From the ancient poet Sappho to tombois in contemporary Indonesia, women throughout history and around the globe have desired, loved, and had sex with other women In beautiful prose, Sapphistries tells their stories, capturing the multitude of ways that diverse societies have shaped female same sex sexuality across time and placeLeila J Rupp reveals how, from the time of the very earliest societies, the possibility of love between women has been known, even when it is feared, ignored, or denied We hear women in the sex segregated spaces of convents and harems whispering words of love We see women beginning to find each other on the streets of London and Amsterdam, in the aristocratic circles of Paris, in the factories of Shanghai We find women s desire and love for women meeting the light of day as Japanese schoolgirls fall in love, and lesbian bars and clubs spread from s Berlin to s Buffalo And we encounter a world of difference in the twenty first century, as transnational concepts and lesbian identities meet local understandings of how two women might love each otherGiving voice to words from the mouths and pens of women, and from men s prohibitions, reports, literature, art, imaginings, pornography, and court cases, Rupp also creatively employs fiction to imagine possibilities when there is no historical evidence Sapphistries combines lyrical narrative with meticulous historical research, providing an eminently readable and uniquely sweeping story of desire, love, and sex between women around the globe from the beginning of time to the present A little dry for a book on the history of lesbianism footnotes galore , Sapphistries accomplishes its ambitious goal of providing a global history of love between women The global and historical context is interesting as Rupp highlights the ways in which lesbian love has been defined by both sameness eroticised friendship and difference femme butch , pointing out the importance of the public private divide in the history of a culture that has often been invisible. I feel a little badly giving this book only two stars because it accomplished what it sought out to do, but I also feel there were several glaring omissions in content that I can t seem to ignore The author is clear in the beginning that she is seeking to provide a complete social history of lesbianism, beginning with ancient society and ending in the present day, but I was expecting at least some insight regarding the genetic research of same sex predisposition The author comes close to discu I feel a little badly giving this book only two stars because it accomplished what it sought out to do, but I also feel there were several glaring omissions in content that I can t seem to ignore The author is clear in the beginning that she is seeking to provide a complete social history of lesbianism, beginning with ancient society and ending in the present day, but I was expecting at least some insight regarding the genetic research of same sex predisposition The author comes close to discussing this when revealing the study of hermaphrodites as it related to women loving women, but anything beyond that is ignored Sapphistries does a wonderful job in relaying the history of female masculinity and that of conventional butch femme relationships in different cultures, but I can t help thinking the book ignores the depiction of lesbian relationships that don t necessarily fall into these categories This may not be the author s fault as she is working with very limited material, especially when touching on eras in which women were scarcely able to provide written accounts of their personal lives I may also be a little biased as someone who is considered a lipstick lesbian within the gay community Still, it seemed the author is seduced by labels created by the very society that repressed and still continues to repress homosexuals.What exactly is a lesbian Is a sexual relationship with a woman essential in defining oneself as such, or can one remain celibate while still considering herself homosexual Also, what defines sex between two women The author attempts to answer these questions in the beginning, stating that for the purpose of the text she will only be examining those who have acted upon their sexual desires for women While this is fine for what is basically a regurgitation of female same sex evidence throughout history, I would have liked to have gained some insight on the complexities of human sexuality on an instinctual level Perhaps the author could have explored how aopen minded society becameandamenable to the study of lesbianism not as a mental affliction but as a genetic predisposition having nothing to do with psychological illness Not that I believe lesbianism is 100% biological But that s the thing this book could have helped add to my knowledge of the nature vs nurture debate as it relates to homosexuality, and it just didn t.I would still recommend this book for any lesbian looking to learn about Sapphic history, but I would also warn them not to expect much in terms of knowing what makes us tick on the inside And expect to do a lot of re reading this book is chock full of run on sentences that tend to make things that muchconvoluted This might be worth a read, if you want a reasonably short introduction to sapphistries The sources amassed were wide ranging, though mostly from a Western perspective, and many were new to me, including the Arab Sappho , a love spell addressed from one woman to another in Roman era Egypt, and many Chinese May Fourth writers and thinkers Unfortunately, many of the primary sources are quoted directly from other works of scholarship with no evidence that the author has sought to verify or This might be worth a read, if you want a reasonably short introduction to sapphistries The sources amassed were wide ranging, though mostly from a Western perspective, and many were new to me, including the Arab Sappho , a love spell addressed from one woman to another in Roman era Egypt, and many Chinese May Fourth writers and thinkers Unfortunately, many of the