Entertainment » Books

The Martin Duberman Reader

by Kay Bourne
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 28, 2013
The Martin Duberman Reader

Social critic, activist, playwright, entertainingly a gossip, and, yes, sometimes, scold, author Martin Duberman lays it on the line from the gay perspective.

That point of view was less obvious earlier on in his career as a sampler "The Martin Duberman Reader" evidences with pertinent selections from over a lifetime of writing intelligently but from the heart. Duberman was born in 1930.

His emergence as a man speaking up for gays cost him, in fact. Sometimes by a faction of gays themselves whom he'd castigated as elitist and having little regard for the preponderance of their brethren who are blue collar and working class or simply thought of by the straight world as outlandish.

His fiercely held notions of equity and of applause for those who stand up to be counted have always been made plain, however, as exampled by his well regarded 1988 biography of the African American singer, actor, and civil rights activist Paul Robeson driven into exile by the U.S government afraid of his stances on behalf of black people and the human race generally, and Doberman's play "In White America," (1963) which addressed white racism at a time when the idea of an across the board suppression of black people in this country was a radical notion indeed.

Subtitled "The Essential Historical, Biographical, and Autobiographical Writings," the reader covers a lot of territory as Duberman is a public intellectual whose sharp mind delves where he cares to go from bios (most recently "the people's historian" Howard Zinn) to the Stonewall Riots to opinion pieces on feminism, homosexuality, and androgyny. He has been in print in one place or another for 50 years.

Theater and dance buffs will enjoy his vivid, behind-the-scenes characterizations of the people who brought Balanchine to the U.S. while lovers of the memoir will find those essays enchanting, beginning with his encounter with a con of a gypsy fortune teller who seizes on Duberman's concerns as a very young man wondering about his sexuality.

While a professor of history at the CUNY Graduate School, Mr. Duberman founded and for a decade ran the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. Those classes must have been nothing short of sensational.

"The Martin Duberman Reader" (paperback original)
The New Press


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