Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution

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When the modern struggle for gay rights erupted in the summer of 1969, forty-nine states outlawed sex between people of the same gender. Four decades later, in 2011, New York legalized gay marriage and the armed services stopped enforcing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Successful social movements are always extraordinary, but these advances were something of a miracle.

Supreme Court lawyer and political pundit Linda Hirshman recounts the long roads that led to these victories, detailing...

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When the modern struggle for gay rights erupted in the summer of 1969, forty-nine states outlawed sex between people of the same gender. Four decades later, in 2011, New York legalized gay marriage and the armed services stopped enforcing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Successful social movements are always extraordinary, but these advances were something of a miracle.

Supreme Court lawyer and political pundit Linda Hirshman recounts the long roads that led to these victories, detailing the enthralling and groundbreaking story of the movement that has blurred rigid gender lines, altered the shared culture, and broadened our definitions of family. Written in vivid prose, at once emotional and erudite, Victory is an utterly vibrant work of reportage and eyewitness accounts, revealing how, in a matter of decades, a focused group of activists forged a classic campaign for cultural change that will serve as a model for all future political movements.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
“Linda Hirshman delivers a vivid history of a movement that was invented, out of nothing, circa 1950. . . . One advantage of Hirshman’s book-breezily written, but kinetic in its storytelling-is that it honors the activism of the pre-Stonewall era.”
Rich Benjamin
“As popular history, Victory excels. Hirshman is a nimble storyteller with an agile curatorial eye for what matters. . . . Exemplary. . . . I find Victory to be an astute jolt, as remarkable for its emotional punch as for its historical insight.”
Katha Pollitt
Victory tells the fascinating inside story of how gay activists changed America for the better, not just for themselves but for everyone. There’s inspiration here for everyone who wants a fairer, more equal society— and plenty of hope as well.”
Amanda Foreman
“Linda Hirshman has written an important and necessary book that should be read in every school and every home in the country.”
Eric Marcus
“Before he died, gay rights hero Arthur Evans told Linda Hirshman to tell our story. And she does so brilliantly—with insight, passion and the keen eye of a fierce social scientist. And what a story it is! Arthur Evans would be proud.”
Cleve Jones
“I picked this book up one night and never got to sleep. Victory is an epic account of our movement’s progress; a beautifully written and fast moving narrative that is poignant, humorous, and inspiring.”
Todd Gitlin
“Linda Hirshman’s Victory is the chronicle that the brilliant, unremitting gay movement deserves. Deeply informed with human detail, political theory, and legal analysis alike, it moves fluidly out of the closet to the precincts . . . A genuine, sparkling tour de force.”
Rebecca Traister
“A compulsively readable mix of philosophy, social history and journalism, Hirshman’s [book] provides an invaluable understanding of the people across the years who have worked so passionately to increase liberty and justice in our union.”
“Hirshman has produced a remarkable history of the gay-rights movement in America by chronicling many of the people and events that shaped it. She has a smart and engaging style, which is serious but not ponderous. . . . with new clarity and simple, fresh insight.”
Boston Globe
“Sharp and cogent throughout. . . . Victory is ultimately a deeply moving narrative of a not-quite-finished freedom struggle.”
Los Angeles Times
“Given that the gay rights saga is very much in process, the ending of Hirshman’s book is a cliffhanger, but she does a masterful job of making her readers, whether they’re familiar with the material or not, want to know what happens next.”
Philadelphia City Paper
Victory is one of the most important (and readable) gay-history texts around.”
American Prospect
“Victory’s tone is thoughtful and modest, exploring large themes through individuals’ stories. . . . The book gives a moving picture of a history many won’t know.”
“Her analysis of what makes social movements succeed is always thoughtful and sometimes profound. . . . The result is always entertaining and frequently exhilarating.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Exhilarating. . . . As an overview of recent American LGBT history, Victory has plenty to recommend it. . . . A good starting point for learning about recent gay history.”
Shelf Awareness
“An inclusive, fascinating history of the gay rights movement that provides fertile grounds for passionate debate.”
“Hirshman has done a great service in putting the question of morality in this movement on the table. Though important chapters are yet to be written, this book will help the world to see that gay is good-and getting better.”
“Hirshman provides an excellent and very readable history that is buttressed by an impressive amount of research and personal interviews.
The New York Times Book Review
Hirshman's book, drawing from an arsenal of archival records, firsthand interviews, court documents and previous histories, is a sprawling account of juicy trysts, hushed political meetings, internecine movement skirmishes, sudden mutinies and activists turning personal humiliation into rocket fuel. The emerging facts are not new to scholars, but as popular history, Victory excels. Hirshman is a nimble storyteller with an agile curatorial eye for what matters…Hirshman writes with knowing finesse…[her] observations land with that tart humor and piquant irony beloved by gay men. Some call it camp, others call it dish. Hirshman is heterosexual, but this book isn't straight.
