What I've Been Reading
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Review-Thornhill
Sept 11

ON THE BOOKSHELF

(What I've been reading and liking)

Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics, and Mystique by Sydney Ladensohn Stern, Birch Lane Press, 1997

Syd Stern's bio of Gloria is soooo good and juicy. Unfortunately it got very little attention when it came out. One reason, I think, is that Carolyn Heilbrun's once-over-lightly tribute to Gloria, published the previous year, sort of preempted the field. This is the bio with the interesting stories and the serious but fair attempt at evaluation.

Betty Friedan: Her Life, by Judith Hennessee, Random House, 1999

Just out and a lulu! I read it in galleys. Friedan was a very difficult person, and Hennesee has not painted a flattering portrait, but the contributions of the author of The Feminine Mystique shine through. Who says that leaders are saints?

Sexual Harassment in America: A Documentary History by Laura W. Stein, Greenwood Press, 1999

Laura Stein has done an amazing job in assembling all the relevant documents on sexual harassment, and on tracing its evolution as a legal concept since 1975. This textbook for lawyers, academics, and students will remain the classic in its field for years to come.

Corregidora by Gayl Jones (1975), Beacon Press edition, 1986

So many great novels by black women were published in the seventies. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't get around to reading Corregidora until last year. Guess what?  I think it's one of the most powerful books I've ever read. Jones ran afoul of some black lesbian critics for her portrait of a young lesbian in the novel, but don't let that stop you. They needed to do what they needed to do, and she needed to do what she needed to do. This book is literature. You may have read about the author. She's had a very hard life.

The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir, Pantheon, 1987

Three  short stories; the first and the third are great. In "The Age of Discretion" an older woman with radical politics copes with two blows: the failure of her new book, and her son's decision to join the establishment. In "The Woman Destroyed," the title story, a similar character goes to pieces when she learns that her husband is having an affair. It's fascinating to see how Beauvoir used material from her own life to shape these pieces of fiction. A friend gave me this slender paperback when I was down with the flu. I think not many people are familiar with it. It was certainly new to me.

TALES OF THE LAVENDER MENACE by Karla Jay, Basic Books, 1999

Karla has gotten well deserved praises for her bouncy memoir of her misfit adolescence and pioneering days of Lesbian-Feminist Liberation, in which she was a significant player.  The writing is just like the person: informal, earthy and funny, which is a very neat trick to pull off.  I appear in TALES, and she appears in IN OUR TIME.  Scholars will enjoy comparing our slightly different versions of some key events, although we basically agree on the important facts.