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Waiting to Land: A (Mostly) Political Memoir, 1985-2008

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  • Posted June 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Longing for the return of the Left

    Martin Duberman is generally viewed as one of the most important social philosophers of our time, and as with every philosopher of distant past, recent past, and present he has his agenda, concentrating his thoughts on a specific area of discussion. And for Duberman this arena is the gay/homosexual/queer state of being. He is a gifted writer and has courageously written books that detail his own 'coming out' - from the trials of denial and therapy to change himself, to the agony of becoming part of what he once dreaded, to being one of our most outspoken and sensitive gay rights activists. Look is name up in the dictionary and you will find the following distillation of his accomplishments: 'Martin Bauml Duberman (born August 6, 1930) is an American historian, philosopher, playwright, and gay-rights activist. He is the Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at Lehman College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York and was the founder and first director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the CUNY Graduate School. He has authored over twenty books including James Russell Lowell (a National Book Award finalist), Paul Robeson, Stonewall, and the memoir 'Cures: A Gay Man's Odyssey'. He is also a neoabolitionist scholar, as evidenced by his edited collection of essays, 'The Antislavery Vanguard'. His play 'In White America' won the Vernon Rice/Drama Desk Award for Best Off-Broadway Production in 1963.' Now, with all of his achievements well documented he offers this book WAITING TO LAND, which chronicles his steps in the political direction from the year 1985 to 2008.

    After a richly detailed introduction he jumps into his topic with what at first glance seems to be a series of diary entries, carefully adding italicized sentences that show his own editing of entries that need further clarification. Mixed with these closely personal statements about the changes that have occurred in gay life - becoming more mainstream and acceptable through the usual American means of incorporating gay characters into our novels, our films, our television programs, and our watered down political activist groups - are essays that more directly and more succinctly outline his arguments and issues.

    Duberman sees this assimilation from the protestor's stance: surrender your uniqueness and become a watered down acceptable droid that no longer has to stand for the ideals of the pioneers of the movement. This stance has caused many a debate on the political front, but Duberman insists that without pride and commitment to self and individuality that the struggle will dilute until the old stereotypes revert a strong movement into a shadow of misunderstanding and bland sameness to our culture. As he has stated in other places 'I'm deeply committed to ending the era of gay apologetics. But we need to be on guard against the temptation to replace it with an era of extravagant self-congratulation.'

    Martin Duberman is a brilliant philosopher and social theorist, and as such he has created both fans and detractors from both sides of his debates. But one aspect of Duberman that at times goes unnoticed - that he is a very fine literary mind and is able to write cogent arguments and do so eloquently - is corrected by cacareful reading of this book. He is a brilliant man, unafraid to stir discontent among the public, and he deserves wide attention.

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