A new work of nonfiction by a leading force of gay rights activism.
Duberman (Jews Queer Germans: A Novel/History, 2017, etc.) has vast experience with the countless riots and uprisings that took place throughout the 20th century to establish an equal playing field for the gay community across the United States. Here, he takes readers through his varying states of mind as he experienced the 1970s and ’80s as a 40- and 50-something gay man. “What I’d forgotten while entertaining my fantasy of rebirth was how deeply wedded I’d become to security and routine,” he writes. “Nearing fifty, even a malcontent like me had learned that life’s most distinguishing feature was its precariousness.” In fact, after his mother’s death, which took a devastating toll on his psyche, Duberman had to navigate the solitude of adulthood without a parental reference point. Living in New York City during its “glory days,” he was on the front lines of the city’s cultural effervescence. Working as a writer and scholar, he engaged aggressively in cocaine culture—“used in moderation, and for specific occasions only, I told myself, coke confirmed the countercultural cliché about better living through chemistry”—until a violent heart attack gave him pause and an incentive to restructure. He worked hard to re-engage in politics after the election of Ronald Reagan, and he endured the horrors of the AIDS crisis without personally suffering from the disease. While Duberman’s story now feels like one of the many that developed and unraveled during a confusing time in American history, the author’s style and approach to recounting it are novel. Divided into highly specific thematic sections, the book is sharp and engaging, with tasteful anecdotes that anchor Duberman not in a historical lineage but firmly within his own personal journey. This highly intelligent book is not just another contribution to gay history; it is also an important pillar in the author’s literary biography.
A fascinating look into a significant period in the life of a much-loved literary figure.