Jane Vandenburgh

Books » A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century

pocket-cover-small Jane Vandenburgh’s eventful childhood went spectacularly awry as her mother became increasingly unstable and her father—repeatedly arrested in gay bars—committed suicide. Jane was then raised by an aunt and uncle with four kids and issues of their own. From this background, this coming-of-age story is launched.

This was L.A. in the 1950s. The author’s parents—each self consciously nonconformist—had met at Cal and had set out to be Bohemians, but were now increasingly caught up in suburban nightmare that was billing itself as the American dream.

Her father, placed in the mental hospital to be “cured” of his homosexuality, committed suicide when the author was nine. Her mother too was institutionalized. Jane was then raised by an aunt and uncle who inherited the Vandenburgh kids though they already had four children of their own.

This is a coming of age story that is lived against the backdrop of dramatic social change, as the manners and mores that controlled the sexaul behavior of both men and women were being forever changed. It’s a tale of events so remarkable they all but decreed that the girl who lived them would become a writer.



“[Vandenburgh] has delivered a survival story.” —New York Times

“Sex, and the longing for it, lingers around the margins of this book the way shadows do in a Hopper painting.” —New York Times

“Intense, controlled, a memoir-as-fever-dream.” —New York Times

“Gripping.” —New York Times

“This woman traffics in the truth.” —Anne Lamott

“A wholly original, beautiful book.” —Michael Downing, author of Breakfast with Scot

“The vividness of those people and the hard-to-describe implicit sanity and moral clarity that underly the always-about-to-get-out-of-control voice gets to feel funny, sane, heartbreaking, and so deeply intelligent . . . It is just brilliant, and true.” —Bob Hass, author of Now and Then