Lillian Faderman, a leading scholar of LGBT history, writes that she exists because her unmarried mother Mary, a Jewish garment worker in lower Manhattan, had the gumption to refuse a third abortion. Instead, Mary and her sister, Rae, took the child to Los Angeles and scraped together a new life.
"She was the driving force behind everything I became," Faderman told a reporter for the San Francisco J-Weekly, contrasting her path to a doctorate in English at the University of California while her mother was practically illiterate.
The writer tells this story in Naked in the Promised Land, her 2003 memoir. The book traces a pinched childhood, a young adulthood as model and habitué of the Los Angeles lesbian underground and long decades as a writer and professor, teaching at San Francisco State University, Fresno.
Faderman’s 10th book, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle chronicles a larger, unfinished story. Through more than 150 interviews and documents from 20 archives, it explores “how we got here.” In vivid prose, Faderman traces court cases and brave individuals, heart-breaking reversals and formidable opponents. The book begins in mid-century, when American gays were prosecuted as criminals, crazies and subversives. It considers the nation’s first gay and lesbian organizations, the Stonewall uprising and the activism honed in the AIDS epidemic. It contrasts the 1948 ruination of a beloved, closeted Missouri journalism professor with the 2012 federal ceremony promoting Tammy Smith to Army General, where her wife affixed the new stars to her epaulets. Faderman crystalizes this trajectory in the words of activist Frank Kameny: “We started with nothing, and look what we have wrought!”
Faderman lives with partner Phyllis Irwin in Fresno and San Diego. She has won six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards and Yale University’s James Brudner Award. Her work has been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Czech and Slovenian.
by Lisa Nielson, Anisfield-Wolf SAGES Fellow at Case Western Reserve University.I was taking an internet break from my pile of books in the National Library of Jerusalem this summer when a news article caught my eye. It reported the Jerusalem Pride Parade was going to kick off in about four hours -- at 6 p.m. July 21, 2016 -- in a park not far from where I was living. A year earlier, an ultra-orthodox fanatic stabbed six people at the march. One of the victims, Shira Banki, was 16 when she died. This time, the police were taking no chances... Read More →
From the Playhouse Square stage, Lillian Faderman began her acceptance of this year's nonfiction award with a story of how she discovered she won. After Faderman received an email from jury chair Henry Louis Gates requesting her phone number, her wife Phyllis Irwin remarked that he must be soliciting support for the Hilary Clinton campaign.Neither considered that he would be reaching out to tell her she had won this year's Anisfield-Wolf prize for The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. The skepticism was appropriate, Faderman... Read More →
Photo by Donn R. NottageWhen Lillian Faderman spoke at the City Club of Cleveland this September, she ably distilled her ample Anisfield-Wolf winning history, “The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle,” into a half-hour presentation with 20 minutes of questions. Her audience was diverse, and several members expressed awe over a 76-year-old pioneer who came out as a lesbian in 1956.Among the listeners were 14 young adults enrolled in a seminar on philanthropy in America -- all first-year students at Case Western Reserve... Read More →
Following in our tradition, each of our winners will speak at the awards ceremony, and each will talk and read separately in a second, more intimate setting in Northeast Ohio. Mark your calendars and make plans to join us in September for a string of these illuminating events, designed to bring readers and winners into each other’s orbits.Orlando Patterson, Lifetime Achievement “What Have We learned About Culture, Disadvantage and Black Youth?" Baker-Nord Center Wednesday, September 144:30-6 p.m.Mary Morris, The Jazz Palace South... Read More →