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literature

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Autobiography, Gay Male  
 
page: 1  2  3  

Recent Gay Autobiographies: Chronicling Daily Life

Recent works of gay autobiography tend to be more straightforward than their predecessors. These more recent titles address coming out quite early in the narrative and then chronicle social life, daily struggles, and the relatively mundane challenges of adulthood. In that sense, they are similar to traditional autobiographies.

For example, Donald Vining's A Gay Diary (1979, 1980) is a long-winded but engaging exploration of the minutiae of gay life in New York from the 1930s through the 1950s.

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More substantial, Martin Duberman's Cures (1991) and Midlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade, 1971-1981 (1998) address life in New York at a particularly important period; he vividly captures the wit and cynicism of the city as well as the personal and political struggles of an emerging gay activist and historian.

In Young Man from the Provinces (1996), Alan Helms recreates the New York gay demimonde of the 1950s and 1960s but also writes movingly about the difficulties and losses of aging.

Ned Rorem's The Nantucket Diary: 1973-1985 (1987) and Lies: A Diary, 1986-1999 (2000) are significant for their emotional honesty. Taken together, Rorem's diaries constitute a fascinating and dynamic collection of (re)assessments of the role of the gay artist in America.

Perhaps the most eloquent practitioner of gay autobiography is Paul Monette. The contemporary search for identity is the key element of Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (1992) and Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir (1988). Maps of his own quest for love, justice, and affirmation, these autobiographical works chronicle, respectively, the struggle for self-acceptance and the struggle against the devastation wrought by AIDS.

In the relatively new subgenre of gay autobiography--the AIDS memoir--the influence of the Augustinian confessional narrative is especially clear. For Monette, acknowledgment of his homosexuality and his experience with AIDS are transformative and create clear dividing lines between who he was "before" and "after" both of these experiences. Faced with his own mortality, Monette demands that the next generation of the homosexual "tribe" confront and overcome repressive fears.

Thomas Uskali

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literature >> Overview:  AIDS Literature

In the twenty years since its first appearance in the West, AIDS has been the subject of a large body of literature, most of it written by gay men and much of it designed to expose readers as closely as possible to the emergency of the epidemic and the suffering of affected individuals.

literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Although largely invisible to the general public, a large body of twentieth-century gay male literature by American authors was published prior to Stonewall, some of it positive but most of it tinged with misery or bleakness as the price of being published and disseminated.

literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall

After Stonewall, gay male literature became focused as a movement, aided by the development of gay newspapers, magazines, and quarterlies and the founding of serious gay and lesbian bookstores.

literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Lesbian

In the first century of its existence, lesbian autobiography has moved from being coded to being outspoken, and it is both wide ranging and contradictory in the stories that it tells.

literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Transsexual

Transgendered individuals have published autobiographies not only to tell or to clarify the stories of their lives, but also to educate others in an effort to gain greater acceptance for transgender people.

literature >> Overview:  Coming Out Stories

The coming out experience is so important to gay men and lesbians that it is a primary focus of much of their literature.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Nineteenth Century

From its beginning, the nineteenth century in England had a purposeful homosexual literature of considerable bulk, both male and female, though it was fettered by oppression.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Twentieth-Century

Homosexuality, both male and female, has a rich, divergent, and increasingly open expression in the literature of the twentieth century.

literature >> Overview:  Identity

Although the question of homosexual identity is a complex one, it has polarized activists, theorists, and literary critics into two primary camps, essentialists and constructionists, both of which can contribute usefully to an understanding of the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

literature >> Ackerley, J. R.

A twentieth-century British editor who fostered the careers of a number of important gay writers, J. R. Ackerley also wrote a small but significant body of gay literature that includes memoirs and drama.

literature >> Beard, James

Through his writing, teaching, and public appearances, James Beard became widely recognized as one of the foremost representatives of American gastronomy; he planned to reveal his homosexuality in a memoir, but died before completing the book.

literature >> Carpenter, Edward

Edward Carpenter, a champion of both women's and homosexuals' liberation, was one of the great socialist visionaries of England at the turn of the twentieth century.

literature >> Cooper, Bernard

Award-winning writer Bernard Cooper blurs the boundaries between autobiography, essay, poetry, and fiction in his elegantly crafted works that focus on sexuality, memory, and growing up gay in the 1950s and 1960s.

literature >> Crisp, Quentin

"Not merely a self-confessed homosexual, but a self-evident one," actor, writer, performance artist, and wit Quentin Crisp left as his most significant legacy an example of courage.

