Monday, January 8, 2007

Book Review

I just finished reading The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's: A Gay Life in the 1940's. I flew through this relatively small book, and enjoyed every minute of reading it. It is part of my own private "research" into the growing field of gay studies in the area of history. Aside from being of personal interest to me, reading up on the emerging category of "gay history" may prove useful in writing master's papers.

The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's is written by Ricardo J. Brown. It is his own personal memoirs of life in the mid to late 1940's in St. Paul Minnesota. Being given an "undesirable discharge" from the navy for being homosexual, this small work chronicles what it was like to be a gay man in American during the post war period. Gay men and women still have quite a struggle to face today, but after reading this personal account, it is nothing compared to what gay men and women had to endure in the past. Rigid social, economic, and religious norms made it impossible, and even dangerous to be openly "queer" (the term used at the time). Not only did people fear the rejection of their family, but loss of jobs, jail sentences, even death should they be outed.

I highly recommend this title to anyone interested in "gay studies". It has mentioned in its forward a book entitled Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community written by Elizabeth Lapovsky and Madeline D. Davis which deals with the lesbian community of Buffalo New York. While "gay" and "lesbian" studies can viewed as two different topics, since men and women homosexuals have been treated differently (by heterosexuals as well as each other) throughout history, the fact that it is based factually in the city of Buffalo places it on my list for future reading.

The next work that I am endeavoring to read is Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940, written by George Clancey. A rather large book, it has been used as a textbook in many college classes, and although it verges more on the scholastic side, it has had some wonderful reviews by both professors and students who have read this work. Ironically, I just studied this exact time period in my American History class this past semester, and am thinking about sending this title to my former professor as possibility for use in future classes on this time period.

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