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The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  614 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with vivid mem ...more
Hardcover, 179 pages
Published February 6th 2012 by University of California Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jul 14, 2013 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
There are times during this book when I wanted to throttle Schulman - some of her political analysis is facile and even knee-jerk, and she endows swathes of the population with a host of characteristics that she condemns as "gentrified", by which she sometimes means just traits that she doesn't like.

But there were also times when I felt like standing up in my train seat and cheering her on, because this book is saying in its cacophonous, slightly obnoxious way many true and heartbreaking things
I've been waiting for this book for years, and take a look at this incredible paragraph:

"The deaths of these 81,542 New Yorkers, who were despised and abandoned, who did not have rights or representation, who died because of the neglect of their government and families, has been ignored. This gaping hole of silence has been filled by the deaths of 2,752 people murdered by outside forces. The disallowed grief of 20 years of AIDS deaths was replaced by ritualized and institutionalized mourning of
Apr 12, 2012 Liz rated it liked it
not three stars like "it was okay", three stars like "love-hate". I really want people to read this so we can talk about it, it's pretty short, come on

really into her fundamental thesis that it's productive to compare the erasure of marginalised (in this case, queer) histories to the erasure of marginalised neighbourhoods through gentrification — often literally, as in the case of the process of gentrification in new york being sped up by the aids-related deaths of queers in rent-controlled apar
Feb 08, 2012 Alvin rated it it was amazing
I've always thought of Sarah Schulman as a hero for her work as an AIDS activist and Gay Libber, so I had high expectations for this book. I was not disappointed.

I know of nobody else who's so carefully analyzed the horrific consequences of gentrification and excessive social stratification on both culture and the individual human psyche. (Hint: people with gentrified minds tend to become boring conformists and/or social climbing snobs who identify with the ruling class, don't know understand h
This is an incredibly fascinating, incredibly frustrating, incredibly heartbreaking, and incredibly enraging book.

So much of it is deeply moving, a howling cry from the trenches lamenting the endless horror of the AIDS crisis and the myriad ways an entire segment of our society was failed, over and over, by every single one of the powers that be. Schulman has clearly been through the shit, fighting for her life and the lives of all the queer artists around her who were dying, dying, dying.

But t
Jessica Silk
Feb 28, 2012 Jessica Silk rated it it was amazing
I agree with others who said this is an important book. Two parts I would like to share/save for myself:

"It's never going to change," a wealthy, white, male, MFA-trained playwright told me about the exclusion of women playwrights from the American theater. "And if you try, people will say you are difficult."
On the other hand, Audre Lorde--Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet--told me, "That you can't fight City Hall, is a rumor being spread by City Hall."

"Be we currently live with a stupefying
Aug 18, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, glbtqa
It's really easy for me to read books that I find comfortable. Books that make me happy, or soothe me, or amuse me. But I know that the books that upset me, or make me uncomfortable, or leave me awake in the middle of the night are frequently the ones that I really need to read.

I've been someone who has celebrated gentrified GLBTQ victories, and not even realized the ways in which they can be problematic. I'm a middle class cisgendered white girl who sometimes can't even see the structures of my
I wanted this to be better and there are parts of it that are so right on that i was pacing about nodding in support and then Schulman just crashes into a wall of blind support for the fucking worst ideas, nostalgia or some of the most blindly hagiographic discussions of New York City (a city which she credits with an almost absurd aura of culture mixing ignoring that white gay men who sereoconverted in the mid 1980s were sometimes part of art scenes that were displacing non-white non-middle cla ...more
Ralowe Ampu
Mar 15, 2017 Ralowe Ampu rated it did not like it
god damn it i’d kill a whole cave of pepes for a black act up. the cdc: “In 2014, the estimated diagnosis rate for HIV cases in the United States was 13.8 per 100,000 population and 49.4 among blacks/African Americans.” i’m not sure where that’s at now 2017. BLM is a black queer femme product granted the legitimacy of disdain from conservatives mostly due to it being a politic that keeps black flesh hidden. the terrifying impossilbe gary fisherisms, a thouand times the critique of the critique o ...more
Ammi Emergency
Mar 12, 2012 Ammi Emergency rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I've read in years. I read it in a day and have talked about its thesis every day since. So vital, so life giving, and exceptionally gorgeously written on a prose level too.
Apr 20, 2017 Heather rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating read about the effects AIDS had by decimating a generation of bold queer artists.

