Becoming Visible : An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life in Twentieth-Century America

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9780670864010: Becoming Visible : An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life in Twentieth-Century America
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An illustrated history, complete with photographs, documents, and other archival material, captures the lesbian and gay struggle for equal rights in the U.S. throughout the past one hundred years. 20,000 first printing.

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Review:

During the 1994 Stonewall 25 celebrations--commemorating the riots that began the gay liberation movement--the New York Public Library sponsored a hugely popular exhibit of gay and lesbian history entitled "Becoming Visible." Exhibit curators Fred Wasserman and Molly McGarry have created an impressive book based on that collection, not only a major contribution to gay and cultural studies, but vital reading for anyone interested in American history. Rather then present a strictly historical narrative, Becoming Visible arranges its material in loose categories--Stonewall, Social Worlds, Organizing--that provide a frame yet allow for graceful, informative, and resonant overlapping. The book is centered on post-Stonewall gay and lesbian life, but Wasserman and McGarry supply readers with a wide range of illustrative archival material--from advertisements for 1920s drag balls to the covers of 1950s lesbian pulp novels, from photos of turn-of-the-century all-women social clubs to 1940s gay male "physique" magazines. And while Becoming Visible is filled with hundreds of photos, prints, posters, and flyers--many printed for the first time--its extensive text is well researched, highly informative, and beautifully written. --Michael Bronski

From Publishers Weekly:

This handsomely illustrated survey began as a 1994 New York Public Library exhibit, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the riot at Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn, now commonly considered the birth of the modern gay and lesbian movement. McGarry and Wasserman, who co-curated the exhibition, open with a chapter on Stonewall itself, then furnish a section on "labeling and policing" before beginning their broad, swift exposition of gay and lesbian culture and activism. Their efforts cover a litany of familiar topics: 1920s Harlem; 1950s butch-femme culture; the polite "homophile" activism of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis; the rise of the gay bar; the rise and fall of the bathhouse; "physique magazines"; lesbian feminism and separatism; the continuing fight for queer civil rights; and AIDS, HIV and ACT-UP. The authors are careful to note the links between gay and lesbian movements and other political struggles, albeit quickly. Though it's hardly a coffee-table book, the volume does not pretend to present original arguments or deep analysis of the now-thriving field of gay and lesbian history (though they do cite many of the field's authorities). Nor do McGarry and Wasserman delve into the particular experiences of, say, Mexican-American lesbians or gay composers. And their focus on pictures and documents leads them to concentrate on recent decades, from which more evidence survives, but which skews their focus toward those who had the means for self-documentation and enough cultural capital to be themselves. But their clear prose and their trove of visual sources (many never before published)Afrom old photos of "Boston marriages" to covers of Diseased Pariah NewsAgive this attractive entry into a crowded field its raison d'?tre.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Molly McGarry, Fred Wasserman, Mimi Bowl
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