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literature

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Miller, Neil (b. 1945)  
 
page: 1  2  

Miller's third book gave him a chance to rest after traveling to research his first two. Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present was published by Vintage Books in 1995. It was republished, in an updated version, by Alyson Books in 2006.

Miller describes the book as "a lively, popular narrative of more than 100 years of gay and lesbian history, culture, and politics, beginning from the first time the word 'homosexuality' was ever used in print and continuing through the age of AIDS and the issue of gay marriage."

Sponsor Message.

Out of the Past is one of most accessible gay and lesbian history books in print, and it is used frequently in gay and lesbian classes all over the country. The narrative is punctuated by portraits of numerous obscure men and women as well as of such well known figures as Walt Whitman, Eleanor Roosevelt, James Baldwin, T.E. Lawrence, Langston Hughes, and Martina Navratilova.

When Miller heard about 20 gay men who were committed to a state mental hospital in Sioux City, Iowa after the murder of two children during the McCarthy era, he set out to investigate the incident. This led to his fourth book, Sex Crime Panic: A Journey to the Paranoid Heart of the 1950s, published in 2002 by Alyson Books.

Miller discovered that the men, who had nothing to do with the crimes, were classified as "sexual psychopaths" and incarcerated in a locked ward of a state mental hospital as a way of reassuring the public that the authorities were actively addressing the problem of sexual perversion.

Miller says, "This was my most challenging and exciting book to work on, involving 'detective work' and attempting to unearth long-buried secrets of one of Iowa's most deplorable historical incidents." Sex Crime Panic received the Publishing Triangle's 2003 Randy Shilts Award for Nonfiction and a 2003 Lambda Literary Award.

Publishers Weekly described Sex Crime Panic as "a cross between a fast-paced true-crime shocker and a biting exposé of 1950s sexual hysteria." Whitney Scott in Booklist commented that Miller's "account of the homophobic panic that touched off the lamentable events is chillingly relentless." And Jonathan Shipley in the Boston Globe observed that Miller paints a vivid picture of a city in the grip of antigay hysteria and "constructs a taut narrative that keeps the reader turning the pages of a story that involves the most unfortunate of circumstances: fear, sadness, misunderstanding, death."

In his latest book, Miller explores an entirely different subject, but prompted by the same desire to travel and explore as his first two books. Kartchner Caverns: How Two Cavers Discovered and Saved One of the Natural Wonders of the World was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2008.

The book describes the true story of the discovery of large underground limestone caves in Southern Arizona by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, two amateur spelunkers fresh out of college. The caves were opened to the public in 1999, transformed into the popular Arizona state park called Kartchner Caverns. But Kartchner Caverns focuses on the 14 years prior to that when Tenen and Tufts went to extreme lengths to keep their discovery a secret for fear of looting and destruction.

Miller was inspired by the characters of Tufts and Tenen. "They were so committed," Miller says, "with a sense of responsibility to preserve [their finding]." In addition, Miller says he enjoyed writing the book because he "always loved the Southwest and spent much of my time out there."

Miller is currently working on a book provisionally called Banned in Boston about the history of Boston's Watch and Ward Society, an influential censorship and anti-vice organization that flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Society was responsible for banning books and magazines, closing down plays and burlesque houses, and raiding gambling dens and houses of prostitution. Beacon Press will publish the book.

In his first two books, In Search of Gay America and Out in the World, Miller says he wanted to "widen the public's understanding of gay and lesbian life, moving away from the metropolitan areas and traditional 'meccas' to try to give a larger sense of everyday gay life and gay progress. At the time, only 20 years after the beginning of the gay movement, I felt it was important to turn a reporter's eye on the richness of individual gay and lesbian lives and experiences and to humanize gay life as much as possible."

In Sex-Crime Panic, Miller says he "tried to bring to life a forgotten and frightening event in gay history, which has echoes and ramifications today."

In addition to his four books, Miller has also published widely in magazines and journals such as The Boston Globe Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Advocate, and Out.

Miller lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his partner, Paul Brouillette, an architect.

Victoria Shannon

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literature >> Overview:  Awards

The contemporary literary awards given specifically to honor glbtq books may be seen as an outgrowth of the modern American gay rights movement, so intertwined are they with the movement for equality.

literature >> Overview:  Censorship

Governments, publishers, editors, and even gay writers themselves have censored gay content in literature from the Renaissance to the present.

literature >> Overview:  Journalism and Publishing

The gay and lesbian press is of prime importance in sustaining a frequently embattled minority and has been crucial in the development of a national mass movement for gay rights.

social sciences >> Overview:  McCarthyism

McCarthyism, which attempted in the late 1940s and early 1950s to expunge Communists and fellow travelers from American public life, made homosexuals the chief scapegoats of the Cold War.

literature >> Baldwin, James Arthur

James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.

literature >> Hughes, Langston

Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.

literature >> Lawrence, T. E.

Although he chose celibacy, Lawrence of Arabia formed close romantic attachments to young men.

arts >> Navratilova, Martina

One of the greatest tennis players in history, Martina Navratilova has become an outspoken supporter of gay and lesbian rights.

social sciences >> Roosevelt, Eleanor

An important advocate for the poor and oppressed and one of the most influential women in the world, Eleanor Roosevelt had throughout her life strong attachments to women, some of them probably resulting in sexual intimacy.

literature >> Shilts, Randy

Randy Shilts pioneered as an openly gay journalist in the 1970s and 1980s and was an astute interpreter of the various issues affecting American gay men and lesbians.

literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.


    Bibliography
   

Bell, Kelsey. "Focus on the Faculty: Neil Miller. Long Path Leads English Lecturerto Story of Cave Discovery." Tufts Daily (July 17, 2008): http://media.www.tuftsdaily.com/media/storage/paper856/news/2008/04/22/Features/Focus.On.The.Faculty.Neil.Miller-3340796.shtml

Gross, Larry P. Up from Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

Keehnen, Owen. "A Global Community: Exploring Gay and Lesbian Life Worldwide with Neil Miller. 1994." glbtq.com (April 30, 2005): http://www.glbtq.com/sfeatures/interviewnmiller.html

Miller, Neil. "Biography." E-Mail to Victoria Shannon. August 4, 2008.

Shipley, Jonathan. "Book Review: Shedding Light on a 1950s Antigay 'Panic.'" Boston Globe (June 13, 2002): http://www.glapn.org/sodomylaws/usa/iowa/ianews06.htm

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Shannon, Victoria  
    Entry Title: Miller, Neil  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated August 28, 2008  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/miller_neil.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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