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Nisha Kommattam
Romance Languages & Literatures
with Margaret Sönser Breen,
editors and translators
Are They Women?:
A Novel Concerning the Third Sex
Written by Aimée Duc
Broadview Press, 2020



Deeply engaged in women’s rights debates and discussions of the “third sex,” Are They Women? is about the lively communities of lesbians across turn-of-the-century central Europe. It is one of the first lesbian novels written in German―indeed, in any language―and one of the very few pre-Second Wave feminist texts to provide a positive and romantic portrait of lesbians. A work of popular literature with cultural significance, Are They Women? is both highly readable and remarkably progressive for its time.  Co-translator and co-editor Nisha Kommattam provides the first complete English translation of the novel. The historical appendices provide contemporary materials on homosexuality, including fresh translations of lesbian and feminist essays, as well as compelling images from German feminist periodicals of the time. Reviewer Robert Tobin notes, “This elegantly translated . . . novel introduces us to a fascinating world of young people . . . exploring gender, sexuality, and identity in the grand cities of Europe around 1900. The conversations they have in this novel, written over a century ago, echo loudly today. Anyone involved in gender studies, LGBTQ+ studies, or queer theory will want to meet and get to know these characters!” Kommattam also co-produced a new German edition, Sind es Frauen?, with Querverlag Press

Listen to Nisha Kommattam discuss Are They Women? on “Victorian Scribblers.”

Are They Women? is a crucial document of lesbian history. It captures a moment in time when women who loved women first had the freedom to live as they wished and a name that gave them an identity. Margaret Breen and Nisha Kommattam have provided a fine translation, and their excellent introduction sets Are They Women? in historical and scholarly context. This volume is important reading for anyone wishing to understand the lesbian past.”
Lillian Faderman,
author of To Believe In Women:
What Lesbians Have Done for America



Nisha Kommattam is an Associate Instructional Professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. She works at the intersection of South Asian literatures and Gender & Sexuality studies, with a focus on Southern India (Malayalam Literature, Kerala Studies).  She is also interested in literatures of migration, inter-Asia comparisons, and in the transnational entanglements of pioneering queer German writers in fin-de-siècle Europe. 

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