Book Review: Different Daughters: A Book by Mothers of Lesbians (3rd ed.). Louise Rafkin, Ed. Cleis Press, San Francisco, 2001. 169 pp. $14.95

Book Review: Different Daughters: A Book by Mothers of Lesbians (3rd ed.). Louise Rafkin, Ed.... P1: GNN Sex Roles [sers] pp1011-sers-474435 October 27, 2003 21:45 Style file version June 3rd, 2002 ° C Sex Roles, Vol. 49, Nos. 11/12, December 2003 ( 2003) Book Review Different Daughters: A Book by Mothers of Lesbians other family members. Rafkin notes in the introduc- (3rd ed.). Louise Rafkin, Ed. Cleis Press, San tion that “Lesbianism is not always the big chasm in Francisco, 2001. 169 pp. $14.95. family relationships, but often a catalyst for difficul- ties in relationships that were already quite rocky or Louise Rafkin’s groundbreaking book Different unresolved” (p. 10). Most satisfying in these accounts Daughters is now in its third printing, with revised of difficult transitions are the mothers’ reflections on and expanded first-person accounts of mothers of their own growth and change caused at least in part queer women describing their experiences with their by their experiences with their daughters. daughters’ coming out. Other books address parents’ Rafkin provides a brief description of each chap- reactions to and acceptance of their children’s non- ter author, listing details about each woman’s career heterosexuality, but this book addresses the distinc- path, interests, family history, or other pertinent infor- tive mother–daughter relationship in a way to which mation. She notes that the authors have a variety of every mother and daughter can relate. life circumstances and ethnic backgrounds. This infor- Different Daughters contains 32 stories of moth- mation helps orient the reader to the perspective of ers of lesbians, bisexuals, and a transsexual man. The the writer and is quite helpful. Notably lacking, how- stories start in different places: some describe their ever, is any sense of a time frame for the context of daughter’s seemingly “normal” childhood behavior the daughter’s coming out. As the book was first pub- first, others write from the midst of a tumultuous com- lished in 1987, some stories were written in the early or ing out process, and some write with years of perspec- mid-1980s, with different levels of societal acceptance tive since their daughter’s disclosure. and awareness of queers than those stories written be- There are several constants throughout the sto- tween the second (1996) and third (2001) editions. Al- ries that are sure to comfort both daughters and though authors may have updated their stories, times mothers who read this book. Almost every mother frames are unclear, and this gap can leave readers indicated support of and love for her daughter, and wondering about the context in which the authors indicated a near-desperate desire for her daughter wrote about their experiences. Still, the stark presen- to be happy. Many also indicated initial confusion, tation without commentary helps underscore the uni- prejudice, and disappointment at their daughter’s dis- versality of experience: though each mother’s story is closure of her sexual orientation. Despite these sim- unique, the common themes of humanity are similar. ilarities, the ways in which mothers made sense of Although the book focuses on the views of moth- the disclosure, and how they chose to integrate their ers of lesbians, its universality makes it good reading daughter’s sexual orientation into their psyche, their for all family members of recently out individuals. This lives, and their families, were unique. Many mothers book is also insightful reading for those considering expressed disappointment that their daughters would telling their parents about their sexual orientation and never have a wedding or a child, and one was incensed for those who have recently come out to their parents. that her daughter and her daughter’s partner chose to Therapists could recommend this book to clients with have a child via artificial insemination. Mothers strug- coming out concerns, and it would be helpful for stu- gled to integrate their husbands, friends, and family dents in gender studies courses. Different Daughters with their new family secret or to hide it from them, reminds all of us that despite the difficulty of dis- and in some cases, attempted to uncover what per- cussing sexuality in families, there are many brave sonal shortcoming, parenting error, or life choices had women who have expanded their minds and views “caused” their daughter’s alternative sexuality. to accept their queer daughters. Mothers described incredible pain at observing their daughters’ struggles to find their place, in soci- Jennifer P. Wisdom ety and within their families. Some mothers recounted Oregon Health & Science University and their helplessness in defending their daughters to Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research ° C 703 0360-0025/03/1200-0703/0 2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation Sex Roles Springer Journals

Book Review: Different Daughters: A Book by Mothers of Lesbians (3rd ed.). Louise Rafkin, Ed. Cleis Press, San Francisco, 2001. 169 pp. $14.95

Sex Roles , Volume 49 (12) – Sep 28, 2004
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Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers
Copyright © 2003 by Plenum Publishing Corporation
Psychology; Gender Studies; Sociology, general; Medicine/Public Health, general
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