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Ever wondered why there s no female voice as bold, erotic, unflinching, and revealing as Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, or Philip Roth? There is. It belongs to Susie Bright. In this stunning and courageous coming-of-age story, Susie Bright opens her heart and her life. From fearful Irish Catholic Girl Scout to gun-toting teenage revolutionaryand finally the "The Avatar of Am Ever wondered why there s no female voice as bold, erotic, unflinching, and revealing as Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, or Philip Roth? There is. It belongs to Susie Bright. In this stunning and courageous coming-of-age story, Susie Bright opens her heart and her life. From fearful Irish Catholic Girl Scout to gun-toting teenage revolutionaryand finally the "The Avatar of American Erotica" (NYTimes)Bright s life story is shaped as much by America s sexual awakening as the national sexual landscape was altered by Bright herself. In Big Sex Little Death, Bright introduces us to her influences and experiences, including her early involvement with notorious high school radicals The Red Tide as well as the magazine she co-founded in the 1980s, On Our Backsthe first-ever erotic magazine created by women, which turned the lesbian and bisexual community upside down before it took the "straight" world by storm. Big Sex Little Death is an explosive yet intimate memoir that s pure Susie: bold, free-spirited, unpredictablelarger than life, yet utterly true to life."


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Ever wondered why there s no female voice as bold, erotic, unflinching, and revealing as Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, or Philip Roth? There is. It belongs to Susie Bright. In this stunning and courageous coming-of-age story, Susie Bright opens her heart and her life. From fearful Irish Catholic Girl Scout to gun-toting teenage revolutionaryand finally the "The Avatar of Am Ever wondered why there s no female voice as bold, erotic, unflinching, and revealing as Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, or Philip Roth? There is. It belongs to Susie Bright. In this stunning and courageous coming-of-age story, Susie Bright opens her heart and her life. From fearful Irish Catholic Girl Scout to gun-toting teenage revolutionaryand finally the "The Avatar of American Erotica" (NYTimes)Bright s life story is shaped as much by America s sexual awakening as the national sexual landscape was altered by Bright herself. In Big Sex Little Death, Bright introduces us to her influences and experiences, including her early involvement with notorious high school radicals The Red Tide as well as the magazine she co-founded in the 1980s, On Our Backsthe first-ever erotic magazine created by women, which turned the lesbian and bisexual community upside down before it took the "straight" world by storm. Big Sex Little Death is an explosive yet intimate memoir that s pure Susie: bold, free-spirited, unpredictablelarger than life, yet utterly true to life."

30 review for Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Full Disclosure: I am one of Susie Bright's thousands of Facebook friends, though we have never met. Our books are both finalists for the same award: for Bisexual Nonfiction in the 2012 Lambda Literary Awards. Susie's book fits the category better, and even though I prefer fiction to nonfiction, I loved every second of this memoir. The style is bold, funny and utterly captivating, as I imagine Susie must be in person. I was a huge fan to start with, and this book had me collapsing in giggles at Full Disclosure: I am one of Susie Bright's thousands of Facebook friends, though we have never met. Our books are both finalists for the same award: for Bisexual Nonfiction in the 2012 Lambda Literary Awards. Susie's book fits the category better, and even though I prefer fiction to nonfiction, I loved every second of this memoir. The style is bold, funny and utterly captivating, as I imagine Susie must be in person. I was a huge fan to start with, and this book had me collapsing in giggles at the kitchen table as I read. The course of Susie's life is in some ways close to my own. We both grew up in Southern California, and she's only four years older than I am. In fact, she was working in a copy shop in Santa Monica while I was still in high school there. We're both writers and bisexual pioneers, though she pioneered in a much bigger way. My mother wasn't as difficult as hers, though we had our conflicts, and my parents stayed together while hers divorced, something that was less common then than now. So in addition to the heartbreak of losing contact with one parent while the other struggled, Susie had to deal with the stigma of coming from what was then called "a broken home." I come from an upper middle class background, a place of privilege that Susie never knew. My parents were also a lot more involved and controlling than Susie's. It took me a lot longer to break away from their expectations. I had Susie's smarts but not her daring. We both dropped out of high school and took the G.E.D. (Graduate Equivalence Degree) exam, but while I went to Harvard as a double legacy, Susie up and joined a socialist organizing cell. Since I grew up in Santa Monica, her references to landmarks like the Pussycat Theater, the only porn theater in town we all knew about, and to Uni High, where my mother went to school, kept me asking myself "How different would my life have been if I had Susie's strength of character as a teenager?" It's impossible to know how much was nature and how much nurture, but I'm pretty sure that Susie would have been her own beautiful creation no matter who had raised her or how. When Susie moves to San Francisco, she reels off a list of people she knew there -- many of whom I know personally or have heard perform live in intimate local venues. She mentions the writing of books by her or her friends that are staple references in my home. She even mentions Danielle Willis, another author from the old Babarian crowd who is published by my publisher, Zeitgeist Press. I feel like we're leading parallel lives. When it comes to punchy, roll-on-the-floor-laughing prose, though, no one beats Susie in my book. So if you're queer, Californian, of a certain age, a sexual pioneer, a writer, any variety of far left-wing sympathizer, or simply have a great sense of humor or avid curiosity, this book is for you. I couldn't recommend it more highly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Susie Bright is someone I admire greatly: sex-positive feminist, progressive leftist social activist, lesbian/bi-sexual pioneer. She is smart as hell, extremely learned, and funny. A great audiobook, mostly because it is read by the author herself - she laughs at her own jokes - but I suspect there is more to tell. This book touches parts of her life and career, her parents and early years, her socialist period, and the "On Our Backs" years. I found myself moved by her chill-inducing description Susie Bright is someone I admire greatly: sex-positive feminist, progressive leftist social activist, lesbian/bi-sexual pioneer. She is smart as hell, extremely learned, and funny. A great audiobook, mostly because it is read by the author herself - she laughs at her own jokes - but I suspect there is more to tell. This book touches parts of her life and career, her parents and early years, her socialist period, and the "On Our Backs" years. I found myself moved by her chill-inducing description of ending the cycle of family violence in her relationship with her own daughter. Susie Bright once came into the bookstore where I worked, and damnit if I'd gone on break and missed meeting her. I'd remembered noticing the tall woman at the magazine rack, looking at literary or art journals, and her pubescent daughter wandering the shop. When I returned from break my clueless co-worker mentioned that this woman had casually asked if we would like her to sign our copies of Best American Erotica and Sexual State of the Union. He had no idea who she was (this guy had never heard of Rachel Carson either, so . . .). I said "Oh my god where is she? Is she still here? She's gone, gone!" I'd have been super shy speaking to her, but it would've been awesome.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andreea Daia

