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A deeply researched and highly readable cultural history of queer women’s lives in the second half of the twentieth century, told through six iconic spaces
For as long as queer women have existed, they’ve created gathering grounds where they can be themselves. From the intimate darkness of the lesbian bar to the sweaty camaraderie of the softball field, these spaces aren’t a luxury—they’re a necessity for queer women defining their identities. In A Place of Our Own, journalist June Thomas invites readers into six iconic lesbian spaces over the course of the last sixty years, including the rural commune, the sex toy boutique, the vacation spot, and the feminist bookstore.
Thomas blends her own experiences with archival research and rare interviews with pioneering figures like Elaine Romagnoli, Susie Bright, and Jacqueline Woodson. She richly illustrates the lives of the business owners, entrepreneurs, activists, and dreamers who shaped the long struggle for queer liberation. Thomas illuminates what is gained and lost in the shift from the exclusive, tight-knit women’s spaces of the ’70s toward today’s more inclusive yet more diffuse LGBTQ+ communities.
At once a love letter, a time capsule, and a bridge between generations of queer women, A Place of Our Own brings the history—and timeless present—of the lesbian community to vivid life.
About the Author
June Thomas is a journalist and the cohost of Slate’s Working podcast. Thomas was formerly senior managing producer of Slate podcasts and was the founding editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. Her work has appeared in outlets including Bloomberg Businessweek, Marie Claire, the New York Times’ T magazine, and the Advocate. After forty years in America, Thomas now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
account of what life was really like for lesbians in the mid-to-late twentieth century is an indispensable corrective to nostalgia, ahistoricity, fading memory, and the usual erasure. It’s so jam-packed with fascinating nuggets
of cultural history, movement lore, and gossip (the gossip as meticulously documented as everything else), that it will provide you with years’ worth of dinner party conversation fodder. A Place of Our Own
is suffused with June Thomas’s wit and nerdily brilliant insights, as well as a humane warmth
which she extends to the younger generation of queer women, nonbinary folks, and trans men and women who are continuing the (unfortunately) ongoing struggle. If only a bunch of dykes were running things by consensus and on a shoestring, this sorry world could be a very different place.”—Alison Bechdel
“A breathless and fun-to-read
, yet sobering, tour through the worlds we built. The depth of culture, sub-culture, and fascinating history that comes alive in this book captures a world before the internet and before corporate whitewashing obscured the complexity of our connections and experiences. A Place of Our Own
illustrates a time when each woman had to venture out into the world of the unknown to create her lesbian life, and all the unforeseen adventures she encountered and created. Bravo, June Thomas!
”—Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show
“As a queer musician, I know firsthand how important it is to have community spaces where queer people can gather and feel comfortable being themselves. In A Place Of Our Own
, writer June Thomas masterfully delves into the essence of six spaces pivotal to queer women's culture, highlighting the resilient bookstores, lively softball leagues, vibrant vacation hot spots, and under-the-radar lesbian bars that provided both refuge and revolution to a generation of queer women. As sapphic spaces vanish, so too does a part of our culture, making this book a must-have for any queer bookshelf.
”—Tegan Quin, musician and member of Tegan and Sara“A Place of Our Own
is a wonderfully rangy, conversational, and thoughtful exploration of lesbian geographies. It's particularly enriched by the quantity and quality of personal interviews, which range from the delightful to the curious to the heartbreaking. It's optimistic without collapsing into coziness or cliche, animated by affection but not lacking in rigor, comprehensive yet brisk, and I only wish there was more of it.”—Daniel Lavery, author of Something That May Shock and Discredit You
“In the words of Joan Baez, action is the antidote to despair. Immensely readable, A Place of Our Own charts the inventive actions of queer women in the latter half of the twentieth century. Far more than an elegy for past times, this book is a warts-and-all how-to guide to forging community in the face of what seem like insurmountable obstacles. It’s a celebration of what was—and can be—built, with all its hurdles and ecstasies. Ultimately encouraging and empowering, A Place of Our Own is a reminder that you can’t change the world, but you can change your neighborhood.”
—Rosie Garland, novelist, poet, and singer