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The Mayor of Castro Street : The Life and…
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The Mayor of Castro Street : The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

by Randy Shilts

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5911623,839 (4.12)16
  1. 00
    When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones (Kiddboyblue)
    Kiddboyblue: Cleve Jones was Harvey Milk's prodigy and in many ways took up the mantle for Milk after his death.
  2. 00
    San Francisco's Castro by Strange De Jim (LibraryRCDallas)
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» See also 16 mentions

English (15)  German (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Where do I start in talking about this book? There is so much to discuss, but I will limit myself. First, this is nominally a biography of Harvey Milk, and it does a fine job of it, but it is also, equally, a history of the gay rights movement and a history of San Francisco politics. For those tasks, the author does just as well, sometimes not even mentioning Harvey Milk for entire chapters. For the first fifteen chapters, the book sets the stage for reaching what the majority of people know about Harvey Milk, namely his death and the trial of his killer. While that early part of the book is very good and well worth reading in its own right, the remaining chapters are some of the best and most interesting reporting I have ever written, being all the more vivid because of the foundation that the author laid down earlier. I highly suspect that there is detail included of which even San Franciscans of the time are not aware. The author says as much at the end of his book. There was much to surprise me about Milk and about San Francisco politics. I have been concurrently reading yet another book about the segregationist American Deep South, a period of time in which whites were seldom arrested and very rarely convicted of crimes against blacks. This book provides ample evidence that gays have suffered a similar fate. In fact, I am certain that there are those who will believe this entire book is mere fiction, inspired by, if not actually written by the devil. Rational people will know otherwise. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
A good book that is perhaps a little too ambitious If you've seen "Milk" with Sean Penn than you're probably at least heard of the subject of this book, Harvey Milk. A gay man who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was definitely a fascinating look at the the politics of San Francisco, a man who could be quite calculating and callous (both personally and professionally) in his rise to be on it, and the sad end of two promising politicians (but perhaps opened the door for others).
 
The book mostly chronicles Milk's life, but also looks at the politics and society around him. Reading the book today had parts that seem downright antiquated (to put it nicely), it's also sad when one reflects on how in some ways, acceptance for gays and lesbians have come very far, and in some ways, not very far at all. 
 
It was interesting to see a more detailed (vs. the film "Milk") look at Harvey, from his acceptance of his sexual orientation, to his pursuit of various lovers (many of whom, unfortunately, were not healthy relationships) to his rise as an activist and eventual politician. This, for me, was the strength of the book. The story of Harvey Milk, in the frame of his time in San Francisco.
 
But unfortunately I felt Shilts went a little too far and a little too broadly. He tries to heavily incorporate how San Francisco became a haven for gay men (he notes that Milk did not interact with lesbians in his note in the book) and the political landscape of which Milk was entering into when he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors. The author acknowledges that Milk did not have a lot of contact with them, but I was disappointed in seeing how little women and lesbians were portrayed in this book. As I am not an expert at all on gay and lesbian groups in San Francisco during this time period (or at all!) I had hoped there would be a little more comprehensive look or an acknowledgement of what kind of role they played.
 
That said, I also thought he delved a little too much into San Francisco politics. I got lost in myriad of names after awhile, and I have some familiarity with some of the players (some of whom still serve or only left office recently, etc.) I get that Harvey Milk was a significant player in the midst of all this, but I thought the book was trying to be both a biography of the subject and the history of gay and lesbians in San Francisco, especially focusing on their political involvement. Which in itself was fine, but I think the political involvement (or a separate book about LGBT groups in SF) might have made a fantastic separate book by Shilts.
 
I knew how the basic storyline (Milk's life) would end, but it was nice to see little bits and pieces of the lives many of the players of the book went onto after Milk's death, and to see the legacy he left behind. Unfortunately, this book was published in 1982 and Shilts later died of AIDS, which perhaps is part of the reason why the book seems a little out of date. I normally strongly dislike books by journalists (for me it feels like a lot of reporters/journalists can't translate what works in newspapers to books). This book really isn't perfect, but overall it was a good read, and seemed like a timely read in light of Indiana's "religious freedom" law.
 
