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Kiersky, S. (1999). Lesbian Lives: Psychoanalytic Narratives Old and New: Maggie Magee and Diana C. Miller. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1997, 407 pp., $55.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(4):1451-1455.
(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(4):1451-1455
Lesbian Lives: Psychoanalytic Narratives Old and New: Maggie Magee and Diana C. Miller. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1997, 407 pp., $55.00.
Review by: Sandra Kiersky
Lesbian Lives is an important addition to a growing body of contemporary literature in psychoanalysis on primary attachments between women. The book is a personal, political, and psychoanalytic document with roots in the feminist movement of the sixties, the distinction between gender and sexuality that emerged in the seventies, and the deconstructive perspective of the Queer Theorists of the eighties. While the authors offer a serious critique of psychoanalytic theory and practice with regard to “female homosexuals,” they are respectful of psychoanalysis as a discipline, and optimistic about its efficacy for those who have, until recently, been marginalized. Arguing for a similar respect among analysts for the diverse experiences of women who identify themselves as lesbians, Magee and Miller suggest that even the apparently simple question “What causes female homosexuality?” contains “unquestioned assumptions about the feelings, behaviors, and relationships of women who love women.”
Like several other books exclusively about lesbian women that have been published in the last decade (see for example Conner and Ryan 1993 and Schwartz 1998), Lesbian Lives challenges the reader to question these assumptions and to recognize the ways in which the questions themselves shape the experience they claim to describe. In this sense, the authors emphasize the intersubjective nature of psychic experience and the complex interplay between the individual and the culture. The critical question, they believe, is not why a woman is a lesbian, but how she is a lesbian, and whether her way of being a lesbian enriches or impoverishes her life.
In general, the book approaches the lesbian subject from three perspectives: the historical, the clinical, and what might be called the personal/political.
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