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Books of 2011: Nonfiction
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/17/11
Last updated on: 12/18/11
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The late Allan Bérubé's My Desire for History.

Notable nonfiction books of 2011 include new studies of art and literature as well as memoirs and biographies. Among them are works by the late historian Allan Bérubé and the late novelist Jane Rule and the publication of previously unknown nudes by photographer George Platt Lynes.

My Desire for History: Essays by Allan Bérubé, edited by John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, pays tribute to the community historian who was one of the pioneers in the study of lesbian and gay history in the United States. D'Emilio and Freedman present sixteen of Bérubé's most significant essays, including some that have never been published or were published in difficult to find venues. The essays and the commentary provide a retrospective on Bérubé's courageous life.

In A Queer History of the United States, Michael Bronski traces glbtq history from 1492 to the 1990s, demonstrating the centrality of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals to American history itself. Although Bronski's attempt to embrace marginality as an end in itself is not convincing, he focuses welcome attention on the queerness of the American experience.

Here is a trailer in which Bronski describes his book:

In Seeing Gertrude Stein, the companion book to an exhibition of the same name, Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer explore the portraits for which Stein posed, the domestic settings she created with Alice B. Toklas, and the styles of dress the two women adopted. The study reveals Stein's cultivation of friendship, as well as her sophistication in shaping her public image and cultural legacy. Lavishly illustrated throughout, these "five stories" reveal Stein and Toklas as they saw themselves and as they helped shape the image of lesbianism for the twentieth century.

In A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, Martin Duberman offers a dual biography of two gay Americans who devoted their lives to activism on behalf of civil rights, nuclear disarmament, and opposition to war. Despite the homophobia of the society in which they lived, including among the left-wing circles in which they moved, Deming and McReynolds were remarkably open about their sexuality. They saw the quest for sexual liberation as part and parcel of the struggle to reshape the world.

George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes, edited by Steven Haas, with a foreword by George P. Lynes, II, and an afterword by Alan Ellenzweig, collects the photographer's black-and-white images of male nudes, mostly made in a studio and frequently featuring props and mythological allusions. Many of these images, from a newly discovered archive, have not previously been published. Essays by Haas, the photographer's nephew George Platt Lynes II, and Allen Ellenzweig illuminate the artist and his work.

In At Home with Myself: Stories from the Hills of Turkey Hollow, David Mixner writes from and about his country home in a remote upstate New York community. In these anecdotes and essays, Mixner, who might be described as the conscience of the glbtq movement for equality, tells stories about the satisfactions of country life, but also reflects on his experiences as an activist and political operative and recalls the harrowing days of the AIDS pandemic. Some of the essays recount the losses and disappointments attendant upon aging, but they all reflect Mixner's unfailing good humor and generosity of spirit.

In this clip from 2008, Senator Edward Kennedy salutes David Mixner:

Scott Pasfield's Gay in America is a photographic survey of gay men in America, presenting a moving and honest picture of contemporary gay life through portraits and narratives documenting the lives of 140 gay men from all fifty states and from all walks of life.

Here is a trailer for Gay in America:

Jasmine Rault's feminist analysis of Eileen Gray's architecture and design, Eileen Gray and the Design of Sapphic Modernity: Staying In, relates Gray's work to her involvement with "cultures of sapphic modernism." Rault compares Gray's designs with work by Romaine Brooks, Radclffe Hall, and Djuna Barnes and credits Gray with helping create a sapphic modernity "that cultivated the dynamism of uncertain bodies and unfixed pleasures, which depended on staying in rather than coming out."

Christopher Reed's Art and Homosexuality examines the interdependence of art and homosexuality throughout the Western tradition, but especially in the modern era. The book attempts to address the ways these two identities have come to exist in a symbiotic relationship, arguing that many of the core ideas that define modernism are nearly incomprehensible without an understanding of the paired identities of artist and homosexual.

In 2008, a year after Jane Rule's death, scholar Linda M. Morra discovered among her papers at the University of British Columbia an unpublished autobiography entitled Taking My Life, which covers her formative years to the age of 21, a part of her life she had rarely mentioned in her writing. Apparently written in the late 1980s, the publication of the memoir is, as Katherine V. Forrest observed in a review, "a publishing event of the very first order." The memoir provides crucial information about Rule's early life, her emerging sexuality, and the seeds of the moral authority and passion for justice that came to characterize her work and life.

Here is a clip from a 1994 documentary in which Rule discusses sex and society:

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