In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

170 Canadian Review of American Studies Revuecanadiennedetudes americames only appears as though it is "meant to be heard by blacks, and overheard by whites," when in fact it is "understood as being heard directly by whites, and overheard by blacks" (45-46). He goes on to suggest that the Black Aesthetic proponents shared much more deeply than they could admit the dilemma of their Harlem Renaissance predecessors: the dilemma of a heterogenous black community, and of their own tenuous connection to the "folk." Harper also offers a challenging reading of the "passing" novel, which in his view functions to reproduce traditional gender definitions in racially inflected terms. I would quarrel with his reading of James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) in this regard, since the "feminine', mulatto figure he describes is also a "white" property owner who identifies with his father by "[selling] his birthright for a mess of pottage"-the birthright that identifies him with his "mother's people." If the ex-coloured man's distance from authentic blackness is signalled by an effeminacy bordering in places on homosexuality, authentic blackness paradoxically depends on an identification with the "castrated" mother, for no black father exists with whom the tragic mulatto figure can identify. Johnson's brilliant novel raises (perhaps inadvertently) unsettling questions about the incompatibility of authentic blackness and white patriarchal masculinity that Harper does not pursue, though they permeate the best African-American fiction of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, Harper turns his attention too exclusively to more ephemeral manifestations of his theme. Those who hope to find any discussion {let alone mention) here of Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, or Alice Walker, to mention only the most prominent literary figures whose work broaches or overtly confronts the complex problem of race and masculinity, will have to look elsewhere. Michael Nowlin University of Victoria Jeffrey Escoffier. American Homo: Community and Perversity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Pp xi+ 229 and notes and index. American Homo: Community and Perversity aims at composing a historical and cultural narrative of gay and lesbian existence in post World War II America. Eleven essays form the main part of the book and span thirteen Book Reviews 171 (1985-1997) of Escoffier's many years of contribution to community and university work. Although the essays are revised especially for this publication and framed by a long (thirty-page) introduction and a conclusion, Escoffier fears it was impossible to blend them into one seamless narrative (x). Nevertheless, the nonchronological arrangement into three thematic divisions works well. Part 1 is entitled "Sexual Revolution," Part 2, which is also the longest (five chapters), deals with "Intellectuals and Cultural Politics," and Part 3 comprises three essays under the title "From Identity Politics to Radical Democracy." Escoffier himself figures prominently along the trajectory of the book since his own experiences growing up as a white gay man in New York in the 1950s and 1960s become a significant reference point in his work. His personal narrative is honest, fascinating, and explicit and effortlessly manages to forge an immediate bond with the reader. His "night classes," (10) cruising and having casual encounters in parks and promenades form what he calls his "sentimental education," while the experience of the 1960s (college, protests, demonstrations, social upheaval, the bohemian counterculture) endowed him with a "political education" (10). Privileging the personal experience has an edifying effect as it validates every gay man's personal history, thus revealing to every one of us (even those coming from a different culture) that we form a crucial part in the construction of our country's gay history. In his attempt to circumscribe the recent history of American homosexual politics, Escoffier ventures into difficult terrain as the main areas he focusses on remain unstable, contested, and even features unresolved differences. One such area concerns the (often sore) relationship between gay and lesbian community activists and university intellectuals. In fact, the most notable of his essays in Part 2 focus on the chasm that exists between community and university, as well as the tensions within the gay university professors. From Escoffier's perspective "intellectuals" are "writers, journalists, activists, academics , and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 170-174
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.