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When We Rise: My Life in the Movement

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,505 ratings  ·  273 reviews
The partial inspiration for the forthcoming ABC television mini-series from Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, executive producer Gus Van Sant, and starring Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Carrie Preston, and Rachel Griffiths.

Born in 1954, Cleve Jones was among the last generation of gay Americans who grew up wondering if there were others out there lik
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published November 29th 2016 by Hachette Books
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4.31  · 
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 ·  1,505 ratings  ·  273 reviews

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When the trailers for the When We Rise miniseries came on TV, I knew instantly that I had to watch it, and I knew that it would make me sob. So my mom was in Cuba for a week back in March, I had the entire house to myself, and there was a record breaking snowstorm that snowed me in for days. So, I finally plunked down and binged that entire show in a day and I sobbed for like 75% of the 8 hours. After I naturally went and googled the shit out of everything I had learned and I discovered that the ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, 2018
Set in San Francisco during the 1970s and 1980s, When We Rise: My Life in the Movement tracks the rise of progressive politics, sexual freedom, and gay activism in the Castro district. Cleve Jones spends much of his memoir's first third detailing his youthful travels abroad and aimless wandering; the many descriptions of his lovers, friends, and drug use start off as interesting but quickly become exhausting. Once Jones settles in San Francisco, though, the memoir and his life become much more f ...more
Joy (joyous reads)
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When most of Americans exalted at the news that marriage equality was finally the law of their land, the world joined in the celebration. #LoveWins trended for days after the proclamation. And the religious right stayed in their homes clutching their pearls while they prayed for everybody’s souls.

Now I sit here with worry. Because among all the other disturbing things that are happening in the States right now, there is something else simmering on the stove of this ridiculous administration: the
Lisa Vegan
This is a book I’m reading for my real-world book club, even though I probably won’t be able to attend the meeting when it is discussed. I had seen the miniseries on tv and enjoyed it. I hadn’t been planning to read the book, but I’m glad that I did. It’s excellent.

I’m in the same generation as the author, just a year/school year older than him, and I was in San Francisco, and so much was familiar and brought up memories, and not just within San Francisco, but the country/the world: the war, th
Right now I don't feel like I want to pick up this book again.
Let's be honest : I've read 34% of this book and so far it's just him talking about every guy he ever had sex with . . . Fascinating.

Maybe I will pick it up later, or maybe I won't, I guess we'll have to wait and see.
D.P. Denman
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for anyone in the LGBTQ+ movement! It's so well written and entertaining, it's easy to forget it's a historical account. It helps put the current era in context. LGBTs have always fought hard to earn even acknowledgment, let alone respect. Nothing has ever come easy, but giving up isn't an option.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A little scattered, but interesting. This is really a memoir, a pulling together of thoughts and memories, than a detailed recollection of the LGBTQ rights movement through the 1970's and the AIDS epidemic in the 80's and early 90's. Jones is a great writer, and even if I didn't learn a ton about the history of the queer activism movement, I did get a strong sense of how Jones bounced through those years, some very dark and heavy, but with a vibrant community of friends, lovers, and compatriots. ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtqi, memoir
Wonderful book that I read in two days. It's written clearly, and clear sightedly and covers his childhood, student days, time with Harvey Milk, AIDS and through to proposition 8.

I loved the beginning where Cleve writes about how he is among the last generation of gay Americans who grew up wondering if there were others out there like himself, and how finding the gay movement in San Francisco saved his life (he even had pills saved in case he was 'found out'.)

There are so many dreadful things t
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I take back everything I've written this year because this is decisively the most important book of 2016. While it has been a devastating year politically there have been many strong, life-altering books written by the likes of Colson Whitehead, Gloria Steinem and Irvine Welsh. Books, like music have a tendency to carry me through the dark times. And if seeing the rise of Donald Trump did not move you to tears and action then this piece most certainly will. I was starting to think I was dead ins ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Knowing your roots is important. While there is so much rich history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement to be read, Cleve Jones's first hand account of his activism in San Francisco is awe-inspiring. For anyone who has watched Emile Hirsch portray Jones in the movie "Milk," "When We Rise" is a stand out testament to just how much of an impact Jones had on this movement. Cover to cover, these are the stories that must be read by our brothers and sisters in arms.

