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Testimony

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In rural Virginia in 1958, history professor Gen Rider has just secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. With two strikes against her--she's a woman in a men's field, and she's a race traitor who teaches "Negro history"--Gen has accomplished the near-impossible and should be celebrating. Instead, she's mourning the break-up of a long-distance rel In rural Virginia in 1958, history professor Gen Rider has just secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. With two strikes against her--she's a woman in a men's field, and she's a race traitor who teaches "Negro history"--Gen has accomplished the near-impossible and should be celebrating. Instead, she's mourning the break-up of a long-distance relationship with another woman--a romance she has tightly guarded, even from her straight female mentor. Danger hits close to home when a nearby men's college uncovers a "homosexual circle" involving its faculty, staff, and students. Suspicion spreads across the two campuses, threatening Gen and her friend Fenton, the gay theater director at Baines. When a neighbor spies Gen kissing a woman in her own home, hearings into moral turpitude at the college catch her in a McCarthy-like web. With both her private life and her teaching methods under scrutiny, Gen faces an agonizing choice: Which does she value more, her career or her right to privacy?


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In rural Virginia in 1958, history professor Gen Rider has just secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. With two strikes against her--she's a woman in a men's field, and she's a race traitor who teaches "Negro history"--Gen has accomplished the near-impossible and should be celebrating. Instead, she's mourning the break-up of a long-distance rel In rural Virginia in 1958, history professor Gen Rider has just secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. With two strikes against her--she's a woman in a men's field, and she's a race traitor who teaches "Negro history"--Gen has accomplished the near-impossible and should be celebrating. Instead, she's mourning the break-up of a long-distance relationship with another woman--a romance she has tightly guarded, even from her straight female mentor. Danger hits close to home when a nearby men's college uncovers a "homosexual circle" involving its faculty, staff, and students. Suspicion spreads across the two campuses, threatening Gen and her friend Fenton, the gay theater director at Baines. When a neighbor spies Gen kissing a woman in her own home, hearings into moral turpitude at the college catch her in a McCarthy-like web. With both her private life and her teaching methods under scrutiny, Gen faces an agonizing choice: Which does she value more, her career or her right to privacy?

39 review for Testimony

  1. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    Testimony by Paula Martinac is a historical fiction novel inspired by the true story of Martha Deane, a professor at UCLA. In 1952, Deane was suspended without pay because a neighbor had seen her kissing a woman through a window in Deane’s own house and reported it to the school. That was all it took back then to ruin a person’s career. Deane was lucky in the sense that her fellow female teachers banded together to help her through the hearings which took months. In the end, she still lost her t Testimony by Paula Martinac is a historical fiction novel inspired by the true story of Martha Deane, a professor at UCLA. In 1952, Deane was suspended without pay because a neighbor had seen her kissing a woman through a window in Deane’s own house and reported it to the school. That was all it took back then to ruin a person’s career. Deane was lucky in the sense that her fellow female teachers banded together to help her through the hearings which took months. In the end, she still lost her teaching position, but received compensation from the school and had the records of the hearings “supposedly” purged. They were kept secret until the early 2000’s when a historian found them by accident. This was not unusual for the time period. Homophobia and discrimination were the norm, and many businesses and schools openly hunted LGBTQ+ people down with the intention of getting rid of them through firings, expulsions and even arrests. Gays and Lesbians had no privacy rights. They could and often were spied on by neighbors or fellow workers whose testimony ruined many lives. This is the story being told here in a fictionalized version. The author moved the setting to a different state and used a different school. She also moved the time to a later year and obviously fictionalized the characters, but the spirit of what happened in real life to Martha Deane and thousands of other gays and lesbians is recorded here. Ms. Martinac did an amazing job with these characters. They are all written so realistically, I felt like they could step from the pages of the book and be as real as you and I. The characters really do make this story, especially the secondary characters who fought to help Gen, the main character as she worked her way through this nightmare situation. And in spite of the heavy subject matter, this book does have a somewhat uplifting ending. In many ways, this is not an easy book to read, but I’m sure it was not an easy time to live through either. It is our history though, and that is something we should never forget. If we do, we may end up having to repeat it, so read this book, and keep our stories alive. Testimony has my highest recommendation. I received an ARC from Bywater Books for an honest review. Rainbow Reflections: http://rainbowreflections.home.blog/