She speaks about the "criminal class" which used to have a larger part in the artistic identity. And many more marvellous, provocative ideas.

And a surprisingly easy read for the complexity of subject matter. I tore through it.
Apr 25, 2012 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
How do I rate this book? Do I take away because I disagree with the author on many points, even if I understand and respect her anger and perspective? Do I give it 5 stars because it gave me so much to think (and talk) about? I have such conflicted feelings about this book. There are so many important messages, but there are just as many problematic messages. Perhaps more.

The strength and the weakness of this book is often how self-centered it is. The passion that drives Schulman's conviction a
This is a really important, personal, thought-provoking book. I'm interested in the conversations this book could and should create. I do have some critiques; most importantly, I think Schulman fails to adequately address the depth and power of white supremacy in the process of gentrification. Instead she seems to equate the intention of white queers moving into neighborhoods that are predominately communities of color as either "good" (if you're a working white queer artist looking for variety) ...more
Jason Gordon
Jul 15, 2013 Jason Gordon rated it really liked it
Sarah Schulman's book discusses the connection between the gentrification of cities and the gentrification of ideas. In the process of actual gentrification one population is not merely displaced or replaced by another, but a homogenized population is substituted for a diverse one. The gentrification of ideas undergoes a similar process. Diverse ideas are replaced by homogenized ones that reflect dominant attitudes and perceptions held by the powerful -- in effect 'alienating people from a concr ...more
Charles Rice-Gonzalez
Feb 10, 2012 Charles Rice-Gonzalez rated it it was amazing
Urgent, wonderful and a must-read. With Gentrification of the Mind Sarah Schulman continues to be a contemporary voice for our society and culture that builds on our past and offers options for a vibrant future. This book will open your mind. I've read it three times which is as many times as I've her previous book Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia. She continues to raise the bar for writers and delivers a powerful experience to readers.
Sep 12, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
I read this in February and thought it was quite something. So powerful and captured my attention all the way through. Sad, bracing, and a critical work that helped me to understand individual and societal struggles of the 1980s as well as those of today. A crucial study that does not shy away from the truth.
Dec 13, 2014 Chase rated it it was amazing
Passionate, incendiary, and critically aware: a must-read, not only for queer folk, but for everyone impacted by urban gentrification, globalisation, and modern society - that is, everyone.
Apr 05, 2017 Christine rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: queers, feminists, activists
"The deaths of these 81,542 New Yorkers, who were despised and abandoned, who did not have rights or representation, who died because of the neglect of their government and families, has been ignored. This gaping hole of silence has been filled by the deaths of 2,752 people murdered by outside forces. The disallowed grief of twenty years of AIDS deaths was replaced by ritualized and institutionalized mourning of the acceptable dead. In this way 9/11 is the gentrification of AIDS. The replacement ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Finn rated it liked it
i read the other reviews here on goodreads and mostly agree. there were points where i was happy to think about an issue in a totally new light and other moments where i really wish i'd been spared the author's asides that were really unnecessary to her argument and ultimately turn off readers. (last night a friend told me she started the book and couldn't finish because she was so fed up with the author's off the cuff opinions about how rural places are not a place where new ideas can flourish ...more
Fr. River
Jan 10, 2014 Fr. River rated it it was amazing
January 10, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Sculman--4th Day of Guantanamo Fast

Sarah Schulman writes of gentrification ans says that it is homogenity--a means of making everything the same, without diversity--which protects people from the pain of life, it keeps them from seeing the pain around them. She quotes Sara Ahmed: "Happiness for some involves persecution for others; it is not that this happiness produces a social wrong, but it might even be depende
Michael Dipietro
Jan 30, 2016 Michael Dipietro rated it it was amazing
I'm mostly through this book at this point, so can safely say it is a bit flawed. I find myself loving and agreeing with almost all of Schulman's claims and appreciating the first-hand accounts of her activism & involvement with ACT UP. This book really showcases her arguments, which are backed by direct experience, and her fierce advocacy for queer life & liberation. But, some of the larger social observations about gentrification of cities and her original arguments about gentrificatio ...more
Dec 30, 2012 Tyler rated it it was amazing
I think I love this woman.

