A gay woman recounts her experiences during the 1960s and onward in this debut memoir.
Anderson was raised in a working-class Detroit neighborhood by loving, practical, and devoutly Baptist parents. As a teenager, she was shocked to realize she felt an attraction to her worldlier friend Gina. The concept of gay rights didn’t exist in Anderson’s world, and she dreaded the label “lesbian.” Determined to be “normal,” she pursued relationships with men in college. Yet she developed another crush on a female friend, Nicky. Nicky reciprocated, and the two began a relationship that appeared platonic (at first) to outsiders, including Anderson’s boyfriend. A dorm room confrontation showed Anderson that her “friendship” was raising eyebrows, and the two drifted apart. As sexual liberation swept the nation, Anderson befriended other gay women and enjoyed tentative self-acceptance. Yet she continued to hide her true identity from her parents. She eventually met Linda, a woman in an open marriage, and what started as a fling became something more. After Linda left her husband, Anderson wrestled with a new role: parental figure to her lover’s daughters. Anderson regretted never coming out to her father before his sudden death. Determined to not repeat her mistake, she wrestled with how to tell her mother about Linda. As the years progressed, Anderson’s romantic, family, and professional lives continued to shift as American attitudes about homosexuality changed and homophobia lessened but didn’t disappear. The author writes compellingly about the burden of the closet—not only the threat of physical violence and social censure, but the constant emotional labor required to hide her full identity, first just from herself, then from loved ones and the outside world. She writes stirringly, too, about the genuine love between her and her parents and about the ecstasy and terror accompanying sexual awakening (“I seemed to be going through a kind of gay adolescence, discovering myself attractive on multiple levels to the women around me.…So hungry for physical connection after years of stuffing away my emotional and sexual feelings for women, it was like unleashing a spring-loaded can of confetti”). She skillfully executes emotionally weighty scenes, such as coming out to her mother, though some readers might crave a few more full episodes capturing the rhythms of daily life to balance out the psychological introspection.
This work movingly renders the complex emotional landscape of living in and out of the closet.