At one point, Jones writes, "For o
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jones does an excellent job of balancing his personal story (told with humor and humility) and the hyper-dramatic political drama through which he lived (told with clarity and concision). There is, alas, far too much in the earlier chapters about traipsing around Europe in the 1970s, but otherwise the book is uniformly entertaining and a must-read for students of Gay Lib.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Maybe not quite a five star rating but I really liked this one and the inside perspective to gay rights pre and post-AIDS. The years right after the AIDS epidemic were pretty heartbreaking. He recounts watching his entire neighborhood and hundreds of his friends painfully die. He talks about how they had such huge volunteer turnover for the AIDS Memorial Quilt project because all the volunteers would die. Also, I was reminded what a puritanical upbringing I had because I couldn't believe how muc ...more
Ron Popp
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is Cleve Jone's story. It never goes into great depth but it reads like you're sitting at a coffee shop and he's simply telling you the story of his life. It's heart breaking, funny and important.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't even know where to begin with Cleve Jones' beautiful memoir, When We Rise. First, hearing Cleve tell his story felt intimate and just right. The audiobook was a great vehicle to absorb the book. I loved how he wove his personal life journey with his awareness of the importance of the LGBT movement and its place alongside of many other important movements such as women's rights, worker's rights, and support for other cultures and people around the world. He balanced the book by celebratin ...more
Harry Wingfield
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I started reading When We Rise shortly after watching the miniseries on ABC with the same name. I found the book to be much richer in the details of the author's memories of childhood, and coming of age as the struggle for LGBT rights hit the national stage. While the miniseries included life stories from others in the movement, the book is Cleve Jones' memoir, and focuses on his story. He and I are close in age, and I appreciated comparing his experience with my own - his in the west, mine most ...more
Mark Hiser
Born just months before me, the author Cleve Jones writes "I was born into the last generation of homosexual people who grew up not knowing if there was anyone else on the entire planet who felt the way that we felt. It was simply never spoken of. There were no rainbow flags, no characters on TV, no elected officials, no messages of compassion from religious leaders, no pride parades, no "It Gets Better," no Glee, no Ellen, no Milk. Certainly no same-sex couples with their kids at the White Hous ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
It was a pretty neat experience reading the latter half of When We Rise while visiting a friend in San Francisco since this book can also be categorized as a love letter to the city.

Walking the streets of the protest path, passing Twin Peaks, a night out at The Mix - I definitely felt the draw of San Fran and raised my glass to the heroes I was reading about. I even took a recommendation from the book. After reading about Cleve catching up with a friend at Cafe Flore, I made my way there for an
Jan 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
I picked up this book hoping for a well-written recollection of the gay rights movement. Instead I got anecdotes about Cleve Jones' sexual encounters and drug usage. If Jones had been a young gay during the 2010s, he'd be one of those insufferable, superficial, sex-obsessed, size queen, drug-using gays that you go to extreme lengths to avoid on Grindr. It really is unfortunate that his writing and personality embody every negative stereotype of gay men. Granted, the second half of the book gets ...more
Essential reading for anyone interested in politics, activism, the history of the gay rights movement and/or the AIDS crisis. It is wrenching, funny, enraging, depressing, and hopeful—and maybe most importantly, a primer for movement building. Stop what you're doing and read this book now.
Bryan Ball
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you, Cleve Jones for writing this. The final two-thirds or more, especially, should be required reading for every LGBTQ person or civil rights activist, period.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq, non-fiction
*4.5 stars

One of the most emotional, powerful memoirs I've ever read.

