Loughery, who has told individual life stories before (e.g., John Sloan: Painter and Rebel, 1995), here attempts the more...

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THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE: Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth-Century History

Loughery, who has told individual life stories before (e.g., John Sloan: Painter and Rebel, 1995), here attempts the more daunting task of telling a whole community's personal and political history. His prodigiously researched source materials--acknowledged in a rich bibliographic essay at the end--include gay and lesbian archives, newspapers, periodicals, books, and his own interviews with many old enough to remember gay life 60 years ago. The title of the book--taken from the name of a 1970s theater company--points to its centering theme: that the history of gay men in America is the story of a silence learning to speak. Loughery mediates a host of voices, many not generally known, from Harlem Renaissance writer Alain Locke and pioneering gay psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan in the 1920s and '30s, to playwright Mart Crowley, politician Harvey Milk, and scholar John Boswell of more recent history. Topics addressed include the military and WWII, gay bars and baths, literature, Freudianism, the gay press and bookstores, transvestism, homophile (later gay liberation) societies, Stonewall, and gay rights bills. Loughery does not always meet the challenge of integrating the material to hold the reader's interest from one topic to the next: For example, all that binds the histories of Florida's gay Mardi Gras, San Francisco's Society for Individual Rights, and the Metropolitan Community Church, which Loughery subsumes under a single heading, is their origin among gay men in the 1960s. In places, the books reads like a succession of self-contained encyclopedia articles--a feature that is perhaps inevitable in the history of a community which, as Loughery notes in his final, ironically self-questioning chapter, ""Divergent Paths,"" may be more ""useful fiction"" than fact. A good index will help this fact-filled, but not always plot-driven, history communicate its insights to a wider-than-gay audience.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998