The definitive account of the gay rights movement, Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney's Out for Good is comprehensive, authoritative, and excellently written.
This is the definitive account of the last great struggle for equal rights in the twentieth century. From the birth of the modern gay rights movement in 1969, at the Stonewall riots in New York, through 1988, when the gay rights movement was eclipsed by the more urgent demands of AIDS activists, this is the remarkable and—until now—untold story of how a largely invisible population of men and women banded together to create their place in America’s culture and government. Told through the voices of gay activists and their opponents, filled with dozens of colorful characters, Out for Good traces the emergence of gay rights movements in cities across the country and their transformation into a national force that changed the face of America forever.
Out for Good is the unforgettable chronicle of an important—and nearly lost—chapter in American history.
In this sprawling, personality-driven narrative, Clendinen and Nagourney, editorial writer and reporter, respectively, for the New York Times, attempt to cover the evolution of the gay rights movement from the Stonewall riots in 1969 to the founding of ACT UP in 1987, with a brief epilogue on Clinton's election and promises to gay activists in 1992. Adopting the almost fictionalized style popularized by Randy Shilts, the authors draw on hundreds of personal interviews--with major gay rights activists and those who have led anti-gay crusades--as well as gay and mainstream press accounts. Despite its ambition to make historical sense of the successes, failures and contradictions homosexuals have faced in securing gay rights, the book often falls short of conveying the complexity the material demands. While the authors show a commendable impulse to investigate such cities as Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Miami, they more often focus on the standard nexus of New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Similarly, the emphasis on prominent national groups (such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) and legislative and judicial change, rather than on the gains won by smaller grassroots efforts, doesn't always successfully encompass the broader social and political contexts in which change occurs. While it successfully delineates major themes--such as the tensions between assimilationist and liberation politics, between lesbians and gay men and the inevitable backlash that occurs after political gains--and provides a good, if overly detailed, introduction to the topic, the book lacks the nuance and political insight that would have made it the definitive social and political history it aspires to be.