cover image Outlaw Marriages: 
The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples

Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples

Rodger Streitmatter. Beacon, $26.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0334-3

Cultural historian and American University professor Streitmatter (Mightier Than the Sword) absorbingly details the public and private lives of notable same-sex couples, deftly examining affairs, betrayals, and disappointments, as well as the enabling power that the right marriage, recognized or not, provides. Many of the pairs comprised a famous and not-so-famous member: Walt Whitman’s much younger partner and muse, Peter Doyle, sold streetcar tickets and worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, while Greta Garbo’s upper-crust partner, Mercedes de Acosta, taught the star, who came from a poor family, rules of etiquette and style. The thoroughly researched, lovingly rendered joint histories—including Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns—share a common thread that is less about gender than partnership-as-catalyst. Toklas championed Stein’s writing and became her literary agent; Rauschenberg encouraged Johns to act on the content of a bizarre dream and paint the American flag; Merlo “single-handedly stabilized Tennessee Williams’s life and career.” When James Baldwin seemed “on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” his partner, artist Lucien Happersberger, whisked him off to a Swiss village where he could focus on his work. The volume will have particular appeal to readers of gender studies, but these stories ultimately prove that true partnership is gender blind. Agent: Howard Yoon, Ross Yoon. (May)