A Lesbian Primer 

A Lesbian Primer: Or... the stuff what made me the lesbian my mother dreaded I'd become... or... something like that.

Note: Despite the snappy section title, this isn't meant as a definitive list, nor a short course on becoming a lesbian. Back when I was a wee Creme, new to the lesbian experience, there wasn't a whole lot of information lying about my repressed, Victorianesque home environment. Over time, I hunted and gathered and encountered a lot of the stuff on this page.

PS. If you ever have the opportunity and means to support a small press or it's authors, please, please do so. In other words, buy something from one.

The funny stuff...

I thought this was an appropriate place to start...

Ellen Galford - The Dyke and the Dybbuk

Florence King - Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

Also: "When Sisterhood was in Flower" - a novella, only available in the Florence King Reader. Read it, you will laugh your ass off.

I take no responsibility if you read anything else by this woman. She's funny as hell, but a lot of her other work has to do with pushing her own odd political views... she's a misanthropic monarchist.

Mabel Maney - The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse

And the rest of the Nancy Clue series. This is Uber fiction of a sort, you'll like it. The Hardly Boys even make an appearance.

Also, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Spy
Ume got a kick out of this one. I thought it was fun, but I like the nurse books best. Still, it'll give you some good laughs.

Virginia Woolf - Orlando

Not much to say about this book except that I've read it five times.

Rita Mae Brown - Rubyfruit Jungle

Sheila Ortiz Taylor - Faultline

Fannie Flagg - Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe

A regular stitch this lady is.

Alison Bechdel - Dykes To Watch Out For

Comics are way cool. Here's one that'll keep you busy for a w-h-i-l-e! And you can read them online!!! (Then go buy the books.) How cool is that?

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Fictitious stuff:

Jeanette Winterson - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and The Passion

Two terrific books!

Dorothy Allison - Trash, Skin and Bastard Out of Carolina

Someone I admire a whole bunch. Why? Truth, that's why. She's so painfully honest that a Victorianesque Brulee is apt to blush at her prose.

Robertson Davies - The Deptford Trilogy

Liesl - say no more. Read it, dammit!

Edith Koneckey - Room at the Table

Quiet, most excellent.

Sarah Waters - Tipping the Velvet

Yes! Yes! Yes! Now this is a lot of fun. A wonderful romp.

Jane Rule - Desert of the Heart

Yes, by jimminy, it was a book first!

Alice Walker - The Color Purple

Nancy Garden - Annie On My Mind

Not just for kids. Intense.

Isabel Miller - Patience and Sarah

Good story and there's some decent sex in this book...

Victoria Taylor - Prism (1981, Naiad Press).

Good story set in the late seventies about a couple of older women who find each other in a round about way.

May Sarton - Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing

Gale Wilhelm - We Too Are Drifting

Ellen Gallford - The Fires of Bride

Emma Donoghue - Stir-Fry: A Novel (2001, Alyson)

Kinda odd, kinda sweet. We've heard good things about her new novel, Slammerkin - looking forward to it!

Sarah Schulman - Girls, Visions And Everything

Allan Gurganus - Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

This should go in a subsection for subtext and if I think of enough of these, I'll add one. This is a fine tale, don't judge it by what you saw in the TV version if you happened to see that.

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Barbra Wilson - Murder in the Collective

K. Forrest - Murder at the Nightwood Bar

Mabel Maney - see above.

Lawrence Block - The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza: A Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery

Good series. And I just adore... oops, almost gave it away...

J.M. Redmann's - Mickey Knight Series

The series starts with Death by the Riverside, I didn't, but it does. I started with the third in the series, Intersection of Law and Desire (Lambda Award Winner). I enjoyed both. And the second in the series, Deaths of Jocasta was also a page turner. Lots o dramaticus sapphicus. Terrific humor - good, edgy quips. Redmann has called her novels "trashy" - I'm not arguing with her, but that's part of the fun, no?

Thanks to the person who recommended these. They're keepers.

There's a reference in Deaths of Jocasta to Dorothy L. Sayer's Peter Wimsey series - which reminds me, you should definitely read Sayer's Gaudy Night (though I suppose you might want to start with Have His Carcass, which is where P. Wimsey first meets Harriet Vane - Harriet Vane, sigh...).

All manner of lesbian mysteries out there - tons and tons. Just look at some small press listings.

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S.M. Stirling and Shirley Meier - The Sharpest Edge

Click here to look at Rocky's description, because she gives a terrific overview. I will say that it's a super adventure tale! I would have loved to have read this when it first came out in the '80's. I had a blast.      

I found The Sharpest Edge was much more fun than Snow Brother (which was a bit vigorous for this delicate passion flower). Don't forget to check out Rocky's fanfic while you're surfing her site. Good stuff.