While her ideals are very clear throughout the book, I share them and they are very important to community and human happiness. She cleverly reveals the connections between gentrification and private life, and tells it like it is regarding gay marriage. Gentrification serves as relief from gentrification - as consolation for lack of community, individuals withdrawn into their own private families and careers. She mentions the pervasive self-help mantra of "just accept t
Feb 05, 2017 Jessy rated it really liked it
This was thought-provoking in the sense that I didn't always agree with what Schulman was arguing but my god did lots of it hit home.

Jun 01, 2014 Sandy rated it really liked it
The first half of this book is the best, most essential, everyone should read. About AIDS and gentrification, how they worked together to devastate communities. And about how the successes of gentrification have damaged our ability to imagine or produce social change. The second half is more about art and gentrification and that is basically less interesting to me, but she still says really smart and insightful things.
Apr 29, 2012 Marcelo rated it really liked it
This reading awakaned a desire to research pre-Aids literature, performance art of the late 80w, and ACT-UP. She is a bit Larry Kramer-like in her approach, and does make herself seem grandiose at times, but her comments on education need to be said. Kudos.
Dec 10, 2011 Rafe rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-books
This book is incredibly important both as a record of some of the unrecorded (and erased) costs of the AIDS crisis and as a reminder to younger activists. This is not academic writing, with distance and tact. This is spelled-out and clear-spoken. It will make you angry. It will make you cry.
Mar 30, 2012 A rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, read-2012
This is the most important book I've ever read.
really, really great, even if i disagreed with some of what schulman said. but if uc press feels like sending me a copy that doesn't have 20 pages missing, that'd be cool.
A Templeton
Dec 11, 2016 A Templeton rated it really liked it
Shelves: written-reviews
One redeeming thing about this book is that its hustle is apparent. Schulman's project is the history of the AIDS crisis, as she experienced it at its inception in New York City from the late 70s onwards; she is one of the founders of the AIDS Oral History Project; she lectures on the history of the crisis and its activism (including ACT UP); she is still grappling with the enormous loss of a generation of her personal friends, the horrors she experienced during those years, and the added insult ...more
Oct 16, 2016 Stephanie rated it really liked it
"Gentrified happiness is often available to us in return for collusion with injustice. We go along with it, usually, because of the privilege of dominance, which is the privileged not to notice how our way of living affects less powerful people. Sometimes we do know that certain happiness exists at the expense of other human beings, but because we're not as smart as we think we are, we decide that this is the only way we can survive. Stupidity or cruelty becomes the choice, but it doesn't always ...more
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Sarah Schulman is a longtime AIDS and queer activist, and a cofounder of the MIX Festival and the ACT UP Oral History Project. She is a playwright and the author of seventeen books, including the novels The Mere Future, Shimmer, Rat Bohemia, After Delores, and People in Trouble, as well as nonfiction works such as The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, My American History: ...more
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“There is something inherently stupid about gentrified thinking. It’s a dumbing down and smoothing over of what people are actually like. It’s a social position rooted in received wisdom, with aesthetics blindly selected from the presorted offerings of marketing and without information or awareness about the structures that create its own delusional sense of infallibility. Gentrified thinking is like the bourgeois version of Christian fundamentalism, a huge, unconscious conspiracy of homogenous patterns with no awareness about its own freakishness. The gentrification mentality is rooted in the belief that obedience to consumer identity over recognition of lived experience is actually normal, neutral, and value free.” 1 likes
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