    ******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have listened this memoir, which I might not have purchased otherwise. ----- I am going back and forth about this review - I think I wrote it three times so far, but it still hadn't capture all the nuances of the book. First, let me tell you that I had no idea who Susie Bright was before listening to this book. I have very mixed feelings about this memoir partic ******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have listened this memoir, which I might not have purchased otherwise. ----- I am going back and forth about this review - I think I wrote it three times so far, but it still hadn't capture all the nuances of the book. First, let me tell you that I had no idea who Susie Bright was before listening to this book. I have very mixed feelings about this memoir particularly because it is a memoir and, by definition, it is not a story with which I have to identify myself, or which I have to "enjoy," but a mirror that reflects back to the reader someone else's life. The story is partitioned into three sections, childhood, young adult, and adult. The first section is disturbing in its honesty about the mother's mental issues. However it holds your interest and it offers a good background about the author's childhood scene. It is the second part that brought up all those mixed feelings. Indeed, not only that I can't identify myself with the two major views that characterize this section. I pretty much don't agree with the author's views, neither on 1) politics, nor on 2) sexuality (at least the opinion that sex with every and any person who crosses your path is a good/liberating thing). Yet, it is because of these diametral opposed ways of thinking that made listening to Susie Bright's views, particularly interesting. What goes through the minds of those who look at communism through pink-coated glasses? Who are they? What is their social and intellectual background? Then of course, how can a woman jump from a partner to another and not commit emotional suicide? It is my personal belief that, by default, women are hard-wired for an emotional-fulfilling life; so how can some of them find comfort in a life lacking personal involvement? I realize that this is a very personal point-of-view, but to me, the purpose of this section was answering those questions. As far as the style of this section is concerned, at times, I found the story very unfocused, jumping from an aspect of her life to something completely different and, to me, unrelated. There were also some bits and pieces which I wasn't sure that brought anything to the overall story: memories about people whom the author neither met nor defined her, memories which didn't even draw a better picture of a certain generation. The example that comes to my mind is the story about the dead girlfriend of the guy whose house she used to clean. The most interesting part for me was by far the third section. Listening to the description of the author's problems in order to publish On Our Backs, a magazine for gay women, was enlightening, disturbing, even scary to some extent. In a world dominated by overly conservative people, bringing to life a lesbian magazine proved to be a hell paved with threats (going as far as bomb threats) and little to no rewards (even coming form the gay community). My heart went to those women who were hurting no one, just trying to express who they were, to leave their mark in this world. The issue that turned me off about this section (and dropped my rating to only 3 stars) was the author's patronizing view that, as long as you're a straight woman, you're never going to understand the bliss of open sex. Coming from a person who fought her entire life for liberating the women, this if-you're-not-with-us-you're-against-us attitude is a little bit immature in my opinion. Because in the end in order to fulfill your life (emotionally and sexually) what matters most is to find the right person; the gender of that person is utterly irrelevant...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    Within the first 10 pages Susie had done 3 things that annoyed me: 1. She claimed that there are no good memoirs out there by female authors that aren't about dieting. I can think of plenty of female penned autobiographies that have completely knocked my socks off. How about these titles: Lit, The Chronology of Water, The Surrender, Wild, Fun Home, Why Be Normal When You Could Be Happy, Just Kids, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Give me a break Susie. 2. She refers to her parents by their f Within the first 10 pages Susie had done 3 things that annoyed me: 1. She claimed that there are no good memoirs out there by female authors that aren't about dieting. I can think of plenty of female penned autobiographies that have completely knocked my socks off. How about these titles: Lit, The Chronology of Water, The Surrender, Wild, Fun Home, Why Be Normal When You Could Be Happy, Just Kids, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Give me a break Susie. 2. She refers to her parents by their first names. It's one of those things that just bugs me, like alternate spellings of "womyn" or "herstory." Also in the context of Susie's story in which she introduces at least 100 random communists, it would be helpful to identify Bill and Elizabeth as the parents. I kept thinking, "Who is this Bill, a new boyfriend?....oh right it's her father." 3. She goes back in time to tell rambling stories about her parent's parents - things that would only interest Susie herself. I should have stopped there but I like Susie Bright so damn much that I wanted her to get it together. She never does, this is hot mess of a book that is not even hot! I thought repeatedly....what the fuck is she even talking about right now?!!! I'm just going to go back to listening to her podcast which is incredibly witty and insightful and forget I read this train wreck.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dani

    While not as gripping as some of her other books and strangely disjointed at times, her unflinching, emotionally brave recounting of her childhood trauma took me in. Her raw, intimate narration of the complex relationship with her mother and the far reaching implications of the emotional abuse on her life and the relationship with her own daugther were extremely honest and brave, and made the book for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Fred Moramarco