—Rich Benjamin
Publishers Weekly
This exuberant history of arguably the final and most difficult civil rights struggle relates, in surprisingly upbeat fashion, the fight “to slowly bend the arc of history toward justice” for gay men and women. The narrative begins in 1920 with gay migration to the cities, and the communities that developed—the “culture of socially acceptable criminality” of Prohibition and speakeasies gave homosexuals “a sort of respectability by association.” It continues with the transformation of the “homophile” Mattachine Society from Communist revolutionaries to attempts at conformity and the founding of the lesbian Daughters of Bilitis; the Stonewall uprising and the sexually liberated ’60s; the AIDS crisis and ACT UP; and the ongoing fight for military and marriage equality, each accompanied by incremental legal advances and its own backlash: the end of Prohibition, McCarthy and HUAC, the rise of Christian fundamentalism. Those who lived through some or all of these events may think that political columnist Hirshman’s (Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex) enthusiasm minimizes the pain of past experience, and lesbians may feel relegated to a secondary presence, but the author’s portrayal of this transformation of the meaning of “the core concepts of citizenship—morality, sanity, loyalty”—and how “as this most marginalized group of Americans fought for full inclusion in the social order, they didn’t only change their world; they changed everyone’s world”—is undeniably inspiring. Agent: David Kuhn, Kuhn Projects. (June)
“Hirshman provides an excellent and very readable history that is buttressed by an impressive amount of research and personal interviews.
Library Journal
Former labor lawyer and professor of philosophy and women's studies Hirshman (Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World) has undertaken the difficult task of chronicling the U.S. gay rights struggle from 1920 to the present day. The result is a resounding success, both readable and informative. With an exhaustive list of sources, including interviews she conducted with major figures in the movement, Hirshman tells the stories of the individuals, groups, and institutions that battled the societal and legal view of homosexuals as insane, sinful, criminal, and subversive and that sought to advance their rights to become full participants in a democratic society. She covers the efforts of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), and the Religious Right to demonize homosexuals as well as internal power struggles between incrementalists and activists and the sometimes strained alliance of gay men and lesbians. Hirshman also does an admirable job of recounting the humble beginnings of gay rights institutions such as the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal. VERDICT An astonishing work that seamlessly weaves together multiple stories into one authoritative volume. Highly recommended for political scientists, civil rights activists, and students of LGBT history.—Mark Manivong, Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
Retired labor lawyer and professor Hirshman (Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, 2006, etc.) celebrates the triumph of the gay-rights movement. Drawing on previous histories and more than 100 interviews, the author shows how the movement has been successful over the years in countering bigoted notions of the "four horsemen of the gay apocalypse--Crazy, Sinful, Criminal, [and] Disloyal." Hirshman is most engaged in her discussions of court cases and their attendant legal issues, and on occasion she offers perceptive comparisons between the gay-rights movement and other, concurrent movements for equality. Often, however, the author draws on previous texts while adding few new insights, giving the book a warmed-over feeling. She relies too heavily on George Chauncey's exhaustive Gay New York (1994) as a source for her chapter on the early urban gay experience, and her relatively brief take on the 1969 Stonewall riots makes excessive use of David Carter's Stonewall (2004). As Hirshman makes clear, there have been great strides for the gay-rights movement, particularly in the last few decades, with major U.S. Supreme Court victories and the legalization of same-sex marriage in several states. But it seems strangely naive, even myopic, for the author to claim the movement "triumphant" when so many antigay laws at the state and federal level remain, and so much open homophobia persists in much of the country. (Even one of Hirshman's interview subjects asked her, "Do you really think you ought to call it Victory?") While many readers will admire her enthusiasm, a pronouncement of ultimate victory seems premature at best. An ambitious but overly optimistic history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061965517
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Pages: 443
  • Sales rank: 787,413
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Hirshman, a lawyer and a pundit, is the author of Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World and many other books. In recent years, she has appeared on network and cable television shows, including 60 Minutes and The Colbert Report. She has also written for the New York TimesWashington Post, Slate, NewsweekDaily Beast, and Salon.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    An excellent synthesis!

    The title may overreach a bit, but the history is well researched and engagingly relayed.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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