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn McBride

    "Testimony" is based on a real-life case against a professor at UCLA suspended in 1952 (without pay) after being observed through her own window kissing another woman. Can you say invasion of privacy? Sorry, I digress. Testimony's main character, Gen, is based on the very real professor Martha Deane. I don't know if Gen's personality was entirely her own, or if it was borrowed from Professor Deane, but to me, Gen seemed as real as you or me. I could hear her voice in my head as she taught, as she "Testimony" is based on a real-life case against a professor at UCLA suspended in 1952 (without pay) after being observed through her own window kissing another woman. Can you say invasion of privacy? Sorry, I digress. Testimony's main character, Gen, is based on the very real professor Martha Deane. I don't know if Gen's personality was entirely her own, or if it was borrowed from Professor Deane, but to me, Gen seemed as real as you or me. I could hear her voice in my head as she taught, as she had drinks with Fenton and tried to live life under the social-police radar. My heart broke for Fenton, and there were a few times I just wanted to pour him a drink and tell him it would get better. All of the characters stood in their own limelight - sharply crafted, finely tuned in their own ways and each with their own struggles. Ruby became a favourite of mine too. The homophobia of that time period was written as an appropriately tense undercurrent that dominated the entire landscape of the novel. You couldn't help feel the danger underlying every decision, every conversation and almost every character. Over this dark skeleton, the author built a highly readable tale that stays with the reader long after the last word of the acknowledgements has been consumed. This is a novel that should be required reading. For everyone. This is a novel that should be an award-winner.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Grady

    ‘I like to draw connections between the past and present..’ North Carolina author Paula Martinac has published six novels as well as an anthology of short stories and three nonfiction books on lesbian and gay culture and politics and has been honored with the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and other significant recognitions. In addition to her books, articles and short stories, Paula is a playwright whose plays have enjoyed wide performances. She teaches creative writing at the Univers ‘I like to draw connections between the past and present..’ North Carolina author Paula Martinac has published six novels as well as an anthology of short stories and three nonfiction books on lesbian and gay culture and politics and has been honored with the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and other significant recognitions. In addition to her books, articles and short stories, Paula is a playwright whose plays have enjoyed wide performances. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and is a writing coach for Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts. In this new novel Paula takes on discrimination, stating, ‘Many of the challenges LGBTQ people faced in the past – job discrimination, lack of social acceptance and civil rights – still resonate today, Yet mainstream history has mostly erased the impact LGBTQ Americans have had on social justice, political, and cultural movements in this country, As a rule, our history isn’t taught in schools or heralded by families because it’s been attached to shame, and even sin.’ Paula addresses this void in TESTIMONY, yet another excellent novel that offers sure entertainment as well as providing important food for thought. The setting is described as follows: ‘In rural Virginia in 1960, history professor Gen Rider has secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. A woman in a man’s field, she teaches “Negro” history, which has made her suspect with a powerful male colleague. Even while she’s celebrating her triumph, she’s also mourning the break-up of a long-distance relationship with another woman―a romance she has tightly guarded, even from her straight female mentor. As the fall semester dawns, a male instructor at the college is arrested for having sex with a man in a park. Homosexual panic envelops the college town, launching a “Know Your Neighbor” reporting campaign. The police investigation directly threatens Gen’s friend Fenton, the gay theater director at Baines. But Gen finds herself vulnerable, too, when someone leaves mysterious “gifts” for her, including a suggestive pulp novel and a romantic card. As Gen tentatively embarks on a new relationship, a neighbor reports she’s seen Gen kissing a woman, and hearings into her morality catch her in a McCarthy-like web. With her private life under the microscope, Gen faces an agonizing choice: Which does she value more, the career she’s scraped to build against the odds or her right to a private life?’ Powerfully written with expressive language that makes each of her characters present in our minds, this is a book that deserves wide attention – now that we are beginning to open doors of understanding with such luminaries as the members of the MSNBC reporting staff, new presidential appointees under Biden, TV personalities, etc.. Paula Martinac continues to be an important spokesperson. Recommended

