Outside Voices: A Memoir of the Berkeley Revolution


Berkeley, 1972: a hotbed of creativity where painters, filmmakers, musicians, and writers inspire a young poet.

Second-wave feminism, inspired by Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Betty Friedan is swelling into a tsunami. Women are joining together to change power dynamics in politics, the home, and the workplace.

On election day, Joan Gelfand casts her vote for George McGovern and boards a plane from New York to California. With one introduction to a woman musician, Joan’s journey to become a writer is born. Embraced by a thriving women’s community of artists, filmmakers, musicians, poets, and writers, Joan is encouraged to find her voice.

Mentored by paradigm-changing writers, Joan finds the courage to face her darkest fears through poetry and art, mining the trauma she experienced after losing her father and questioning her Jewish identity. Reminiscent of Paris in the twenties, Greenwich Village in the sixties, and Berlin in the eighties, Berkeley in the seventies was the “it” city of America.

Outside Voices reports the ups and downs of finding one’s way as an artist, living with a women’s band, forging an independent Jewish identity, founding a women’s restaurant, and becoming a published writer and songwriter while exploring the limits of sexuality and spirituality. The story includes road trips to music festivals in the woods, beaches in Mexico, concerts in Southern California, and a retreat in the Pacific Northwest.

A triumphant story of determination and will, Outside Voices is a backstage look at the women’s movement that sets the stage for decades of change. This book is a firsthand look at how the power of community emboldened innovation, social change, and self-discovery.


“Joan Gelfand has written a compelling book about coming of age in Berkeley in the second wave of feminism circa 1970s. Her depth of discovering herself and her world is intense and reveals all the passion and confusion of a sensitive soul grasping at life through politics, sex, and the long road to becoming a writer.”

–Geri Spieler, Author of Housewife Assassin: The Woman Who Tried to Kill Gerald Ford


Outside Voices is a mesmerizing, lyrical account of the heady days of the women’s movement in Berkeley in the 1970s. It’s a blast to follow Joan Gelfand, newly arrived from New York and still reeling from the untimely death of her father, as she visits communes, cooks vegetarian food, listens to musicians in coffee shops, and poses nude for a painter who seduces her—just one of many wild experiences during the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The heart of the book, however, is Gelfand’s search for her poet’s voice, something she discovers through the embrace of the women’s community around her.”

–Frances Dinkelspiel, Co-founder, Berkeleyside and Cityside and Author of New York Times bestseller, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California


“Joan Gelfand documents her thrilling coming-of-age ride through one of America’s most explosive and exciting moments of history. The book travels between the trauma of her traditional Jewish immigrant New York City childhood to the daring experiments of Berkeley, California in the 1970s. It’s not San Francisco’s Summer of Love, it’s the whirling aftermath. Gelfand’s prose buzzes with the beats and pulses of a young woman finding and coming to terms with herself and her past as a poet amidst a vibrant community of musicians, anti-war and women’s rights activists, and queers. It is a brave and joyous read, a timely reminder of how fragile free speech, democracy, the arts, and deliberate acts of love remain. Timely, delicious, and deeply honest, it reminds us how urgent the women’s movement and Berkeley’s imprint are in current-day conversations about democracy.”

—Elizabeth Block, Christopher Isherwood Foundation Award-Winning fiction writer, poet, and essayist


“Joan Gelfand’s memoir, Outside Voices, is a trip down Memory Lane for anyone who lived in Berkeley in the mid-sixties through mid-seventies, at the dawn of the Women’s Movement, told from the as-yet-unexplored point of view of a young Jewish Lesbian from New York. Grieving the death of her father, trying to find herself as a poet, Gelfand takes the reader on a nostalgic through-the-looking-glass tour of the radical people and wild places in Berkeley that informed her career as a critic, teacher, and writer. ‘[I]n Berkeley,’ the poet enthuses, ‘spring is stretched out like a delicious piece of saltwater taffy, all sweetness and joy.’”

–Barbara Quick, Novelist, Poet & Journalist