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The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small Community's Battle over Sex, Faith, and Civil Rights Paperback – April 16, 2002

ISBN-13: 004-6442079532 ISBN-10: 0807079537 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Story of a Small Community's Battle Over Sex, Faith, and Civ
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (April 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807079537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807079539
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,042,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"To conservative Christians, homosexuality was sinful, unnatural, against God and family... but to the vast majority, who believed that religion--and sex--should be kept private, these words sounded intolerant... even hateful," writes Stein in this astute social analysis of how a small Oregon community dealt with an early 1990s political referendum to prohibit "special rights" for homosexuals. A Jewish lesbian, Stein (Sisters, Sexperts, Queers) writes as both a community insider and outsider, drawing upon personal observation, media analysis and interviews with 50 of the town's residents to sympathetically and critically reveal how both sides, and those caught in the middle, responded to this culture war. She conjures a complex portrait of people under stress, attributing much of the community's conservatism to the flagging economy caused by the weakening of the timber industry in the 1980s. Stein is best when articulating and exploring the myriad paradoxes and contradictions of the situation. Her most striking observation is that while conservative Christian organizers from outside Timbertown created widespread fear of a gay takeover, the town itself had no visible homosexual community, and most of its gay citizens were well integrated and accepted within the social fabric. A careful observer and writer, Stein uses traditional sociological methodology to reach conclusions about the boundaries of tolerance that are similar to those in Beth Loffreda's recent work of straightforward reportage on the murder of a young gay man in Wyoming, Losing Matt Shephard (Forecasts, July 31).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

detailed, and very readable study of politics in rural Oregon. Stein spent several months in "Timbertown" (not the town's real name), a small town in central Oregon caught up in the battle of liberals and conservatives over a proposed amendment to the town's charter prohibiting "special status" for homosexuals. While the battle seemed to center on the issue of gay rights, Stein reports that this was only a proxy battle between longtime residents and newcomers over the change from a reliance on the old ways of the timber-based economy and the new service-based economy of the state. Stein provides detailed examinations of the conservative Oregon Citizens' Alliance and the more liberal Citizens' Action Network, exploring the belief systems driving each group. Her in-depth analysis of the evangelical Christian movement in America is also particularly noteworthy and broadly applicable beyond Oregon. This book is very highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Mark Bay, Indiana Univ.
Purdue Univ. Indianapolis Lib.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Arlene Stein is a professor of sociology who moved to Oregon in 1994, a time when rural Oregon was in the surprising position of coming to terms with homosexuality. She tells how this happened to "Timbertown" (a pseudonym, and she has used pseudonyms for all the town residents) in The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small Community's Battle over Sex, Faith, and Civil Rights_ (Beacon Press), a balanced history of a contemporary controversy. Timbertown was a logging community, and in the eighties the economy turned bad for it. Newcomers came to the region, some in communes, and in the bad economy, didn't always get along with the long term timbermen. Among the newcomers were homosexuals, not many, to be sure, and most of them were women who blended into the community so that most others hardly knew. When the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), an outside agency powered by Christian fundamentalism, came, Timbertown started fracturing.
Timbertown was hardly teeming with the sort of gay population that scared the OCA, those that could be found in the larger, more open cities of the area, the hypermasculine muscleboys in leather, who dared to flaunt aggressive sexuality. Though a spokesman for the OCA could warn that the intent of homosexuals "... is to take over the state of Oregon and turn it into Queer Nation," no one in Timbertown could have seriously thought that of any fellow residents. The idea that homosexuals were going somehow to ruin government, or that homosexuality somehow weakens marriages (whose?), were never shown to have any factual foundations. But the OCA put a petition to put an anti-gay civil rights measure on an upcoming ballot, splitting the community into sides. This had bizarre and unexpected consequences.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on April 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A social history of the political repercussions of an anti-gay coalition formed in a small town in Oregon in the mid 1990s to alter the town charter to prevent "special rights" from being granted to gay/lesbian citizens, "The Stranger Next Door," does a brilliant job of distilling the national discourse on gay and lesbian rights through a description of the pitched battle between conservatives and liberals for the hearts and minds of the citizens of "Timbertown." An often harrowing tale of the manipulation of a small town which has fallen on hard times by a conservative organizer, Ms. Klein's admirably balanced re-telling of the events leading up to the vote on the anti-gay referendum, bristles with memorable people caught in a web of intolerance.
Short, concise, compelling, Ms. Klein introduces us to Christian evangelical ministers and their flocks vs. mainline liberal Presbyterians, rednecks vs. yuppies, business owners vs. unemployed mill hands, long-time residents vs. recent arrivals from California, and takes us through an increasingly bitter political fight that eventually polarizes the town into two bitter factions, and sets neighbor against neighbor in a fight where sexual orientation, once private becomes public. Along the way she discusses the stratgies undertaken by the opposing camps, such as the too-easy invocation of the Holocaust and Nazism as analogous to the situation in Timbertown by the liberal elite, and on the other side, the invocation of the Bible by born-again Christians as the ultimate authority on sexual behavior. There is also a particularly trenchant chapter which clearly illustrates the tendency of the media to respond only the most divisive stories and events, and thus fan the fires of hatred higher.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jane Smith on November 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It tooks about four pages to suspect that TImbertown is the town in which I live -- and a couple of more references for me to confirm it. I picked up the book not so much because it was a dicourse on homosexuality and politics but because it addressed the grass roots philospohy and tactics of a conservative Christian political movement. Being neither gay or very conservative, I found the book to be a well written insight into community relations, politics, gay politics, gay non-politics, the devlopment of evagelicalism in the West, and the politics of the far right. I also had a great time trying to figure out who the pseudonyms were. This aside --the Timbertown situation is representative of a lot of small town in many states
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tamiii on June 29, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Inherent in the Fundamenalist view is the assumption that ethical principles come together harmoniously and do not meaningfully conflict. Indeed, conflict is seen as a test of one's ability to adhere to these moral priniciples. Thus, Fundamentalism knows the answers and isn't particularly open to persuasion--or so it would seem. However, Stein's sympathetic interviews reveals a different story about the Fundamentalists who launched a charter amendment against 'special rights' for gays and lesbians in a small, Oregon town where there weren't many gays and lesbians to speak of. Here, we meet Christian Fundamentalist women who weren't particularly close minded; felt uncertain about their principles; regretted the conflict they engendered; and, in some sense, felt an unacknowledged sense of shame. For reasons which are probably not very far from view, they just couldn't accept pluralism--mostly because it didn't speak to their insecurities. Those seeking insight into the present turn in American and feminist politics would do well to read and take heed!
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