Central PA's LGBT News Source

5 best men's books

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I have published interviews with four of my five author choices. My second Edmund White interview will be published this Fall in Conversations with Edmund White by University of Mississippi Press.

NUMBER 1

The Fire Next Time By James Baldwin

I first read Baldwin in college (1969-1973) not long after the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, NAACP and the Black Panther Party morphed and evolved in different directions. At age 12, I chose Martin de Porres as my middle name. He was the first African-American to be made a saint by the Catholic Church and is patron saint of those seeking racial harmony. He is noted for his work with the poor. I am not your Negro, a recent movie about Baldwin’s life, shows us why he remains important. He asked in the 60s what remains today’s most important question: Why do some White Americans need Black Americans to hate? What does their need say about those who hate? What does that question mean to anyone who hates? The Fire Next Time is two essays originally published The New Yorker and The Progressive. The first piece is in the form of a letter to his nephew James, a poignant plea that his charge will be able to understand his world, perhaps better than Baldwin did.

NUMBER 2

A Boy’s Own Story By Edmund White

2 White, his eminence grise of white gay male authors, has always said the importance of the books written by The Violet Quill, a group of seven gay men who met for about one year to discuss their work, is that they wrote books “for, by and about” gay men with no apologies or even a mention of how they became gay. ABOS is exactly that – White’s story. Reading it will prompt others to reflect on their personal history. Those of us who cut the path for today’s openness on same-sex issues in the 60s/70s/80s remember well that question asked late into the night – What’s your story? Our answers described how we organized our lives so that we could function – work, live, pay taxes, worship, volunteer – and still remain true to love needs of our soul. We should all be nostalgic for our own past. Not because it’s better than anyone else’s but because it’s ours.

NUMBER 3

Stonewall By Martin Duberman

Duberman is an endless font of curiosity. His historical work and three-volume autobiography are trustworthy because he is honest. As a historian, biographer, playwright, and gay rights activist, he scrapes off the bravado so that readers can see what’s really there. One of 25 books, his Stonewall is a vivid and detailed portrait of the six individuals whose reaction to police brutality brought us The Stonewall Riots. Duberman captures real lives, the feel of the times. He illustrates how deeply our liberation is rooted in the race, class, and gender injustices of American life. Minette, a famous drag queen who visited Harrisburg many times to perform, gets a mention. An old boyfriend from my 20s, Bill Miller of Lebanon, made her friendship upon his moving to NYC to sing and dance. Her letters remember him fondly. In 1991, Duberman founded The Center for LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS) as the first US university-based research center dedicated to the study of historical, cultural, and political issues of vital concern to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals and communities.

NUMBER 4

Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America By Christopher Bram

Christopher Bram is to history what cream is to coffee. He makes it better but doesn’t change it. Eminent Outlaws runs from the 50s to the 90s and beyond - Gore Vidal to Edmund White. They are book ends to the uniquely American experience of gay authors who changed our country. “The gay revolution began as a literary revolution.” Bram writes. When the book begins in 1948, homosexuality was illegal in all 48 states. “You couldn’t even talk about it. Then right after World War II, a few writers started telling stories about it, fictional accounts because if they had told true stories they’d be open to prosecution, charged with committing crimes,” Bram explained in our interview. He notes that EO “is not meant to be an encyclopedia of all gay writers. I’m just doing a dozen or so writers that enable me to follow the major plotlines of a 50-year period.” His Gandhi quotes summarizes our history nicely: “First they ignore you, then they make fun of you, then they attack you, and then you win.”

NUMBER 5

Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS and Survival By Sean Strub

In 1996, when a new class of HIV drugs transformed the disease that before then was a sure death sentence, Strub was emaciated and covered with Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions, the scarlet letter of AIDS. He was among the fortunate to return, Lazarus-like, from the brink of death. Body Counts covers his ACT UP years, founding POZ magazine, the New York of Studio 54 and Andy Warhol’s Factory. He was one of a group of activists who clandestinely climbed to the top of Sen. Jesse Helms home in suburban Arlington, VA to cover it from top to bottom with an inflated condom. Helms had been a major obstacle to AIDS legislation. Music mogul David Geffen pressed 30 $100 bills into activist and Treatment Action Group founder Peter Staley’s hand on Fire Island. And the caper was off and running. The book is filled with poignant moments of high emotion. Strub lived in Harrisburg in the early 80s. He was here May 2 to speak on HIV Criminalization at the LGBT Community Center.