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The Other Side of Silence: Men's Lives…
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The Other Side of Silence: Men's Lives & Gay Identities - A…

by John Loughery

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The Other Side of Silence does a remarkable job of covering the history of gay men in America from the turn of the century to the 1970s. As this was published in 1998 Loughery made a wise decision to shy away from commenting on recent years other than a few lines on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and some recent visibility in pop culture. I was surprised that the 1980s and the AIDS epidemic was given such a brief chapter - reflecting how much research has appeared in the last 20 years? - but it was a powerful one nonetheless. The book is startlingly from another era -so much has been accomplished- but this is valuable reading to any gay man wishing to understand where the rights movement began, not springing entire from the Stonewall riots.

Other Side's strength is its breadth of coverage of gay literature and the earliest gay rights organizations. A lot of research went into this. The book focuses on gay men's lives, but he does not exclude the contributions of lesbians and others. He addresses the failings of group after group over decades to create a cohesive movement and to acknowledge their iniquity towards non-white, non-males and those who didn't subscribe to traditional masculinity. The radicals who bristled at the order for men to wear suits and women to wear skirts while picketing the White House were uncomfortable accepting the input of the effeminate or the cross-dressers. This and sustained ignorance of white privilege eventually put an end to most organizations.

For one reason or the other (take your pick) I took a long hiatus from this book about half-way through, therefore there are going to be some nuances I've forgotten. The staggering amount of prejudice and predation of law enforcement and the military is impossible to cover in-depth, and too depressing. Why all that bother? Unfortunately there are still places in America that have plenty of that old paranoia and fear to spare and are only slowly being swept away. There are a lot more histories out there these days, but this one is too valuable to pass over. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
I skimmed this for a class last fall, and am just now getting around to reading it in-depth. Upon full reading, though, I'm much more impressed than I was the beginning. Loughery pares a complex history down to a coherent narrative that neither imposes a "progress" story nor bemoans "culture nowadays." He gives a factual overview, but fills it with emotional stories. He focuses on a central story about mostly white gay men in America, but is always aware that men of color, bisexuals, lesbians, and trans people are part of this story, calling out the mainstream gay groups for actively excluding those people. He also maintains an awareness of regional differences and philosophical divisions, even while creating a national story.

The book was written in the 1990s, and Loughery's final reflections strongly reflect that, but I appreciate how strongly that position comes through rather than being buried or misleading and thus making the book less useful for modern readers. With that clarity, The Other Side of Silence remains vital basic reading for anyone interested in gay/queer history or how the American situation became what it is today. ( )
  FFortuna | May 29, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 080506124X, Paperback)

The writing of gay history has been a relatively recent invention. Starting with such books as Jonathan Ned Katz's Gay American History (1976), Arthur Evans's Witchcraft and the Gay Counter Culture (1978), and Lillian Faderman's Surpassing the Love of Men (1981), gay and lesbian historians have charted both the presence of gay men and women in the world as well as their influence upon it. John Loughery's The Other Side of Silence builds on this foundation to great effect. Books of gay history (dealing with enormous amounts of new material to interpret) have tended to discuss politics and culture as separate concepts, and the complicated interrelationships between the two have often been confusingly contradictory. Loughery has pieced together--using the work of such historians as Katz, Alan Berube, John D'Emilio, and George Chauncy--a highly readable survey of eight decades of gay male life that knits together the political and the cultural. He is thus able to explain, for instance, how the openly gay career of Tennessee Williams existed during the homophobia of the 1950s, or how the Supreme Court's 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision (maintaining that same-sex couples do not have a right to engage in consensual sex in private) could be made at a time when gay arts and culture were flourishing in America. Loughery is as mindful of the passage of anti-gay laws as he is of the plots of gay novels and developments in gay theater; as a result, he manages to assemble--with wit and intelligence--a complex and illuminating social history of gay male lives of this century. --Michael Bronski

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:13 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Based on hundreds of personal interviews and archival sources, with close attention to portrayals of gay life in literature, theater, and film, the book begins with the entrapment of gay sailors in Newport, Rhode Island, following World War I. Loughery traces the impact of homosexuality on the century's turbulent times: Jazz Age America, the Great Depression, World War II, the McCarthy era, and the present day, when many thousands of Americans have turned the AIDS catastrophe into a moral example of caring for others." "Though John Loughery's narrative bears witness to persecution, it turns aside stereotypes about the isolation and loneliness of victims to reveal gay men as accomplished participants in some of the century's most momentous dramas. Vivid portraits abound: Alain Locke, godfather of the Harlem Renaissance; Henry Gerber, founder of ill-fated gay-rights groups in the 192Os; Harry Hay, 195Os visionary; moral-majority foe Bob Kunst; Harvey Milk; Perry Watkins; Larry Kramer; Michael Callen; and many other little-known activists."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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