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Lillian goes through derivatives of her name as Lil or Lily, with each name representing a phase in her turbulent life. She tells the extraordinary story of growing as a very poor girl to an unwed mother who had made a series of very poor choices she lives to regret. These life changing decisions haunt not only the mother, who is given to bouts of depression and temporary loss of her faculties, but deeply affect her daughter's life and choices.
From struggling to become an talented actress with "a bad face, a good body," to become a sex model--at fourteen--to older men with cameras shooting her photographs for their private pleasure, Lillian's freefall is almost certain. But in a last moment stroke of realization--supported by an encouraging teacher--she returns to high school.
In years to come, as Lillian holds on by her teeth to her continuing education, she continues to make ends meet as a pin-up model. The minimum wage in the 50s and 60s in more conventional occupations is way below living wages. (The author saves herself no embarrassment as she peppers the book with actual photographs of her naked poses.) At the same time, never doubting her homosexual makeup, she falls in and out of relationships, most of which start great, last for a good while, then wither away. All the while Lillian puts out a semi-respectable front for the sake of her mother and aunt, including marrying a gay man and later dating a straight man.
Once she reaches adulthood and finishes her graduate studies, in a university campus she had never planned to stay for more than one school year, Dr. Faderman rises up the ranks and is given opportunities to develop one of the earliest women's studies programs in the county--and the first to celebrate gay writing.
A wonderful, riveting book that is highly recommended both for its fluid prose as for it story-telling of a remarkable life...
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Precisely because they were not bound by unintended pregnancy (which continued to be a problem until the early 70's)Lesbians were the vanguard of the women's movement on everything from equal employment to the vote and birth control, and had an obligation to work towards policies that would benefit all women regardless of sexuality.
Granted some readers of the reviews will decide that this book attempts to glorify lesbians at the expense of straight women, but I have read this book repeatedly and simply find the truth as it existed in historical context. Faderman simply points out the important role that Lesbians have played---a contribution that gets over shaddowed in many straight women's and gay men's focused history books.
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