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Joan Nestle Oral History (2011)

Identifier: SCA-0075-A

Scope and Contents

The interview explores Nestle's time at Queens College as a student-activist (1959-1963) and teacher in the SEEK program (1966-1995). She discusses her upbringing in New York, the conservative culture of Queens College, her oft-times combative experiences as a student, as well as her incredibly fulfilling time spent teaching in the SEEK program. Nestle also discusses how being an activist in the civil rights movement was paramount to shaping her role in the gay liberation movement, as well as elucidating her commitment to principals of non-violent protest and an acceptance of exile.

The interview consists of two digital files (part 1 and part 2). Two versions of the transcript are also included (the first includes a preface and other edits by Nestle for added context and the second has been transcribed with/out changes from the audiotapes).


  • 2011-04-06



Digital files will be shared upon request. Researchers must first fill out a digital reproduction request form. Please email for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Interview shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Users are free to share or adapt the material for non-commercial purposes, as long as they meet the terms of the license. See license details at

Biographical / Historical

Joan Nestle was born in the Bronx in 1940. After graduating from Queens College and receiving her M.A. in English from NYU, she began to teach writing. She was active in protesting against the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Vietnam War, segregation and apartheid, and supporting civil rights, women’s rights, and Gay Liberation. She helped launch the Gay Academic Union in 1972 and founded the Lesbian Herstory Archive in 1973, a rich collection of documents and memorabilia of lesbian history and culture. Nestle is the author of A Fragile Union (1998) and A Restricted Country (1988). Her other publications include Women on Women: An Anthology of American Lesbian Short Fiction and The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader. She currently resides in Australia with her partner.

Biographical / Historical

Mark Levy was born on May 30, 1939 in New York City to Harold and Leona Levy. He studied at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio from 1957 to 1959 and then transferred to Queens College, where he received a B.A. in Sociology (1964) and an M.S. in Social Studies Education (1973). While at Queens College, he served as Student Association President from 1962 to 1963. Levy was active in the Civil Rights Movement and participated in a school desegregation project in Jackson, Mississippi. From 1968 to 1973 he was on the faculty at Queens College in the SEEK Program. He also taught high school students in the Upward Bound Program and led seminars and supervised field internships in the Action Program. In 1973, he embarked on a second career as a union organizer and representative at United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE). He then went on to work for Local 1199/NY (United Drug, Hospital and Healthcare Workers Union), and the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU) retiring as Executive Director in 2008.


2 Digital Files ; Duration of Part 1: 00:56:44 Duration of Part 2: 01:08:30

112.1 MB Megabytes

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Audio files donated to Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives by Mark Levy, April 2011. Additionally, in 2020 Joan Nestle signed a Queens Memory consent form giving permission for the interview to be archived as part of the Queens Memory Project under a Creative Commons license.

Related Materials

Joan Nestle Oral History 1991/1992:

Joan Nestle founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the world's largest repository of materials by and about lesbians, and is included in their rich collection:

Processing Information

This interview with Joan Nestle was conducted by Mark Levy (Queens College alumnus, class of 1964) with Annie Tummino (Archives Assistant in the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library) and Jennifer Polish (Queens College undergraduate) and was held at Queens College Rosenthal Library in 2011. Two versions of the transcript are available; the first includes a preface and other edits by Nestle for added coherence and the second has been transcribed without changes from the audiotapes.


Joan Nestle Oral History
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Kuba Pieczarski
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Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us