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

Farrar. Jun. 2020. 512p. ISBN 9780374139797. $35. SOC SCI
In his debut work, historian Cervini uses the life of astronomer and activist Frank Kameny (1925–2011) as a lens to bring postwar, pre-Stonewall homosexual organizing into focus. He also makes the case for Kameny’s pivotal role in formulating a strategy of resistance that would emerge as a core ethic and aesthetic of gay liberation: pride. Kameny was the son of Jewish parents who were recent immigrants, an army veteran, and a first-generation college graduate who was poised to work for the infant U.S. space program when he was fired in 1957 because of his homosexuality. In contesting the underlying logic of his dismissal—that as a homosexual he was vulnerable to blackmail and a threat to national security—Kameny helped create a new homosexual citizen, a figure who demanded an end to class-based discrimination. In arguing for Kameny’s influence, Cervini introduces many people, places, events, and organizations that were key to building toward what would become an increasingly loud and proud struggle for gay rights.
VERDICT A meticulously-researched deep dive into the life and times of a man whose personality and persistence left an indelible mark on midcentury gay activism, this title is a welcome addition to the history of sexuality bookshelf.

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