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Lonely Hunters: An Oral History of Lesbian and Gay Southern Life, 1948-1968
     

Lonely Hunters: An Oral History of Lesbian and Gay Southern Life, 1948-1968

by James T Sears
 

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Largely ignored by both mainstream and gay histories, this is the first oral history of homosexual Southerners struggling against homophobia, racial hatred, and sexism against the panorama of post-World War II Southern culture. James Sears has compiled real stories of gay men and lesbians who were raised in the social hierarchy of the South. 35 photos. 240 pp.

Overview

Largely ignored by both mainstream and gay histories, this is the first oral history of homosexual Southerners struggling against homophobia, racial hatred, and sexism against the panorama of post-World War II Southern culture. James Sears has compiled real stories of gay men and lesbians who were raised in the social hierarchy of the South. 35 photos. 240 pp.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Seeking to redress the "bicoastal bias" in gay history studies, Sears (Growing Up Gay in the South) presents seven anecdotally driven episodes of Southern gay life and gay activism from the two decades prior to Stonewall. The history is made more immediate through extensive interviews with participants, but lacks the broader perspective and more rigorous organization of a standard history. Indeed, a thorough narrative might have eliminated some of Sears's side roads into the civil rights movement, which contribute little to the book's stated purpose. The overlaps between the two struggles, however, make for good reading, especially Sears's accusation of racism in one of Armistead Maupin's (Tales of the City) early pieces in which he wrote about African Americans and "the shortcomings of their race." The book's greatest strength is the compilation of information and testimony on an age and a place that some would consider as dark for gays as for blacks; its greatest weakness is Sears's inability to keep track of the numerous characters over the course of the chapters. His inclusion of an entirely anomalous story of Southern hermaphrodite Gordon Langley Hall would probably have been better left to another book.
Booknews
Sears, a noted gay writer and media commentator, has complied real stories of gay men and lesbians who were raised in the social hierarchy of the South and who recall their coming of age when the status quo of American society was on the cusp of great upheaval. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A groundbreaking history of postWW II, pre-Stonewall gay and lesbian life in the American South.

Using diaries, letters, newspapers, subpoenaed testimony, court and legislative documents, and, most powerfully, personal interviews, historian Sears (Growing Up Gay in the South, not reviewed) tells a story long overlooked by gay and southern historians alike. It is well-documented and compellingly presented with great emotional range, describing not only the brutal bar raids and cloistered lives of southern homosexuals but also the fabulously coat-tailed club-goers and deeply bonded communities. The chapter on Miami, for instance, decribes that city's famous gay beaches, as well as its government-organized witch hunts, in which careers were ruined and gays were pressured to name names. Some of the personal stories are even stranger than southern fiction: Gordon Langley Hall—a British émigré (whose father was Vida Sackville-West's chauffeur), prominent Charleston, S.C., socialite, and biographer of Lady Bird Johnson—was, after a 1968 sex-change operation, welcomed into the Ladies of the Confederacy as Dawn Pepita Hall—until she married a black man. Sears's book is consistently engaging yet never historically simplistic—the complex themes of race, class, regional identity, generation, and sexuality are all properly treated as vital parts of the story. Sears interweaves individuals' stories with narratives of political events that lend them broader context, and he's just as careful to humanize social developments by describing real people's lives. Though churches are given short shrift, a foreword assures us that the author intends to address it more substantively in future work.

A fine contribution to both southern history and gay history that shouldn't be overlooked by enthusiasts of either field.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813324746
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
08/28/1997
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.31(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile:
1230L (what's this?)

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