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I Am a Woman (Homosexuality) Hardcover – 1 Jun 1975
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The classic 1950s novel from the Queen of Lesbian Pulp.
"For contemporary readers the books offer a valuable record of gay and lesbian life in the 1950s. Most are set in Greenwich Village, and Ms. Bannon s descriptions of bars, clubs and apartment parties vividly evoke a vanished community. Her characters also have historical value. Whereas most lesbians in pulp are stereotypes who get punished for their desires, Beebo and her friends are accessibly human. Their struggles with love and relationships are engrossing today, and half a century ago they were revolutionary." New York Times
"Sex. Sleeze. Depravity. Oh, the twisted passions of the twilight world of lesbian pulp fiction." Chicago Free Press
"Little did Bannon know that her stories would become legends, inspiring countless fledgling dykes to flock to the Village, dog-eared copies of her books in hand, to find their own Beebos and Lauras and others who shared the love they dared not name." San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Ann Bannon is a pioneer of dyke drama." On Our Backs
"When I was young, Bannon's books let me imagine myself into her New York City neighborhoods of short-haired, dark-eyed butch women and stubborn, tight-lipped secretaries with hearts ready to be broken. I would have dated Beebo, no question." Dorothy Allison
"Bannon's books grab you and don't let go." Village Voice"
About the Author
Ann Bannon is the author of the classic lesbian pulp novels Beebo Brinker, Odd Girl Out, Women in the Shadows, and Journey to a Woman. She lives in Sacramento, CA.
Top customer reviews
What I found about this one in comparison to the others we have read so far is how easy it was to read. Some, like Orlando and The Well of Loneliness, were written in the 1920s, were pretty dire for the most part. I found the language hard to get into and the story of both stiff and boring at times. None of this was the case with I Am A Woman. Being written in the 1950s and aimed at closet lesbians, Ann Bannon uses a fresh and exciting writing style, mixing humour into an important topic.
I warmed to the main character Laura immediately. The beginning of the book shows her life with her father in Chicago and how miserable she is, which is why I liked her. I wanted her to do well, I wanted her to get a better life and to finally be happy with herself. I really enjoyed following Laura's journey as she got herself settled in New York, found friends, a job and somewhere to live. New York is so different for Laura compared to Chicago and she has never been alone in a new city before so it was all a bit of an adventure. As a character, Laura is shy and quiet, due to her past experiences and doesn't really know what to think of herself at times.
Secondary characters were what made this book so special though. Laura's flatmate Marcie and her ex-husband are an integral part of the story but they also bring in some humour and excitement. Jack is Laura's best friend pretty much in New York and he really helps her come to terms with who she is and gets her to really think about what she wants. Beebo Brinker was a fantastic character which is why I guess the series is named after her. She is the most interesting and exciting character in the whole book and we never really get to know too much about her, but I wanted to. She had a lot of mystery around her but at the same time, she was also obviously really comfortable with who she is.
I Am A Woman asks important questions about homosexuality. There are sex scenes but they aren't too explicit which was something I was thankful for. Laura's journey of self-discovery and acknowledgement was one that I really enjoyed and found the writing style refreshing and unlike anything I had read before. I hope the rest of the books for this class are just as enjoyable.
This is a book which works effectively and simultaneously on more than one level. Written in the late 50's it was aimed at (largely) closeted lesbians. So, why does it strike such a chord in a straight middle-aged man? That's me in case you were wondering.
For a start it's an interesting counterpoint to the tv series The L Word (of which, surprise surprise, I'm a big fan) in the sense that it's almost an historical document which reflects certain changes in Western society. It depicts a time of repression when gays of both sexes hid in the shadows whereas today,(ideally and at least in liberal circles) to admit to being a lesbian (or gay) has little more impact than stating that one is left-handed -yeah, so? And perhaps that might be a more idealistic statement than an accurate one. No matter, it is a fascinating, albeit depressing, portrayal of an earlier repressive period.
But what particularly spoke to me about it was to be able to interpret it as a metaphor for the Outsider figure. Now almost certainly this is not what Bannon was intending; she was writing (she hoped) to reach lesbians hidden in the shadows of 1950's American society. What it did was to remind of myself about the same age as Laura in the novel but over a decade later. Reading Colin Wilson's treatise 'The Outsider' in my late teens helped me understand alienation and realise why I didn't quite fit in (indeed only recently a friend called me 'the cat who walks by himself'). It was only discovering science fiction fandom at a convention in 1970 (long before Star Wars made SF reasonably hip) when I felt like I'd come home, meeting people who shared similar idiosyncratic attitudes to myself. Reading this novel reminded me of those days.
By the end of the novel, Laura hasn't quite reached that stage (of finding a subculture she can embrace) but she is getting there. What I feel is that Bannon has created an extended metaphor where people who, for whatever reasons, are alienated from conventional society (though I suspect this is less these days than when she was writing), can identify with. Whatever her intentions she reaches beyond her target audience to speak to anyone who ever felt themselves different from the norm and this is the mark of a powerful writer.
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