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Moby Dyke: Road-tripping to America's remaining Lesbian bars

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Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster  

© 2023 Simon & Schuster
$28.99320 pages

A few years ago, toward the end of the pandemic, masking, and lockdowns, author-blogger Krista Burton was asked what she missed most. Her answer was a surprise: she longed to be in a crowded "dyke bar," shoulder to shoulder with people like her.

Dyke bars. Wouldn't that make a great subject for a book?

Burton found an agent, but then bad news: supposedly, there were just 20 lesbian bars left in the entire country!

Not wanting to miss the opportunity, and with book contract in hand, Burton began planning road trips. It was, she said, "the gayest possible dream project..."

She began in San Francisco at "the oldest... lesbian-founded, owned, and continuously operated bar" there. She flew to New York City to visit two other bars. A visit to a San Diego location was wrapped up with a friend's wedding.

She caught a drag show in Indiana. Columbus, Ohio, was "extremely queer-friendly." She endured karaoke in Nashville, and she visited a cannabis dispensary while in Denver. Burton's husband, a Trans man, loved the football atmosphere in a Milwaukee Lesbian bar. Seattle was a place of nostalgia.

Krista Burton — Photo by Cori Miller Photography  

She was mistaken for straight in Houston, was impressed by a real Dallas club, almost missed visiting a Mobile bar, wanted to quit when she was in Atlanta (but didn't), then went to Phoenix and Richmond, imagined herself as a "senator's gay wife" in Washington, DC. And she wrapped up her tour in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Once, Burton says, LGBTQ people were persecuted and arrested for dancing, drinking, and being themselves in a public place. "We could all go anywhere now," she says.

So — just 20 lesbian bars, for real? It's okay, Burton addresses that number at the end of Moby Dyke by writing with delight that since lockdowns are over, Lesbian bars have rebounded.

She doesn't address the bars she missed in the first place, and yet, you'll get the picture with the 20 she includes — in part, because, as she admits and as many bartenders and owners told her, Lesbian bars aren't just for Lesbians anymore. To call a drinking establishment a "Lesbian bar" ignores the diverse crowds, drag shows, quiet activism, and inclusion that's now offered alongside the fun Burton craved.

Don't think this book is all about bar-hopping, either. It's funny, with observations that are so sharp they'll cut you, and it's part memoir that'll hurt your heart.

Yes, there are omissions in this book, but what's here overshadows what's missing. If you want a fun, funny memoir-in-a-bar, grab Moby Dyke and pull up a stool.