Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Social historians do not usually need to issue disclaimers such as this, from Britannia's Glory, a history of 20th-century lesbians (Cassell pounds 11.99): "I will lay my cards on the table: I have never seen any of the women whom I describe as lesbians in this book have sex." If Emily Hamer never seen her subjects at it, how does she know they're lesbians? "One is a lesbian if the life that one lives is a lesbian life." I see ...

She does well to be cautious: the foreword skirts every possible objection to her modus operandi. The dearth of black lesbians in her record? "Racism ... in British society has prevented black women from achieving the success that white women have done." The emphasis on middle-class women? "Having the time to record, for posterity's sake, your life or the life of your community requires a degree of economic privilege." Coo, all those horrid, white, middle-class women, eh! "They are not necessarily role models; I do not condone their politics or how they lead their lives," she hastens to add.

One of the delightful things about the colourful new "Women on Women" series from Cassell is the way the cover models get a bigger credit than the photographer (the bearded lady herself, Della Grace). Britannia's Glory features a statuesque figure in Brunnhilde horned helmet and breastplate, waving a Union Jack. This is, we learn, "Lynn Sutcliffe ... an actor and activist". Elsewhere the credits sound like Lonely Hearts ads. Assaults on Convention: Essays on Lesbian Transgressors (pounds 12.99) features a pierced thug and a Large Marge with a particularly sad snarl. They are "Leezan Amadi ... a self-confessed boy dyke in search of a very secure relationship with a trusting daddy" (the way Leezan's fists are brandished, Daddy would have to be very trusting) and Amy Lame, a lesbian drag queen. I hope you find true love, girls.

Rosa Ainley's What Is She Like? (pounds 12.99) showcases the cheeky-looking Hans Schierl, "Dada-Porn model currently working on 'Dandy Dust' " (not a drug, apparently). But best of all is The Equality Complex, subtitled "Lesbians in Therapy: A guide to anti-oppressive practice" (pounds 11.99), featuring a black woman wrestling - in a caring way of course - with her white companion. She is Jacqueline Woodson, who "writes children's books to empower young people". But however do they all find the time to lead a lesbian life?