Book review: Lesbian Lists: A Look at Lesbian Culture, History and Personalities

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 3, No. 1 & 2, Fall 1990/Winter 1991.

Cover of Lesbian ListsRichards, Dell. Lesbian Lists: A Look at Lesbian Culture, History and Personalities. Alyson Publications, 1990. Paper. $8.95 (ISBN 1-55583-163-X). 

A browsing book, by turns funny, sad, surprising and similar to many others, but with a distinct basis, this is a look at famous and obscure and even mythical lesbians who were burned at the stake for witchcraft; journalists; Black American singers and entertainers; lesbian couples buried with each other; among others. Also included are “20 turn-of-the-century ‘ways to tell’ if a girl would become gay or if a woman was a lesbian-from medical journals of the day” and “8 holy days for lesbians,” to skim briefly.

This book is possibly helpful to someone looking for ways in which lesbians have been noted, and ignored, throughout history. It can also be seen as validating that we not only are, we always have been. And we are truly various, from the “7 lesbian entrepreneurs, explorers, and athletes” to “22 lesbian poets.” The book also lists various Black lesbians or themes, but not Chicana/Latina, and no Asian-Americans, although it does mention “6 lesbian writers and artists from Asia.”

The book is divided into” Arts and Letters”, “Amazon Queens and other Exotics,” “Switch-Hitters and Cross Dressers,” “Lesbians and the Law,” and” A Global Affair,” and has a bibliography. It is tremendously entertaining and
could be an excellent starting point for anyone interested in lesbian research, especially in the literary/artistic areas.

Reviewed by Susan Lee Sills
University of California
Irvine, California

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