Every month I read between 4-6 books and I always make sure I throw in at least one that could fall into the category of LGBTQ. Sometimes I read novels or memoirs, but mostly I read queer history. I mean come on, I do write and co-host a queer history podcast. History is how I make sense of the world and queer history is how I make sense of me. So, since I’m doing the work anyway, I figured why not share my thoughts on the YQS blog. Heres the first, of hopefully many, queer book reviews.
"The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs The United States of America" by Eric Cervini was released in June of 2020. It has met rave reviews, ranked on the New York Times Best Seller List, and landed on numerous "best non-fiction" lists for 2020. Which is quite a feat when one considers just how much reading was done during the past year's lockdown.
And I must personally admit that I absolutley loved the book. It is by far the most interesting and comprehensive history of the Gay Rights Movement I have ever read. I DO clarify that it is about the Gay Rights Movement and not about Queer Liberation overall. If you follow the podcast, then you’ve heard me launch into a discourse on the differences between the White lead gay movement and the Black and Brown queer revolution. Cervini's book perfectly captures WHY there was a difference, though he only refers to aspects of the queer liberation in passing.
The Deviants War focuses on the life of Frank Kameny, the genius astronomer who was fired by the American Government in 1957 because he was gay. Kameny's personal beef with the government soon turned into a national debate, shifting gay life away from social gatherings and bar parties to an organized and thriving movement. He is easily one of the most significant figures in American queer history and his fight sparked other revolutions around the world.
Cervini lays out how Frank's own genius, compulsions, and even his arrogance shaped the Gay Rights Movement. As someone who has spent nearly 3 years deeply studying queer history, the book was quite enlightening. I found answers to many questions that had been brushed aside or vaguely answered by others. The rigid conformity, relentless pressure, and obsessive drive of one man to be seen and heard somehow rallied a nation of LGBTQ people to his/their cause.
While the history is not complete, it is not meant to be. And yet, Cervini does a masterful job of weaving together the past strands of American politics and LGBTQ life to present the beginnings of our modern, formal movement. I do highly recommend the book. It is entertaining, easy to follow, and an essential piece of American queer history.
Evan Jones is the head writer and co-hosy of the Your Queer Story Podcast