Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation

Karla Jay, Author
Karla Jay, Author Basic Books $25 (278p) ISBN 978-0-465-08364-0
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 278 pages - 978-0-465-08366-4
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Jay writes with wry humor and astute historical analysis in this memoir of her early days as a feminist and gay liberation activist. Currently the director of women's and gender studies and professor of English at Pace University, she was raised in a middle-class Brooklyn home by an emotionally disturbed mother and a father who didn't believe she was his daughter. Jay's political life began in 1964 when she entered Barnard College; by 1969 she was a member of the Redstockings radical feminist collective and a leader in the newly formed Gay Liberation Front. With a canny eye for detail, she creates a vivid, realistic portrait of early 1970s feminist and sexual radicalism, from communal living to group sex to the watershed feminist protest in the offices of Ladies' Home Journal. She charts how women's and gay liberation were made possible by the black civil rights and antiwar movements and is careful not to idealize or whitewash complex, sometimes petty and factional, political struggles, while clearly expressing the joy and excitement she felt in the moment. Nor does she hesitate to contradict the memoirs of luminaries such as Rita Mae Brown and Betty Friedan, taking them to task for what she considers historical misrepresentation. Jay has turned out a political and personal memoir that succeeds in its aim to convey ""what it was like to live then and what some of us did to forge social change."" Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
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