cover image The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America

The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America

Eric Cervini. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (512p) ISBN 978-0-374-13979-7

Historian Cervini’s ambitious and exhaustive debut recounts the life of astronomer and gay rights activist Frank Kameny (1925–2011) and the campaign to end federal discrimination against homosexuals. Dismissed from the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 for allegedly lying about his 1956 arrest for “lewd conduct” in a San Francisco restroom, Kameny was living on 20 cents per day (“enough for two or three frankfurters and a half a pot of mashed potatoes,” he claimed) when an ACLU-affiliated lawyer agreed to represent him pro bono. Cervini tracks Kameny’s case against the U.S. government through the court system (the Supreme Court denied his appeal in 1961), as he became more and more involved in gay rights activism—cofounding the Washington, D.C., branch of the Mattachine Society, making TV appearances to combat negative stereotypes against homosexuality, and advising other government employees in their own discrimination cases. Weaving the Kinsey report, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s “Sex Deviates” program tracking homosexual arrests and allegations, and the 1969 Stonewall riots into his portrait, Cervini provides essential context, but occasionally overstuffs the narrative with undigested material, including trial transcripts and interviews. Readers interested in the origins of the LGBTQ rights movement will be deeply informed by this meticulous account. [em](June) [/em]