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LEFT OUT by Martin Duberman

LEFT OUT

The Politics of Exclusion, Essays, 1964-1999

By Martin Duberman

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-465-01744-4
Publisher: Basic

A grab bag of scholarly essays on aspects of American history and politics. Martin Duberman (Stonewall, 1993; Midlife Queer, 1996; etc.) is among the leading students of America’s gay history; he founded the City University of New York’s well-regarded Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, and he has published widely. Here he gathers work from three decades, much of it centering on little-explored topics that make for fascinating reading. In one essay, for instance, he explores the dual life of Donald Webster Cory, who, writing under that name in the 1950s, spoke up to defend homosexuality against those who deemed it a socially pathological disease—but who also, writing as Edward Sagarin a decade later, “derided the emergent view that homosexuals “are as healthy as anyone else.—” In another, Duberman recounts the controversy that surrounded his biography of the African American singer and actor Paul Robeson, which met with opposition from activists who claimed that a white man had no business writing about a black one, and that a gay man could not possibly understand the life of a straight one. (Duberman rightly dismisses these views as species of bigotry.) Other pieces address the history of slavery, American politics in the 1960s, and the nation’s shameful record of racism and oppression. Individually those essays are fine, engaged pieces of work, but because Duberman has not done much to unite them under one cover, that they do not add up to much more than a greatest-hits assemblage for followers of his work. Thematically various, the essays share only Duberman’s “decided convictions: the baleful influence of corporate culture, the iniquity of many aspects of American foreign policy, the tenacity of white racism, the non-pathological nature of same-gender desire, the crippling falsity of the traditional male/female binary.” Duberman honors those convictions with interesting insights, but the book would have benefited from a sharper focus.