  4. 4 out of 5

    The Lesbian Book Blog

    This story is extraordinary! Martinac has created an absolute incredible piece of fiction! Her narrative is beyond compelling! The storytelling is simply phenomenal and astonishingly gripping. It leaves an indelible impression; one can almost feel the marks. Readers will remember Testimony long after they digest its last word. Much of Martinac’s story is based on the 1952 case against Martha Deane, a respected full professor at UCLA who was suspended without pay after kissing a woman. The inciden This story is extraordinary! Martinac has created an absolute incredible piece of fiction! Her narrative is beyond compelling! The storytelling is simply phenomenal and astonishingly gripping. It leaves an indelible impression; one can almost feel the marks. Readers will remember Testimony long after they digest its last word. Much of Martinac’s story is based on the 1952 case against Martha Deane, a respected full professor at UCLA who was suspended without pay after kissing a woman. The incident was reported to the dean by a neighbor who had observed the two through Deane’s own window. Deane underwent a lengthy and costly hearing that, in reality, was nothing short of a witch hunt. UCLA eventually reached a settlement with Deane and she left her teaching position at the university. Upon her leaving, the administration buried Deane’s case deep within its records, obviously hoping it would never be found. However, it was stumbled upon nearly fifty years later by a historian conducting research regarding the Cold War loyalty oath at UCLA. This accidental unearthing brought the whole ugly incident to light once again and highlighted the horrors of homophobia. Sadly, condemnation for sexual preference is still prevalent today. Testimony, is set in a small collegiate town in southwestern Virginian in 196O. The story takes place during a time when civil rights are being hard fought and homosexuals must hide who they are just to survive. Gen Rider has dedicated her academic career to succeeding and gaining tenure at Baines College for Women, an all-girls college founded for Christian white women. She understands better than most how dangerous it is to raise suspision to one’s sexuality, and she hides hers with a vigilance. She worries for her friends that don’t conduct themselves with this same dilligence. She fears their reckless sexual encounters put their jobs and lives at risk. Ironically, after years of discretion and secrecy, she finds herself yeilding to a night of passion with a colleague. That one moment of weakness causes her to defend everything she holds dear. She learns first hand how quickly the insidious nature of homophobia can destroy so much in one’s life. Final remarks… This story needs to be read. It is a powerful and consuming story that is so brilliantly well-done. Gin Rider isn’t real, but her story is for so many. She is a remarkable character, and one I will not soon forget. Testimony is a moving story and I applaud Paula Martinac for putting it to paper and bringing it to life so eloquently. Strengths… well-written poignant gripping engaging emotional moving

