“The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976–1988” by Martin Duberman— A Brutally Honest Look at Himself

Duberman, Martin. “The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976–1988”, Duke University Press, 2018.

A Brutally Honest Look at Himself

Amos Lassen

This is a book that I never expected to read but am glad I did and I will explain that during the course of this review. Martin Duberman has always held a very special place in my mind in that he was not only a respected scholar but also an out gay man. I just never thought that he would have the same kind of problems and life situations as the rest of us.

When Duberman’s mother died, he began a twelve-year period filled with despair, drug addiction, and debauchery. He became involved in cocaine use, had a massive heart attack, and immersed himself into New York’s gay hustler scene. He became close to suicide and severe depression and he enrolled in rehab. This is the story of how Duberman managed to survive his personal life while at the same time held leading roles in the gay community and the academy.

Even with what was going on, Duberman was able to remain productive— he wrote his biography of Paul Robeson, rededicated himself to teaching, wrote plays, and co-edited the prize-winning Hidden from History. His founded the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and in doing so he inaugurated a new academic discipline. At the outset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Duberman was politically active, and in this book he describes the tensions between the New Left and gay organizers, as well as the profound homophobia that brought about queer radical activism. Duberman gives us a lot of gossip here and we read about such people as Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Vivian Gornick, Susan Brownmiller, Kate Millett, and Néstor Almendros, among many others. The book was written with brutal honesty giving us insights into a troubling decade of both personal and political history. We certainly see why this was too painful to share until now.

What we really see here is Duberman’s passion about who we are and how we live. He both challenges gay invisibility and confronts anti-gay bigotry among the intelligentsia. These were unhappy years that was filled with crises and they reveal that our heroes are not always heroic and in many ways are just like the rest of us. What Duberman experienced was during a pivotal era in the United States and in the LGBTQ rights movement. He was part of shaping many of our movement’s milestones and in this book, he fills in the gaps of his life and we are very lucky that he did so.

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