Vivacious, unconventional, candid, and straight, Helen Branson operated a gay bar in Los Angeles in the 1950s—America’s most anti-gay decade. After years of fending off drunken passes as an entertainer in cocktail bars, this divorced grandmother preferred the wit, variety, and fun she found among homosexual men. Enjoying their companionship and deploring their plight, she gave her gay friends a place to socialize. Though at the time California statutes prohibited homosexuals from gathering in bars, Helen’s place was relaxed, suave, and remarkably safe from police raids and other anti-homosexual hazards. In 1957 she published her extraordinary memoir Gay Bar, the first book by a heterosexual to depict the lives of homosexuals with admiration, respect, and love.
In this new edition of Gay Bar, Will Fellows interweaves Branson’s chapters with historical perspective provided through his own insightful commentary and excerpts gleaned from letters and essays appearing in gay publications of the period. Also included is the original introduction to the book by maverick 1950s psychiatrist Blanche Baker. The eclectic selection of voices gives the flavor of American life in that extraordinary age of anxiety, revealing how gay men saw themselves and their circumstances, and how others perceived them.
Outstanding Book, selected by the Public Library Association
Best Books for High Schools, selected by the American Association of School Libraries
“We could have been called a lot of things: brazen vandals, scared kids, threats to social order, self-obsessed egomaniacs, marginalized youth, outsider artists, trend setters, and thrill seekers. But, to me, we were just regular kids growing up hard in America and making the city our own. Being ‘writers’ gave us something to live for and ‘going all city’ gave us something to strive for; and for some of my friends it was something to die for.”
In the age of commissioned wall murals and trendy street art, it’s easy to forget graffiti’s complicated and often violent past in the United States. Though graffiti has become one of the most influential art forms of the twenty-first century, cities across the United States waged a war against it from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, complete with brutal police task forces. Who were the vilified taggers they targeted? Teenagers, usually, from low-income neighborhoods with little to their names except a few spray cans and a desperate need to be seen—to mark their presence on city walls and buildings even as their cities turned a blind eye to them.
Going All City is the mesmerizing and painful story of these young graffiti writers, told by one of their own. Prolific LA writer Stefano Bloch came of age in the late 1990s amid constant violence, poverty, and vulnerability. He recounts vicious interactions with police; debating whether to take friends with gunshot wounds to the hospital; coping with his mother’s heroin addiction; instability and homelessness; and his dread that his stepfather would get out of jail and tip his unstable life into full-blown chaos. But he also recalls moments of peace and exhilaration: marking a fresh tag; the thrill of running with his crew at night; exploring the secret landscape of LA; the dream and success of going all city.
Bloch holds nothing back in this fierce, poignant memoir. Going All City is an unflinching portrait of a deeply maligned subculture and an unforgettable account of what writing on city walls means to the most vulnerable people living within them.
In this illuminating look at two Chicano gangs in East Los Angeles, Joan W. Moore examines the changes and continuities among three generations of barrio gangs. As a sequel to the author's award-winning study, Homeboys (Temple, 1979), this book returns to the same neighborhoods to chart the development of gang behavior, especially in terms of violence and drug use, and to compare experiences of male and female gang members.
In a remarkable research collaborative effort, Moore and gang members worked together to develop an understanding of both male and female gangs and an internal vision of gang members' lives. By using excerpts from individual interviews, the author depicts more about the gangs than simply their life together as a unit; she gives them a voice. Gang members discuss their personal reaction to violence, drug using and selling, family relations and intra-gang dating; they share intimacies that reveal varying levels of loyalty to and dependency on their affiliations, which often become a family substitute.
After maintaining neighborhood ties for 17 years, Moore's research group has established a relationship with these communities that gives her a rare perspective. This is a fascinating and informative book for anyone interested in sociology, criminology, youth behavior and deviance, and ethnic studies.