‘Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall’
By James Polchin
‘The Stonewall Riots’
Edited by Marc Stein
New York University Press
‘Out in Time’
By Perry N. Halkitis
Oxford University Press
Fifty years ago, it was a busy summer.
Nationally, everyone was glued to their TVs to watch men walk on the moon. Woodstock called to every hippie here, there and abroad. Charles Manson terrified Californians. And gay and lesbian folks watched closely as a little bar in Greenwich Village became a flash point for rights.
If you’re over age 55, you might have memories of the Stonewall Riots; vivid ones that may’ve become gauzy; or sketchy ones, perhaps, from the viewpoint of a child. If you’re under age 55, the Stonewall Riots are undoubtedly just a story to you and there’s a lot for you to learn. To mark the anniversary of this event that altered so many lives, look for these new books.
Beginning in the years before the Stonewall Riots, “Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall” by James Polchin takes a look at the crimes committed against gay men, long before equality and rights were a notion, let alone even being on the table.
Murder, of course, lines the pages of this book but you’ll also read stories of harassment, assault and minor crimes that were embellished so that they could be charged as more serious. Polchin also looks at how criminal acts committed by and aimed at LGBT people came under controversy when attention was paid to one minority group’s safety and not to that of another group. This, the embedded presence of many (in)famous criminals, and other stories lightly linked to Stonewall make it an interesting book.
Because memories fade, opinions differ and people die, “The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History,” edited by Marc Steinis a valuable resource. Here, Stein collected photographs, court transcripts, notes, newspaper excerpts and transcripts of documents that prove an intimate timeline for the years 1965-1973. His focus was on four major cities but he also includes documents that originated elsewhere; works of fiction also show up in this book. While it’s primarily about gay men, lesbians and “transvestites” are inside its pages, as well.
Says Stein, “there is always more to the story,” and this books displays it.
And it’s normal to want to compare the way things were in 1969 to the way things are now. In “Out in Time,” Perry N. Halkitis does exactly that with three generations of gay men to show that, while there are differences in social attitudes, health, legalities and politics, there are also striking similarities in challenges and in gains. Done with mini-interviews woven through narrative to hold together the words of everyday people, this is an easy book to step into, with short chapters and browse-able segments.
Readers should note that these books are historically based and may be on the scholarly side, eye-opening and quite entertaining. If you have keen memories of the summer of ’69, what’s here may pull you back 50 years. If you’re too young to remember what happened then, these books on the Stonewall Riots will keep you busy all summer.