Review of C. Todd White's 'Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights'

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From one of Walter William’s finest students, C. Todd White’s Pre-Gay L.A. probably ranks as the best work on homosexuality yet published by the University of Illinois Press. An anthropologist by training, White meticulously integrates individual biographies with institutional and social history in a charming and gripping narrative. I could hardly put the book down because the splits and various movements in Los Angeles and beyond were so dramatic that one would not think it was published by a university press. It described facts and personalities that I have long longed to find out about. It adheres to the finest traditions of objective scholarship; White excitingly describes how all of the major issues confronting the movement since Stonewall were discussed in depth and intelligently before that rebellion.

White focused more on institutional history rather than the broad-ranging sensationalized Gay L.A: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics and Lipstick Lesbians (2006). It began with the Indian village on which the Spanish built, emphasizing movie stars and celebrities. White also downsized the exaggerated role assigned to Harry Hay in Gay L.A. and corrected its misuse of the term gay for the 30’s and 40’s.

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