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The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination [Kindle Edition]

Sarah Schulman
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with vivid memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider. Interweaving personal reminiscence with cogent analysis, Schulman details her experience as a witness to the loss of a generation’s imagination and the consequences of that loss.

Editorial Reviews


“This bracing, powerful, and well-reasoned work reaffirms the author’s stature as a distinctive American woman of letters. . . . Highly recommended.”
(Richard Drezen Library Journal 2012-03-02)

“The book that’s inspired me more than any other this year is Sarah Schulman’s Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, a razor-sharp memoir of New York in the heyday of the AIDS crisis.”
(Jason King Slate 2012-12-26)

“Teeming with ideas, necessary commentary, refreshing connections and examination of the status quo.”
(Lambda Literary 2012-03-13)

“A brilliant critique of contemporary culture. . . . This is the most important book of the year.”
(Jeff Miller Cult MTL 2012-12-27)

“Schulman’s personal recollections... are sharp and vivid.”
(Gay & Lesbian Review/Worldwide 2012-08-01)

“This is a very good, very sad book about the aftershock of the AIDS crisis in New York. Schulman is a truly gifted thinker.”
(Alex Frank Fader Magazine 2012-05-18)

“The author, a true woman of letters, makes a persuasive case.”
(Roberto Friedman Bay Area Reporter 2012-03-15)

“This is why the book is so successful and demands our attention: through a focus on the pulse of the queer community (of the 80s), it touches upon the individual condition (of today).”
(Marcie Bianco Velvetpark 2012-03-20)

“A polemic, a passionate, provocative . . . account of disappearance, forgetfulness and untimely death.”
(Olivia Laing New Statesman 2013-03-07)

"The most rousing thing I've read this year."
(Jessa Crispin Bookslut 2013-07-14)

"It's that time of year, when everyone is compiling their Best Of 2013 lists. . . . Do we even need to say again, that Sarah Schulman wins the year with Gentrification of the Mind?"
(Jessa Crispin Bookslut 2013-11-06)

“No book has rocked my world in recent times more than Sarah Schulman’s ‘The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination’ . . . [it ranks] among the best alternative histories published in the last 50 years.”
(Don Shewey 2012-05-21)

“A galvanizing account of the transformation, both external and mental, in New York City life.”
(Emily Douglas Los Angeles Review Of Books 2012-06-08)

“The essence of what Schulman calls gentrification is to pretend that privilege and difference do not exist and that any attempt to remember that they do is mere ‘political correctness’ rather than facing up to the reality to who does what to whom. To forget these things, is to deceive ourselves—and Schulman’s harsh, bitter prose is a useful way of waking ourselves up.”
(Roz Kaveney Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 2012-04-13)

“It’s a beautifully written screed (not a bad word in my books). . . . Schulman shines when she taps her deep knowledge of the AIDS movement. . . . She can be brilliant.”
(Susan G. Cole Now 2012-03-08)

From the Inside Flap

"Sarah Schulman, as always, hits the nail on the head. I can't imagine a more insightful probe into gentrification and its inhumane consequences. Everyone needs to read this book."—Martin Duberman, author of Stonewall

“Sarah Schulman's The Gentrification of the Mind is a bulwark against the collective loss of memory. AIDS, gentrification, the struggle for gay rights, the class war that has driven entire communities of artists, immigrants, and outsiders from the neighborhoods they created—all these things have been erased by the official culture. Schulman's book will make you rage and weep, and then—just maybe—organize.”—Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

"Hard-headed, sensitive, and informed, this book will make the confused world of urban redevelopment and gentrification make notably more sense. Schulman has a mind as clear as a bell in evening. You'll be glad you read it. I was."—Samuel R. Delany, author of Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders

Product Details

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MOVING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING MEMOIR February 3, 2012
By Butters
I loved reading this moving and thought-provoking memoir by a noted queer activist, novelist and playwright who came of age in the 1980s Lower East Side of Manhattan. Aids, the struggle for gay rights, the electricity of the downtown arts scene, an unfolding class war that would drive the tribes of artists, immigrants and activists from the neighborhood they created -- it is all here.

I lived on the Lower East Side from 1974 to 1984 and this books helps me understand the furious ideological offensive (what Schulman calls "the gentrification of the mind") waged by the same banks and corporations that also profited from the gentrification of such urban neighborhoods. Many community institutions we activists relied upon on the Lower East Side disappeared overnight due to skyrocketing rents or cutbacks of funding. Many institutions claiming to be cultural or political alternatives became slowly coopted by the powers that be.