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    I liked Martinac’s Clio Rising so much and this was the only other book of hers our library had, so naturally I decided to check it out. Continuing with the theme of historical gay dramas, this book was actually inspired by a real life discrimination case from 1952, where a teacher’s life was wrecked due to her being gay, privately, of course, but it didn’t matter. This story takes place in 1960/61 (fact that GR’s description gets peculiarly wrong), but intervening years have done diddly squat a I liked Martinac’s Clio Rising so much and this was the only other book of hers our library had, so naturally I decided to check it out. Continuing with the theme of historical gay dramas, this book was actually inspired by a real life discrimination case from 1952, where a teacher’s life was wrecked due to her being gay, privately, of course, but it didn’t matter. This story takes place in 1960/61 (fact that GR’s description gets peculiarly wrong), but intervening years have done diddly squat as far as social mentality goes, so when a well respected local professor gets seen kissing another woman in her own kitchen, her entire livelihood is suddenly on trial. Now she has to decide whether it’s worth it to fight, with fight or flight being the main choices. This is, after all, a small southern town (in Virginia no less) the antithesis of progressive thinking. Oh Gen, what were you thinking being gay and getting a job in Virginia? Teaching African American studies, advocating for African American rights? Just how much controversy can one woman court? And if you’re thinking…well, that was then, considering this…the LGBT workplace protection laws didn’t even make an appearance in the US until 1970s and guess which state just got those? Ding, ding, ding, that’s right…Virginia, proudly holding out until 2020. Presumably all these years with their state motto being Virginia’s for Lovers, they were very specific about what kind of lovers. But politics aside and back to the book, I must say I didn’t like it nearly as much as Clio’s Rising. Didn’t enjoy the characters or the story as much. It kind of seemed like the author tried to cram too many teachable moments and morals into one book, from racial politics to gay rights to gender discrimination and it kind of took away from the story. Or maybe the characters just lacked the charisma of Clio and Livvie and others. It was still a good book and I enjoyed reading it and wouldn’t mind reading more from the author. And it is important that these stories are told, because mistakes not learned from tend to be repeated. But maybe with slightly less very well meant, but heavyhanded morality next time. And let’s all take a moment to welcome Virginia to the brave new world of (legally protected in the workplace) lovers of every color of the rainbow and hope it’ll be just as welcoming in return, it is, after all, their claim to fame.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Angel

    This story brought the early 1960’s to life for me. Thanks to this author, I could easily picture what life was like for queer professionals and people of color during the Civil Rights Movement. Plus, The House Un-American Activities Committee still had a heavy influence on the personal and professional lives of many Americans in the 1960’s. During that turbulent period, many LGBT people could easily lose their jobs and they could be arrested if their neighbors or colleagues reported their behav This story brought the early 1960’s to life for me. Thanks to this author, I could easily picture what life was like for queer professionals and people of color during the Civil Rights Movement. Plus, The House Un-American Activities Committee still had a heavy influence on the personal and professional lives of many Americans in the 1960’s. During that turbulent period, many LGBT people could easily lose their jobs and they could be arrested if their neighbors or colleagues reported their behavior to their employers or the police. In spite of those heartbreaking issues, I really enjoyed tagging along with Gen, Fenton and Ruby because they strived to broaden the minds of their students, they fought back against the blatant inequalities that existed at Baines College and they supported each other through the good times as well as the bad.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

    Testimony was a lot of fun to read, especially after having read Last Night at the Telegraph Club, this taking place around the same time. Because of some of the similarities in theme, foils, and conflicts, I've had some trouble writing this review, but I think one of the greatest strengths of this book is the certitude of each one of its characters. Those who are queer, Know they are queer, and know what they need to do to navigate around a society that threatens their safety because of that. T Testimony was a lot of fun to read, especially after having read Last Night at the Telegraph Club, this taking place around the same time. Because of some of the similarities in theme, foils, and conflicts, I've had some trouble writing this review, but I think one of the greatest strengths of this book is the certitude of each one of its characters. Those who are queer, Know they are queer, and know what they need to do to navigate around a society that threatens their safety because of that. There is community, friendship, doubt and support, and those structure function because of the way queer people have found each other and helped each other, whether that be through action or silence. The other thing Testimony does well is not placing queer spaces or communities in a vacuum, insulated from all other relationships, giving the narrative a greater depth and scope than might have been managed by a lesser writer.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Beap

  9. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Puckett

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  11. 4 out of 5

    abi

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa H.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Selina

  14. 4 out of 5

    pts

  15. 4 out of 5

    Leo

  16. 5 out of 5

    B

  17. 5 out of 5

    mad mags

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary Scanlon

  19. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jude in the Stars

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lara (SapphicBookClub)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elisebeth

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ashlyn

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cindi Dean

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steph

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hilary Zaid

  28. 4 out of 5

    L. L.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

  30. 4 out of 5

    Macartney

  31. 4 out of 5

    Peter Klehm

  32. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  33. 4 out of 5

    Nina

  34. 5 out of 5

    Beck Zucker

  35. 5 out of 5

    Kindall

  36. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

  37. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  38. 4 out of 5

    Grazielle Pereira

  39. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Watness

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