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A Biographer’s Memoir
A True Story of Incest
The TV-perfect family of Walter de Milly III was like many others in the American South of the 1950s—seemingly close-knit, solidly respectable, and active in the community.
Tragically, Walter’s deeply troubled father would launch his family on a perilous journey into darkness. To the outside world, this man is a prominent businessman, a dignified Presbyterian, and a faithful husband; to Walter, he is an overwhelming, handsome monster. Whenever the two are together, young Walter becomes a sexual plaything for his father; father and son outings are turned into soul-obliterating nightmares.
Walter eventually becomes a successful businessman only to be stricken by another catastrophe: his father, at the age of seventy, is caught molesting a young boy. Walter is asked to confront his father. Walter convenes his family, and in a private conference with a psychiatrist, the father agrees to be surgically castrated.
De Milly’s portraits of his relationships with his father and mother, and the confrontation that leads to his father’s bizarre and irreversible voluntary “cure,” are certain to be remembered long after the reader has set aside this powerful contribution to the literature of incest survival.
The Lectures in California
In the 1960s, Christopher Isherwood gave an unprecedented series of lectures at California universities on the theme “A Writer and His World.” During this time Isherwood, who would liberate the memoir and become the founding father of modern gay writing, spoke openly for the first time about his craft—on writing for film, theater, and novels—and on spirituality. Isherwood on Writing brings these public addresses together to reveal a distinctly—and surprisingly—American Isherwood.
Given at a critical time in Isherwood’s career, these lectures mark the era when he turned from fiction to memoir. In free-flowing, wide-ranging discussions, he reflects on such topics as why writers write, what makes a novel great, and what influenced his own work. Isherwood talks about his working relationship with W. H. Auden; his literary friendships with E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Stephen Spender, Aldous Huxley, and Somerset Maugham; and his work in the film industry in London and Hollywood. He also explores uncharted territory in candid comments on his own work, something not contained in his diaries.
Isherwood on Writing uncovers an important and often-misunderstood time in Isherwood’s life in America. The lectures present, in James J. Berg’s words, “an example of a man, comfortable in his own sexuality and self, trying to talk about himself and his own life in a society that is not yet ready to hear the whole story.”
A major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904–1986) is the author of many books, including A Single Man and Down There on a Visit, available from Minnesota.
James J. Berg is dean of liberal arts and sciences at Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota. He is editor, with Chris Freeman, of The Isherwood Century: Essays on the Life and Work of Christopher Isherwood (winner of the Lambda Award) and Conversations with Christopher Isherwood.
Claude Summers is professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan, Dearborn and author of many works, including Gay Fictions: Wilde to Stonewall.
Death, Mourning, and American Affinity
The refusal to recognize kinship relations among slaves, interracial couples, and same-sex partners is steeped in historical and cultural taboos. In Kindred Specters, Christopher Peterson explores the ways in which non-normative relationships bear the stigma of death that American culture vehemently denies.
Probing Derrida’s notion of spectrality as well as Orlando Patterson’s concept of “social death,” Peterson examines how death, mourning, and violence condition all kinship relations. Through Charles Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman, Peterson lays bare concepts of self-possession and dispossession, freedom and slavery. He reads Toni Morrison’s Beloved against theoretical and historical accounts of ethics, kinship, and violence in order to ask what it means to claim one’s kin as property. Using William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! he considers the political and ethical implications of comparing bans on miscegenation and gay marriage.
Tracing the connections between kinship and mourning in American literature and culture, Peterson demonstrates how racial, sexual, and gender minorities often resist their social death by adopting patterns of affinity that are strikingly similar to those that govern normative relationships. He concludes that socially dead “others” can be reanimated only if we avow the mortality and mourning that lie at the root of all kinship relations.
Christopher Peterson is visiting assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College.
In January 2004, Showtime debuted The L Word, the first prime-time commercial drama to center around lesbian characters. Over the course of six seasons, the show depicted the lives and loves of an evolving circle of friends in West Hollywood, California, and was widely read as evidence of changing social attitudes toward gay people. Building on immediate critical attention, the show reigned as Showtime's most popular for its first three seasons and earned a large and enthusiastic audience. In The L Word, author Margaret T. McFadden argues that the show is important for its subject matter, its extended and deeply literate commentary on the history of representation of lesbians in popular media, and the formal innovations it deployed to rewrite that history. McFadden shows that the program’s creators, led by executive producer Ilene Chaiken, were well aware of the assumptions and expectations that viewers would bring to it after a history of stereotypical depictions of lesbians on television. They sought to satisfy a diverse group of viewers who wanted honest and appealing portrayals of their lives while still attracting a large enough mainstream audience to make The L Word commercially viable. In five chapters, McFadden explores how the show tackled these problems of representation by using reflexivity as a strategy to make meaning, undertaking a complicitous critique of Hollywood, skillfully using a soap-drama format to draw in its audience, and ultimately creating its own complex representation of a lesbian community. While deconstructing the history of misrepresentation of lesbians, The L Word’s new modes of storytelling and new perspectives made many aspects of lesbian experience, history, and culture visible to a large audience. Fans of the show as well as readers interested in cultural studies and gay and lesbian pop cultural history will enjoy this astute volume.