I finally read, The Cage. Third in this series. I think I'll quit while I'm ahead - and while I can still think of the characters as something other than a male fantasy fulfillment vehicle. I enjoyed The Sharpest Edge and recommend it wholeheartedly. I can't do that with The Cage, too many reservations...


Violet to Vita: The Letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita-Sackville West

Twisted in a good way. But don't take this as any endorsement of V. Trefusis' approach to life... Unless you have a lot of money and an excellent pharmaceutical connection.

Djuna Barnes - Nightwood

Bend your brain around this one. It's disturbing - trippy, like a bad dream. Perfect for angsty youngsters. But don't come looking to me for an explanation of the ending... I'm not into animals.

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Cautionary Tales:

D.H. Lawrence - The Fox

Novella - short story. I read this in High School (it was assigned!) and got so pissed I nearly burst. Then I got sad, so very sad...

Radclyffe Hall - The Well of Loneliness

Admission time... I never read it. Having lived in that well, I wasn't in a great big hurry to revisit it. But you can, and tell me how miserable it made you.

Lillian Hellman - The Children's Hour

Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman had this libel suit that went on for years. It stemmed from Ms. McCarthy calling Ms. Hellman a liar. "Everything she writes is a lie. Including 'and' and 'the'." Ouch. I don't know why Ms. H. gave a shit, she was talented and wrote some amazing stuff. Maybe it's that grain of truth thing that got under her skin. Dunno. This book though... hard to read, but a great allegory for its time and any time where the witch hunts start. Curious that both Ms. M. and Ms. H. wrote famous books with lesbian characters that were made into movies... Ms. M. wrote, The Group.

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People who lived the part.

Brenda Wineapple - Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner

Super read, a really well written bio. And man, just look what Flanner got away with! Do you think Ume would let me get away with that if I got a part-time job in France?

Blanche Wiessen Cook - Eleanor Roosevelt: 1884-1933

Amazing - so well done! Read it! Read it!

Audre Lorde - Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name

You've got to read this, it's excellent.

Millicent Dillon - A Little Original Sin

The life of Jane Bowles - a wild and difficult ride. Beautiful.

Olivia (Dorothy Strachey) - Olivia

This was one of those magical finds. Picture me, a wee Creme, lurking amongst the shelves of the most overcrowded, piled high, secondhand bookstore ever. Books everywhere, up to the ceiling, teetering in piles - a veritable firetrap! It was one of my all time favorite second hand bookstore experiences. Until the owners went and retired, DAMN THEM!

Anyway, it was a rainy day, I was crouched in a corner in the basement, the biography section, poking around. This little book caught my eye... Sigh.

Portrait of a Marriage - Nigel Nicholson.

Fascinating, to say the least.

A Marriage of True Minds: An Intimate Portrait of Leonard and Virginia Woolf

Can you tell I went through a phase...

Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks bios, but I can't remember the damn names...

Ms. Barney is a fine example of what can be accomplished with lots and lots of money. Yeah, like settin' up your own salon for catching chicks. Paris, all of this stuff went down in Paris - I'm tellin' ya.

Shari Banstock - Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900 - 1940

They're all in here. That crazy bunch of gals, hangin' out in Paris, chasing after Thelma Wood (I probably would have too). There's Anais Nin, Colette, N. Barney, Djuna Barnes, Sylvia Beach, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and the list goes on!

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A Lesbian Primer: The Movie

For the hell of it...

"Antonia's Line" - Subtitles. Get over it.


It's not perfect, but I'll take it... and Tilda Swinton while we're at it. You can keep Billy Zane though, ugh.

"I've Heard the Mermaids Singing" and "When Night is Falling"

These are directed by Patricia Rozema. She's swell. She's made some terrific films.

"Strangers in Good Company"

Some of the films in this list aren't necessarily lesbian films. This is one of them, but it's just so damned good. It's about women. It's Canadian.

"Oranges are not the Only Fruit"

Done for the BBC. Amazing! Worth trying to get your hands on it.

"Go Fish" - Love that ending.

"The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love" - Sweet!

"But I'm a Cheerleader" - Lots of fun!

"Metrosexuality" A calamity of color and fun. It was a British tv show - very soapy, very issue oriented - with a light touch and a playful sensibility.

"Late Bloomers" - Sweet. Starts iffy, but gets better.

"Gaudi Afternoon"

Ever since I saw Judi Davis in "My Brilliant Carreer", I've been hooked. She was a terrific George Sand in "Impromtu". And you can go ahead and argue that she was as much her usual self in "Naked Lunch", but your critique would land on deaf ears. She's marvelous to look at and great fun to watch which was why I enjoyed "Gaudi Afternoon" as much as I did (she plays a Frannie Leibowitz kinda bookish drifter). And there's the added plus of Lilli Taylor. And, oh yeah, it's a fun flick too - based on a Barbra Wilson novel. And another thing... the choice of the Dean Martin number, "Sway" - fantastic. Who'd have thunk it? Click here for a sample and the lyrics - better yet, go out and buy it, it's cheerful and whatnot.