    I've admired Susie Bright's candid, direct, and wide open sexual expression for a great many years, from her early writing in the lesbian tabloid "On Our Backs" right through to her current blog [...]. Here is a woman who took on a number of risky and controversial causes, especially the celebration of a bawdy and earthy female bisexuality with a primarily lesbian identity, against the anti-sex prophets of what I would call the right wing of the feminist movement--people like Andrea Dworkin and I've admired Susie Bright's candid, direct, and wide open sexual expression for a great many years, from her early writing in the lesbian tabloid "On Our Backs" right through to her current blog [...]. Here is a woman who took on a number of risky and controversial causes, especially the celebration of a bawdy and earthy female bisexuality with a primarily lesbian identity, against the anti-sex prophets of what I would call the right wing of the feminist movement--people like Andrea Dworkin and Katherine McKinnon and much of the male-bashing academic feminist establishment. Dworkin, who died in 2005, once argued that heterosexual intercourse itself was a form of rape. I'm also one of her thousands of Facebook friends and regard her site as one of the best portals to the good things going on on the internet--politically, socially, and erotically. Like me she regards most internet pornography as tediously bad and knows how to distinguish between honesty and in-authenticity in sexuality better than anyone that I know. As a long time editor of "The Best American Erotica" and many other collections of sexually-oriented writing, she also knows how to distinguish between good imaginative writing and porno hack jobs. She has now published a memoir called "Big Sex, Little Death," and it is a revelation, because it goes beyond the persona created in her erotica and gives us a detailed portrait of the cerebral, radical, flesh and blood person she is and where the components that make up her identity come from. Susie Bright, the name is perfect for her--kind of oozing intelligence and light--is the only child of Elizabeth Halloran and William Bright, born in Arlington, Virginia in the late 1950's. Her parents were academics and separated shortly after her birth, then divorced. She remembers a high school English teacher who attributed her "out of line" behavior to the fact that she was the product of a broken home. In the years since, a "broken home" has become more the norm than the exception, and the phrase itself seems as antiquated as eight track cassettes. Nonetheless, she was deeply affected by her parents' divorce, especially by her mother's erratic and isolated ways. She describes a horrific event early along when her mother drove her to the edge of the iced-over Saskatchewan River after the twelve-year old Susie had lost her glasses and was told by her mom, "you won't need them in the bottom of the river," and then when the confused child asked where they were going responded "I'm driving us into the river." It's no wonder that Bright writes "If you were to ask me what the happiest days of my life were, I would say the day that my daughter was born...and the first week I spent reunited with my dad." This happened when she was in her early teens and her mother had asked her father to take care of her permanently. Living with her father was liberating. Both her sex life and her political life began at the tender age of fourteen; she tells us casually on page 85 that after she became involved with a socialist high school paper appropriately called The Red Tide, "I also started having sex. Not with anyone at school, but with the socialists, the ones with all the ideas in their heads." Her political and sexual identities were formed early and have been sustained in unison ever since. "Big Sex, Little Death" is divided into three sections--the first dealing with her childhood, the second with her adolescence, and the third with all of her adulthood. This gives the book a bit of a skewered feel. Two thirds of the volume deals with a bit more than one third of her life, while the last third of it covers some thirty-three years. (Bright turns 53 this year). This may be because the last third covers the Susie Bright we generally know about--one of the founders of "On Our Backs" and the editor or author of a shelf-full of erotic writings. She was "present at the creation" of a new kind of feminist-based sensuality and a witness to the San Francisco-based sexual turmoil of the 80s and 90s. She chronicles both the AIDS epidemic and the sexual revolution in some detail, and the devastation that both left in their wake. We know a great deal about the former, but less about the latter, and it's surprising to encounter the litany of deaths and suicides associated with the young women who worked in San Francisco sex clubs (p. 243) as well of being reminded of the fratricide committed by Jim Mitchell, one of the famous Mitchell Brothers who ran the notorious O'Farrell Theater in the 70's and 80's and produced porno films including "Beyond the Green Door," which was one of the biggest porno-pop hits of the period. The only thing we don't get to find out too much about is her long-term relationship with the man in her life (Jon) and particular details about her interactions with her daughter Aretha, now a young woman. Yes, she does offer some good advice about parenthood: "Don't hit them. Don't lie to them. Respect their privacy and your own," but there's little more. Well, I certainly respect her right to privacy in these areas, but many of her readers might like to know about how it was for Aretha growing up with such a sexually explicit mom, and whether her ongoing connection with a man in her life has made her monogamous, or if their relationship is an open one. These seem important omissions for a woman who has made most of her life an open book, but I'm sure there are more than a few pages yet uncut. Nonetheless, the best thing about Susie Bright's writing is the clarity and vividness of her style as well as it's very personal tone. She has the gift of writing as if she's sitting across a table from you and talking with you casually, even about outrageous things like her mother's threatening to kill her and commit suicide and having threesomes at age fifteen with her girlfriend Danielle, age fourteen, with a series of "older men." Listen: "I felt safe and bold with Danielle--I'd do things with her I'd never do by myself. We could seduce anyone; we could get out of--or into--any situation that we wished. When we were alone she told me that my kissing was terrible, that Americans didn't know how to kiss. She ran a bath for us, and when we got into the tub to practice, we turned on the shower, too, the water pouring down our heads....Men were intimidated by us, which we thought was funny. Funny, but great leverage. For the first couple of months of my sex life, I was too intimidated to do anything alone with a guy--Danielle was my big dog, my fearless leader, the one I could temper and reason with. I loved her. Sex with her, alone, made me shiver. We never talked about it." I quote this at length to give you a sense of the flavor of Bright's precise, talkative, and unadorned prose. Simple declarative sentences, precise detail, and secretive matters you feel like she is sharing just with you. Of course she isn't, but that's the illusion created by this kind of exactitude. This is unquestionably Bright's best and most important book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    T.L. Cooper

    Susie Bright tells her life story in the memoir, Big Sex Little Death. Big Sex Little Death details the events of Bright’s life well but provides very little insight into the motivation behind her actions. Often it reads as if Brigh just became involved in whatever cause happened to come her way. Even her passion for her causes seems muted and a bit fleeting throughout the book. The book is written to leave the impression of a girl longing to belong but never actually explores this with any emot Susie Bright tells her life story in the memoir, Big Sex Little Death. Big Sex Little Death details the events of Bright’s life well but provides very little insight into the motivation behind her actions. Often it reads as if Brigh just became involved in whatever cause happened to come her way. Even her passion for her causes seems muted and a bit fleeting throughout the book. The book is written to leave the impression of a girl longing to belong but never actually explores this with any emotional depth or insight. Bright is blatantly honest about her life but leaves gaps creating questions in the reader’s mind, especially the question of how Bright became a sex expert. It seems the trajectory of Bright’s life and vast sexual experience has lead her to her “expertise” in all matters sexual leading the reader to ask is that enough? Big Sex Little Death has moments that draw the reader in and moments the reader just wants to skim due to writing that is at times rich and engaging and at other times dry and evasive.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brent Dyer

