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The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (Stonewall Inn Editions) Paperback – Illustrated, March 15, 1988


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Product Details

  • Series: Stonewall Inn Editions (Book 12)
  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (March 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312019009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312019006
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Randy Shilts's The Mayor of Castro Street appeared in 1982, the very idea of a gay political biography was brand-new. While biographies of literary and artistic figures (both living and dead) were a popular genre, there had been no openly gay political figure who merited a full-length book. Harvey Milk--a gay political organizer who became the first openly gay city supervisor in San Francisco and was then assassinated (along with liberal mayor George Moscone)--was the obvious choice for such a book. And Randy Shilts--a young reporter who had risen up through the gay press to become the first openly gay reporter with a gay "beat" in the American mainstream press--was the perfect person to write it. While his later works such as And the Band Played On and Conduct Unbecoming were based on hard-hitting, fact-driven reportage, Shilts's tone in The Mayor of Castro Street is softer, more focused on the narrative of Harvey Milk's political rise from running a small business on Castro Street, to organizing local gay men and lesbians around grass-roots issues, to winning an elected office. But in many ways this is also a forceful and engaging story of the gay rights movement in the second half of the 20th century. Thus, Shilts follows the growth of the Castro as a gay neighborhood and the growth of San Francisco's gay community from a ragtag collection of people who socialized and sexualized together into a vibrant and political force. --Michael Bronski

Review

"A no-holds-barred character study and a history of the local gay movement . . . An investigative piece on the mechanics of big-city government in all its expedient, back-biting splendor."--The Washington Post

"A remarkable work [of] biography, social history, and political machination . . . Exceptional."--The Los Angeles Times

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By andrewjack on January 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Randy Shilts's intricately researched biography of one of the greatest gay activists of all time, Harvey Milk, is not only a political biography, but a chronology of an entire political movement.
This is the second book I've read by Randy Shilts, the first being And the Band Played On. While there are certainly some differences between the two, Shilts's imaginative narrative writing is the same. The Mayor of Castro Street is proof positive that he [the author] can turn even the most mundane of political machinations into high drama.
Starting out when Harvey Milk was growing up in Woodmere, New York, the book traces his life from there. From his high school athletic career, to his college years, his time with the Navy, and his Manhattan years. When Harvey makes the move from New York to San Francisco, the book changes pace, and a gay political hero is born. The book is filled with snippets of his speeches, and in the back appendices, the eloquent words of Harvey Milk come alive, as some of his more famous speeches are reprinted there.
At a solid 380 pages (including appendices and sources) the book never drags. Everything appears to be cause and effect, which makes for some white-knuckle reading even if the reader is already familiar with the budding gay movement, Harvey Milk's participation in it, and the untimely tragic assassination of he and Mayor George Moscone by a homophobic zealot.
I must admit, there were certain parts of this book that gave me chills: Harvey Milk's beautiful speeches, the candlelight vigils, the many marches, and the White Night Riots. The sheer epic proportions of it all can overwhelming.
However, epic or not, this remains the simple story of a man and his dream, vision, and hope for his gay brothers and sisters, and all of humanity.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "ivan1138" on February 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Randy Shilts has taken great pains to present the man honestly, exploring his political and personal lives. The result is an illimunitating portrait of the Gay Rights champion, documenting his triumphs and ideals alongside his personal ambiguities and foibles. Milk's rise to power, as well as the city's rich gay history, are depicted with candor and clarity.
The assassinations are reported in graphic detail, as is the reaction of the people. Intial shock and grief turn to righteous indignation when, on May 21, 1979 White is convicted on two counts of "valuntary manslaughter" with a maximum sentence of seven years, eight months. The city explodes. Justice is thwarted. A martyr is born. Milk's murder galvanizes the Gay Community to stand up and take their rightful place in society. A great book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By blgoodman@ualr.edu on July 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
Anyone --- heterosexual or homosexual --- would enjoy this book for its interesting facts about San Fransisco's gay and political communities. In fact, it's the book's protagonist Harvey Milk who serves as a bridge between the gay and political communities.
The author does well in portraying Milk as a complex personality. Indeed, Milk's a person unsatisfied with his career on Wall Steet so he turns to the hippy movement. But it is his concern with apparent unethical practices in the White House that leads him to chop off his hair, throw on a suit and head for city hall, but he must first create a strong base of support. It's from there that he brings the unions together with the new gay community. Milk becomes one of the first gay elected officials, a populist if ever there was one.
The author of the book died of AIDS and the book has not been updated since the 1980s. So many of the reader's questions are unaswered at the end of the book. While the information is delicious, the writing complexity is simpler than it should be. Still, the book is a must read for anyone, gay or straight.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth French on April 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read a lot of biographies and, while I love the genre, I'm often disappointed with the writing. This book, by the late Randy Shilts, is an exception. Shilts was a great writer, able to take a variety of facts and put them into readable passages (his "And the Band Played On" is another good example of this). Harvey Milk and the San Francisco of the 1970s come to life in this book. The tragedy of Milk's assassination and its aftermath are rendered in gripping detail.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
I found the character of Harvey Milk fascinating. This was the story not only of Mr. Milks ascendency in the political world, but the development of the San Francisco gay community. Randy Shilts writes with sensitivity and understanding for both sides of any issue. The book ends in the early 1980's and it would be interesting to read an afterword or an update by somebody, even if it cannot be Randy Shilts.
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