cover image The Vintage Book of International Lesbian Fiction

The Vintage Book of International Lesbian Fiction

N. Holden, J. Nestle. Vintage Books USA, $19 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-679-75952-2

With more than 35 selections, this anthology is notable for the insight it offers into cultures across the globe and the attitudes of various societies toward women in general and lesbians in particular. Several contributors approach the idea of homosexuality as the forbidden fruit via supernatural means. In one of the most ambitious and successful pieces, Egyptian writer Alifa Rifaat describes a prominent married woman's mystical and sensual liaison with a female snake, a ""monarch of the djinn,"" weaving in religious allusions alongside domestic details. Emma Donoghue's haunting ""Looking for Petronilla"" explores issues of class disparity and fierce loyalty in Ireland as a woman travels back through time to search for a wronged bondswoman. Others evoke raw desire, as in ""Madame Alaird's Breasts,"" by Trinidadian-born Dionne Brand, a meditation on a French teacher's voluptuous figure by her adolescent girl students, and the more understated excerpt from St phanie's Book by French writer Mireille Best, an atmospheric scene in which a married woman is seduced by her son's teacher. Informative prefaces set each piece in the context of the writer's work and culture. What characterizes this wide-ranging assemblage of selections is the universal struggle of each character to be her own woman in her own time. (June)