Harvard Educational Review
  1. The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader

    Edited by Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin

    New York: Routledge, 1993. 666 pp. $24.95

    The editors of The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader have made an important contribution to the rapidly growing field of lesbian/gay studies with their compilation of forty-two influential essays. These readings cut across many disciplines, including philosophy, history, African American studies, and sociology. They illustrate how wide the spectrum of discussion is and illustrate that the topic is not limited to lesbians, gays, or bisexuals.

    The reader features a variety of classic essays, such as those written by Adrienne Rich, Gayle Rubin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Stuart Hall. Adrienne Rich's "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," originally written in 1980, is an example of a work that has provoked discussion for over ten years. Rich argues that "heterosexuality, like motherhood, needs to be recognized and studied as a political institution" (p. 232). Accompanied by Rich's 1982 preface and 1986 afterward, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" exemplifies how an influential essay becomes part of an ongoing debate.

    David Halperin, a coeditor of The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, makes a fascinating argument in his own essay, "Is There a History of Sexuality?" which addresses misguided discussions of sex as a bodily function, an issue that is void of "history and culture" (p. 416). Using Robert Padgug's classic essay, "Sexual Matters: On Conceptualizing Sexuality in History" (1979), Halperin draws examples from ancient Greece to reveal how "erotic desires and sexual object-choices in antiquity were generally not determined by a typology of anatomical sexes (male versus female), but rather by the social articulation of power (superordinate versus subordinate)" (p. 420).

    Halperin's historical analysis complements well Sasha Torres's analysis of contemporary mainstream television programming. In "Television/Feminism: HeartBeat and Prime Time Lesbianism," Torres aptly develops an argument about how television has a "tendency to use feminism and lesbianism as stand-ins for each other" (p. 177). Linking feminism with lesbianism, in effect, provides the television industry with images of "strong women" — identified as young, middle- and upper-middle-class urban women — that advertisers "covet" (p. 178).

    Despite their efforts to be comprehensive, the editors acknowledge that they have not included some distinguished, older works from authors such as Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Edward Carpenter, Jeannette Foster, and Alfred Kinsey. Nevertheless, the editors also include a bibliographical essay that can be used as a guide to the field as a whole. The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the topic of sexual nonconformity.

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    An Interview
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    Book Notes

    Open Lives, Safe Schools
    Edited by Donovan R. Walling

    Uncommon Heroes
    Edited by Phillip Sherman and Samuel Bernstein

    Free Your Mind
    By Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman.

    Becoming Visible
    Edited by Kevin Jennings

    Death By Denial
    By Gary Remafedi

    Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?
    By Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.

    One Teacher in Ten
    By Kevin Jennings

    The Gay Teen
    Edited by Gerald Unks

    Tilting the Tower
    Edited by Linda Garber

    School's Out
    by Dan Woog

    The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader
    Edited by Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin

    Joining the Tribe
    By Linnea Due

    How Would You Feel If Your Dad Was Gay?
    By Ann Heron and Meredith Maran; illustrated by Kris Kovick.

    Helping Gay and Lesbian Youth
    Edited by Teresa DeCrescenzo