A Supreme Court lawyer and political pundit details the enthralling and groundbreaking story of the gay rights movement, revealing how a dedicated and resourceful minority changed America forever.
When the modern struggle for gay rights eruptedmost notably at a bar called Stonewall in Greenwich Villagein the summer of 1969, most religious traditions condemned homosexuality; psychiatric experts labeled people who were attracted to others of the same sex "crazy"; and forty-nine states outlawed sex between people of the same gender. Four decades later, in June 2011, New York legalized gay marriagethe most populous state in the country to do so thus far. The armed services stopped enforcing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ending a law that had long discriminated against gay and lesbian members of the military. Successful social movements are always extraordinary, but these advances were something of a miracle.
Political columnist Linda Hirshman recounts the long roads that led to these victories, viewing the gay rights movement within the tradition of American freedom as the third great modern social-justice movement, alongside the civil rights movement and the women's rights movement. Drawing on an abundance of published and archival material, and hundreds of in-depth interviews, Hirshman shows, in this astute political analysis, how the fight for gay rights has changed the American landscape for all citizensblurring rigid gender lines, altering the shared culture, and broadening our definitions of family.
From the Communist cross-dresser Harry Hay in 1948 to New York's visionary senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010, the story includes dozens of brilliant, idiosyncratic characters. Written in vivid prose, at once emotional and erudite, Victory is an utterly vibrant work of reportage and eyewitness accounts, revealing how, in a matter of decades, while facing every social adversarychurch, state, and medical establishmenta focused group of activists forged a classic campaign for cultural change that will serve as a model for all future political movements.
About the Author
Linda Hirshman is a lawyer, a cultural historian, and the author of Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution and many other books. She received her JD from the University of Chicago Law School and her PhD in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and has taught philosophy and women s studies at Brandeis University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate, Newsweek, the Daily Beast, and POLITICO. She lives in Arizona and New York City.
“As popular history, Victory excels. Hirshman is a nimble storyteller with an agile curatorial eye for what matters. . . . Exemplary. . . . I find Victory to be an astute jolt, as remarkable for its emotional punch as for its historical insight.”
-Rich Benjamin, New York Times Book Review
“Hirshman has produced a remarkable history of the gay-rights movement in America by chronicling many of the people and events that shaped it. She has a smart and engaging style, which is serious but not ponderous. . . . with new clarity and simple, fresh insight.”
“Sharp and cogent throughout. . . . Victory is ultimately a deeply moving narrative of a not-quite-finished freedom struggle.”
“Given that the gay rights saga is very much in process, the ending of Hirshman’s book is a cliffhanger, but she does a masterful job of making her readers, whether they’re familiar with the material or not, want to know what happens next.”
-Los Angeles Times
“Exhilarating. . . . As an overview of recent American LGBT history, Victory has plenty to recommend it. . . . A good starting point for learning about recent gay history.”
-San Francisco Chronicle
“Victory is one of the most important (and readable) gay-history texts around.”
-Philadelphia City Paper
“An inclusive, fascinating history of the gay rights movement that provides fertile grounds for passionate debate.”
“An astonishing work that seamlessly weaves together multiple stories into one authoritative volume. Highly recommended for political scientists, civil rights activists, and students of LGBT history.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“Victory tells the fascinating inside story of how gay activists changed America for the better, not just for themselves but for everyone. There’s inspiration here for everyone who wants a fairer, more equal society-- and plenty of hope as well.”
-Katha Pollitt, Nation columnist
“Linda Hirshman has written an important and necessary book that should be read in every school and every home in the country.”
-Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
“Hirshman . . . offers perceptive comparisons between the gay-rights movement and other, concurrent movements for equality.”
“This exuberant history of arguably the final and most difficult civil rights struggle relates, in surprisingly upbeat fashion, the fight ‘to slowly bend the arc of history toward justice’ for gay men and women. . . . Undeniably inspiring.”
“Before he died, gay rights hero Arthur Evans told Linda Hirshman to tell our story. And she does so brilliantly--with insight, passion and the keen eye of a fierce social scientist. And what a story it is! Arthur Evans would be proud.”
-Eric Marcus, author of Making Gay History and What If Someone I Know Is Gay?
“I picked this book up one night and never got to sleep. Victory is an epic account of our movement’s progress; a beautifully written and fast moving narrative that is poignant, humorous, and inspiring.”
-Cleve Jones, Founder of The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt
“Linda Hirshman’s Victory is the chronicle that the brilliant, unremitting gay movement deserves. Deeply informed with human detail, political theory, and legal analysis alike, it moves fluidly out of the closet to the precincts . . . A genuine, sparkling tour de force.”
-Todd Gitlin, author of Occupy Nation
“A compulsively readable mix of philosophy, social history and journalism, Hirshman’s [book] provides an invaluable understanding of the people across the years who have worked so passionately to increase liberty and justice in our union.”
-Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don't Cry
“Hirshman has done a great service in putting the question of morality in this movement on the table. Though important chapters are yet to be written, this book will help the world to see that gay is good-and getting better.”
“Victory’s tone is thoughtful and modest, exploring large themes through individuals’ stories. . . . The book gives a moving picture of a history many won’t know.”
“Her analysis of what makes social movements succeed is always thoughtful and sometimes profound. . . . The result is always entertaining and frequently exhilarating.”
“Hirshman provides an excellent and very readable history that is buttressed by an impressive amount of research and personal interviews.