The Stranger Next Door

Arlene Stein, Author Beacon Press (MA) $27.5 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8070-7952-2
""To conservative Christians, homosexuality was sinful, unnatural, against God and family... but to the vast majority, who believed that religion--and sex--should be kept private, these words sounded intolerant... even hateful,"" writes Stein in this astute social analysis of how a small Oregon community dealt with an early 1990s political referendum to prohibit ""special rights"" for homosexuals. A Jewish lesbian, Stein (Sisters, Sexperts, Queers) writes as both a community insider and outsider, drawing upon personal observation, media analysis and interviews with 50 of the town's residents to sympathetically and critically reveal how both sides, and those caught in the middle, responded to this culture war. She conjures a complex portrait of people under stress, attributing much of the community's conservatism to the flagging economy caused by the weakening of the timber industry in the 1980s. Stein is best when articulating and exploring the myriad paradoxes and contradictions of the situation. Her most striking observation is that while conservative Christian organizers from outside Timbertown created widespread fear of a gay takeover, the town itself had no visible homosexual community, and most of its gay citizens were well integrated and accepted within the social fabric. A careful observer and writer, Stein uses traditional sociological methodology to reach conclusions about the boundaries of tolerance that are similar to those in Beth Loffreda's recent work of straightforward reportage on the murder of a young gay man in Wyoming, Losing Matt Shephard (Forecasts, July 31). (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-8070-7953-9
Ebook - 978-0-8070-7954-6
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