Top Ten Essay Collections by Lesbians

shelved under Gay & Lesbian

Essays are an important literary tool to talk about our lives and reflect on what is happening in the world. One of the things we are missing right now in the lesbian community are journals and magazines that publish longer essays about our lives and our analysis of what is happening in our communities. We need that dialogue, written and recorded, to share with one another and build greater understandings between and among us. Creating this list was more difficult than the list of contemporary lesbian poetry. The essay is an underutilized tool. Moreover, many of these books were published more than a decade ago. Where are the younger lesbian essayists? We need their words.


The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power

by Audre Lorde, illustrated by Bonzani Camille

Audre Lorde is one of the great essayists of the twentieth century. She writes with clarity and passion in these essays about sexism, racism, and power as well as about the transformative powers of sexuality.


On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978

by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich is another great essayist of the twentieth century. In this collection, Rich writes about writers from the past including Jane Eyre and Anne Sexton as well as contemporary reflections on women's lives.


Rebellion: Essays 1980-1991

by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Minnie Bruce Pratt is best known as an award winning poet, but her collection of essays should not be overlooked. Rebellion is the sharp analysis of a feminist who grew up in the south and rebelled against the patriarchy and racism she learned while still loving the people around her.


My Mama's Dead Squirrel: Lesbian Essays on Southern Culture

by Mab Segrest

In this gorgeous collection, Segrest writes southern wisdom with new insight and resistance. Like Pratt, Segrest writes from the space of rebellion against patriarchy and racism and asserts her lesbian identity in important ways.


My Lesbian Husband

by Barrie Jean Borich

Writing from Minneapolis, Borich crafts beautiful essays of domesticity and change about her lesbian relationship.


Skin: Talking About Sex, Class And Literature

by Dorothy Allison

Another southerner, Allison's essays are as well-written and painfully insightful as her novels. Skin shouldn't be overlooked as an important collection of lesbian essays.


A Restricted Country

by Joan Nestle

We owe much to Joan Nestle who has been working for lesbian rights, freedom, and liberation for decades. This essay collection, originally published in the late 1980s is now available to a new generation of readers and is just as compelling as it was when the essays first appeared.


Forty-Three Septembers: Essays

by Jewelle Gomez

The forty-three Septembers of the title of this book are the number of years Jewelle Gomez had lived when she wrote this book. These intimate, personal writings from Gomez are beautiful and provocative.


Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

by Cheryl Clarke, Audre Lorde

Lorde is the only writer represented twice in this list; a necessary condition because her essays are so powerful and continue to be more than a decade after her death. This collection of essays and speeches is as powerful as the first.


My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years

by Sarah Schulman

This collection by Sarah Schulman is a gathering of her writings during the Reagan years and the AIDS crisis. Now it may be more of a text of history, but these pieces are crucial to understanding identity formation and the creation of ACT UP and other radical activism from New York in the years leading up to the collection.