    I'm a big Susie Bright fan to begin with, so my "meh" review of this book is surprising (at least for me). For someone who has a famously diverse and adventurous sex life, and who is know for talking about sex, the book actually has very little sex. Mostly, it's about her work in labor organizing and, later, in the realm of sex-positive feminism. All of that stuff is good, even great, but it was much less than I was hoping for. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining that there wasn't enough explic I'm a big Susie Bright fan to begin with, so my "meh" review of this book is surprising (at least for me). For someone who has a famously diverse and adventurous sex life, and who is know for talking about sex, the book actually has very little sex. Mostly, it's about her work in labor organizing and, later, in the realm of sex-positive feminism. All of that stuff is good, even great, but it was much less than I was hoping for. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining that there wasn't enough explicit sex, nor was I expecting a laundry list recounting numerous sexual exploits. What I wanted was more sexual introspection. How did Susie Bright's famous openness about sexuality develop? Why did she decide to proclaim herself a dyke when she clearly has always been bisexual? Has anything changed about her sexuality and views on sexuality over the years? So many questions left unanswered in a book that was really very short. There was plenty of room for elaboration that was mysteriously absent.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Susie is a national treasure but this book was a bust...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Butterfly du Jour

    Fragments of stories weave in and out of my thoughts after reading Susie Bright’s memoir, Big Sex Little Death. Stories that Susie experienced, with guts, audacity, and sexual independence. She begins with her family and by no means is she excusing them. They are necessary for her tale to be told. Beginning where she herself began, from the lives and union of two complicated people—- her parents. Perhaps the raw emotions and scars are still too palpable to fully express her feelings about her par Fragments of stories weave in and out of my thoughts after reading Susie Bright’s memoir, Big Sex Little Death. Stories that Susie experienced, with guts, audacity, and sexual independence. She begins with her family and by no means is she excusing them. They are necessary for her tale to be told. Beginning where she herself began, from the lives and union of two complicated people—- her parents. Perhaps the raw emotions and scars are still too palpable to fully express her feelings about her parents, but Susie does well in illustrating her childhood nonetheless. Susie, “intellectually precocious but socially inappropriate,” wearing glasses and hand-sewn dresses, artfully explains her parents’ divorce that coincided with the deterioration of her mother’s mental state. Her mother, Elizabeth Halloran from Fargo, North Dakota, and the Halloran family, her mother’s Irish side of the family tree— they come, arms full of all the misgivings that bring her to where she is now. The darkness can create beauty, as the old-fashioned photographic process of a darkroom exhibits, how photo paper placed into developing fluid, magically transforms paper into details of captured light. Her prose of memories develops from the darkness, her childhood desires to be held and loved, but instead hurt in so many ways. As difficult as it is to describe a relationship between mother and child, Susie is honest in her description of her mother. You can feel her unspoken words in between the lines. The pain, anger, and sense of abandonment, layered with the remnants of love, and the longing to be loved by the one person she came from, that gave her life. It is heartbreaking and messy. Gracefully, eloquently, she carries on, and discovers her strengths. With a valiant spirit and strong sense of power, she is a lotus rising from the dark mud. Susie is a natural born rule breaker, a non-conformist, and a sexual revolutionary. Her words glimmer and spark through the pages, multi-colored, glittering. A firecracker, a wild thing. She is a cosmic kaleidoscope of a human being. Bi-sexual, lesbian, heterosexual, there is no box. There have been many who wanted to box her in, put her in a category. There is no category for Susie Bright. She is coloring outside the lines, she is messy finger painting, she is strong and delicate all at once, and she is beyond it all. Her first menstrual cycle marked the beginning of her teen angst. She skipped school during lunchtime for a luxurious moment of solitude, reading, watching Petticoat Junction on TV, and ironing her grilled cheese sandwich on the ironing board, using it as a sandwich press. Suddenly, bleeding from her first menstruation, she figured out a tampon insertion before returning to class: “I saw a blue box on the laundry hamper I hadn’t paid attention to before. Tampax. Yes! A new box. It had a paper diagram. Annette Laurence, who sat behind me in algebra, had said tampons would ruin your virginity. But I felt like ruining something. I slid the tampon into my vagina, and it was like folding a perfect paper crane. I felt nothing— in a good way— and the blood was no longer running down my leg. Now I just had to clean everything up. I was really late for class.” When Susie (or ‘Susannah’ when she is in trouble) returns to class, she is sent to the school principal’s office: “I walked into Dr. Shalka’s office like a mad bear. A mad menstruating bear with Germaine Greer on my tongue. “This is not right,” I said, before he could motion me to sit down. “My period just started at noon, and I had to figure out the Tampax all by myself and I am never late and you can’t discriminate against me just because I am menstruating—“ I probably didn’t get that far, actually. I remember the look on his face when I said the “female” word. Was it period or the one that started with m? You would’ve thought I had sat on his face with my “vagina.” He flushed, his giant hands fluttered at his desk, and he coughed repeatedly into his cloth hankie.” Thus begins the tale of Susie Bright. I have much more to say about her memoir, but feel my words inadequate. I get the sense that I need to read this memoir again. No words can capture the essence better than “Sexual Freedom” to express the life path of Susie Bright. So many moments where society and people want to put her in a category. I won’t do that to her. I cannot, therefore, say enough about Susie, outside the lines, outside of paragraphs and sentences, where she exists, free and wild and wonderful and 100% herself.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karla Huebner

