A moving, educative memoir from one of the innovators of the gay liberation movement.

The audacious life and work of the designer of the symbolic rainbow flag.

Gay rights advocate Baker (1951-2017) passionately charts his rise to prominence from a stifling Methodist childhood in 1950s Kansas, where he secretly danced in his aunt’s old prom dress and became conflicted about his burgeoning homosexuality and obsession with art. Drafted into the Army at 19, he endured a harrowing two-year stint but landed securely in San Francisco at the dawn of the gay rights movement, a sure sign of things to come. Baker writes briskly and amiably about making fast friends and becoming an activist promoting “lavender tolerance and social acceptance.” Though sewing projects kept him busy, he envisioned creating something to replace the pink triangle as the symbol of gay visibility and diversity. Thus, the rainbow flag was born, “a visual metaphor and an active proclamation of power, created and dedicated to gay and lesbian liberation,” and was displayed during Gay Freedom Day on June 25, 1978. Through the darkness of the Jonestown massacre, Harvey Milk’s assassination, and Ronald Reagan’s problematic presidency, Baker and his friends persevered, proudly continuing their dedication to promoting tolerance. His urban activism continued with the charitable Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a politically charged organization focused on exposing religious homophobia and sexual oppression. The AIDS epidemic further darkened the atmosphere, and the author vividly illustrates the deadly struggle to survive both the wrath of a mysterious killer and the political unrest that continued to plague gay America. Baker’s legacy as a creative designer and a staunch advocate intertwined when he worked on the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt with fellow activist Cleve Jones as well as the creation of the epic mile-long rainbow flag that stretched across the streets of Manhattan for the Stonewall 25 commemoration in 1994. Baker’s rainbow flag legacy lives on not only as a key emblematic component during pride celebrations worldwide, but in everyday discourse about the compassionate and unconditional nature of the community it represents and defends.

A moving, educative memoir from one of the innovators of the gay liberation movement.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64160-150-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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