The Homophilic Bibliophile
A few must-haves for your media library
Have you dedicated a section in your bookshelf for books of LGBTQI interest? You haven't? Well, let's change that. The following are books (and a couple films) that belong in any self-respecting gay history aficionado's home.
In the arena of sexuality studies, no work has functioned as an urtext for so many like Michel Foucault's The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 (Vintage, 1990). Although, truth be told, if you read it carefully, you may wonder if Foucault would ever be on board with "gay pride." Foucault's premise is that medical and legal systems create sexualities, kinks, and intimacies through the process of pathologizing/criminalizing them. But gay libbers are reading this text and taking a different message away from it, instead choosing to see Foucault's discussion of sexuality as a topic ripe for theory, a kind of liberation on its own terms.
Hey, we don't have to go to France to find intellectual gold. In fact, we have our own smarty-pants here in Austin in the form of UT professor of English Ann Cvetkovich, whose latest book, An Archive of Feelings (Duke University Press, 2003), attempts (and succeeds) at putting a wide variety of archives and source material into dialogue: from Le Tigre lyrics to the Lesbian Herstory Archives in NYC. Cvetkovich's oral histories are unparalleled in that she is able to pair theory and everyday life without seeming trite or detached. Really, if you don't own this book, prance, don't walk, to BookWoman.
For pre-Stonewall, George Chauncey's Gay New York (Basic Books, 1995) is indispensable, especially if you're a Yankee expat. So is Marjorie Garber's Vested Interests (Routledge, 1997), which isn't so much about gay culture but about how cross-dressing has been represented in the history of visual culture. Also in a category of its own is Leslie Feinberg's Trans Liberation (Beacon Press, 1998), which compiles a slew of speeches by the transgender warrior. David Eisenbach's Gay Power (Da Capo Press, 2006) is your generic straight-up history of gay libber groups, while Daniel Harris' Rise and Fall of Gay Culture (Ballantine, 1999) is a dishy, if not pessimistic, version of alternate modes of queer production: magazines, films, drag, and kink. If reading film's your thing, you'll find no better than Parker Tyler's Screening the Sexes (Da Capo Press, 1993), which is gossipy, campy, and so effing true. You'll want to get married to this book. Oh, that's still illegal? Right.
And finally, if you just want to homo up your house or just put some pretty things on your coffee table, may I suggest these picture-heavy titles: Molly McGarry and Fred Wasserman's Becoming Visible (Penguin Studio, 1998), Fred McDarrah and Timothy McDarrah's Gay Pride (A Cappella, 1994), editor Dian Hanson's The Big Penis Book (Taschen, 2008), and Joseph Bean's International Mr. Leather: 25 Years of Champions (Nazca Plains Corp., 2004). Each has more photographs than you can shake a grand marshal baton at, and that's saying a lot.
Texas State art history lecturer and Gay Place blogger Andy Campbell acknowledges that this roundup is in no way complete. For more, and to send in suggestions, see us online at austinchronicle.com/gayplaceblog.