Monday, February 02, 2009

A Desired Past: A Short History of Same-Sex Love in America by Leila J. Rupp

This short book provides an overview of historical scholarship on gay and lesbian studies and sexuality studies in the United States. The book is organized into seven chapters. Each chapter opens with a personal recollection from the author. Much of the impetus for the history is tied to her family story of her aunt Leila who lived with Diantha for most of her life. A central question is: was Aunt Leila a lesbian? Would she have used that word? It is an unresolved though open question in the text.

Rupp reviews evident of same-sex sexuality in early America, then talks about the word of romantic friendships. The turn of the century bringing industrialization and the more coherence of an identity of "inversion". Her review of history from the 1920s through the 1960s is interesting, in part because this is a synthetic history which tells of queer people continuously through the twentieth century. In my mind, and this may be simply a limitation of my reading, there are queer people during the first three or four decades of the century and then we reemerge around 1965. I know this isn’t true, but sometimes it seems to me that way. So Rupp’s account is a good overview and provides some direction for further reading and research.

This book would be good for an intro course for undergraduate students. It is a quick read and thorough and rigorous in its thinking while still written in a plain and accessible manner.

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