brainy sex radical amber holli-baugh's new collection takes a look at the past life of this ex-prostitute, out femme and passionate feminist. But it's what the book says about her future that makes it so important.Hollibaugh, born in the late 50s into a mixed-race California biker family -- her mother was white, her father Roma -- lived as an outsider in every political movement she joined.
The new left didn't know what to do with her working-class past. Feminism had no room in its analysis for violent women like her physically abusive mother. And gay liberation couldn't cope with Hollibaugh's proud femme sexuality.
Yet she remained articulate, active and demanding on all fronts.
Readers will remember her as one of the vanguard of pro-sex feminists that emerged in the middle 80s in response and opposition to anti-pornography feminists -- like myself -- and who published in groundbreaking collections like Coming To Power and Pleasure And Danger.
Some of these 15- t0 20-year-old writings appear in My Dangerous Desires, but their appeal is more archival than literary. They make important reading for women's studies enthusiasts, but they, and even the more current writings -- with the exception of a powerful appeal to lesbians not to underestimate the effect of AIDS on the community -- are studded with politico-speak.
And I missed some discussion of transgender politics. Hollibaugh would be fascinating on the subject.
The real revelation is in those pieces that give us a glimpse of what Hollibaugh could do as a memoirist. The opening chapter on growing up with a hyper-sexual father and a furiously bitter mother is a tour de force. A later segment on aging is pointedly poignant.
Someone, give this woman a book deal and let her tell us her whole life story.
Hollibaugh appears Saturday (January 25) as a guest of the U of T's Sexual Diversities department (see readings, this page).SUSAN G. COLE MY DANGEROUS DESIRES: A QUEER GIRL DREAMING HER WAY HOME by Amber L. Hollibaugh (Duke University Press), 277 pages, $26.95 paper. Rating: NNN