In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz

Scholder, Amy

Published by Grove Press
ISBN 10: 0802136710 / ISBN 13: 9780802136718
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Synopsis: Few artists have captured the emotional, sexual, and political chaos of modern urban life as perceptively as David Wojnarowicz, whom Out magazine has called "an acute observer of the unmapped region surrounding his heart and one of the best writers of his generation." In journal entries from age seventeen until his AIDS-related death at thirty-seven, In the Shadow of the American Dream chronicles the life of a radical artist who unequivocally defied bigotry even as he became a target for the right wing. It tells the story of Wojnarowicz's creative birth, from publishing his first photographs and writing what would become The Waterfront Journals to completing his tour de force, Close to the Knives, at the height of his fame. In the Shadow of the American Dream is finally a record of the private Wojnarowicz, falling in love, exploring erotic possibilities on the Hudson River piers, becoming overwhelmed by the demands of survival, and searching for the pleasure and freedom he believed one could live on.

Review: At the time of his death in 1992, David Wojnarowicz was one of the most vital and important names in the New York arts scene. His openness about his HIV status and engagement in public debates about health care and AIDS policy placed his highly political and determinedly provocative art and writing in a new context. In the Shadow of the American Dream is a collection of journal entries from 1971 (when he was 17) to his death. As he alternates between living on New York's Lower East Side and hitchhiking around the country, we can see the evolution of the artist not only as a young man beginning to understand his life and the world but as a social and political critic.

Wojnarowicz's life was difficult--from his unhappy childhood and adolescence to periods of homelessness and ostracism, coupled with overwhelming despair and loneliness. Yet, ultimately, In the Shadow of the American Dream is a joyful book. We see how Wojnarowicz's art became his salvation--even in the face of AIDS--and his life finally opened and expanded to be able to include other people in ways that never happened before, including a close friendship with photographer Peter Hujar. Wojnarowicz also presents us with insightful commentary on the New York arts scene and the enormous effect AIDS had on gay male life and culture. While In the Shadow of the American Dream is a moving, sometimes frightening self-examination of the life of a gay artist, it is also testimony to how mainstream America treats not only its artists but its radicals and visionaries. --Michael Bronski

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Title: In the Shadow of the American Dream: The ...
Publisher: Grove Press

Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Good

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