Books that illuminated gay life for Americans

February 6, 2013
The Boy Scout Handbook offers good advice about how to read.
The Boy Scout Handbook offers good advice about how to read.

The Boy Scouts of America announced today that it would delay any decision about its policy on gay members until May. That gives the leadership three months to catch up on some good books.

As you might expect, “The Boy Scouts Handbook” offers practical advice on many things, even how to read: “The book should be held on a level with the face and not too close. Sit erect. Reading when lying down or from the light of the fireplace is unwise.”

But “The Handbook” is less helpful on what to read. As they deliberate the knotty question of whether to welcome gay members, the Boy Scout executives might consider selecting — wisely and on the level — from these titles that have helped many Americans open their hearts and minds:

  1. Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” (1855)
  2. Gore Vidal’s “The City and the Pillar” (1948)
  3. James Baldwin, “Giovanni’s Room” (1956)
  4. Rita Mae Brown’s “Rubyfruit Jungle” (1973)
  5. Andrew Tobias’s “The Best Little Boy in the World” (1973)
  6. Patricia Nell Warren, “The Front Runner” (1974)
  7. David Kopay’s “David Kopay Story” (1977)
  8. Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” (1978)
  9. Edmund White, “A Boy’s Own Story” (1982)
  10. David Leavitt’s “Family Dancing: Stories” (1984)
  11. Paul Monette’s “Becoming a Man” (1992)
  12. Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” in “Close Range” (1999)

 

Of course, there are many more fine books that encouraged Americans to broaden their sympathies and their understanding of gay life. Feel free to recommend your favorites in the Comments section below.

charlesr@washpost.com

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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