GLR Review March-April 2019

anthropologist and contributed to the development of sex and gender studies. By the late 1970s, she answered to the label “butch,” which she defined as someone who “identifies as a woman but whose sense of self is deeply rooted in masculinity.” Newton’s narrative gives readers an idea of just how danger- ous it was to identify as a butch lesbian back then. Professor Newton was living a partly authentic life but hiding her sexual orientation behind her feminism. Her radical essay “Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America” (1972 ) won praise, but her activism led to her being fired from her first job, which soured her on academia. Although she writes that she was “saved” by second-wave feminism, she was aware of its anti- butch sentiments and never felt accepted by the movement. Con- flicted and confused, she plunged into a passionate love affair with a French woman and moved to Paris. Newton does not hide anything from herself or her readers. She documents her excruciating soul-searching and uphill bat- tles to rescue female sexuality from colonization by relentlessly controlling forms of patriarchy. She writes of living a random life, lost in contradictions while trying to be fully herself. Along the road she discovers that being a butch is so much more than she could have imagined. She found her way to integrate her love for women, her female masculinity, and academic writing into one coherent person. She documents the cultural wars of the 1980s and her relationships with various friends, including Ellen Lewin, Blanche Wiesen Cook, Gayle Rubin, and Carroll Smith- Rosenberg. She also shares her significant love relations of this period: artist Louise Fishman and working-class intellectual Amber Hollibaugh. Finally, she documents her increasing com- mitment to lesbian feminist activism. In 1979, Newton was pushed into returning to academia by her friend Carroll Smith-Rosenberg and subsequently wrote a groundbreaking essay, “The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman” (1984). Here she argued that female masculinity was vital to making lesbian sexuality visible at the turn of the 20th century. She asserted that the gender-transgress- ing mannish woman was, in fact, “the public symbol of the new social/sexual category ‘lesbian.’” However, over time theorists have argued that what Newton thought a symbol of lesbianism was actually a pivotal moment in the development of the modern woman, whether hetero- or homosexual. The fashions, in fact, were an expression of freedom rather than sexual orientation. Newton’s memoir ends with the historic Barnard College Women’s Center conference “The Scholar and the Feminist IX” (April 1982), an annual feminist gathering in NewYork City. She gives a full sense of the fraught politics that emerged during this incredibly vital period. It led to a decade in which the lesbian and feminist movements were often at odds with each other. The crux of the conflict centered on the question of what to do with the eroticization of women by other women—a process that some feminists associated with the objectification of the female body when carried out by men. My Butch Career joins a distinguished list of lesbian hersto- ries that includes Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues and Lil- lian Faderman’s Naked in the Promised Land . It is for readers interested in the psychological and cultural challenges for an in- dividual who identifies as a butch lesbian, as well as readers who are interested in lesbian herstory within the greater context of the gay rights movement. C ASSANDRA L ANGER The Masculine Mystique My Butch Career: A Memoir by Esther Newton Duke Univ. Press. 263 pages, $29.95 M Y BUTCH CAREER begins with Esther Newton’s birth in 1940 to an upper-middle-class dysfunctional family on the brink of World War II. Attracted to girls and women from an early age, she struggled to sup- press her “unnatural” urges. In 1957, she told a psychiatrist that she might be homosexual. The doctor wisely replied, “What’s so bad about that?” Newton went on to college and graduate school, still suppressing and lying about her mas- culine tendencies. At age eighteen, she was seduced by a sexy woman, fell in love, and was introduced to lesbian bar culture. This was a time when lesbians had to make a choice between “butch “or “femme” as a role in lesbian society. When she started her career in academia, being an out butch dyke was career suicide. This was the 1950s, when lesbians could be truck drivers, moving van helpers, gym teachers (as every les- bian remembers from high school), and little else. Those who camouflaged their lesbianism and got into universities and well- paying jobs were in no position to open doors for other lesbians. And if they were outed—as was true for all gay people at the time—it was the end of their career. Newton describes herself in her journals as a “‘Commie Jew bastard”—despite the fact that she’s a WASP—who became an past (and ongoing) abuse. Ricky agrees to come with Jodi’s makeshift family to West Virginia. As we learn the story of Jodi’s past in quick flashbacks that are abrupt and somewhat confusing, we also see the future. In an area that’s obviously poverty-stricken, Jodi plans to raise the boys and love Miranda on Jodi’s grandmother’s farm where she herself had been raised. Alighting in a town that’s distantly fa- miliar and reconnecting with her church-mouse-poor parents, Jodi learns that they allowed her inheritance to be sold for taxes they owed. Worse, the man who owned the property was slowly selling it piecemeal to a fracking sand company. Complications ensue; more characters make the scene—so many, in fact, that the story becomes bogged down by too many people with too many problems, and the novel drifts to a close with a lot of strings left dangling. _________________________________________________ Terri Schlichenmeyer is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.        