"What's Cooking"

Has a cast of fab actresses including, Julianna Margulies (makes a great lesbian!), Mercedes Ruehl (sigh...) and Alfre Woodard (who's a favorite - she was especially great in the John Sayles film "Passion Fish").

"I Shot Andy Warhol" - Lilli Taylor is amazing.

"Better Than Chocolate"

Sweet and adamantly omnisexual - I'm all for that. But I must say... if I'd had the opportunity to film those bodies, I would have spent just a little less time on the paint (yawn). Strangely, no one asked me for my opinion...

"Everything Relative" - Reunion movie - dated, but fun.

"Set It Off"

Is there nothing Queen Latifah can't do? Heist movie.


There are several achievements embedded in this quirky movie about the artist Frida Kahlo, while chemistry isn't one of them - the film's worth seeing.

"The Love Letter"

A minor lesbian aspect in a sweet movie. Ellen Degeneres is fun in it.

"Forbidden Love" - Good stuff!!! And history too.

"Last Call at Maude's" - Documentary.

"Scent uVa Butch" - Documentary-ish

If you were ever curious about how to strap it on or you just want to have a good laugh, there's a hilarious 'How to' scene in this movie. I have no idea why this didn't get an oscar. It's brilliant.

"The Watermelon Woman"

Great! You get to think and laugh.

"Before Stonewall" / "After Stonewall" - Documentaries.

About those incredible folks who made it possible for me to be out at work. My very favorite lesbian image is in this film. Git yer mind out of the gutter - this is one of those soul nourishing moments. Some grainy black and white film footage of a woman in a print dress and cat glasses handing out flyers in front of the White House before I was even born. A beautiful image - corageous, inspirational. That's Barbara Gittings. If you're in the mood now, you can read about her by clicking here.

"Joan of Arc of Mongolia"

This does the art house circuit and is an absolute MUST see. a gem. No sex, but sexy in its own way. And it's friggin' hilarious.


Catherine Deneuve! It has a lesbian aspect (bah) only, but it's still a good film. Excellent really. I have reservations about the ending (you'll see what I mean if you watch it...), but it works. Check it out. It's not as ponderous as most of them Euro-Frenchie filums.

Anything with Deneuve in it is probably a good idea, and if you must, "The Hunger". Because she kisses Susan Sarandon in that movie and that can't be anything but a damned good thing. The rest of it's a bit silly (now there's the pot calling the kettle black).

"Entre Nous"

Positively excellent. French, with subtitles.

"Celestial Clockwork"

A nifty little find. French, with subtitles.

"French Twist"

Silly, but hey, it's refreshing to see more than one kind of dyke portrayed in a movie.


Excellent. Much enjoyed. I even lived through the ending.

"Desert Hearts"

'Nuff said. Try the book too (see Jane Rule above). -

"Chutney Popcorn"

Madhur Jaffrey's in it! She writes the best cookbooks. And she's not bad in the movie either. It's a fun film, low budget-ish - I loved the term "issue dyke".

"All Over Me"

Good stuff. A coming of age story with a healthy message (like, avoid the people who can't deal with what they're doing with you under the sheets).

"By Design"

It wasn't so bad. Patty Duke's in it.

"Mrs. Dalloway's Party"

Based on a Virginia Woolf novel. It's got that, never quite happened thing going on. But Vanessa Redgrave is in this film and that's always a plus.

"Waiting for the Moon"

Sweet, quiet little film about Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. Linda Hunt is way cool. I'm not just saying that because she's shorter than me.

"Women Down Under"

Why the hell not? Lucy Lawless is on this tape, almost kissing a woman again - then being felt up by a man soon afterward. Do you think she's been typecast?

A couple of the other shorts on this tape are (gasp) really well done. I say 'gasp' because I've seen many a short film that looked like it'd been let out of school too early.

"Girlfriends" A collection of short films.

Yeah, yeah, I know what I just said, but the last two of these are okay. The autobiographical one is fascinating - like an anthropological look at upper middle class somethingorother. And the last short is so wacky I just have to mention it. It's nothing you're gonna see if you don't have cable. -

"Best In Show"

This killed me. And it's got Parker Posey in it, which always makes me happy. Have you seen her in "Clockwatchers"? I loved that film. This one is a riot too. And while the lesbian characters frighten me, I was 'poke the bruise' fascinated.

"I, The Worst of All"

Beautiful. Torturous. "I, The Worst of All" was a confession Sor Juana signed in her own blood. Gotta love the inquisition for those brilliant little touches.