Definitely recommended for Harvey Milk, but for a more comprehensive look at LGBT people in San Francisco (or general SF politics) at this time I suspect there are probably better references out there to supplement this book. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
What I was hoping for was a glimpse into the life and times of Harvey Milk, but what I ended up getting from this biography was so much more. Shilts not only shines a light on Milk, he digs deeper in the history of San Fransisco, Castro Street, the Gay Movement and the people with whom Harvey surrounded himself. There was so much information packed into this biography, it ended up feeling more like a history book, which I loved!
Shilt's background as an investigative journalist really helped shape the book to be more of a journalistic approach to Harvey's life, rather than a biased or emotional one. While Shilts did know Harvey personally, he still ensured he approached this work with an eye for facts and information far more then opinions and feelings. This approach both added to and took away from the overall narrative for me. In one aspect the unbiased narrative allowed for a more honest look into Milk's life, attitude, and personality. He did not try and shine Harvey in a perfect light, painting him as a saint or un-flawed, but rather tried to allow for the reader to see Harvey as a human being who fought for a cause, but was in his own was flawed. Too often we can raise marters up onto pedastools and create a perfect image of them, that is far from the real people they were. This was not the case, and I felt like Shilt's did Milk's story justice in this way.
Where it distracted for me was in the emotional aspect. The weight and emotional toll of some of the events told in the history felt less due to the delivery of the facts. My personal connection to them somehow seemed less because there seemed little emotion in the writing of the events. I would have loved to feel more.
Even without that emotional weight, Harvey Milk's life sunk into me, and I fell in love with him even more. I fell in love with his ideals, his passion, his spirit, his drive, his politics, and his unwavering stance on gay rights. I needed to read this biography, and so does any gay man or woman, or LGBT ally, so we can know more about the man who helped push the Gay rights movement forward perhaps more than any other man or woman ever. ( )
  Kiddboyblue | May 10, 2017 |
Was curios about reading this after watching the film Milk. Meh. It was so compartmentalized at points that I got mixed up. ( )
  Tanya.Book.Hughes | Dec 20, 2016 |
Quotes

"...our anguish and grief permeate everything we do...We silently rail...we cry out to reverse the irrevocable." (Dianne Feinstein, 284)

"All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come." (Victor Hugo, 286)

"We can start immediately by no longer trying to legislate morality." (Harvey Milk, 350) ( )
  JennyArch | Feb 4, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Randy Shiltsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Schmid, BernhardÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vietor, MarcNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312019009, Paperback)

When Randy Shilts's The Mayor of Castro Street appeared in 1982, the very idea of a gay political biography was brand-new. While biographies of literary and artistic figures (both living and dead) were a popular genre, there had been no openly gay political figure who merited a full-length book. Harvey Milk--a gay political organizer who became the first openly gay city supervisor in San Francisco and was then assassinated (along with liberal mayor George Moscone)--was the obvious choice for such a book. And Randy Shilts--a young reporter who had risen up through the gay press to become the first openly gay reporter with a gay "beat" in the American mainstream press--was the perfect person to write it. While his later works such as And the Band Played On and Conduct Unbecoming were based on hard-hitting, fact-driven reportage, Shilts's tone in The Mayor of Castro Street is softer, more focused on the narrative of Harvey Milk's political rise from running a small business on Castro Street, to organizing local gay men and lesbians around grass-roots issues, to winning an elected office. But in many ways this is also a forceful and engaging story of the gay rights movement in the second half of the 20th century. Thus, Shilts follows the growth of the Castro as a gay neighborhood and the growth of San Francisco's gay community from a ragtag collection of people who socialized and sexualized together into a vibrant and political force. --Michael Bronski

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A biography of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay city official in the nation, recounts his public and personal life, and examines the emergence of the San Francisco gay community as a social and political force.

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