Jesse Monteagudo

Gay Images of America

Filed By Jesse Monteagudo | July 07, 2013 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History
Tags: book review, Images of America, LGBT history

lavender-los-angeles.jpgArcadia Publishing, established in 1993, "is the leading local history publisher in the United States, with a catalog of more than 8,500 titles in print and hundreds of new titles released every year." Arcadia's Images of America series of photographic histories "celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all."

Each Images of America is a 128-paperback, full of black and white photos along with accompanying text and a Foreword. These books are not comprehensive, scholarly histories of their communities; nor are they warts-and-all critical studies. Rather, they are "selective histories," which accentuate the positive. Most Images of America books are sold in museums or in gift shops, to proud locals or tourists who seek souvenirs of their travels.

Six volumes in the Images of America series deal with local LGBT history, not counting the ones about famous gayborhoods like Fire Island, Key West or San Francisco's Castro.

They are:

  1. Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia by Thom Nickels
  2. Gay and Lesbian Washington, D.C. by Frank Muzzy
  3. Gay and Lesbian San Francisco by Dr. William Lipsky, Foreword by then-San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano
  4. Gay and Lesbian Atlanta by Wesley Chenault & Stacy Braukman, Atlanta History Center
  5. Gay and Lesbian Richmond by Beth Marschak & Alex Lorch
  6. Lavender Los Angeles by Roots of Equality: Tom De Simone, Teresa Wang, Melissa Lopez, Diem Tran, Andy Sacher, Kersu Dalal, Justin Emerick, Foreword by Lillian Faderman, author (with Stuart Timmons) of Gay L.A.

Volumes in the series are $19.99 each except for Lavender Los Angeles, which is $21.99. They are written by experts in their field: Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia was authored by well-known Philadelphia author Thom Nickels (Walking on Water & After All This) and Gay and Lesbian San Francisco was authored by San Francisco historian, Dr. William Lipsky.

Gay and Lesbian Atlanta is an offshoot of an Atlanta History Center exhibition, The Unspoken Past: Atlanta Lesbian and Gay History, 1940-1970. Most of the images in the book and the exhibit come from the collections of the James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center, where coauthor Chenault serves as the archivist.

Lavender Los Angeles was produced by Roots of Equality, "a grassroots LGBT organization founded by" Dalal, De Simone, Emerick, Lopez, Sacher, Tran and Wang. Like the Atlanta book, Lavender Los Angeles was based on an exhibit, produced by Roots of Equality, which "uncovered many little-known histories of the LGBT community in Los Angeles." Most of the image in both book and exhibit come from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, the oldest (1952) active LGBT organization in the United States and the largest repository of LGBT materials in the world.

With such a pedigree, one expects Lavender Los Angeles to deliver, and it does. Though Lavender Los Angeles will never take the place of Faderman and Timmons's masterly Gay L.A., it is a wonderful collection of photographs of Los Angeles' LGBT past, both the struggles and the triumphs.

As a reader and book collector, I own 35 titles in the Images of America Series, including all six LGBT volumes, along with two Arcadia titles not in the series: Golden Memories of the San Francisco Bay Area and Florida In the Civil War.

Other than the LGBT titles, I tend to collect volumes about the places that I have lived in or traveled to, and thus I look forward to buying more titles as I visit more places or as more LGBT-related books are published.

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