I consider myself an amateur bi-sexual. I’m strongly attracted to women as well as to men, but I’ve had fairly limited opportunity to act on my desires for the fairer sex. Certainly, I have no experience with the fractalized variants of institutionalized lesbian culture. I’ve never been to a lesbian bar. I don’t know the language or the distinctions, although I realize that some lesbians consider this critically important. In my few reviews of lesbian erotica, I’ve found my lack of knowledge to be a handicap. The characters play culturally-defined roles—butch, femme, dyke, boi—and I don’t know where the roles stop and the individualized personalities begin.
One of the things that I appreciated about IRIDESCENCE is the fact that most of the stories were about women whom I could understand and with whom I could identify. This may seem odd, since the collection focuses on women of color, and I’m white and Jewish. For me, perhaps because I’ve traveled widely, the influence of Haitian, or Native American, or Latina, culture is far more comprehensible than the social definitions of the official lesbian world. The rich mix of skin tones and accents in this book add spice without inducing confusion.
Another welcome aspect of the collection is the emphasis on long term committed relationships, or sometimes, on love savored and then lost. Some of the other lesbian anthologies that I’ve reviewed have focused on the anonymous conquest, the quick fuck, as if the authors were trying to mimic the aggression and selfishness of the stereotypical male. The women in IRIDESCENCE are not all soft and cuddly, but they experience sexual connection in the context of a broader palette of emotions, not merely within the narrow confines of lust.
With the exception of J.T. Langdon’s graceful myth “Water Bearer”, all the stories in IRIDESCENCE are contemporary. They range from light-hearted romps, as in Delynn DeSaint’s “Shopping in New York” and Tawanna Sullivan’s “The Getaway”, to tales of unrequited longing like Tenille Brown’s “Waiting” and Jolie du Pré’s “Monisha”. The authors give us unconventional woman like Sesi, the tough Native American casino security guard in C.B. Potts “Test Your Luck” and the shy auto mechanic entranced with a Mexicana beauty in Isabelle Gray’s “Grease” as well as more traditional females who just happen to be drawn to their own sex.
One of my favorite stories in the collection is Cheyenne Blue’s “Glory B.”. A woman who knows that she’s different searches her whole life for her imaginary childhood friend—and finally finds her. Another great contribution is “Special Delivery”, by Teresa Noelle Roberts, a clever tale about mistaken first impressions. Jean Roberta’s “For All My Relations” is an unusual, heart-felt story about love that grows on the edges of desperation. Jacqueline Applebee’s “The Sound Inside” is one of the few stories celebrating anonymous sensuality, but in an original, intensely female way as different from male conquests as silk is from burlap.
In her introduction, Ms. du Pré talks about her experience that most lesbian erotic stories “contain a white cast” and her desire to produce “a representation of lesbians from every color of the rainbow and stories in every shade of sexy”. She has succeeded admirably in her goal. At the same time, none of these stories is heavy-handed with regard to issues of culture or skin color. These characters are human, first, and woman next. The fact that they’re not Caucasian is almost incidental. Thankfully, there’s no political agenda here, only an aesthetic one: to let the readers of IRIDESCENCE enjoy the full range of beautiful possibilities in the realm of women loving women.
© 2007 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.