Queering Rehoboth Beach: Beyond the Boardwalk

Temple Univ. May 2024. 342p. ISBN 9781439923801. pap. $30. SOC SCI
Indigenous peoples were the first settlers of Rehoboth Beach, DE. In the 17th century, English and Dutch settlers colonized the oceanside town. In the 19th century, a Methodist preacher bought 400 acres and formed a permanent camp meeting site there. Scholar/historian Sears (Edwin and John: A Personal History of the American South) gives a thorough, insightful history lesson about when late-20th-century gay men, predominantly from Washington, DC, started spending summer breaks in the area. Sears, famous for employing his well-honed oral history skills in several books on gay history of the South, documents the growing tension between the town’s residents who viewed themselves as a wholesome family-oriented community and the LGBTQIA+ newcomers. His great contribution is in the intimate, on-the-ground portrayals of the leaders and everyday people who made up the new Rehoboth and the institutions, bars, and guest houses they brought into existence. He interviewed an impressive variety of people, including politicians, graphic designers, chemists, and partygoers. His book ably utilizes several other kinds of credible resources as well.
VERDICT This highly recommended title about Rehoboth Beach, DE, is a tour de force of micro history at its best. Both scholars and general readers will appreciate it.
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