SPARKLING RAIN and Other Fiction From Japan of Women Who Love Women, edited by Barbara Summerhawk and Kimberly Hughes, with introductions by Hitomi Sawabe and Mieko Watanabe. Chicago: New Victoria Publishers, Inc., 2008, 216 pp., $16.95 (paper)

As editor Barbara Summerhawk writes in her introduction to this interesting collection: "In Japan's notoriously patriarchal culture — combined with pejorative notions of homosexuality that are rooted in more recent Western sources — women who love other women have continued to struggle against overwhelming odds."

The odds in the West overwhelm equally, to be sure, even though Queen Victoria struck out "lesbianism" from the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 because she refused to believe it possible (certainly an apocryphal story). Nonetheless, the way has not been easy.

One of the reasons is that, all over the world, women who love women stand against that subjugation of females that some males take as practically a birthright. They, along with many other women, resent the denial of sexual autonomy.