A History of Queer Minnesota
For too long, LGBTQ communities—including Minnesota’s—have been maligned, misrepresented, and often outright ignored. Myths regarding the queer experience have grown and become embedded in local and national consciousness. The absence of queer stories over time in local historical and popular writing only served to further this ignorance, but great strides have been made in recent decades to celebrate Minnesota’s vibrant queer history. Add to this rising chorus an enchanting new voice: Land of 10,000 Loves, Stewart Van Cleve’s wide-ranging and unprecedented illustrated history of queer life in Minnesota.
Drawing from the renowned Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota—a vast collection of books, photographs, films, and other historical artifacts that Van Cleve calls “one of the most comprehensive accounts of international queer history in the world”—Land of 10,000 Loves blends oral history, archival narrative, newspaper accounts, and fascinating illustrations to paint a remarkable picture of Minnesota’s queer history. More than 120 concise historical essays lead readers from the earliest evidences of queer life in Minnesota before the Second World War—for example, Oscar Wilde’s visit to Minnesota and “rumors” at the Alexander Ramsey house—to riverfront vice districts, protest and parade sites, bars, 1970s collectives, institutions, public spaces, and private homes. More than 130 illustrations illuminate these histories with images of pride guides, archival photographs, and advertisements from local queer bars among other extraordinary pieces of ephemera and artifacts. Many of the stories and images are well known, while others have been all but forgotten, until now.
Building on foundational works of regional queer history such as The Evening Crowd at Kirmser’s and Queer Twin Cities, the historical vignettes of Land of 10,000 Loves show us that Minnesota—from its biggest cities to its smallest towns—has been, as Van Cleve notes, “queer, to a certain extent, since the very beginning.” Land of 10,000 Loves honors this rich and diverse legacy and is a compelling testament to the sacrifices, scandals, and victories that have affected and continue to affect the lives of queer Minnesotans.
How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq
In 2003, after serving five and a half years as a carpenter in a North Dakota National Guard engineer unit, Bronson Lemer was ready to leave the military behind. But six months short of completing his commitment to the army, Lemer was deployed on a yearlong tour of duty to Iraq. Leaving college life behind in the Midwest, he yearns for a lost love and quietly dreams of a future as an openly gay man outside the military. He discovers that his father’s lifelong example of silent strength has taught him much about being a man, and these lessons help him survive in a war zone and to conceal his sexuality, as he is required to do by the U.S. military.
Prophet of Homosexuality and Sociology
Laud Humphreys (1930–1988) was a pioneering and fearless sociologist, an Episcopal priest, and a civil rights, gay, and antiwar activist. In graduate school during the late 1960s, he conducted extensive fieldwork in public restrooms in a St. Louis city park to discover patterns of impersonal sex among men. He published the results in Tearoom Trade. Three decades later the book still triggers many debates about the ethics of his research methods. In 1974, he was the first sociologist to come out as gay. Laud Humphreys: Prophet of Homosexuality and Sociology examines the groundbreaking work through the life of a complex man and the life of the man through his controversial work. It is an invaluable contribution to sociology and a fascinating record of a courageous life.
Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals in American Electoral Politics
In the quarter century since the Stonewall riots in New York City's Greenwich Village launched the national gay-rights movement in earnest, LGB voters have steadily expanded their political influence. The Lavender Vote is the first full- length examination of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals as a factor in American elections. Mark Hertzog here describes the differences in demographics, attitudes, and voting behavior between self-identified bisexuals and homosexuals and the rest of the voting population. He shows that lavender self- identifiers comprise a distinctive voting bloc equal in numbers to Latino voters, more liberal across the board on domestic social issues (though not necessarily on economic or national security issues) than non-gay voters, and extremely unified in high-salience elections. Further, lavender voters, contrary to popular belief, are up for grabs between the two major parties.
Offering a clear and thorough explanation of LGB voting tendencies, this volume will be must-reading for elected officials, candidates for office, and all those interested in learning about LGB voters.