"Set Me Free"

Pretentious Montreal French film. But it has some poignant moments. I'm of two minds about recommending this film - I'm suspicious of the message about homosexuality. I'm cool with ambiguity and all - it's that smile she makes when she leaves the bedroom in the morning that has the little hairs raising at the back of my neck. But the picture it paints of growing up in a "creative" environment tips my hand.

"My Father is Coming!" and "Female Misbehavior"

I like Monica Truet's films. She's thinking hard and having fun. She also showed people what a nut Camille Paglia is. I saw Ms. P. speak once. She starts a good fight, talks the taboos - which is wonderful, but is a hysterical nit-wit (smarter than me, but a nit-wit nonetheless).

"High Art"

Well done. I absolutely loved one of the characters - for most of the film anyway. She's the ulimate world weary, jaded New Yorker (especially so, since she's German). Warning: there's one of those unsettling stunner moments in this one.

Fassbinder - I dare you.


I didn't like the ending of this movie. Tipped the old misogyny meter. But the acting was excellent. And the final scene for the lesbian character was super.

"Mulholland Drive"

If, say, I wanted to think about what Fellini on a bad acid trip would look like, this film might come close... if Fellini were American... and grew up in Nevada... and took acid... or something. It's not a film one would watch for the lesbain content, you'd watch it for Lynch content - if you like that kind of thing. I liked his last film - "The Straight Story". Strangely, there's an Uberesque aspect to "Mulholland" - but that's probably because your mind gets so warped in the watching of it.

"The Killing of Sister George"

British. Woe. See it if you get the chance.

"The Children's Hour"

Tough to deal with, but a good film.

"Tank Girl"

Oh, I know, she's just flirting, but hell, I liked it.


That's right. You tell me that throaty blonde ain't a dyke and I'll laugh at you. "Ha!" I'll say, real scoffing-like. Note: Anything super angsty released after 1999 - I haven't seen it and I probably won't. I've seen enough. You go for me. That goes for movies with people getting chopped up and stuff too.

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Subtexty weirdness:

"The Parent Trap"

I kid you not. Haley Mills must have had a huge crush on Maureen O'Hara when they shot this film. Quite frankly, who could blame her? Speaking of subtext and Haley Mills...

"The Chalk Garden"

Ilove this movie. Love it, love it, love it. And hey, Deborah Kerr's in it too!

"All About Eve"

I don't care why you rent this film, just do. Listen carefully to the dialogue. Dorothy Parker worked on that script and it shows. Fantastic.

"Zazie Dans Le Métro"

Farcical to the max. No big lesbian presence, but I remenber laughing a lot. French, with subtitles.

If you wanna watch Greta Garbo kiss a woman, there's always, "Queen Christina"...

If you want to watch Katharine Hepburn run around looking adorable in drag and sounding squeeky, there's always, "Sylvia Scarlet".

"Morocco" - this is the one where Marlene Deitrich kisses a woman... save your time and rent "Witness for the Prosecution". She's fantastic in that, as is Charles Laughton. Killer movie.

"Pandora's Box"

I like this film because it has Louise Brooks in it. She's naughty.

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A Lesbian Primer: Television

I really don't watch enough to know...

There's the show "Ellen", which made it's mark before its ignominious demise. But we're way thankful the character came out before it got nixed! And now, you can watch Ellen Degeneres' morning talk show - is that too cool or what?

"The L Word"

This is a cable thing and I really didn't like the last episode of the first season. But... there's a lot of fun, soapy, stuff before that. Oh, and there's Karina Lombard as Marina - say no more.

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A Lesbian Primer: The Fanfiction

For a Fanfiction Primer, visit - Xenalicious' site. She'll direct you to the major treasuries of Fanfiction on the web. She's got reviews on all manner of fanfiction over there.

Don't miss Casa Uber for all things Uber - lots of those Mel and Janice stories!

And The Athenaeum is too cool.

And there's The Royal Academy of Bards.

The short list of the humorous stuff:

Vivian Darkbloom - White Trash Series

Blayne Cooper - Untitled: The Story of Me

Barbra Davies - Break Out '99

Nene Adams - Kwaidan Series

Joanna - Dead My Ash

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"Hey, Brulee! Where are 'Bar Girls', 'Female Perversions', 'Claire of the Moon', 'Bound'?" Dunno, on somebody else's site, I guess; along with the poetry and music that I also didn't forget. Read June Jordan. That's all I have to say about poetry. I know even less about music... That said, if there's something missing that you're really scratching your head and wondering where it is, let me know. Maybe I need to read it or see it. Maybe being exposed to it will make me the kind of lesbian my mother would have been thrilled if I'd become.

Bon Appetit!


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