Reading "The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination", we who lived through this period weep for what we have lost. But Schulman's call is not just to mourn our "lost imagination". It is also a call for us to learn from and build upon the all-too forgotten struggles of our radical ancestors. In this way we can more effectively organize against the banks and corporations, who are still seeking "the gentrification of the mind" today.

Chris Butters
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Bones About It -- An Important Book July 13, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sarah Schulman's recent book, "The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination" is one of the most important books of the year. In it, she confronts the problem of gentrification that is endemic to urban neighborhoods in our liveliest cities. Gentrification effectively turns our creative hubs, teeming with diversity, into bland "suburbs in the cities," homogenizing people, tastes, and how we interpret our lives.

My new book, "This Ain't No Holiday Inn: Down and Out at the Chelsea Hotel 1980-1995″ addresses gentrification in its final chapters. But Schulman's book explores gentrification in detail, using the AIDS plague as its central example. The common attitude today is that, "Oh, we took care of AIDS; it's no longer a problem," is a perfect example of how not only our neighborhoods become gentrified, but our very minds become colonized by ignorant attitudes largely propagated by members of the white elite class. Even some gays, more concerned with fitting in than with fighting for their rights, share the attitude.

Here's how Schulman defines gentrification: "Physically it is an urban phenomena: the removal of communities of diverse classes, ethnicities, races, sexualities, languages, and points of view from the central neighborhoods of cities, and their replacement by more homogenized groups. With this comes the destruction of culture and relationship, and this destruction has profound consequences for the future lives of cities."

Did you know that Manhattan and San Francisco used to be affordable for young artists, rebels, bohemians, and freaks to move to and find a home with people like themselves? Now only the rich can afford to move there, so they can be with other rich folk like themselves. Tell me with a straight face that this does not dumb down our culture, our arts, and create a bland, conformist complacency that keeps the rich in power and the poor in poverty.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Read January 11, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is listed as biography, but it's so much more. Sarah Schulman writes about her place and time, then provides insight in to where that has led in terms of the changes to Manhattan in the last quarter century. How did New York City go from bankrupt to thriving? Artistic and bohemian to Trumpish and elite? AIDS.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary! January 7, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For anyone who cared, who loved and who lived through the 80s, who was or is queer, who survived the horrors of not only AIDS but the inconceivable way that most people and the government turned their backs on a community of people who were left dying in the streets of New York City (and other places) this book tells the tale of the aftermath, and how many reaped the rewards in the form out housing and more as the property of the dead was confiscated and taken advantage of. No, not talking about Nazi Germany, talking about NYC in the 80s and 90s. It is very well written, researched and tells a tale most people are unaware of. Gay male artists were thriving and created so much before the sudden fall. Read about the advantages that were taken from that community that so wonderfully enriched New York. It's a powerful mix of politics and social commentary and a very fast read. Very educational!
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More About the Author

Sarah Schulman is the author of novels, nonfiction books, plays and movies. Her forthcoming works are THE COSMOPOLITANS, a novel coming in March 2016 from The Feminist Press and a nonfiction book CONFLICT IS NOT ABUSE: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair. She recently published ISRAEL/PALESTINE AND THE QUEER INTERNATIONAL from Duke University Press, THE GENTRIFICATION OF THE MIND: WItness to a Lost Imagination by University of California Press, the paperback of TIES THAT BIND: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences and the paperback edition of her novel THE MERE FUTURE from Arsenal Pulp.Previous novels are THE CHILD, SHIMMER, EMPATHY, RAT BOHEMIA, PEOPLE IN TROUBLE, AFTER DELORES, GIRLS VISIONS AND EVERYTHING and THE SOPHIE HOROWITZ STORY. Her nonfiction titles are TIES THAT BIND: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, STAGESTRUCK:Theater, AIDS and the Marketing of Gay America, and MY AMERICAN HISTORY: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years. A working playwright, her productions include: CARSON McCULLERS (published by Playscripts Ink), MANIC FLIGHT REACTION and the theatrical adaptation of Isaac Singer's ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY. As a screenwriter, her films include THE OWLS (co-written with director Cheryl Dunye)- Berlin Film Festival 2010, MOMMY IS COMING (co-written with director Cheryl Dunye)- Berlin Film Festival selection 2011. and JASON AND SHIRLEY, directed by Stephen Winter. She is co-producer with Jim Hubbard of his feature documentary UNITED IN ANGER: A History of ACT UP. As a journalist, her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, and Interview. She has won a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwrighting, a Fullbright in Judaic Studies, two American Library Association Book Awards, and is the 2009 recipient of the Kessler Prize for sustained contribution to LGBT studies. Sarah is Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York, College of State Island, a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University. A member of the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, Sarah is faculty advisor to Students for Justice in Palestine at The College of Staten Island. She lives in New York.

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