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A Mostly Harmless Lesbian Pop History Book

Monday, January 29, 2024 - 08:00

In addition to covering academic publications, one of the services this blog offers is to review pop culture books that present themselves as covering lesbian or queer history. In some cases, I want to warn readers off of a book, but in some cases it's jusst a matter of "Look, here's what this is. It doesn't pretend to be anything else. Be aware." And that's the current case. This isn't a bad book by any means -- it's quite entertaining -- but it's not a history book and should not be relied on for factual information. Ordinarily I wouldn't prioritize covering a work of this sort, but I was processing it for shelving and figured I could take the 5 minutes to write up an entry.

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Full citation: 

Loehr, Kirsty. 2022. A Short History of Queer Women. Oneworld Publications, London. ISBN 978-0-86154-284-0

This is a light-hearted, pop-culture tour through lesbian icons (whether or not they were lesbians) and key historical turning points for women who loved women. It is not a history book and one should not count on any specifics or details being “true” in any meaningful sense. It does have a “sources” section at the end, which begins by promoting a number of other superficial tertiary sources, though it does also include a few scholarly sources among popular histories of specific individuals. (I refuse to be miffed by the book’s recommendations for two other podcasts on queer history but an unawareness of the Project. Podcast visibility is a patchy thing and the two shows the book mentions have larger budgets and a bigger publicity apparatus than I do.)

All that said, the writing is witty and amusing. And as long as you have enough historical grounding that your understanding won’t be contaminated by factoids that are intended purely for humor and entertainment, go ahead and enjoy. The book doesn’t pretend to be a history book so it’s fairly harmless.