A WOMAN LIKE THAT by Joan Larkin


Lesbian and Bisexual Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories
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A diverse and lively anthology of popular lesbian and bisexual authors writing about the multifaceted phenomenon of coming out. The paradoxical central beauty and flaw of this anthology is the construct of “coming out” itself. Larkin (ed., Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time, not reviewed, etc.) acknowledges in her introduction that coming out can refer to anything from a first embrace to a political statement. The most successful essays tell an actual story. Karla Jay’s “First Love” at summer camp stands out as particularly hilarious and poignant. Heather Lewis’s blunt, devastating story spans her first experiences with women as a 12-year-old and her father’s sadistic attempts to have her “cured.” Cheryl Boyce Taylor captures the open, innocent sensuality she and her childhood girlfriends shared juxtaposed against isolation and threats of violence that pepper her adult lesbian life. Some writers gloss over or shirk the actual moment of coming out to write more generally about lesbian identity—the stuff of standard gay/lesbian anthology fare. A few essays lack cohesion; several authors submitted stories in a stilted, amateurish, journal-entry format that detracts from their evocative material. The book as a whole may have arrived 15 years too late, when coming out is less the cutting-edge issue for queer people, having been supplanted by more topical concerns, such as gay marriage, “postgay” theories, and hate-crime legislation. However, lesbian readers will appreciate these reminiscences for the voyeurism: a bird’s-eye view of an admired writer fumbling and breathless in her first embrace. The most profound insight here comes from seasoned lesbian writer and activist Jill Johnston: “Should it ever cease to be necessary to come out, a lesbian or gay identity would itself cease to exist.” An uneven but enjoyable collection of original reflections on the notion of the process of coming out and its continued necessity. (31 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-380-97698-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


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