Giving voice to a population rarely acknowledged in writings about the South, Sweet Tea collects life stories from black gay men who were born, raised, and continue to live in the southern United States. E. Patrick Johnson challenges stereotypes of the South as "backward" or "repressive," suggesting that these men draw upon the performance of "southernness"--politeness, coded speech, and religiosity, for example--to legitimate themselves as members of both southern and black cultures. At the same time, Johnson argues, they deploy those same codes to establish and build friendship networks and to find sexual partners and life partners.
Traveling to every southern state, Johnson conducted interviews with more than seventy black gay men between the ages of 19 and 93. The voices collected here dispute the idea that gay subcultures flourish primarily in northern, secular, urban areas. In addition to filling a gap in the sexual history of the South, Sweet Tea offers a window into the ways that black gay men negotiate their sexual and racial identities with their southern cultural and religious identities. The narratives also reveal how they build and maintain community in many spaces and activities, some of which may appear to be antigay. Ultimately, Sweet Tea validates the lives of these black gay men and reinforces the role of storytelling in both African American and southern cultures.
"Sweet Tea is an amazing book. Engaging from the very start, it is well written and thought provoking throughout. There were times I simply could not put it down."--E. Lynn Harris, New York Times bestselling novelist
"A variety of biases, oversights, and material circumstances have conspired to push the narratives of southern black gay lives to the margins. Sweet Tea makes a monumental achievement by getting these stories out into the world. Every subsequent, serious engagement with the topic will have to address Johnson's work. This book is certain to be consulted, referenced, and discussed for many years to come."--John Howard, author of Men Like That: A Southern Queer History and Concentration Camps on the Home Front: Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow (booksense)