Men Like That: A Southern Queer History

John Howard, Author University of Chicago Press $30 (395p) ISBN 978-0-226-35471-2
For three decades, social historians have claimed that for gay people, sexual freedom was only found in cities because rural areas were draconian in their regulation of nontraditional sexual practices. In this groundbreaking and engrossing analysis of gay male life in postwar Mississippi, Howard, a professor of American Studies at the University of York, boldly demonstrates that gay culture and sex not only existed but flourished in small towns and agricultural communities throughout the state. Supporting his challenging argument with a compelling mixture of postmodern theory, reportage, cultural analysis, conjecture and personal anecdote, Howard not only convinces but paints a vivid, complex and often startling portrait of the lives of Southern gay men between 1945 and 1985. While the 55 personal interviews and oral histories--which are alternately funny, poignant, informative and sometimes unsettling--form the emotional backbone of the book, Howard is terrific at explicating obvious homosexual content in popular culture. His reading of the gay themes in Bobbie Gentry's 1967 country hit ""Ode to Billy Joe"" and of Joe Hains's spirited defenses of homosexuality in his popular entertainment column in the Jackson Daily News from 1955 to 1975, and Howard's own interpretation of an infamous murder trial, support his thesis that homosexuality was anything but hidden. Most provocative of all, however, is Howard's innovative analysis of how gay sexual activity and homophobia fueled and shaped white resistance to the black civil rights movement. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999
Release date: 12/01/1999
Paperback - 395 pages - 978-0-226-35470-5
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