A lucid, cerebral treatise on gay culture from the point of view of a clever historian who maintains that “the heritage of...


Illuminating history lesson integrating the homosexual movement into America’s historical landscape. This is the first book in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series.

LGBT expert Bronski (Women’s and Gender Studies, Jewish Studies/Dartmouth Coll; Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps, 2003, etc.) contends that gay men and women’s contributions to the nation’s historical fabric have not always been recognized for their impact. To prove his point, the author ambitiously chronologically traces five centuries of significant, transformational events, people and places in gay history. Bronski reaches back to 1492 to highlight the sexually progressive European influence explorers like Christopher Columbus had on colonial culture and how those ideals locked horns with Puritanical mores. The author equates the injustice of slavery to homosexual oppression and explores the Revolutionary era’s strict ideas of gender conformity and the proliferation of same-sex “romantic friendships” in the 18th  century. Drawing on countless references from literary texts, gay classics, poetry, journals, newspaper articles and letters, Bronski gives readers a grand tour of queer cultural vantage points. These include the “outlaw culture” of San Francisco, the erotic prose of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, the homoerotic novels that indelibly shaped American literature and the pivotal revolution at the Stonewall Inn riots. The author suggests that as the United States grew in size, so did the tyrannical promotion of the heterosexual union as the “ideal relationship.” Evidence of abundant gay soldiers in World War II surprises almost as much as the lengths they took to interact with one another. Considering more recent events, Bronski ends with the AIDS activism of late-’80s radical group ACT UP and the still-simmering gay-marriage argument.

A lucid, cerebral treatise on gay culture from the point of view of a clever historian who maintains that “the heritage of LGBT people is the heritage of Americans.” Required reading for both established and newly emerging members of the gay community—and far beyond.

Pub Date: May 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8070-4439-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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