Aaron Lecklider

Professor / Author / Critic

  • 2021
  • University of California Press
  • ISBN 978-0520381421
  • Hardcover
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Love's Next Meeting: The Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture

PopMatters: "Best Books of 2021"

Well before Stonewall, a broad cross section of sexual dissidents took advantage of their space on the margins of American society to throw themselves into leftist campaigns. Sensitive already to sexual marginalization, they also saw how class inequality was exacerbated by the Great Depression, witnessing the terrible bread lines and bread riots of the era. They participated in radical labor campaigns, sympathized like many with the early, pre-war Soviet Union, contributed to the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, opposed US police and state harassment, fought racial discrimination, and aligned themselves with the dispossessed. Whether they were themselves straight, gay, or otherwise queer, they brought sexual dissidence and radicalism into conversation at the height of the Left's influence on American culture.

Combining rich archival research with inventive analysis of art and literature, Love's Next Meeting explores the relationship between homosexuality and the Left in American culture between 1920 and 1960. Author Aaron S. Lecklider uncovers a lively cast of individuals and dynamic expressive works revealing remarkably progressive engagement with homosexuality among radicals, workers, and the poor. Leftists connected sexual dissidence with radical gender politics, anti-racism, and challenges to censorship and obscenity laws through the 1920s and 1930s. In the process, a wide array of activists, organizers, artists, and writers laid the foundation for building a radical movement through which homosexual lives and experiences were given shape and new political identities were forged.

Love's Next Meeting cuts to the heart of some of the biggest questions in American history: questions about socialism, about sexuality, about the supposed clash still making the headlines today between leftist politics and identity politics. What emerges is a dramatic, sexually vibrant story of the shared struggles for liberation across the twentieth century.

Reviews & Praise

"Engrossing, beautifully written, and wryly humorous from beginning to end. Aaron Lecklider offers us not only a richly researched but racy revision of Left history that reveals sexual dissidence and radical left politics were compatible. This was a complex, uneven relationship to be sure, but Love's Next Meeting shows that as gay leftists fought for sexual freedom and political revolution they shaped every aspect of 20th century American culture—race, class, labor, psychology, visual culture, literary art, sexuality, maritime culture—and the Left." Mary Helen Washington, author of The Other Blacklist: The African American and Cultural Left of the 1950s

"A major work of US cultural history that revises our understanding of the relations between homosexuality and radical politics in the era of Popular Front social movements, the so-called Old Left of the 1930s Depression, the 1940s antifascist war, and the 1950s Cold War. A powerful narrative of the entangled lives of leftist sexual dissidents, Love's Next Meeting also offers an entirely original account of proletarian fiction as an archive of homosexuality and sexual dissidence." Michael Denning, author of The Cultural Front and Culture in the Age of Three Worlds

"With prodigious archival sleuthing and literary and artistic analysis, Aaron Lecklider lifts the veil on the Left-queer nexus that decades of efforts—led by some usual suspects and other surprising ones—sought to cover up, misrepresent, and even erase. This powerful historical account gives us a seat at love's next meeting where we learn how artists, writers, poets, sex workers, hustlers, intellectuals, and many others came to view their sexual desires as a marker and extension of their politics." Julio Capó Jr., author of Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940

"Love's Next Meeting is a provocative airing of the conflicted relationship of homosexuality and the American Left during the first half of the twentieth century. Whether queer Americans came from inherited wealth, shipped out as marine cooks and stewards, or lived as Black novelists, homeless hobos, or lesbians navigating their own liberation and advocacy for birth control and abortion, this book reveals that in every milieu of American life they invested some kind of hope that class- and race-based liberation politics could be extended to include them. While sexual dissidents opened the Left to the question of full sexual freedom, both independent and Soviet-affiliated US Left cultures struggled to meet queer people's desires. Aaron Lecklider offers readers a fuller understanding of how queer liberation and gay rights were connected to—and excluded from—radical social movements." Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987–1993