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Gay L. A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, And Lipstick Lesbians Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 2, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 2, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This social, political and cultural history of lesbian and gay life in Los Angeles by two seasoned historians is easily the subject's definitive work. Presenting a wealth of fact and analysis, Faderman (Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers) and Timmons (The Trouble with Harry Hay) breeze through the highlights of L.A. gay history. They begin with the suppression of Native Americans' sexual and gender expression by 16th-century Spanish missionaries, before exploring how gender-bending Hollywood stars such as Garbo and Katharine Hepburn shaped popular culture in the 1930s; the emergence of gay public places during the '40s and '50s; and the influence of gay religious groups in the 1970s. While much gay history has centered on white gay men, the authors add important material about the vital role of lesbians and people of color, such as Helen Sandoz and Anne Carll Reid, who worked to bridge the gender gap in 1950s homosexual politics. Although this popular history doesn't strive for academic comprehensiveness, it's filled with illuminating facts—such as that gay men rioted and protested for several days after police raided the Black Cat bar in 1967, two years before the Stonewall Riots in New York. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Focusing on Los Angeles, Faderman and Timmons fill a gap in American gay history. Archival sources dating back to the nineteenth century; interviews of 250 people, many now elderly; recovered court transcripts; private mementos; scrapbooks; and many other resources, public and private, furnished the raw materials for their informative, detailed account, which finds that "historically, more lesbian and gay institutions started in Los Angeles than anywhere else on the planet." The work spans from the 1800s, when invading Euro-Americans came to outnumber southern California's Indian population and quash its sexually ambivalent and tolerant culture; to the 1920s, when "the lesbian cavortings of silent film stars . . . were Hollywood's open secret"; the 1950s and the LAPD's entrapments of gays; and the 1960s and the extraordinary growth of LA's out gay male population; to the present, when L.A. continues to set fashion and social trends (Western-wear sales are soaring, thanks to Brokeback Mountain). This meticulously researched, very readable text merits a place in sociology, gender--studies, and urban-history collections. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (October 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046502288X
  • ASIN: B000WCTS3Q
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,196,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship. She is the author of The Gay Revolution, Surpassing the Love of Men, and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, all New York Times Notable Books.

Photograph by Phyllis Irwin.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The new book by Faderman and Timmons fills a major lacuna. For some years we have had the benefit of monographs on the gay and lesbian history of such major American cities as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Los Angeles, in some ways the most important city of all in this respect, has been missing. All in all, the new book was well worth waiting for. Clearly written and well-documented with footnotes, it presents a historical account from the pre-Hispanic berdache, through the early decades of Anglo LA, the movie colony, the rise of the gay movement, the development of gay institutions, and on down to a brief look at the present. A particular strength is the material on women, which must be credited to the diligence and resourcefulness of the senior author, a distinguished scholar in the field of lesbian studies.

Quite properly, the authors reject the stereotypes that Easterners (still!) cherish about Los Angeles. It is only fair that they should do a little boasting of their own. The city has its own particular aura, its genius loci. It is in this connection, though, that I detect the one flaw in the book. The authors give an account of the rise of the first substantial American gay movement in the years 1947-51, with the work of Harry Hay, Edith Eyde, Dorr Legg and others. However, they do not offer a convincing explanation of why this event, which has been of epochal and enduring significance to American gays and lesbians, should arise in that particular American city. A half century ago, other cities, with older traditions and more substantial populations, might have been expected to make the great leap forward. Instead it was done in Los Angeles. Why?
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Format: Hardcover
Gay L.A." is an important, very comprehensive and inspiring book--one that we've all been waiting for! It is packed with two-centuries worth of fascinating information, but it doesn't read like a boring history book at all. I was intrigued by all stuff I didn't know: the role of gay people in the city's early formation and especially the decades of corrupt oppression that were to follow. There is also a lot of new information about the Hollywood-studio era and the beginnings of the gay liberation movement in Los Angeles. This book really held my interest throughout. The Los Angeles Times gave it a full-page rave review, which "Gay L.A." certainly deserves.
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By Amy S. on December 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read about gay rights in the news every week, but never knew much about the background of this movement. Gay L.A. is a great read and opens up a new world of activism, secret lives, and entire underground societies. It's easy to think that New York and San Francisco were responsible for all the gay breakthroughs, but Los Angeles has an amazing story. This book also tells the story of gay women as well as gay men, which is fascinating. This book is carefully footnoted, but is written like an epic novel, reaching back into the 1800s. It's free of the political dogma and academic jargon that can weigh down similar books. Like it or not, L.A. is one of America's major cities, and what's so interesting is that it's a bunch of small towns, beaches, immigrants and Hollywood all rolled into one. You learn so much about the city itself as well as the gay world, which had to be hidden until recently. I strongly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
[Disclaimer: Co-author Stuart Timmons is a friend of mine.]

I very much enjoyed the book. Certainly, those of us who lived through some of the events and who know or knew some of the people will enjoy the tale. And many folks, particularly newer generations, don't know much about this history at all. There's also plenty of new research, leading to rich detail that's never been told before.

Tales of Hollywood celebrities are culturally important, but are only one part of the much larger story of gay L.A. told in this book. More interesting to me, for example, are the variant sexualities of Native Americans ruthlessly suppressed by missionaries, the prominence of nineteenth century transvetites, the lurching evolution of sexual law and politics, and much more.
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Format: Hardcover
Too often San Francisco is noted as being the leader in the contemporary Gay/Lesbian movement in California. This book, GAY L.A., proves that there was and is more than one large city in our fine State that has played a significant role in the gay movement. Succinct and fascinating, Gay L.A. is a must read!
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Format: Hardcover
Gay L.A. is fascinating from beginning to end, from the history of gay and lesbian actors in the 1920s to the LGBT community's political power and media visibility today. A surprising number of gay and lesbian cultural institutions had their start in Los Angeles: the Advocate magazine, churches and synagogues, groups representing the diverse ethnic communities in L.A., and countless others.

The history of oppression in the 1940s, '50s, and early '60s is especially chilling. Gay men and women in the post-war era could be arrested simply on suspicion of being gay. Gay activists were hindered by a legal system that forbade the mailing of any kind of publication that mentioned homosexuality until 1958, when the Supreme Court ruled they too had freedom of speech and press, something a lower court had denied.

If you read the sections on the mid-20th century along with books about that era like The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the DecadesBefore Roe v. Wade, about pregnant unmarried women who were forced to leave home to give birth and relinquish their children, it becomes clearer why nuclear families seemed ubiquitous during the 1950s: Everyone else had been silenced or exiled.
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