it and Joan exists. I fucking love Joan <3 ...more
One of the best books I have ever read, I put it up there in the same category as "Whipping Girl" by Julia Serano! A woman, a socialist, a feminist, a lesbian, a femme, a Jew, Nestle shows how these identities intersect in her life and in the lives and histories of others. This book is a series of entries, most of which are personal essays, some histories, and later on in the book, some very intense blushy lesbian erotica (it's so good but don't read it around other people! ;) ).

The way Nestle t
I think Joan Nestle is an excellent essayist and I've really enjoyed this collection. Writing about desire and eroticism is a difficult thing to do, and I think that Nestle does an excellent job of addressing such a touchy subject in a way that is clear and understandable but is also rich with feeling and thought and passion.
Favorite essays (for my reference):
Liberties not Taken
Esther's Story
Lesbian Memories 1: Riis Park, 1960
Stone Butch, Baby Butch, Drag Butch
Voices From Lesbian Herstory
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this text. It made me want to visit the Lesbian Herstory Archives in NY.

Quote, "History is not a dead thing or a sure thing. It lives with our choices and our dreams... It is always a collective memory as complicated and as contradictory as the people who lived it, but it is always a people's story."
Jul 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is really a good one. It covers so much ground so well, from the stories of the 1950s bars to her complicated mother to the erotica she writes in the second half. It all fits together so clearly, too. Really a great introductory volume of queer history, to so clearly capture so many different moments and the way they rub against each other.
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I dipped in and out of this book, but I know I’m going to go back to all of it because it’s so dense. A mixture of essays and erotica, this gets 5 Stars simply because it’s such a fundamentally important part of lesbian/queer history.
Sean Estelle
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderfully layered collection that holds many secrets and joys despite its short length; moving from comparative history to erotica to eulogy is not easy, but Nestle does that and more here.

“All I have are my words and my body, and I will use them to say and picture the truths I know.”
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jewish Stone Butch Blues. Required reading for Jewish lesbians.
E.J. Frost
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
"To live without history is to live like an infant, constantly amazed and challenged by a strange and unnamed world. There is a deep wonder in this kind of existence, a vitality of curiosity and a sense of adventure that we do well to keep alive all of our lives. But a people who are struggling against a world that has decreed them obscene need a stronger bedrock beneath their feet. (110)"

If I recall correctly, the author was involved many decades ago in a lesbian newspaper collective called Lavander Woman. My, she has come a long way. Some of the women from Lavender Woman Collective have gone on to write incredible works of Woman's Studies. See Bonnie Zimmerman, Michal Brody, others. I love her work. ...more
Laurel Perez
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a very important book. A seamless collection of essays, written with such fierce passion, such hope in the worst of it. Nestle is an important woman, who speaks for those perhaps most harshly judged & over looked, in a way that they have not been spoken for before. A powerful collection you should not miss.
Finally I was able to find it at Pegasus books in Berkeley. I had a FEELING it would be waiting for me there, and I was right. SO GOOD that while I was reading I accidentally got on the wrong flight back to New York-- had to be brought back by a fast-moving attendant who raced down the airplane sleeve after me. Restricted Country, indeed.
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
I love Joan Nestle, one of the founders of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in NYC. I have always envied people with a consuming passion in their lives, and hers is fighting for the preservation and recognition of lesbian herstory.
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Joan Nestle is one of the most important lesbian figures and activists of the late 20th century. She claimed the right to be a lesbian and femme at a time when that was much more controversial as today.
This book is a collection of her autobiographical writings, in a quite unusual form.
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book, can't wait to read more by Nestle. It's a great joy to read queer history and get a sense of the people, movements, and politics that came before it. As Nestle says, as queer people we often feel history-less. This book alleviates some of that pain. ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This author's work is just phenomenal. And no subject is considered "inappropriate" to be next to another subject. It is one of a number of books hat helped me when I was a young lesbian, and that is even though Nestle is femme and I do not fit into the butch/femme dynamic. ...more
Casper Silver Swiftheart
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
SO. GOOD. Omgaia so good.
Mel Luna
Dec 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: female-authors, queer
This book of essays is deeply compelling and important.
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i love all of the narratives that came out of 1980's southern femme literature. ...more
Kelly Applegate
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joan Nestle rocks my world.
Aug 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Wow, very interesting. Should have read it years ago.
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Been reading parts of this again recently. Some beautiful and powerful essays in here. One of my favorite books.
rated it really liked it
Apr 04, 2010
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Apr 18, 2014
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Joan Nestle writes and edits essays, erotic fiction, poetry, and short stories. She is an activist, and among many actions has co-founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives to preserve records of lesbian lives and communities and currently coordinates the Women in Black protests against Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. ...more

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“One of the lessons I have learned in trying to live with history is that for every repression, we have found a suitable form of resistance. Our history is the chronicle of our vitality, our passion, our cunning, and at many times, our integrity. We must now work out a way by which we can honor both the old and the new. We must look for connections rather than judgments...In these days of Lesbian performers (or, as they call themselves, women performers) singing at Carnegie Hall, the wooing of us by national political parties, of big-budgeted gay civil rights organizations, remember that our battle is to be accepted in the fullness of our difference and not because we promise to be like everybody else.” 5 likes
“My Lesbian history tells me that the vice squad is never our friend even when it is called in by women; that when police rid a neighborhood of 'undesirables,' the undesirables have also included street Lesbians; that I must find another way to fight violence against women without doing violence to my Lesbian self. I must find a way that does not cooperate with the state forces against sexuality, forces that raided my bars, beat up my women, entrapped us in bathrooms, closed our plays, and banned our books.” 4 likes
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