From Kirkus Reviews
In this intermittently interesting study, Murray (Latin American Male Homosexualities, not reviewed) analyzes the roots of gay identity in America, focusing on various racial and ethnic differences within the gay community. In its mission to foster heterosexuality, contends Murray, society has misrepresented gay life in the media, identifying it almost exclusively with loneliness and death. Enduring same-sex couples are almost invisible, while ``representations of gay men with AIDS in the news media perpetuate the image of gay men necessarily cut off from humanity, dying alone and miserable.'' Relationships between gays are continually devalued and undermined. The care--both financial and emotional--that gay men have shown one another, particularly during the past decade, has largely been overlooked. Therefore, the author concludes, gays must demand acceptance and forge their own institutions. Citing sociological data, Murray draws a well-defined distinction between the terms ``homosexual'' and ``gay.'' Engaging in homosexual acts does not make one ``gay.'' To be part of the gay community involves a consciously chosen acceptance of a certain lifestyle and identity. Whereas all gays find themselves cut off from the mainstream, members of certain ethnic groups are doubly disenfranchised. Among African-Americans, for example, even the most progressive leaders, such as Jesse Jackson, have sought to keep the existence of gays ``invisible,'' while black studies departments have ignored ``African and African American homosexualities.'' Murray draws on sociological research to provide hypotheses about various racial and ethnic groups within the gay community. Asian gays, for example, are more likely to ``keep their gay world separate from their family/community world.'' Unfortunately, Murray's contribution to the field is marred by too many lapses into sociological jargon. (e.g. ``Homosexuality is more polyvalent than either realists or nominalists [particularly special creationists] suppose.'') But despite its ploddingly painful prose, this volume deepens our understanding of gay Americans and their particular challenges. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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From the Back Cover
American Gay is an investigation into how people have been gay or lesbian in America. Murray examines the emergence of gay and lesbian social life, the creation of lesbigay communities, and the forces of resistance that have mobilized and fostered a group identity. Murray also considers the extent to which there is a single "modern" homosexuality and the enormous range of homosexual behaviors, typifications, self-identifications, and meanings. Challenging prevailing assumptions about gay history and society, Murray questions conventional wisdom about the importance of World War II and the Stonewall riots for conceiving and challenging the notion of a shared oppression. He reviews gay complicity in the repathologizing of homosexuality during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Discussing recent demands for inclusion in the "straight" institutions of marriage and the U.S. military, he concludes that these are new forms of resistance, not attempts to assimilate. Finally, Murray examines racial and ethnic differences in self-representation and identification. Drawing on two decades of studying gay life in North America, this tour de force of empirical documentation and social theory critically reviews what is known about the emergence, growth, and internal diversity of communities of openly gay men and lesbians. American Gay deepens our understanding of the ways individuals construct sexualities through working and living together.
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