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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

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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