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Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (Between Men--Between Women) Paperback – June 1, 1992

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Faderman charts the evolution of the concept of the "lesbian" as a 20th-century social construct and shows how love between women, once known at the turn of the century by such terms as "romantic friendship" or "sentimental friendship," came to be called "lesbianism." What was once not a realistic alternative to marriage became possible as women became educated, demanded equal rights, and came out of the home and into the workforce. With increased opportunities for independence, women no longer needed men's financial support to survive and, as a result, love between women was no longer perceived as innocently as it had been in the past. This is a much-needed book and is highly recommended for all public libraries both for its information about the perception and treatment of this particular minority group in America, as well as for its historical and sociological contribution. Its scholarly approach and content also make it a necessity for women's studies collections.
- Patricia Sarles, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr., New York
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

For those readers unfamiliar with Stonewall, Lesbian Nation, Daughters of Bilitis, lipsticks, or the difference between "romantic friendships" and lesbian-feminists, or for those readers who want to learn more, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers provides an accessible, wide-ranging, meticulously researched history. Using information drawn from varied sources including literature, sociological and psychological studies, newspaper articles, military pamphlets, and movies, Lillian Faderman sets out to show the metamorphosis of a movement. At times the generalizations that occur as a result work against her stated acknowledgment of the diversity among individual lesbians, yet these generalizations also serve to show the broader sweeps and clashes in what has been a rapidly changing and often tumultuous history. Beginning with nineteenth-century romantic friendships and the first all-women's colleges, progressing through the sexologists of the 1920s and the openness of the war years, on to the McCarthy era, the radical 1960s and 70s, and the more diversified 1980s and 90s, Lillian Faderman documents "the extent to which sexuality, and especially sexual categories, can be dependent upon a broad range of factors that are extraneous to 'sexual drive.' " Perhaps the most revolutionary and exciting thing about this history, beyond the very fact of its existence, is its ability to present lesbianism not only as a sexual orientation, but as a movement that has been both affected and defined by a constantly shifting economic, political, and cultural climate. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
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Product Details

  • Series: Between Men--Between Women
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140171223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140171228
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
...it and does it again! Here the groundbreaking lesbian historian -- who not only shook up staid academia by legitimizing lesbianism as a valid and important aspect of life deserving of serious study, but who can actually WRITE WELL about it -- presents yet another tour de force.
The woman who has spoken in interviews about her working-class Jewish roots and the fact that as a stripper she worked her way through college to a PhD from Berkeley at the age of 26 (not too shabby a feat in itself) and has three anthologies, four other books on lesbian history *and* a new book on the Hmong immigrant population in America notched into her no doubt still-lissome belt, now takes a keen look at the history of butch/femme emergence, struggle, culture and identity, and the actual *value* of butch/femme to lesbianism.
Faderman -- as would be expected of one with her background, her intellect, and her ongoing literary accomplishments -- is never afraid to tackle any subject, and do it not only with honesty but with a deft, sure touch, a style that has an unusual and very refreshing ability to make the academic not only accessible but enjoyable reading, and an even more unusual ability to empathize and yet remain objective. Never artificial and never superficial, neither apologetic nor smug, Faderman proves that butch/femme was and is just as difficult, wildly funny, complicated, fulfilling, ugly, beautiful, heart-breaking, and filled with both fear and its own gritty courage as is any other lifestyle -- lesbian or not.
I finished `Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers' with a real sense of loss. With this book, I've caught up on my reading of Lillian Faderman's works.
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Format: Paperback
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers is a fascinating work that traces the cultural history of lesbianism in the United States -- providing a broad and thorough overview of lesbianism's diversity, its relationship to feminism, and its evolving forms of resistance in relationship to the oppressions of the dominant culture. Perhaps what is most impressive about this book is that while it is an impressively researched and intellectually stimulating piece of scholarship, it is also an extremely engaging read. Faderman draws the reader into lesbian cultural history in a way that is never clinical, but compellingly human--under her treatment, the lesbian subculture emerges in all of its varied complexity, its celebratory subversiveness, as a fascinatingly rich and vibrant culture of historical, political, and sexual significance. This book is a marvelous introduction to lesbian culture and history . . . it is entertaining, empowering, and utterly engaging.
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Format: Paperback
Lillian Faderman has written some of the best works on the lesbian experience throughout the ages, and "Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers" is no exception. She covers every facet of the subculture from the turn of the 20th century to the present day with impeccable scholarship, and her writing is engaging and highly readable. She examines everything from 1950's butch/femme, 70's lesbian feminism, and the resurgence of trendy "lipstick lesbians" with equal attention. This book is a must-have for every queer library, and is an important contribution to the cause of lesbian visiblity.
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Format: Paperback
I first read this book at 16, in the process of searching for an anchor for a newfound identity. I desperately needed some cultural context for my own life, and I was incredibly grateful for this book.

It's a great mix of personal stories and objective history, so that the narrative never gets too dry but still does an excellent job of pulling back to show the bigger picture. It's incredibly well-researched and informative, but also funny and sad and poignant by turn, almost what you would expect from fiction.

The pictures included are amazing in terms of being able to see the march of progress in the faces of real people, as well.

I've re-read it many times since I was a teenager, and it's still fascinating. I keep meaning to read the author's other works, but somehow haven't managed it yet - but my battered old copy of this book has survived numerous moves and oh-god-I-have-to-get-rid-of-some-books moments because I love it so much.
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By dan on March 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So impressed with Lillian Faderman. Terrific research and insights into that culture, and the rest of our culture. What this book needs more than anything else is to fill in the 20 year gap between when it was written and today. Thank you Ms Faderman. Wow!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although slightly outdated as it was published in the early 90s (very minor differences in some terminology) this book is a wonderful compilation of lesbian AND bisexual women's history in the United States. Not only was it a fun read (not totally dry, like some nonfiction) it had tons of primary texts cited. It really goes into depth on all of the combining factors that led to widespread homophobia in the United States too, as well as social dynamics in queer circles in the past. A very interesting read and the photos are a nice addition as well.
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