Men Like That by John Howard
A Southern Queer History

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Synopsis

We don't usually associate thriving queer culture with rural America, but John Howard's unparalleled history of queer life in the South persuasively debunks the myth that same-sex desires can't find expression outside the big city. In fact, this book shows that the nominally conservative institutions of small-town life—home, church, school, and workplace—were the very sites where queer sexuality flourished. As Howard recounts the life stories of the ordinary and the famous, often in their own words, he also locates the material traces of queer sexuality in the landscape: from the farmhouse to the church social, from sports facilities to roadside rest areas.

Spanning four decades, Men Like That complicates traditional notions of a post-WWII conformist wave in America. Howard argues that the 1950s, for example, were a period of vibrant queer networking in Mississippi, while during the so-called "free love" 1960s homosexuals faced aggressive oppression. When queer sex was linked to racial agitation and when key civil rights leaders were implicated in homosexual acts, authorities cracked down and literally ran the accused out of town.

In addition to firsthand accounts, Men Like That finds representations of homosexuality in regional pulp fiction and artwork, as well as in the number one pop song about a suicidal youth who jumps off the Tallahatchie Bridge. And Howard offers frank, unprecedented assessments of outrageous public scandals: a conservative U.S. congressman caught in the act in Washington, and a white candidate for governor accused of patronizing black transgender sex workers.

The first book-length history of the queer South, Men Like That completely reorients our presuppositions about gay identity and about the dynamics of country life.

"Men Like That goes a long way towards redressing the urban bias in American lesbian and gay-history writing. . . . Howard's rigorous scholarship, which is based both on oral history and traditional historical documents . . . is enhanced by a disarmingly personal touch. . . . His insights into queerness and the mentality of the American South should be of great interest both to the professional gay historian and the general reader."—Madeleine Minson, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Howard creates a history remarkable in its complexity yet intimate in its portraiture. At long last an intimate and full vision of queer lives in America that did not unfold in San Francisco's discos."—Kirkus Reviews

"In this groundbreaking and engrossing analysis of gay male life in postwar Mississippi, Howard . . . boldly demonstrates that gay culture and sex not only existed but flourished in small towns."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

About John Howard

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John Howard is a Lecturer in American studies at King's College, University of London. He is the editor of Carryin' On in the Lesbian and Gay South and The Bitterweed Path.
 
Published November 1, 1999 by University Of Chicago Press. 418 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Men Like That

Kirkus Reviews

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With a scrupulous eye for detail, Howard traces the evolution of homosexual identities in Mississippi from 1945 to 1985 and, in the process, offers a perceptive look into queer lives away from America’s urban centers.

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Publishers Weekly

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For three decades, social historians have claimed that for gay people, sexual freedom was only found in cities because rural areas were draconian in their regulation of nontraditional sexual practices

Nov 29 1999 | Read Full Review of Men Like That: A Southern Que...

Publishers Weekly

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His reading of the gay themes in Bobbie Gentry's 1967 country hit ""Ode to Billy Joe"" and of Joe Hains's spirited defenses of homosexuality in his popular entertainment column in the Jackson Daily News from 1955 to 1975, and Howard's own interpretation of an infamous murder trial, support his th...

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Austin Chronicle

In the gay Nineties in particular, valuable books have appeared to fill the queer studies void, one of the best being George Chauncey's Gay New York, which documents the rise of the gay male world in Manhattan from 1890 to 1940.

Oct 22 1999 | Read Full Review of Men Like That: A Southern Que...

Project MUSE

In addition to documenting the presence of male same-sex sexualities in places where many readers may least expect to find them, Howard makes major contributions to the history of sexuality, southern history, urban and rural history, civil rights history, and post-WWII history.

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Project MUSE

Thus, when Mississippians ignored men who transgressed sexual boundaries or referred to them obliquely as "men like that," their silence often (inadvertently) allowed such men and boys to follow their desires, much as the absence of medical discourse on the "problem" of homosexuality functioned t...

| Read Full Review of Men Like That: A Southern Que...

Project MUSE

In addition to documenting the presence of male same-sex sexualities in places where many readers may least expect to find them, Howard makes major contributions to the history of sexuality, southern history, urban and rural history, civil rights history, and post-WWII history.

| Read Full Review of Men Like That: A Southern Que...

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