Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood Summary and Reviews

Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood

Coming of Age in the Sixties

by John D'Emilio

Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood by John D'Emilio X
Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood by John D'Emilio
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  • Publishes
    Oct 11, 2022
    240 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

John D'Emilio is one of the leading historians of his generation and a pioneering figure in the field of LGBTQ history. At times his life has been seemingly at odds with his upbringing.

How does a boy from an Italian immigrant family in which everyone unfailingly went to confession and Sunday Mass become a lapsed Catholic? How does a family who worshipped Senator Joseph McCarthy and supported Richard Nixon produce an antiwar activist and pacifist? How does a family in which the word divorce was never spoken raise a son who comes to explore the hidden gay sexual underworld of New York City?

Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood is D'Emilio's coming-of-age story in which he takes readers from his working-class Bronx neighborhood to an elite Jesuit high school in Manhattan to Columbia University and the political and social upheavals of the late 1960s. He shares his personal experiences of growing up in a conservative, tight-knit, multigenerational family, how he went from considering entering the priesthood to losing his faith and coming to terms with his same-sex desires. Throughout, D'Emilio outlines his complicated relationship with his family while showing how his passion for activism influenced his decision to use research, writing, and teaching to build a strong LGBTQ movement.

This is not just John D'Emilio's personal story; it opens a window into how the conformist baby boom decade of the 1950s transformed into the tumultuous years of radical social movements and widespread protest during the 1960s. It is the story of what happens when different cultures and values collide and the tensions and possibilities for personal discovery and growth that emerge. Intimate and honest, D'Emilio's story will resonate with anyone who has had to chart their own path in a world they did not expect to find.

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"Unusual among today's memoirs, this one is upbeat and generous spirited about its author's early life and challenges...The author's compassionate spirit suffuses the text to such a degree that one hopes for a future continuation into his years as a professional historian. A warm, humane coming-of-age memoir that delivers much more than its title suggests." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"D'Emilio is a pioneer of gender and sexuality studies and gay history, and his memoir deserves as much recognition as his scholarship...D'Emilio's youthful reminiscences make for a classic work of literature that deserves a wide readership. One hopes this memoir is only the first in a succession." - Library Journal (starred review)

"In this fascinating self-portrait and insightful portrait of his times, a prominent queer historian recalls growing up in the 1950s and '60s—a smart, pious, conservative, Catholic boy from a working-class Italian family in the Bronx transforms himself into a radical left, openly gay Columbia University student." - Jonathan Ned Katz, author of The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams

This information about Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

John D'Emilio

John D'Emilio is Emeritus Professor of History and Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and the author of many books, including The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture, also published by Duke University Press; Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin; Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970​; and Queer Legacies: Stories from Chicago's LGBTQ Archives. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellow, and he was a finalist for the National Book Award for Lost Prophet, which won the American Library Association's Stonewall Book Award for nonfiction. D'Emilio was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named Chicagoan of the Year by the Chicago Tribune in 2004. He lives in Chicago.

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