Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir in Archives

In her audacious heartthrob of a memoir, Amelia Possanza revives seven queer romances from the past, hoping to better understand her own lesbian identity. "I was certain that if I uncovered enough lesbians in history, they would reveal... a blueprint of how I might build my own life," she writes in the introduction to Lesbian Love Story. What she discovers, however, by scouring libraries for figures obscured by historical bias, is nothing so prescriptive. She finds an expansive and adaptable collective that spans centuries and includes female husbands, drag kings, Olympic athletes, political activists, caregivers, and more.

Possanza converses with these historical lesbians through a dazzling approach to shared text, injecting her prose with their preserved words, transferred from diaries and interviews. She lays bare her own yearnings and insecurities alongside those of her forebears in a moving assertion of belonging. One subject, Rusty, was institutionalized for her gender deviance and threatened with shock treatment. Possanza relays Rusty's testimony in italics: "I found a nurse's uniform in the closet, I put it on and I just walked out of the hospital." Possanza then observes, "Rusty always did seem to understand the power of a uniform"--to grant a person access to bathrooms and employment, as well as a kind of authenticity that Possanza still grapples with herself.

Her vulnerability is matched only by her sense of joy in discovering an ongoing and shifting discussion about "women who love women" and others who exist outside of such easy definitions, while persevering with a distinctly lesbian worldview. Lesbian Love Story is a triumph, as romantic as it is perceptive. --Dave Wheeler, senior editor, Shelf Awareness

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