    I'd been meaning to read this for awhile. I often feel as though Susie Bright and I were separated at birth in some parallel universe, given the rather uncanny number of things we have in common while we simultaneously have, naturally, many differences. The book definitely held my interest. It's in three main sections--one relating to childhood, one about the teen years, and one about getting involved with Good Vibrations and On Our Backs. I wasn't expecting so much childhood trauma--the suicidal I'd been meaning to read this for awhile. I often feel as though Susie Bright and I were separated at birth in some parallel universe, given the rather uncanny number of things we have in common while we simultaneously have, naturally, many differences. The book definitely held my interest. It's in three main sections--one relating to childhood, one about the teen years, and one about getting involved with Good Vibrations and On Our Backs. I wasn't expecting so much childhood trauma--the suicidal, nearly murderous mother was a surprise. I had assumed Susie was always a more sophisticated child than I was, but no, she was struggling to be unobtrusive. It was her move to her father's custody that both gave her freedom to maneuver and set her in a social milieu filled with people and experiences way beyond what I was encountering an hour's drive to the east. My mother obsessively worried that I'd find myself in the kind of situations Susie did; however, in Orange County I led a fairly sheltered life. I found little in the way of sex, drugs, or leftist politics there, although I did help found my high school's alternative newspaper, and in so doing looked at issues of Susie's Red Tide. I was fascinated by her experience attempting to do socialist organizing with the Teamsters as part of an underground cell. Here I felt the book suffered from focus on major highlights; there wasn't enough on how she met up with the group and how her relationship with it developed. Likewise, earlier on, I felt there wasn't really enough detail about how she leapt from being a naive pubescent outsider to a teenager who was simultaneously bisexually active and a politically engaged. The third section seemed the most satisfactory in terms of telling a story; while much was omitted, it hung together and didn't leave me wondering how she changed. Admittedly, the third part was also more familiar to me in that I too was in the Bay Area and (for awhile) working on an erotic magazine. Overall, while I wanted parts of the book to be better fleshed out, overall it was well worth reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Susie Bright is underappreciated. She's not just a sex writer. She's a writer. She has a philosophy of sex that's all of a piece with her philosophy of life -- *be human.* Don't try for shrink-wrapped perfection, be it physical or ideological. Acknowledge the complexity of the human experience. Take seriously the vastness and weirdness of love. And be a goddamn adult. This is a hilarious and moving memoir. And now I understand better where she came from. How all that tenderness and indulgence and Susie Bright is underappreciated. She's not just a sex writer. She's a writer. She has a philosophy of sex that's all of a piece with her philosophy of life -- *be human.* Don't try for shrink-wrapped perfection, be it physical or ideological. Acknowledge the complexity of the human experience. Take seriously the vastness and weirdness of love. And be a goddamn adult. This is a hilarious and moving memoir. And now I understand better where she came from. How all that tenderness and indulgence and attention to pleasure came from a background where pleasure was forbidden (her abusive --but still remarkable -- mother; her formative years as a union organizer; the "Feminist Sex Wars"). How often she's literally been in life-threatening situations. How silly our modern prudery and prurience must seem to someone who's already been through the wringer, who never had the luxury of being "pure" and much preferred the luxury of being happy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    JLR

    I have read other things about Susie Bright so I was excited to read this book and also because I love memoirs. This book is boring. Seriously - Susie Bright's wikipedia page is more interesting than this book. The bare events of Susie's life are unusual and interesting, but the way this book is written will make you want to claw out your eyes. It took me over a week to read this book simply because it did not hold my interest - the editing is also shoddy. I was very disappointed with this especia I have read other things about Susie Bright so I was excited to read this book and also because I love memoirs. This book is boring. Seriously - Susie Bright's wikipedia page is more interesting than this book. The bare events of Susie's life are unusual and interesting, but the way this book is written will make you want to claw out your eyes. It took me over a week to read this book simply because it did not hold my interest - the editing is also shoddy. I was very disappointed with this especially because it was recommended based on the fact that I loved 'Just Kids' by Patti Smith - this book is nowhere near as good as that book nor as interesting or well-written. Not a total waste of time but don't expect anything great.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Kramer Bussel

    Big Sex Little Death is about some of the things you would expect from a Susie Bright memoir: her time at pioneering lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs, the feminist sex wars, politics and hypocrisy. But it's also about a lot of things you might not expect, things that revealed not just how she got to where she is now and the forces that shaped her, but the rift her parents' divorce caused inside her, and how it shaped her as a parent and person. Bright starts off as a little girl trying to absorb Big Sex Little Death is about some of the things you would expect from a Susie Bright memoir: her time at pioneering lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs, the feminist sex wars, politics and hypocrisy. But it's also about a lot of things you might not expect, things that revealed not just how she got to where she is now and the forces that shaped her, but the rift her parents' divorce caused inside her, and how it shaped her as a parent and person. Bright starts off as a little girl trying to absorb what she can about her family, and to tolerate the wild mood swings her mother has, often with Bright as the object of her derision. It's almost easy to forget that she was ever that little girl when she so boldly takes on the status quo as a high school student with the newspaper The Red Tide. But Bright's vision is set on being part of real socialist organizing, and she drops out of school, argues her way into the IS, raises the money to get there by housecleaning and is even willing to stay after almost being beaten to death and facing extremely dangerous situations. To her the cause stands paramount, yet she is always questioning and observing those around her. There are moments that make one pause and think, "This happened in America?" Even for those of us who aren't under the illusion that the US is perfect, those are hard moments, but Bright manages to write about them, such as the racism at her department store job, with an eye for injustice and a belief that there are ways to change these injustices. This is especially clear as she maps out the feminist culture at the time she was starting to sell vibrators at Good Vibrations and become part of On Our Backs. The clash between what women were being told they were supposed to be doing in the name of feminism and what women were exploring sexually provided for plenty of drama, and Bright is at perhaps her sharpest here, highlighting both the thrill of being part of something new and visionary as well as the death threats that came with it. During this time, Bright also becomes a mother and there are some very poignant observations about the credit she was given, by random neighbors and others who previously would have dismissed her, and how the process of becoming a parent helped her see that she was not doomed to repeat her mother's mistakes. This book is admittedly not an attempt to document an exhaustive history of either The Red Tide, On Our Backs, or Susie Bright's entire life, and the stories she did choose to tell are illuminating. She doesn't lose that youthful spirit of wanting to shake things up that she had at sixteen, even in the face of ostracism from within the ranks of the IS or the lesbian or feminist worlds. She does, however, make choices she needs to to best protect herself and her family. This is a powerful book that will, perhaps, leave you unsettled...in a good way. The writing is so rich, too (she describes Andrea Dworkin as "Like arguing with Freud but being happy he was taking you for a ride.), and Bright is clearly not just rehashing the same old stories. The final chapters, in which she is served with papers, there's a murder and Bright grapples with motherhood, are particularly dramatic, but there is a gracefulness to Bright's words, one that doesn't mute any of the horror of the details she's revealing, but that in fact leaps off the page. It highlights the reality that truth is stranger than fiction and certainly makes the book go out with a bang. A fascinating read whether you're familiar with Bright's book or not, whether you share her political beliefs or not; this is a memoir about finding companionship as well as fierce opposition among the rebels, and figuring out when to stand one's ground and when to find new ground to stand on.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Leigh

