cover image Midlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade, 1971-1991

Midlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade, 1971-1991

Martin Duberman. Scribner Book Company, $22.5 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-684-81836-8

For historian, gay activist and playwright Duberman, the 1970s was not the complacent Me decade. In this searching, refreshingly optimistic memoir, he revisits his participation in gay rights struggles as well as in internal disputes with a movement he saw as too insular in its relative disregard of nonwhites, the poor and lesbians. He analyzes his relationship with his intrusive yet loving mother, whose protracted death from a malignant melanoma in 1977 had a deep, lingering impact. Duberman tried experimental LSD therapy, which proved disorienting, yielding only scattered insights. Another alternative psychotherapy, bioenergetics, unleashed floods of rage, tears and tenderness. His career as a dramatist was stalemated during the 1970s, which he blames partly on a cowardly producers' fraternity and partly on timid, anesthetized American audiences. After a major heart attack in 1979, at 49, Duberman spent a year recovering, moving beyond despair and self-recrimination to re-immersion in the gay rights movement. His relentless self-scrutiny reflects a continual search for ways to link the personal with the political. (May)