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Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South Hardcover – July 30, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While Scarlett O'Hara may resemble a drag queen, and Mardi Gras inspires more camp than a gay pride parade, the American South also boasts a rich, authentic and transgressive gay and lesbian history. In this chatty, free-ranging cultural survey, Sears (Growing Up Gay in the South) presents a vivid kaleidoscope of the mores and political activities of many gay Southerners following the 1969 Stonewall riots and leading up to the 1979 march on Washington. Sears unspools this history through portraits of activists and community organizers including Merril Mushroom, Jack Nichols, Lige Clark, Vicki Gabriner, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Sgt. Leonard Matlovitch who helped shape the social and political climate below the Mason Dixon line and often in the rest of the country. While giving a nod to historic events like Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign, Sears focuses more closely on obscure but important local political events, like the founding of the lesbian journal Sinister Wisdom, the emergence of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance and community response to a deadly firebombing that killed 31 patrons in a New Orleans bar in the mid-1970s. Sears's multifaceted approach pays off when he sketches such relatively unknown players as comedian Ray Bourbon and radical fairy Faygele ben Miriam, and he conveys well the complexity and intensity of the political activity of the decade. While not as historically conclusive or theoretically astute as John Howard's masterful Men Like That (2000), Sears provides a panoply of emotionally riveting snapshots that aptly portray Southern gay experience in the 1970s. B&w photos.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Hippie communes, lesbian publishing collectives, drag pageants, gay bars: these are the marginalized, collective, and personal histories to which Sears (Lonely Hunters) pays homage in his second volume of a projected multivolume work on queer Southern life. The Sixties and early Seventies were a turning point for queers as for other minorities, ending their isolation and making it possible for them to see themselves as communities and individuals with inherent civil rights. Think drag isn't political? Sears points out that it was a misdemeanor to wear "clothing belonging to the opposite sex" until the 1970s in some jurisdictions. While Sears's effort is commendable, this work is not an easy read, with innumerable names and details peppering a sprawling narrative. Nevertheless, this volume is recommended for large, specialized collections on LGBT life and Southern social history. Ina Rimpau, Newark P.L., NJ
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (July 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813529646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813529646
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Monteagudo on September 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one of the 1970's activists featured in Jim Sears's book, I am naturally biased. But as a student of lesbian and gay history, I enjoyed and appreciated his take on lesbian and gay life in the South in the decade between Stonewall and AIDS. Like Barbara Tuchman's "Stilwell" and "A Distant Mirror", Sears combines biography and history, which directs the narrative and makes it more interesting to the average reader. People like Jack Nichols, Lige Clarke and Merrill Mushroom, who appeared in Sears's previous book "Lonely Hunters", join newcomers like Logan Carter, Pokey Anderson, Leonard Matlovich and "Miss P" to create a diverse tapestry that was (and is) the LesBiGay South.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Duane Simolke on November 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With this landmark study, James T. Sears provides not only an important document of hidden American history but also an entertaining and sometimes disturbing narrative of struggles for freedom and equality. Sadly, though, he sees the same racism and sexism inside gay communities that he saw working against those very communities. While women in general kept fighting to dress as they like, work where they like, and express themselves openly, gay women faced a male-dominated gay movement. While encountering bigotry against their race and closets within their race, gays of color found gay bars and gay organizations just as unfriendly towards them.
Despite those tragedies, and despite the other cases of sickening bigotry that this book recounts, Sears offers hope in the fact that he shows progress, and in the fact that he refuses to let voices like Julia Penelope, Mel Boozer, and so many others go unnoticed or undocumented.
Anyone interested in history or activism should own this book, regardless of the reader's sexual orientation or political views. I also suggest seeing one of Sears's live presentations, in which he discusses his research. This author's combined enthusiasm for justice, equality, and scholarship come together impressively in both his writing and his appearances.
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0 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is basically a textbook, written by an academician, and the poor fella has amassed plenty of data, but how about a logical narrative format?
He jumps around too much, from this person to that person. It's too hard to keep up with who's who. Sure, if you were a person IN the book, like Jesse (below), you maybe understand who these people are. I didn't, didn't know a one of them, well, take that back. I know who Jim Garrison was (is? he still alive?), and who Clay Shaw was...Rita Mae Brown I've heard of...and a few others, but this mountain of people? I guess you can tell, I'm not into the same sex movement...but shouldn't the book educate people like me?
Well, it did, but very little. I wanted to know, for example, why do people prefer the same sex? Is it genetic, psychological, sociological, learned, what? What is the difference between bisexual people and same sex people?
These are the things I hoped to learn from Sears's book, but instead, just a total mismash of people, places and circumstances...that's what I found. It was more educational reading the footnotes than the so-called narrative. Diximus.
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