Simply the Best

The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), June 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Simply the Best


Five years ago the Publishing Triangle kicked up a controversy with its picks for the 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Novels of all time. Now that same New York City-based organization of gays and lesbians in publishing has selected its 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Nonfiction Books--and Advocate readers are getting the first look.

This year's panel of judges [see sidebar, page 176] honored books by journalists, activists, scientists, and historians. Some titles may not be familiar to the general reader; some appear to have been included for their historical importance, even though their factual content is outdated. But this much is clear: We have been here since the dawn of history. And ever since, visionary writers have spent their lives ensuring that our truths are told.

John Boswell

Books 1 & 26

This Yale historian gave gays and lesbians new pride in their past with books that uncovered evidence of tolerance and even official recognition for homosexuals in Catholic Europe before the 13th century. Boswell's critics scolded that he was overreaching: but his queer readers were greatly moved Boswell died in 1994 of complications from AIDS.

Cherrie Moraga

Books 6 & 52

Moraga and fellow writer Gloria Anzaldua (books 6, 22) shook up the white-centric lesbian world when they coedited the 1981 emthology This Bridge Called My Back, in which Chicana and Latina lesbians aired their truths arguably for the first time ever. Moraga later cofounded Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press with Minnie Bruce Pratt (book 93) and Barbara Smith (books 90, 93). Today, Moraga lectures at Berkeley and continues to track the unique experiences of lesbians of color.

Randy Shilts

Books 16 & 40

San Francisco-based reporter Shilts was openly gay from the start, and he had the skills to make our stories so compelling that America had to listen. Shilts lived to write just three books before he died at 43 of AIDS-related causes. But the books are extraordinary: the Harvey Milk biography The Mayor of Castro Street; Conduct Unbecoming, on gays in the military; and, perhaps most memorable. And the Band Played On. which told how gay activists took on the AIDS plague while officials dithered.

Paul Monette

Books 30 & 39

Monette, a gracious product of the Ivy League, moved to Los Angeles with a lover and formal success with screenplays and novels. But only after his partner was diagnosed with AIDS did Monette find his true depth as an artist and a gay man. With such AIDS memoirs as Borrowed Time, Monette helped change the culture's awareness of AIDS. Later, in Becoming a Man, he would write with the same clarity about growing up gay. He died at 50 of AIDS complications.

Leslie Feinberg

Book 87

As an editor, writer, and political organizer, transgender activist Feinberg has been resourceful in creating ways to speak and be outside the male-female box. Case in point: male-female personal pronouns. Feinberg has expanded tired old he and she to ze or s/he. and her or him to hir. With the novel Stone Butch Blues--the story of a young transgendered person looking for a true identity-Feinberg helped to start the wave of trans activism rolling. Ze also plunged into health care activism after nearly dying in the '90s because an emergency room doctor refused to treat hir. Feinberg and wife Minnie Bruce Pratt (book 93) live near New York City.

The judges

Betty Berzon therapist and author

Mark Blasius professor of political science at the City University of New York and La Guardia Community College

Keith Boykin, former executive director of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum

Louis Crompton, professor emeritus of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

John D'Emilio, professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Nicholas C. …

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