The Disappearing L

Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

By Bonnie J. Morris

Subjects: Women's Studies, Lesbian / Gay Studies, American History, Cultural Studies, American Studies
Series: SUNY series in Queer Politics and Cultures
Paperback : 9781438461762, 256 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438461779, 256 pages, September 2016

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Table of contents

Introduction. The Treasure Hunt

1. The Soundtrack of Our Awakening

2. By the Time I Got to Wombstock

3. Hunting and Gathering. A Literacy of One’s Own

4. Imagining an Eruv

5. Points of Erasure. Remembering Generation Flannel


Investigates the rise and fall of US American lesbian cultural institutions since the 1970s.


A 2018 Over the Rainbow Selection presented by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table (GLBTRT) of the American Library Association

LGBT Americans now enjoy the right to marry—but what will we remember about the vibrant cultural spaces that lesbian activists created in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s? Most are vanishing from the calendar—and from recent memory. The Disappearing L explores the rise and fall of the hugely popular women-only concerts, festivals, bookstores, and support spaces built by and for lesbians in the era of woman-identified activism. Through the stories unfolding in these chapters, anyone unfamiliar with the Michigan festival, Olivia Records, or the women's bookstores once dotting the urban landscape will gain a better understanding of the era in which artists and activists first dared to celebrate lesbian lives. This book offers the backstory to the culture we are losing to mainstreaming and assimilation. Through interviews with older activists, it also responds to recent attacks on lesbian feminists who are being made to feel that they've hit their cultural expiration date.

Bonnie J. Morris is Adjunct Professor of Women's Studies at both George Washington University and Georgetown University. She is the author of several books, including Eden Built by Eves: The Culture of Women's Music Festivals and Lubavitcher Women in America: Identity and Activism in the Postwar Era, also published by SUNY Press.


"Morris' work provides a rich, complex, and moreover vital contribution in the production and preservation of collective memory and herstory … [it] is needed in the classroom, in gender and women's study courses, and to be used as foundational knowledge by which we might connect ourselves in an intergeneration lesbian conversation." — Sinister Wisdom

"Morris weaves an artful quilt of scholarly research, primary source material, and personal anecdotes in an effort to preserve the history of quickly vanishing, uniquely lesbian-identified spaces." — Gay & Lesbian Review

" extraordinarily thoughtful and thought-provoking read. Exceptionally well written." — Midwest Book Review

"...engaging … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"...fabulous … This book is so rich, so wonderful, so enormous an undertaking, and so well written that it is hard to describe what a treasure it is … The Disappearing L should be included in every history course in high schools and universities. It should be read by every lesbian who was there—and by every lesbian not fortunate enough to have experienced our golden era for herself. This book shines a light on the miracle we all created." — Lesbian Connection

"The Disappearing L is both an 'insider' story and a well-written analysis of a neglected piece of cultural history. Morris delivers convincing arguments about why the lesbian-feminist era was important not only to the individuals who lived it but also to a broader understanding of what has come to be called 'LGBT' history. No one could be better positioned to write this book than Morris." — Lillian Faderman, author of The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle