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The Secret Historian by Justin Spring


Hey folks, let's branch out from theory a bit and delve into a biography of one of the more fascinating but less famous queer figures of the 20th century.

From the author's website: "Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.



After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicago’s notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the pseudonym Phil Andros.



Until today Steward's many identities have been known to only a few—but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life in the years before gay liberation."

"more info"




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  • A former member
    A former member

    Speaking of queer history, the NYT profiled a gay couple in a relationship since 1955. Their attitude toward sex, relationships, and sexuality are so interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/nyregion/58-years-and-counting-a-love-story.html?hp

    September 8, 2013

    • crisolivia

      Yes a nice article. This Sunday's NYT seemed to highlight gay issues, Russian vodka boycott and front page included article about gender equity experiment at Harvard Business School led by dyke administrator Ms. Fei former prof. check it out, very interesting even if a lesbian feminist's goal isn't to learn how to be top dog in a capitalist society.

      September 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Ian, thanks for doing a great job moderating such a great conversation last night. So for the next book club meeting, are we thinking the 1st of Oct. or the 8th?

    1 · September 4, 2013

    • Ian

      Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it too :)

      I am open to either date, or, for that matter, others that week. If folks see this and have input, comment here; otherwise I'll choose a date and we can go ahead with our next book.

      September 4, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I have a conflict on 10/8, for what that is worth.

      September 8, 2013

  • Lora R.

    Loved this book. Maybe we could have some starting suggested questions and prompts in advance?

    1 · September 4, 2013

    • Ian

      Great suggestion! I will try to post some in the comments for our next event and encourage others to do likewise.

      September 4, 2013

  • Ian

    Just to clarify, we are upstairs!

    September 3, 2013

  • crisolivia

    Can't make tonight, still at work. I hope catch group next month.

    September 3, 2013

  • Lora R.

    I found it on audible.com Not price-wise but convenient.

    August 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hmm, my picture has a santa hat on, I should update it... or wear the hat to book club?

    2 · August 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This book is so good! This is one of my favorite biographies, ever.
    Also, heard Spring speak a year ago at OSU; fantastic.

    August 26, 2013

  • crisolivia

    Amazon and Powell have it used for approx. $6.00

    August 4, 2013

  • alan b

    Yikes, that's an elusive book: There was only 1 in the Oakland library system, & that copy is "missing." And there are none listed in the inter-library borrowing system that covers all of northern Calif!
    So where are people finding this one?

    August 3, 2013

  • Emily S

    We'll see if I make time to read this. Hopefully!

    July 31, 2013

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