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The New Lesbian Studies: Into the Twenty-First Century edited by Bonnie Zimmerman and Toni A. H. McNaron. New York: The Feminist Press, 1996, 295 pp., $35.00 hardcover, $17.95 paper.
Some lesbians are feminists and some are not. Likewise, some feminists are lesbians, and some are not. Those simple facts have complicated the relationship between lesbians and feminism at least since the start of the second wave of the sixties. Some lesbians have found their identity and grounded their politics in feminism; others have rejected feminism on the grounds that it has been elitist and heterosexist. Some lesbians have believed that lesbians were the prototypical feminists. Some heterosexual feminists have viewed lesbians as a threat. The emergence of lesbian studies separate from feminism further clouded the picture, and the newer fields of lesbian and gay studies and queer theory seem to have challenged whether feminism is relevant to lesbians at all.
Given the tensions among feminism, lesbian studies, lesbian and gay studies, and queer theory, it is no surprise to find a number of new books that address these issues. Nor is it a surprise that no two books take quite the same perspective. Three recent edited collections illustrate the variety available: Cross Purposes by Dana Heller, Feminism Meets Queer Theory by Elizabeth Weed and Naomi Schor, and The New Lesbian Studies by Bonnie Zimmerman and Toni A. H. McNaron. The three share a common objective--to grapple with the troubled relationships among feminism, queer theory and lesbian studies--but each attacks the problem from a different angle.
Margaret Cruikshank's forward sets the tone for The New Lesbian Studies. The editor of the original Lesbian Studies collection laments that she "can't understand some of the work now being published in gay and lesbian studies" (xi) and explains that The New Lesbian Studies is written to be accessible to a more general audience than "queer …