literature >> Dessaix, Robert

Australian translator, editor, essayist, travel writer, and novelist Robert Dessaix did not publish his first book until he was fifty; two novels later he is recognized as an important voice in Australian gay literature.

literature >> Dickinson, Goldsworthy Lowes

Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, a Cambridge classicist and friend of E. M. Forster, is significant for the glbtq legacy as the author of an immensely popular book on ancient Greece and a posthumously published, surprisingly frank autobiography.

literature >> Doty, Mark

Author of several volumes of poetry and memoirs, Mark Doty has helped bring the AIDS narrative and the experiences of gay men to a wider audience through resonant prose and a richly stylized poetic voice.

literature >> Duberman, Martin Bauml

Historian, biographer, essayist, playwright, and academic, Martin Bauml Duberman is an astute commentator on gender and race issues and a pioneer in glbtq studies.

social sciences >> Egan, Jim

One of Canada's first gay activists, Jim Egan began demanding respect and equal rights in the late 1940s; in his later years he mounted a challenge to Canada's law on spousal retirement benefits.

social sciences >> Ellis, Havelock

Henry Havelock Ellis--British psychologist and writer--was one of the first modern thinkers to challenge Victorian taboos against the frank and objective discussion of sex.

literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

social sciences >> Jennings, Kevin

Kevin Jennings transformed his anger at bullying and gay bashing in schools into founding the first national organization to address the homophobia experienced by glbtq youth in schools.

social sciences >> Krafft-Ebing, Richard von

The carefully detailed case studies of nineteenth-century psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing shed light on the sexual habits of a wide spectrum of men and women.

literature >> Lehmann, John

One of the most distinguished and discerning British men of letters of the mid-twentieth century, John Lehmann is best known as an editor and publisher.

literature >> Miller, Merle

One of the first mainstream American writers to discuss his homosexuality publicly, Merle Miller is best known for his groundbreaking book On Being Different and for his best-selling presidential biographies.

literature >> Monette, Paul

In novels, poetry, and a memoir, Paul Monette wrote about gay men striving to fashion personal identities and, later, coping with the loss of a lover to AIDS.

literature >> Picano, Felice

Prolific author Felice Picano, a founding member of the Violet Quill, is also a pioneer in gay publishing, having founded two publishing houses.

literature >> Preston, John

One of the most prolific gay writers of recent decades, John Preston helped elevate pornographic fiction into a genre viewed as having literary merit.

literature >> Reed, Paul

By writing the earliest novel to respond directly to AIDS and subsequently producing innovative journal and sex writing, American author Paul Reed made several significant contributions to glbtq literature.

literature >> Rodriguez, Richard

Essayist and memoirist Richard Rodriguez, perhaps the most widely read of Latino-American authors, positions himself as an outsider in America, not only because of his ethnicity, but also because of his sexuality.

literature >> Rorem, Ned

The American composer Ned Rorem has achieved literary prominence by publishing a series of diaries that include candid descriptions of homosexual love affairs and relationships.

literature >> Spender, Sir Stephen

In his poetry and his autobiography, Stephen Spender wrote about his homosexual experiences in his early life.

literature >> Symonds, John Addington

John Addington Symonds was the most daring innovator in the history of nineteenth-century British homosexual writing and consciousness.

literature >> Tobias, Andrew

Financial writer Andrew Tobias, the author of the classic coming out memoir The Best Little Boy in the World (1973), was elected Treasurer of the Democratic Party in 1999.

social sciences >> Ulrichs, Karl Heinrich

Nineteenth-Century German activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was both the first modern theorist of homosexuality and the first homosexual to "come out" publicly.

literature >> White, James Melville "Mel"

Mel White spent over thirty years serving the Evangelical Christian community; after struggling with his homosexuality for many years, he broke his ties with anti-gay religious leaders and became a glbtq activist.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.


    Bibliography
   

Gifford, James. Dayneford's Library: American Homosexual Writing, 1900-1913. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995.

Loftus, Brian. "Speaking Silence: The Strategies and Structures of Queer Autobiography." College Literature 24 (1997): 28-44.

Neuman, Shirley. "Autobiography, Bodies, Manhood." Autobiography and Questions of Gender. Shirley Neuman, ed. Portland, Ore.: F. Cass, 1991. 137-152.

Newtown, George. "From St. Augustine to Paul Monette: Sex and Salvation in the Age of AIDS." True Relations: Essays on Autobiography and the Postmodern. G. Thomas Couser and Joseph Fichtelberg, eds. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998. 51-61.

Robinson, Paul. Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Uskali, Thomas  
    Entry Title: Autobiography, Gay Male  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated February 25, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/autobio_gay.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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