Lez get literary: 5 must-read lesbian memoirs

Lesbian memoirsBY CANDY PARKER

So you’re all caught up on the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” trilogies and looking for something new to take up that book-shaped spot on the nightstand. If you’re willing to break free of the dystopian future genre and explore the world of non-fiction, you’ll find some fantastic lesbian-penned memoirs from which to choose.

In this edition of Lez get literary we’ve pulled together five of our favorites for you and present them in no particular order.

“Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” – Alison Bechdel

Bechdel’s graphic memoir was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by numerous publications and deemed a “pioneering work” by the New York Times Sunday Book Review. “Fun Home,” drawn in black line art with a gray-green ink wash, chronicles the author’s childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, United States, focusing on her complex relationship with her father.

“Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” – Jeanette Winterson

While some consider Winterson’s “Oranges Aren’t the Only Fruit” to be semi-autobiographical, “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal” is the author’s official offering in the memoir genre. Winterson recounts her dour adolescence in a grimy English industrial town in the 1960s in which she discovered her affinity for words. The Boston Globe describes the work as “A coming-of-age story, a coming-out story, and a celebration of the act of reading.”

“She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Non-biological Lesbian) Motherhood” – Amie Klempnauer Miller

This 2010 offering has been described as “Part love story, part comedy, part quest.” Miller’s frank and often amusing memoir is a cultural roadmap for becoming a parent, even when the usual categories do not fit.

“Two or Three Things I Know for Sure” – Dorothy Allison

In “Two or Three Things I Know for Sure,” the “Bastard Out of Carolina” author takes a probing look at her family’s history to give us a lyrical, complex memoir that explores how the gossip of one generation can become legends for the next. Allison’s work is brutally honest in documenting the lives of the women in her family – and the men who loved but often abused them.

“Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” – Audre Lorde

Technically, Lorde’s work is a biomythography – a genre combining biography, cultural history and myth – but we’d not want you to miss out on this masterpiece because of a technicality. In this 1982 work, Lorde, a renowned poet, explores lesbianism, racism and her difficult relationship with her  mother. Lorde shares her vivid childhood memories of growing up in Harlem and her coming of age experiences in the late 1950s.

Do you have a favorite lesbian-penned memoir that we missed? Tell us about it in the “Leave a Reply” section below.

3 Responses to “Lez get literary: 5 must-read lesbian memoirs”

  1. Nicki Hastie

    Thanks for highlighting lesbian memoir. There are so many great memoirs: ‘Riding Fury Home’ by Chana Wilson; ‘Naked in the Promised Land’ by Lilian Faderman; ‘Are You My Mother’ by Alison Bechdel; ‘For Sylvia: An Honest Account’ by Valentine Ackland.

  2. Chana Wilson

    Thanks, Nicki: these are all wonderful memoirs plus the 5 above. For those not familiar, Riding Fury Home tells the story of the powerful, complicated bond between my mother and myself: from my childhood in the 50s with a suicidal mother, to discovering in adulthood that she’d been a closeted lesbian given psychiatric treatment to “cure her,” to our shared exhilaration when we both come out in the women’s and gay liberation movements.

    A starred review in Publishers Weekly says: “Wilson’s memoir is as heartbreaking as it is uplifting. Through sharing her personal tale of forgiveness and unconditional love, Wilson breaks the silence on the trauma of oppression and the ecstasy of self-acceptance.”

  3. Maggie M

    “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger” by Kelly Cogswell, looks promising. Anybody read it?


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