Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall

Counterpoint. Jun. 2019. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781640091894. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781640091900. HIST
Polchin (liberal studies, New York Univ.) presents a reflective, thoughtful first book that perfectly blends true crime and the history of discrimination against gay men in the 20th century. The author takes a deep dive into the specific crimes against gay men and how their deaths fed the competing cultural narratives of the time; that homosexuality was both a crime and a mental illness. Using these two narratives and the salacious nature of true crime, the public began to see homosexuality as a social and moral issue instead of a personal one. Polchin expertly uses men’s stories between World War I and the Stonewall Riots to prove that the fight for equal treatment is not over, and that the history of the LGBTQ+ movement is not always one of activism and celebration. In fact, the LGBTQ+ community is fighting against the stereotypes built on the deaths of these men.
VERDICT This insightful history of crimes perpetrated against gay men is essential for social history fans. Readers who enjoy well-researched, deliberate social commentary will appreciate Polchin’s enlightening and descriptive style.

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