    I have to admit: I had not read any of Susie Bright's work, nor could I really place her name or face when I started reading this book. Then she started dropping names like On Our Backs and bringing up beef with Andrea Dworkin, and it all kind of fell into place. This is a pretty light memoir that focuses more on Susie's childhood, parents, and early activist life, glossing somewhat over her time as a leader in the second-wave sex-positive queer feminist movement. It's quick and smart, a good in I have to admit: I had not read any of Susie Bright's work, nor could I really place her name or face when I started reading this book. Then she started dropping names like On Our Backs and bringing up beef with Andrea Dworkin, and it all kind of fell into place. This is a pretty light memoir that focuses more on Susie's childhood, parents, and early activist life, glossing somewhat over her time as a leader in the second-wave sex-positive queer feminist movement. It's quick and smart, a good introduction to the movement for beginners, and intriguing to see the movement from the hippies of the 1960s to the radicalization of the 1970s and 1980s. I'm glad it's not heavy on the theory, which is both a good and bad thing I've found in second-wave texts, especially when it comes to a lack of intersectionality. Bright comes close to a good examination of the intricacies of queerness, poverty and feminism, but never takes it any deeper than she could. Bright's stories of the 1970s Midwest Communist labor movement are almost more fascinating than her sexual escapades in San Francisco, because they seem so anachronistic, uncovering a section of history that I for one knew next to nothing about and also revealing the hypocrisies of even the most seemingly liberal movements. The later chapters feel rushed, but maybe that was just me rushing to finish them. I like her writing style, which sometimes errs on the side of a little too conversational, but I feel like that works when the extremely personal becomes the political. Worth a read for anyone interested in second-wave radical feminism who doesn't mind the details when it comes to sex of all flavors and drugs of every sort.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    This woman is amazing and this memoir should become a feminist classic. Susie Bright, best known to me for her role as a purveyor of the 90s sex-positive movement, has lived an iconoclastic life seemingly lacking in fear. She never seemed to question who she was (no "coming out" story, no complications with her sexuality) or if she were fighting the just-fight, she just barreled forward. From her teenage days as a socialist organizer to her later days as a pro-sex activist and professor, this me This woman is amazing and this memoir should become a feminist classic. Susie Bright, best known to me for her role as a purveyor of the 90s sex-positive movement, has lived an iconoclastic life seemingly lacking in fear. She never seemed to question who she was (no "coming out" story, no complications with her sexuality) or if she were fighting the just-fight, she just barreled forward. From her teenage days as a socialist organizer to her later days as a pro-sex activist and professor, this memoir is a wild and inspirational ride. I found her critique and remarks about the anti-porn movement (Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin) particularly riveting and important (and disappointing--I remember that time and those debates while in college). Also her acknowledgement of the strife and infighting of the various leftist movements she has participated in were particularly insightful and cautionary. Who needs an enemy when the enemy comes from within? She truly has lived on the forefront of bringing our discomfort with sex to a head. Upon finishing this book, I was able to see how far we have advanced in comparison to some of her early stories from the 80s, and how strong her influence has been on the acceptance of female sexuality and the broadening and creativity of female-centered porn. My only complaint would be, typical of memoirs, that some of the chapters did not flow well into the following chapters and left me a little confused. However, once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down and read until late in the night to finish.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Page

    I want to start by warning potential readers: this book contains raw, graphic and radical descriptions and discussions about sex and sexuality. Maybe you picked that up from the title, Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir; maybe you are familiar with Susie Bright from her anthologies of erotica or her road shows about sexuality, pornography, and erotica. If you're a fan of her frankness, this book will not disappoint! Susie Bright is a radical in every possible definition of the word. I knew about her I want to start by warning potential readers: this book contains raw, graphic and radical descriptions and discussions about sex and sexuality. Maybe you picked that up from the title, Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir; maybe you are familiar with Susie Bright from her anthologies of erotica or her road shows about sexuality, pornography, and erotica. If you're a fan of her frankness, this book will not disappoint! Susie Bright is a radical in every possible definition of the word. I knew about her radical take on sex but not about her early years as a socialist/unionist or her rather difficult childhood. Bright lays it all out in Big Sex Little Death, from her childhood to early motherhood. To call her life unorthodox is an understatement -- Bright never seemed to see impossible as an option. Bright navigated not one but two underground movements before she was thirty -- more than most of us do in a lifetime. Bright's writing is funny enough that even the heartbreaking moments (and there are plenty) are cushioned but the warning stands -- Bright uses four letter words throughout; this book is not for the easily shocked.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Political and sexual revolutionary Susie Bright’s autobiography is outrageous and funny, with a few sad insights into circumstances that made her who she is. Written in a witty, stream-of-consciousness style, she pulls no punches when talking about her family, her politically radical teen years, her sexual adventures, and her peepshow performer friends with whom she put together the first female-oriented erotic magazine. Though it’s not erotically written, there’s plenty of language that you mig Political and sexual revolutionary Susie Bright’s autobiography is outrageous and funny, with a few sad insights into circumstances that made her who she is. Written in a witty, stream-of-consciousness style, she pulls no punches when talking about her family, her politically radical teen years, her sexual adventures, and her peepshow performer friends with whom she put together the first female-oriented erotic magazine. Though it’s not erotically written, there’s plenty of language that you might not use with your grandmother. Bright’s writing style is bold and brashly humorous, though unpleasant in places where it tends towards angry rants. The author acknowledges that this is part of her character that she is learning to work with. This book is entertaining, but seldom gets deep enough to explain the motivation behind the choices that Bright makes. She does carefully detail her emotional shift that caused her to change from feminist pornographer to frightened mother-to-be to committed parent. But how and why she changed from independent bisexual adventurer to devoted wife, for example, is mysterious. Perhaps she doesn’t understand exactly why she does what she does either.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Fowler

