Keith, Thomas (editor). “Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of New York City”, Vantage Press, 2012.
What a surprise this book is. I actually heard about it a while ago and then totally forgot it. It is made up of twenty-eight essays about New York City including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island and since I know so many of the authors, it was a real treat. To give you an idea what is here, I am quoting directly from the press release:
“The essays: “Silence = Death: The Education of a Comedian” by Bob Smith, “An Old Queen’s Tale” by Penny Arcade, “The Isle Of Staten” by Michele Karlsberg, “Finding Jesús on Christopher Street” by Brendan Fay, “Dis-membering Stonewall” by Rev. Irene Monroe, “Before I Begin” by David McConnell, “A Bite of the Big Apple” by Val McDermid, “Irrespective of the Storm” by Mark Ameen, “My Last Big Addiction” by Martin Hyatt, “My Family Tree” by Amos Mac, “The Opera Singer’s Pants, and How I Got In Them” by Justine Saracen, “The Sum of Our Parts” by Jewelle Gomez, “The Myths of this Place” by Shaun Levin, “The Voices” by Charlie Vázquez, “As I Stood Frying…” by Fay Jacobs, “Borders, Rivers and Time: Gay Gotham Revisited” by Shawn Syms, “White Angel/Pale Blue Eyes” by Nicky Paraiso, “My Gay New York: A Symphony in Four Acts” by Aaron Hamburger, “The Place I Parked My Car” by G. Winston James, “Bad Boy” by Felice Picano, “Two Near Water—And One Very Quiet” by Thomas Glave, “Goodnight, New York: A Sermon on the Move” by Rabbi Andrea Myers, “Dearly Beloved” by Ocean Vuong, “A 1986 Bronx Story” by Charles Rice-González, “Perry Street Redux” by Christopher Bram, “An Interview with Michael Musto” by Kathleen Warnock, and “Next Year at Sonny’s” by Eddie Sarfaty”.
For me, it was almost like reading a high school yearbook with so many people I know making contributions. I was so pleased when this series began some years ago under the auspices of Alyson Press and here it is back again and New York now can stand proudly next to Hollywood and New Orleans. But there is another reason that the book is important. New York is the place where so much of our history happened so aside from personal stories, we also get a look at the beginnings of the gay liberation movement on the east coast. The essays included span forty years and those forty years are probably the most important in LGBT history. The book is a love letter to the city but it is also a love letter to us. I love that the book combines so much—there is humor and pathos, memoir and legends, stories and dreams. I would love to write a little about each essay but I can’t because there are so many friends that wrote for this, that people might accuse me of favoritism. And there are also selections from people I have never read before. The only thing I can compare it too is Forest Gump’s box of chocolates—everything looks good and tastes divine. And now that I am living in the northeast, this book is really special for me because I can go to the places that are written about.
What else I see here is that New York has such a history that she has shared for us and there can still be more volumes written. This may very well be my book of the summer.