It's a personal account of primarily gay liberation and as inclusive, and broad, as one man's perspective can be. It's stretches beyond that as well, through the AIDS crisis, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Prop 8 and finally achieving marriage equality in 2015. As I reached the end of the book, towards Prop 8 and DOMA, it was easy to recall my own feelings and personal memories of each event as a teenager; it's a difficult thing to rem
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a young gay person in this country, Cleve Jones has always been one of my personal heroes. He fought for my rights, and the rights of so many others, for his entire life. He continues to do so today. This book was a beautiful chronicle of his life- from the hippie summers to the horror of the AIDS epidemic. I loved how this book talked about his lovers and friends without ever losing sight of the overall historical picture. It constantly talked about oppression and wrongdoings against many gr ...more
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe 3.5. This was definitely super interesting! You can’t really tell someone how to write their memoir but he spent so much time on the 70s and then things sped up really fast and he was flying through a lot of the years I was most interested in hearing about. Also, though he made some valid critiques of ACT UP I think part of his dislike of them was annoying respectability politics. Also omfg so much name dropping. It’s true he met and worked with a lot of cool well known people! Definitely ...more
Traci at The Stacks
Cleve Jones is a total hero. He lived an amazing life in the center of so much of the LGBBTQ events in the SF Bay area. He writes with humor and joy and also tells stories that are heartbreaking. I really loved getting to know him and his story.
Diane Dizy
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Cleve Jones provides a vivid reminder of Queer history in the US during the 70s to the present day. It is an autobiography but you will still get the big picture because he was present for so many seminal events- The AIDS crisis, Harvey Milk, the Aids quilt, marriage equality, etc.
Abiyasha Abiyasha
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, lgbt
I am speechless but also felt a profound sadness mixed with joy. This book is everything I've been looking for all these times, for my knowledge about gay movement was limited to Stonewall, Gilbert Barker, and Harvey Milk. This book explores all the things I wanted to know from one of its key players.

This memoir is so touching that my eart swollen and my eyes got wet reading page by page how teh gay community marched, fought hard, hit by the AIDS epidemic, and then the marriage equality in 2015.
Robert Adams
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was of particular interest to me because I knew Cleve and Harvey Milk very well. Cleve's experiences in San Francisco often parallel my own. I even discovered reading it that we lived in the same house with the same person, but at different times. I will admit to being a bit disappointed that I wasn't mentioned. He told me on Facebook that he had the "biggest crush" on me, but I always kept him at bay, mostly because he was so intense. So perhaps had I slept with him, I would have incr ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq
If the measure of a good book is how many times it makes you cry then this one's a masterpiece. I cried on trains, the loneliness and shame that generations of queer folk smuggled to their graves welling up from a dark, hidden place deep inside me. I cried on park benches, remembering the thousands of bright, beautiful men and women who lost their lives to a biblically brutal plague while a merciless society stood by and did nothing. I cried at my desk, overcome with gratitude to live in a time ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 25 years ago I played a character based on Cleve Jones in a play about the creation of the Names Project AIDS Quilt ('Remember My Name') ... and at the time (pre-Wikipedia), there was little concrete information, other than what was contained in the play, about my 'character'. So it was interesting to see where I was instinctively correct - and also totally off base - on who Jones actually was/is. In prose that is quite a bit better than it needs to be, in this emotionally appealing memoir J ...more
Mark Patro
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
When you need to know true history, you need to read the writings from those who were there, on the front line. Cleve Jones has written such a book with When We Rise. His letter from Barcelona to his friend Howard is the perfect example.

For me this is a reflection of the history of our LGBT community as I also lived it. Cleve Jones is only two years older than me, so many moments in his history were moments we shared (unknown to each other). I too, attended the first March on Washington and the
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Goodreads Librari...: Subtitle change 4 26 Sep 29, 2016 02:51PM  

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“I wasn’t an activist then. I would become one eventually, but at that time I did not yet see myself as an organizer or a leader, I saw myself as a foot soldier in the movement and as an active participant—not a bystander or observer—in a particular and extraordinary moment in history. I think that all of my friends felt some degree of obligation to at least show up, be counted, and stand with our brothers and sisters and to be as fierce and fabulous and free as possible” 2 likes
“When we weren’t dancing or fucking, we were marching. Marching for the Sandinistas and against Nicaraguan strongman Somoza. Marching for the Filipino people and against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marching in solidarity with the people of Chile and against the murderous General Pinochet. Marching against nuclear power and offshore oil drilling. Marching for equal pay for women in the US and against apartheid in South Africa.” 1 likes
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