    Susie Bright did a wonderful job telling her story in this memoir. Sometimes my jaw dropped, many times I got chills from identifying with her, and other times I almost wept with joy at her openness. I'd recommend this book to what I consider "modern feminists", although I think the feminists who began the movement would be shocked and appalled at many things she admits to, here. I don't think she writes with the purpose of shocking anyone, but with a story like hers, it cannot be helped. I imagi Susie Bright did a wonderful job telling her story in this memoir. Sometimes my jaw dropped, many times I got chills from identifying with her, and other times I almost wept with joy at her openness. I'd recommend this book to what I consider "modern feminists", although I think the feminists who began the movement would be shocked and appalled at many things she admits to, here. I don't think she writes with the purpose of shocking anyone, but with a story like hers, it cannot be helped. I imagine that if I were to write my own memoir that many people would have the same reaction to mine, as they would to Susie's, although our stories are far different. I admire her courage, not just in telling personal details, but in admitting those details to herself. I think any young adult woman who is questioning herself, her choices, her decisions, her worth, would gain a lot of understanding by reading this book. For those who have already found many of those answers, I think they will find a fresh look at themselves. I will admit though, many people will be just outright offended by the honesty that Susie writes with.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    As a person who came of age during the roaring '70's only to enter college and adulthood for the early years of HIV, I've always admired Susie Bright. She's been a sex-positive educator throughout her career - openly gay, an editor of annual collections of erotic stories. She founded On Our Backs, the first magazine for gay women. She was the first female critic of the X-Rated Critics Organization and wrote feminist reviews of erotic films for the Penthouse Forum. She sassy and funny and was a b As a person who came of age during the roaring '70's only to enter college and adulthood for the early years of HIV, I've always admired Susie Bright. She's been a sex-positive educator throughout her career - openly gay, an editor of annual collections of erotic stories. She founded On Our Backs, the first magazine for gay women. She was the first female critic of the X-Rated Critics Organization and wrote feminist reviews of erotic films for the Penthouse Forum. She sassy and funny and was a beacon during the Reagan-era for treating sex as a normal and extra fun part of life. I was really excited to get this memoir, but stopped reading about halfway in. It's not that it wasn't well-written or interesting (it is both), but for some reason it just didn't grab me. Maybe I already know as much as I want to know about Susie Bright?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eric Stone

    I really wanted to like this book a lot better than I did. I've liked a lot of other things written by Susie Bright, I have a whole lot of respect and admiration for her, and we went to the same high school - though she started there four years after I graduated - and she even mentions some teachers in the book who I recall. But I was surprised by the lack of emotional resonance in the book. It seemed more like a recitation of incidents than anything much deeper than that and so I was disappoint I really wanted to like this book a lot better than I did. I've liked a lot of other things written by Susie Bright, I have a whole lot of respect and admiration for her, and we went to the same high school - though she started there four years after I graduated - and she even mentions some teachers in the book who I recall. But I was surprised by the lack of emotional resonance in the book. It seemed more like a recitation of incidents than anything much deeper than that and so I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong, many of the incidents are inherently interesting, but she is someone who seems, in her other writing, to give a lot more thought to the meaning and implications and context of life and that didn't come across all that strongly in the memoir. There were a number of amusing moment, however.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tia

    Stopped reading this halfway in. Normally if I can't finish a book, I give it one star. But this was actually well-written, so I can't put my finger on what it is that I dislike about it. I just couldn't stay interested. I guess it wasn't what I expected. For one thing, it's called "a memoir" when it's not. It's an autobiography with every detail of her entire life, relevant or not. She includes the history of her grandparents, and spends an entire chapter talking about why her parents' marriage Stopped reading this halfway in. Normally if I can't finish a book, I give it one star. But this was actually well-written, so I can't put my finger on what it is that I dislike about it. I just couldn't stay interested. I guess it wasn't what I expected. For one thing, it's called "a memoir" when it's not. It's an autobiography with every detail of her entire life, relevant or not. She includes the history of her grandparents, and spends an entire chapter talking about why her parents' marriage failed. She tells random little stories, like a girl who fell off a cliff that she never even knew & a crazy guy on a bus. If I talked about every crazy guy I've met riding a Greyhound, that'd be a memoir in itself.. But who really cares? I definitely found myself speed-reading & skipping ahead, hoping it would get better. Finally gave up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Neale

    I LOVED this book. I kind of stumbled into it, since I really wasn't that familiar with Susie Bright and her work...have I been living under a feminist rock? But her voice and her ideas, especially later in the book when she writes about motherhood, resonate so strongly with me. I am in awe of her and of her story, and of course the writing is damn good, is unashamed and bold and generous and wonderful. I'm a relative late-bloomer to the world of sex-positive feminism, so in a lot of ways readin I LOVED this book. I kind of stumbled into it, since I really wasn't that familiar with Susie Bright and her work...have I been living under a feminist rock? But her voice and her ideas, especially later in the book when she writes about motherhood, resonate so strongly with me. I am in awe of her and of her story, and of course the writing is damn good, is unashamed and bold and generous and wonderful. I'm a relative late-bloomer to the world of sex-positive feminism, so in a lot of ways reading this was kind of like having a conversation with myself and asking, "Is this OK with me? Do I agree with this?" and finding the answers to be a resounding YES! So in that regard, this book did what an awesome memoir should do--it allowed me to see my (different but not that different) life through someone else's story. Recommend this to anyone and everyone.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dead John Williams

