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Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers Review

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in 20th Century America by Lillian Faderman

This is a book detailing the evolution of the lesbian community in the 20th century United States. It’s scope is limited to this time period and country, but it’s full of details. The research the author did was extensive. Much of her material came from interviews with lesbians during this time period. She attempts to cover diverse groups, including the lower and middle classes and different racial groups.


Queer, nonfiction, history


Lillian Faderman tells the compelling story of lesbian life in the 20th century, from the early 1900s to today's diverse lifestyles. Using journals, unpublished manuscripts, songs, news accounts, novels, medical literature, and numerous interviews, she relates an often surprising narrative of lesbian life.


I learned things I had never even known about before. From idealized “romantic friendship” to the vampiric lesbian, the way in which society views female homosexuality is always changing. The origin of the butch and femme dynamic is explored, as well as how it developed into so rigid and narrow a box.

The peculiar movement of “lesbian feminists” who advocated a separate society for lesbians was something I’d never even heard of before, nor the lesbian opposition to allying with gay men.

Faderman’s work was written in the 90s, so it is outdated. One aggravating part was when Faderman mentions someone who lived his whole life as a man, who it was discovered wasn’t cis at his death. Faderman dismisses this as a case of a lesbian hiding as a man, without considering that maybe he was trans. While the book isn’t openly hostile, it’s certainly dismissive. This was mainly where it fell short.

I certainly learned a lot and can better understand how lesbian culture became what it is today. The topics in this book would never be covered in a history class, unfortunately. If it hadn’t been for the trans erasure, I would have loved this. As it is, I found it worthwhile, but an updated, trans-inclusive text is greatly needed.

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