All The Things She Said, subtitled ‘everything I know about modern lesbian and bi culture’ is an exploration of being a queer woman in the 21st century, through the lens of one person’s experience and also including snippets of conversations with a range of people. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of life, from media like film, TV, and music, to things like dating, the internet, and mental health, and Daisy Jones combines personal anecdotes and favourites with broader looks at what has been popular over the last twenty years, especially as some lesbian and bi culture has become more mainstream for various reasons.
There were two aspects of this book that particularly stood out to me: the inclusivity, and the personal perspective. In an act that was accidentally kinda prescient of some of the things discussed in the book, before reading All The Things She Said, I first read through the blurb and looked up the author to check that it wasn’t going to be likely to include transphobic or exclusionary stuff. In fact, the first chapter explicitly gives the book a broad approach, pointing out that a lot of the queer culture found within isn’t necessarily linked to specific ideas of gender, attraction, or other facets of life and identity, and has snippets of interviews with people like trans and non-binary lesbians to get different perspectives. This was a welcome setting of the scene, and it was also interesting in acknowledging that there aren’t clear divides between different facets of LGBTQ culture in many ways, and people often choose what feels right to them.
The other element of the book I found important was the personal perspective. There’s no way anyone could write a comprehensive look at any kind of culture as it is in the present day (or past twenty years, as the book broadly looks at), because there’s no universal experience, so using a personal lens alongside the more journalist side works well to distinguish what is included, and why. Jones’ own experiences help to show the significance of things like club nights and pop culture moments (for example the titular song by t.A.T.u. which I think most people around a certain age vividly remember as a song and music video – one of the most relatable parts of the book for me), and quotes from interviews with other people help to bring in further perspectives.
I found this a highly readable and funny book that manages to cover quite a lot of ground, not functioning as an explainer but more of an exploration, looking at why things are or were popular and how they relate to queer people’s lives (the film chapter, for example, is mostly about Carol and the internet’s love of Cate Blanchett). As someone who is non-binary, I enjoyed that some parts were relatable (particularly loving skate trainers and baggy jeans and t-shirts as a kid) and other parts less so (for me personally, that included: current TikTok culture as I’m a bit too old, a lot of modern queer woman fashion, and much of the music that wasn’t t.A.T.u.).
An inviting book that feels very much like the internet (a lot of the first chapter is basically explaining things that anyone who has been in LGBTQ spaces online will know/have seen debated/etc), All The Things She Said is a modern way of looking at aspects of modern culture. It focuses on some serious stuff, like the prevalence of mental health issues and the closing down of queer venues, but also on the joy of finding your people, and finding the things that feel like home.