    Interesting this one…an account of the sexual awakening of America as seen through the eyes and body of a woman. There’s been heaps of these by men. It records that time when the pill became available and was prevalent, drugs available and prevalent and some young people willing “to see what’s out there” and no longer follow the old road as laid down by parents and society as whole. It really brings home just how lively things were in the 60’s and 70’s before the rise of the neo-cons that we still Interesting this one…an account of the sexual awakening of America as seen through the eyes and body of a woman. There’s been heaps of these by men. It records that time when the pill became available and was prevalent, drugs available and prevalent and some young people willing “to see what’s out there” and no longer follow the old road as laid down by parents and society as whole. It really brings home just how lively things were in the 60’s and 70’s before the rise of the neo-cons that we still live with and who have really fucked things up by now. How political awareness was happening compared to the bland simplistic tweet based stuff I see around me now. This was in the days when people who queue all night to protest an unjust war instead of queueing all night for a fucking phone! I could go on :-) Read and grow up. Read and learn. Read and enjoy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hazel

    I picked this up because of its intriguing title, and in complete ignorance of Bright's history in North American sexual politics. Unfortunately, she is not a good enough writer to engage a stranger like me and although she's clearly led a colourful life and has known many remarkable people, she could not bring most of them to life for me. In fact the book gives little or no sense of Bright herself as a person, or (except for the early chapters describing life with her unstable mother) of the pe I picked this up because of its intriguing title, and in complete ignorance of Bright's history in North American sexual politics. Unfortunately, she is not a good enough writer to engage a stranger like me and although she's clearly led a colourful life and has known many remarkable people, she could not bring most of them to life for me. In fact the book gives little or no sense of Bright herself as a person, or (except for the early chapters describing life with her unstable mother) of the people in her life. This memoir may speak to someone with an interest in Bright's activism, her publications and issues relating to feminism, LGBT culture and pornography. I must look for her magazine On Our Backs. She's good with titles. :-)

  26. 4 out of 5

    sendann

    Powerful, and I was not familiar with Susie Bright, other than having seen Chasing Amy and heard that the main character had been loosely based on someone from somewhere at some time. Anyway, this memoir is wonderful even without context, particularly her memories and reflections about her time with her rather scattered, less than stable mother. Also a lot of interesting insight about the rise of gay cultural cache in the Bay Area, and the odd, hideous world of leftist activism. I read it when I Powerful, and I was not familiar with Susie Bright, other than having seen Chasing Amy and heard that the main character had been loosely based on someone from somewhere at some time. Anyway, this memoir is wonderful even without context, particularly her memories and reflections about her time with her rather scattered, less than stable mother. Also a lot of interesting insight about the rise of gay cultural cache in the Bay Area, and the odd, hideous world of leftist activism. I read it when I was in SF, and it was wonderful to have so many visual touchstones around while I was engrossed. Highly recommended for moms, daughters, anyone who's worked in or around small media or leftist activism.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is the first time that I have actually heard the author read the book that they wrote. I love how her actual emotion came across while listening that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to read. Susie is amazing in her genre and I can honestly say that I didn't know much about her before this book. I'm so glad that I got a chance to read/listen to what she has to say. The greatest thing about a memoir is that even though I may not believe everything that the author does, I can still respect This is the first time that I have actually heard the author read the book that they wrote. I love how her actual emotion came across while listening that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to read. Susie is amazing in her genre and I can honestly say that I didn't know much about her before this book. I'm so glad that I got a chance to read/listen to what she has to say. The greatest thing about a memoir is that even though I may not believe everything that the author does, I can still respect them. Susie put herself out there, beyond the sex, and exposed herself to everyone about who she really is. Great job!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Dorneman

    I wanted to like this book more - Susie Bright writes well, and her early years as a socialist labor organizer and radical lesbian pornographer are fascinating, filled with big characters and dangerous incidents. But Bright omits key moments in her life - how and when she lost her virginity, for one, and how her work moved from being banned at feminist bookstores to best-seller status, and overall, jumps from one high-voltage moment to another without much in either the way of transitions, or an I wanted to like this book more - Susie Bright writes well, and her early years as a socialist labor organizer and radical lesbian pornographer are fascinating, filled with big characters and dangerous incidents. But Bright omits key moments in her life - how and when she lost her virginity, for one, and how her work moved from being banned at feminist bookstores to best-seller status, and overall, jumps from one high-voltage moment to another without much in either the way of transitions, or any retrospective on their long-term impact. Read it if you're a fan of Susie's, or a woman's studies historian, but otherwise you can pass.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Editrix (Amy Lewis)

    Much as I admire Susie Bright and have enjoyed her writing in the past, her memoir left me tepid. I'd expected a far more engaging read from someone so brave and expressive. Perhaps the episodes from her adolescence and early adulthood she breezily recounts were more cohesive in her head than they wound up becoming on the page. Her story might be better told by another person -- someone with a little critical distance who could describe Bright's life and work in the context of the larger feminis Much as I admire Susie Bright and have enjoyed her writing in the past, her memoir left me tepid. I'd expected a far more engaging read from someone so brave and expressive. Perhaps the episodes from her adolescence and early adulthood she breezily recounts were more cohesive in her head than they wound up becoming on the page. Her story might be better told by another person -- someone with a little critical distance who could describe Bright's life and work in the context of the larger feminist, sex-positive movement. I have no doubt that she had a major influence in changing our culture's attitudes toward women's sexuality, but it doesn't come through in her autobiography.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Law

    What a great counter to Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will! Sometimes Bright starts writing about an experience and then doesn't follow it to its end (for instance, she convinces her high school gym teacher to permit girls' self-defense classes. But her story ends with the gym teacher signing the permission form without saying anything at all about the class. What was the impact of having the class? Did girls sign up enthusiastically? Willingly? Did it change the atmosphere of the school and t What a great counter to Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will! Sometimes Bright starts writing about an experience and then doesn't follow it to its end (for instance, she convinces her high school gym teacher to permit girls' self-defense classes. But her story ends with the gym teacher signing the permission form without saying anything at all about the class. What was the impact of having the class? Did girls sign up enthusiastically? Willingly? Did it change the atmosphere of the school and the number of girls she found crying in the locker room after having been sexually assaulted by another student?).

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