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The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination Hardcover – February 6, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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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 Culturevulture.net 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


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (February 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520264770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520264779
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I don't want to minimize the specific experiences, people and events Schulman writes about in this book, the significance of what she has to say expands beyond it. In particular the chapter on "The Gentrification of Creation" and the discussion about the accountability of power could apply to so many other different situations.
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Format: Paperback
Over the years I've read a number of novels, both personally and in my gay and lesbian book club, by Sarah Schulman: "Rat Bohemia," "Sophie Horowitz," "After Dolores," and "The Child;" and I've seen her read several times. The novels were all OK but seemed faintly preachy or didactic, with slightly unbelievable characters and less believable dialogue (which is disturbing since she is known for her playwriting), and thematically brave but a bit emotionally distant. Her readings were good but somewhat academic, perhaps, for me.

This is the first non-fiction book I've read by her and I'm completely blown away. I'm angry and upset and enlightened and anxious and feel ready to do something. Right now, Ms. Schulman could tell me to do anything, to go anywhere, and to accomplish anything necessary --everything necessary-- to save NYC. It's been a long time since I've felt so fired up after reading a book. But, of course, I have quibbles.

The slim book is divided into six chapters. After an introduction that sets up her argument, the first three chapters describe how we got to our current state. Chapter 1, "The Dynamics of Death and Replacement," describes how the deaths of thousands of gay men of AIDS allowed straight people to move in to traditionally gay neighborhoods and change them, or rather make them more like the straight neighborhoods that they came from.

Chapter 2, "The Gentrification of AIDS," describes the lack of recognition of the thousands who died and continue to be affected their loss: In an echo of Larry Kramer's opening sentence of his pre-AIDS novel "FA**OTS," Schulman responds with "81,542 people have died of AIDS in NYC as of 2008. These people, our friends are rarely mentioned.
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