You are here
The Audacity of a Kiss: Love, Art, and Liberation (Hardcover)
Rendered in bronze, covered in white lacquer, two women sit together on a park bench in Greenwich Village. One of the women touches the thigh of her partner as they gaze into each other’s eyes. The two women are part of George Segal’s iconic sculpture “Gay Liberation,” but these powerful symbols were modeled on real people: Leslie Cohen and her partner (now wife) Beth Suskin.
In this evocative memoir, Cohen tells the story of a love that has lasted for over fifty years. Transporting the reader to the pivotal time when brave gay women and men carved out spaces where they could live and love freely, she recounts both her personal struggles and the accomplishments she achieved as part of New York’s gay and feminist communities. Foremost among these was her 1976 cofounding of the groundbreaking women’s nightclub Sahara, which played host to such luminaries as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Pat Benatar, Ntozake Shange, Rita Mae Brown, Adrienne Rich, Patti Smith, Bella Abzug, and Jane Fonda. The Audacity of a Kiss is a moving and inspiring tale of how love, art, and solidarity can overcome oppression.
About the Author
LESLIE COHEN has been a museum curator, a nightclub owner and promoter, a limousine driver, and a lawyer, as well as a writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Curve and The New York Times Style Magazine. Now retired, she and her wife Beth live in Miami, Florida with their cat, Birdie.
"I remember Sahara as a spring in the desert of the time!"
— Gloria Steinem
"I love Leslie’s book. It is beautifully written. The detail she gives is remarkable both about her relationship with Beth, the beginning of Sahara where I spent many an amazing evening, and even her days in Siena. Leslie brings it all back to life. Reading this book, I was brought back to the Upper East Side in the ‘70s. Leslie had a magnetic power, and it suffuses the pages of this book."
— Brenda Feigen
"Leslie’s tribute to Sahara is testimony to the sanctuary we found in being together, feeling safe and enthralled by a sense of freedom. Whether you found that in The Duchess, Bonnie and Clyde’s or The Cubbyhole,this is your invitation to revisit. Little compared with the sense of anticipation you felt walking through the door and into the glances, stares or smiles of women and that the next few hours held countless possibilities."
— Ginny Apuzzo
"I am thrilled to share a story of one of the greatest loves ever known, a story of bravery to dream of and then create a safe haven for like-minded individuals who wanted a place of their own. I can remember the panic that set in the first time I went to Sahara. On tour, I was new to the excitement of riding in a limo, seeing the reaction of people dancing to my music, then suddenly being told, 'This club is different.' I was unaware of what I was about to experience. 'This is a woman’s club! Wink. Wink.' There was fear, anxiety, and laughter. I didn’t know what to think, but in I went! Warmth, joy, happiness, and excitement greeted me at the door. My Dear Friends, still all these years later, that same warmth, joy, happiness, and excitement greets me each time we see each other. I cherish the times I spent, the lifelong friends, the celebrations, and the memories I will always hold so dear. Thank you, Leslie, for sharing your incredible story!"
— Linda Clifford
" Sahara was the only female place that I felt comfortable as I identified with the atmosphere and the women who patronized it—fashionable, glamorous, and happy. I thank Leslie Cohen for her imagination and design for her creation. The only woman’s club that I continue to hold in my memory."
— Patricia Field
"Leslie Cohen’s writing is bold, beautiful and brutally honest. She writes as she has lived, without fear or hesitation. I find my own story woven (like so many others...) through the fabric of late nights at Sahara and the blinding sunlight of 6:00 am on the upper East side. Somehow we all survived. I am honored to be part of this history."
— Brooke Kennedy
"In The Audacity of a Kiss, Leslie Cohen is telling a neglected story that we all need to hear. Her club Sahara was a touchstone of feminist and LGBT history, and we're long overdue for a (re-)visit."
— Michael Schiavi
"Seeing Beth and Leslie’s love at a young age had a profound influence on me. I remember going to their beautiful house with my mom and feeling their love in their home. It definitely shaped me at a young age as to what I could have for myself as an adult."
— Rachel Robinson
"I promise you will not put down this book. Leslie Cohen has the gift of being a wonderful writer with the added blessing of having a profoundly significant personal story to tell. It's one of those books whose time has come."
— Caroline Myss
"Equality Pioneer to Publish Memoir" by Brian Kantz
— SUNY Buffalo State
"Anger, Love, and Memory," and Leslie Cohen
— Gay & Lesbian Review
"The Audacity of a Kiss is interesting and relatable. Well worth the time spent."
— Out In Print Blog
"Sealed with a kiss: Leslie Cohen discusses lesbian bars and becoming 'art'" by Gregg Shapiro
— Bay Area Reporter
"Cohen’s prose is honest and beautiful and many of us will find ourselves in her words. I love that past histories are finally being published and that these wonderful stories are being recorded forever. We can never allow our past to be forgotten and it is because of people like Leslie Cohen that we are able to live as we do today. The strongest message for me here is to once again see that liberation comes from both within and without. Cohen’s prose is honest and beautiful and many of us will find ourselves in her words. I love that past histories are finally being published and that these wonderful stories are being recorded forever. We can never allow our past to be forgotten and it is because of people like Leslie Cohen that we are able to live as we do today. The strongest message for me here is to once again see that liberation comes from both within and without."
— Reviews by Amos Lassen
Leslie Cohen Talks Memoir “The Audacity Of A Kiss” (AUDIO)
— Outtake Voices podcast
Excerpt from The Audacity of a Kiss: Love, Art & Liberation by Leslie Cohen
"The Audacity of a Kiss is very much a love story, but it is also a tale of a woman who was not by nature an activist as she found her way in the world of political and social change of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Cohen’s memoir is about how few choices there were for women like her when she was coming of age as a young lesbian in the ‘50s."
— Philadelphia Gay News
Addresses Project interview with Leslie Cohan
— Addresses Project
Lesbian News cover story with Leslie Cohen
— Lesbian News
"Sealed with a Kiss: An Interview with Leslie Cohen"
— South Florida Gay News
The Audacity of a Kiss excerpt in San Francisco Bay Times
— San Francisco Bay Times
Interview with Leslie Cohen
"Pandemic Pivot: Major museum digital exhibit for LGBT History Month," by J.W. Arnold
— Out In New Jersey