STONEWALL by Martin Duberman


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 An engrossing--and long-overdue--look at one of the seminal events in the history of gay activism: the Stonewall Riots of June 27-July 2, 1969. By filtering the genesis and events of the riots through the lives of four gay men and two lesbians who were participants, Duberman (Cures, 1991, etc.; History/CUNY) lends immediacy and emotional impact to his narrative. In addition, the diversity of the protagonists' backgrounds--black, Hispanic, WASP, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Christian Scientist--underscores the commonality of the homosexual experience and of gay reactions to legalized intolerance of homosexuality. Of special relevance is Duberman's concise overview of the period in general and of the frequently collaborative but occasionally oppositional agendas that characterized the pre-Stonewall homophile organizations and that laid the groundwork for the love/hate relationship marking many of today's gay-liberation groups. The six featured here range from Foster Gunnison, Jr., a meticulous, buttoned-up Ph.D., to Sylvia Rivera, an in-your-face transvestite and Times Square hustler. Duberman points out that the uprising that erupted outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village was a spontaneous expression of gay frustration, as well as a refusal to put up with the police harassment that was a commonplace of gay life during the 1960's. It's uncertain who first lashed back at police manhandling when the bar was raided. The Stonewall itself- -grubby, Mafia-run, overpriced--was an unlikely candidate for historic landmark status. Duberman argues that the management, by paying off police officials, had been warned about earlier raids but that this time, federal agents--aware of the police bribes and informed that the liquor served at the bar was bootlegged or hijacked--conducted the raid suddenly and unexpectedly. And so it was that police corruption indirectly contributed to the emergence of gay liberation. An important and absorbing addition to gay studies. (B&w photos--not seen)

Pub Date: May 6th, 1993
ISBN: 0-525-93602-5
Page count: 315pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993


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