primary sources are quoted directly from other works of scholarship with no evidence that the author has sought to verify or look up the original sources herself it was very frustrating whenever I flipped to the footnotes to ascertain the origin of a primary source, only to be directed to another academic text s discussion of the source.It was fairly nuanced in some ways in its portrayal of identities, hesitating to use the word lesbian as an all encompassing term while acknowledging that in diverse ways in many places, women who loved women were recognised as, or conceived of themselves as, a potentially distinct class of people pre 20th century The main issue I had with the book was that it neglected transgender women who loved women, and instead included several quotations from and thoughts about trans men who are, obviously, not women and their relationships with women Of course, I can definitely see the benefit of discussing masculine or male presenting people from the distant past who were assigned female at birth and who pursued women as love interests, since we often have no way of knowing how they would identify although several of these people Rupp mentions DID express a longing to be a man, or go by he him pronouns , and it s useless to speculate or attempt to fit them into today s idea of woman or not woman But to include trans men in a study of women s love throughout global history, while neglecting to mention even a single trans woman who loved women Lili Elbe springs to mind as important to a historical study such as this is extremely difficult for me to understand unless the author believes firmly that biology trumps presentation and personal identification, which I hope is not the case It felt like a huge oversight, and did spoil my enjoyment of the book quite a bit.Overall, however, I did find the book full of sources I was interested to knowabout, even if I wished they had been put to better use by the author A thoughtful academic treatment of written records of same sex relationships across a variety of historical and cultural context that is undermined by a problematic view of gender that loops trans men in with lesbians, largely ignores bisexuality as a distinct sexual identity, and does not include even the barest suggestion that trans lesbians might exist If your view of wlw relationships isinclusive than two people with vaginas, you will be somewhat disappointed. Some other readers said this was dry, but I found it remarkably accessible for an academic text While there s some problematic stuff going on here with trans identities which the author, to her credit, does try to address , and while bisexuality isn t directly addressed, the information here is incredibly valuable for a sense of perspective. While this book made some interesting points, the exclusion of transwomen in a history of lesbianism is inexcusable What s worse may be the author s complete side stepping of the issue, obfuscating the transmisogynist politics at play Overall, I m shocked anyone could make a topic this interesting seem so boring. A very good and diverse account of women loving women over time It s sad that this book isn t many times longer, but the documentation and stories it does have were great It s nice to see the similarities and differences among different cultures Also I loved the pictures, vintage lesbians yesss In her introduction Leila clearly states that she is trying to set out a book that will include a Global history of same sex desire and love between women, stating how so many focus on the west ie Europe and the United States and ignore the rest of the world She then proceeds to write a book where she does just that In the first few chapters she focuses entirely on the Greek and Roman traiditons, with a few paragraphs on other cultures, and often her references to the other cultures are to In her introduction Leila clearly states that she is trying to set out a book that will include a Global history of same sex desire and love between women, stating how so many focus on the west ie Europe and the United States and ignore the rest of the world She then proceeds to write a book where she does just that In the first few chapters she focuses entirely on the Greek and Roman traiditons, with a few paragraphs on other cultures, and often her references to the other cultures are totally outside of the time frame she is discussing, in relation to the Western perspective She mentions how she includes China in her research but in the chapters I read she didn t quote any actual Chinese historians or Sinologists, but her reference came from a book written by a science fiction writer She mentions how in the Han dynasty there were several Emperors who had male favorites and were homosexual However, she then goes on to say that during this period it was reasonable to assume that Buddhist monasteries may have seemed a desirable place for men with same sex desires Except there were NO Buddhist monasteries in Han China There were a few foreign monks who visited China during that period, but it didn t become a popular religious movement in China until after the fall of the Han in the Six dynasties period, the first major translations of the Buddhist scriptures happening in the 4th century Something any book on the history of Chinese Buddhism would tell you so clearly she d not read one book on the subject, yet was willing to make assumptions on it based on nothing but her own imagination There is no explanation as to why, because an Emperor did something, it would be natural to assume that Buddhists would do something That is simply bad scholarship and at that point I gave up reading I really can t recommend this book at all It isn t a global history at all, just another one that focuses on the west with a couple of random and incorrect examples from different cultures thrown in without any thought to culture, or time period Thorough lesbian historyAn excellent and very extensive history of lesbians of all kinds throughout the ages Extremely interesting and very educational, well researched.