I’m always hungry for histories of social movements that get into the nitty-gritty of developing shared politics, building organizations, dealing with internal conflicts, running campaigns, and carrying out direct actions. Emily Hobson’s book Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left, published by the University of California Press, does this and so much more! Focusing on San Francisco, she charts the trajectory of the queer left from early gay liberation through direct action AIDS activism of the 1980s and 1990s. In telling this fascinating story, Hobson carefully takes us through lesbian feminism and gay radicalism into lesbian and gay Central American solidarity work, consistently emphasizing the commitment to solidarity and internationalism across these efforts. Narrative-driven and exhaustively researched, Lavender and Red is full of questions and lessons for advancing radical queer liberationist politics in today’s movements. I highly recommend it!
Here’s one gem from Hobson’s book:
The history of the gay and lesbian left also cautions us to consider the gaps that appear as certain locations of struggle begin to appear less relevant or assaults fade. It is striking that U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer radicals’ awareness of Central American politics virtually evaporated after the late 1980s, leaving few sustained connections. Nicaragua’s current, and now neoliberal, Sandinista government is isolating feminist activists and pursuing a massively privatized interocean canal, yet transnational links with Nicaragua seem nowhere to be found today. Likewise, in 2009, responses were scarce when the U.S.-backed coup in Honduras led to harsh persecution of LGBT people there. We must question what makes some sites of solidarity attractive while others are left ignored, and consistently assess our practices of solidarity lest they become inattentive or narcissistic.
I really deeply appreciate your method of research and reviewing others’ scholarship, Chris. It seems like research can sometimes tend to try to jealously guard some really specialized set of ideas. But you are one of those great writers who value sharing and connecting as a central value for developing radical politics and theory. This has been a great inspiration to me (a recovering academic).
Thanks for your kind words, John! I definitely hear you on that unfortunate academic tendency to treat knowledge as something to be jealously guarded. I’m heartened by the number of people I encounter who are striving to take a different approach. I believe that we need all the sharing and connecting we can muster right now!