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The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America
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The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  247 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
A "New York Times" Notable Book of the Year and winner of a Lambda Literary Award, "The Gay Metropolis" is a landmark saga of struggle and triumph that was instantly recognized as the most authoritative and substantial work of its kind. Filled with astounding anecdotes and searing tales of heartbreak and transformation, it provides a decade-by-decade account of the rise an ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove Press (first published November 17th 1997)
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Tristan Goding
Quite optimistic in its writing and in its exploration of gay culture from the 1940s onward, but the end result feels too pretty as a result. I'm awfully picky when it comes to gay literature. I think it's important that an LGBTQ themed-book be as honest and direct about the gay experience as it possibly can. This book mostly focuses on the progressiveness of the gay rights movement and the way our community eventually shaped itself. It's been a triumphant battle, I'm not going to deny that. The ...more
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kaiser has written a history of gay life in America from WW 2 to 1996 that is sure to grip the reader. Focusing on New York City, he moves through each decade with a combination of a dispassionate history of events and interviews with people who were actually there and lived through it. This technique humanizes the book, making it far more approachable than the average history book. And it’s a very lively book, full of reminiscences, headlines, ground breaking events and gossip.

Different eras e
Elisa Rolle
It’s almost funny to read how Otis Bigelow (famous to be the most handsome man of the ’40s in New York City, and coveted by millionaires and artists) reported as being gay “was an upscale thing to be”, but at the same time the author reports as just “across town from Park Avenue swells who entertained him so lavishly in their duplex apartments, a completely different kind of gay life was thriving in Times Square”. This was and is New York City, and as in the ’40s, also now there is a melting pot ...more
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of a Lambda Literary Award, The Gay Metropolis is a landmark saga of struggle and triumph that was instantly recognized as the most authoritative and substantial work of its kind. Filled with astounding anecdotes and searing tales of heartbreak and transformation, it provides a decade-by-decade account of the rise and acceptance of gay life and identity since the 1940s.

From the making of "West Side Story," the modern Romeo and Juliet tale writ
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lively account of the U.S. gay subculture as it began to acquire a sense of community in New York City and other large cities after World War 2, and then, in the 60s, to move out of the closet and claim political rights. The title is misleading -- this book is about much more than the Big Apple, although much of its anecodotal material comes from there. I especially liked the chapter on "The Forties" -- I hadn't realized how the mass mobilization of World War 2 brought together gay guys (and t ...more
Brandon Leighton
This book offers a fascinating history of the gay "experience" from the 40s to the 90s. I thought at times, though, that the serious was replaced by the salacious. But I guess the gritty/dirty details make any book interesting, right? But in all seriousness, you have to give credit to the early pioneers of the gay movement who were only able to experience their identities in secret. We've come a long way! Full Disclosure: I didn't read the book all the way through. I skipped around, much like on ...more
Jordan Kinsey
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book. I haven't spent enough time reading gay history as I should. Kaiser's depiction of the sexual "revolution" of the 1970's, followed by the decimation of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980's is especially poignant. He does an amazing job of devoting equal time to the "big picture" political stories, juxtaposed with the intimate stories of real people and real lives. The latter really helped me understand the terror and sadness of the AIDS epidemic.
WAY too focused on the white male gay experience to really be a good, all-encompassing kind of ~gay history~ text. that said, i learned a lot about the movement and how different actions and social/political attitudes changed through the latter half of the 20th century. and the sections devoted to the aids crisis were really, really well done. very appropriately visceral.
Sarah Watts
This book was absolutely amazing! Even now I tend to think of American gay culture as a "modern" phenomenon, something that only entered the cultural consciousness after the Sonewall Riots of 1969. It's fascinating to read about how sex and love among men functioned pre-sexual revolution. I love historical nonfiction and this book is certainly one of my favorites.
Gossipy, sexual, culturally sensitive, committed and engaged, political, accurate—Kaiser has written a thoroughly informative and entertaining history. Highly, highly recommended for everyone to see how we got here, and to realize how easy it would be to lose it all again.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gaygaygaygaygay
The account of the early days of the AIDS crisis are nothing short of chilling.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was really interesting and entertaining. I do wish that it focused more on lesbians, bisexuals, trans people and people of color. It was mostly about white gay men with money. Super interesting but could've been more inclusive.
Julia Prater
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history of the struggle for justice and equality for gay Americans from WWII through the 90's. Sorry too many leaders in the struggle weren't still with us to see the amazing progress of the 21st century. Praying the current climate and administration won't set back that progress.
Silvio Curtis
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More or less does what I hoped it would, which is give the standard story of the USA gay rights movement, World War II to 1996, which I'll need in order to put more detailed or controversial versions in perspective. On the other hand, it could have been better focused and organized. A good deal of it was a sort of celebrity gossip, less judgmental than what you get in the media but just as trivial. For instance, I didn't think all the details of how West Side Story was created were relevant to l ...more
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was just eye-opening to me, as I think it must be to any non-US citizen whose awareness of culture and history of America is only superficial. The story is about the fight for gay rights, from the very first sparks of it, and it also covers general changes in morals and attitudes pretty well. The book gave me a good idea of how gay people of US have acheived recognition, and finally have had their rights protected by law, and what's very interesting, how American society made that victory pos ...more
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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May 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really had high hopes for this book, but it turned out to be kind of a slog. It's less a narrative and more an oral history, focused around gay men living in New York City from the 50s on. That focus means that sometimes the book feels like listening to your gay uncle tell you boring stories about all the hook ups he had back in the day, and other things get missed - Harvey Milk is hardly mentioned at all, for example. The writing felt really disjointed in some places for the same reason.

Andrew Mercier
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it satisfied my love for New York City history as well as teaching me a lot of new things about gay history in the United States. It's easy to think that gay culture only started happening in the 80s but it's important that all people, gay and straight, know the trials and tribulations of what was once one of "America's most hated" minorities. I highly recommend it for any LGBT person as well as anyone with a desire to know history from a number of different sta ...more
Richard Jespers
Gossipy yet historically accurate—filling in dates and times of some events (like Stonewall) and otherwise unknown events in U.S. gay history since WWII.

The lover in Forster’s Maurice is based on Forster’s lover, a married policeman.

Patrick Dennis, author of Auntie Mame, “ran off with a Mexican boy.” Died in Mexico City.

In 1979, two boys escorted each other to the younger one’s senior prom sponsored by a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, high school. 1979!
Dec 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it to supplement a recent obsession with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. There were a lot of scandalous bits about already dead people, but significantly less analysis, which probably wasn't the point anyway. If you like that approach, my copy is yours.
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I didn't want this to end! My only quibble was that Kaiser seemed a bit soft on Ed Koch (no mention of the allegations of his sexuality, which is somewhat surprising), but it does not come as a surprise that Koch himself provided a blurb on the back cover.
jessicamax stein
gossipy and lacking narrative... but fun.
Joey Gamble
This book presents voluminous research in a style that is...lacking.
Geary Brewer
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A companion read to Chauncey's work. Together they provide a good view of the east coast cuultural trends from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century.
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“So many important New York musicians were gay, one wit dubbed the American Composers League the Homintern.” 1 likes
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