Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington

Holt. May 2022. 816p. ISBN 9781627792325. $29.99. HIST
Gay history is American history. But for much of American history, particularly in 20th-century Washington, DC, being gay was something hidden, something secret. That is Kirchick’s (The End of Europe) thesis as he relays the stories of gay men and women who existed and persisted while working in every presidential administration from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s through Bill Clinton’s. The blacklisting of communists, the battle for civil rights, and the birth of the American conservative movement can trace a foundation back to gayness and how it was viewed, Kirchick maintains. This astonishing history, based on thousands of recently declassified documents, tells a bold story of how gay Americans, against great odds, made a lasting impact on the U.S. government. Chapters move chronologically through 11 presidential administrations and chronicle the federal officials and civil servants working behind the scenes, and sometimes in the public eye, who received scrutiny because of hearsay or rumor about their sexuality. Kirchick’s writing is compelling throughout, and the fast pace of his story makes a lengthy book accessible for a wide audience. The “cast of characters” at the beginning of the book is a bonus.
VERDICT Readers who enjoy inside-the-Beltway thrillers or American history, particularly regarding civil rights, will have a common interest in this fascinating and comprehensive work.
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