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Smash the Church, Smash the State!: The Early Years of Gay Liberationby Tommi Avicolli Mecca
Synopses & Reviews
This anthology by former members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) captures the history and spirit of the revolutionary time just after Stonewall, when thousands came out of the closet to claim their sexuality, and when queer resistance coalesced into a turbulent, joyous liberation movement—one whose lasting influence would ultimately inform and profoundly shape the LGBT community of today.
Personal essays explore the philosophy and culture of the stridently anti-assimilationist GLF: the actions, demonstrations, and marches; views on marriage, religion, and gender; the drugs, orgies, and communes; and GLF’s relationship to the hippies, the Black Panthers, the straight Left, the women’s movement, civil rights, and the antiwar struggle.
The collection includes contributions from Martha Shelley, Cei Bell, Paola Bacchetta, Susan Stryker, Tom Ammiano, Nikos Diaman, Mark Segal, Barbara Ruth, and Perry Brass.
Edited by San Francisco journalist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Smash the Church, Smash the State! The Early Years of Gay Liberation (City Lights, June) documents early gay culture as it emerged after the 1969 Stonewall riots. The anthology includes the essays, photographs, manifestos, and artwork of the movement, the aims of which were gleefully radical, the methods often intentionally outrageous. - Bookforum
"The personal is riotously political and the history is tangibly personal in this anthology of diverse, down-to-earth reflections on the early days of Gay Liberation, from both queers who were there, and from others looking back 40 years later . . . Avicolli Mecca, himself a longtime activist who marched the streets of Philadelphia not long after the 1969 bar riot in Greenwich Village, has compiled a vivid, colorful history, blending original essays, poems and songs with reprints of historical manifestos and brief biographical vignettes of activists no longer alive to craft a co-gendered collection that is by turns emotional, joyous, poignant, occasionally contradictory - and enthusiastically defiant." - Richard Labonte, Q Syndicate
"The 40th anniversary of the historic June 1969 Stonewall Uprising that marked a turning point in the gay liberation movement seems to be passing with little notice. Mecca (Between Little Rock and a Hard Place) marks the occasion with this anthology that commemorates the anarchic spirit of those heady early days. Mecca digs into the countercultural roots of the movement, especially of the Gay Liberation Front of which he was a member, emphasizing that much of the energy that propelled the gay movement at the time drew from its more radical elements. The essays (and some poems) assembled here, some previously published, represent that vanguard of the LGBT community that did not seek acceptance from or assimilation into society at large, but to live openly and unabashedly queer, with social justice for all. Even if one doesn’t agree with their attitude, their passion, commitment, and enthusiasm is undeniable. Mecca particularly highlights the reminiscences of women, the trangendered, and persons of color, whose roles historically are too often given short shrift." - Library Journal
"Everyone in the San Francisco activist scene today knows Tommi Avicolli-Mecca – or as many call him, 'Tommi the Commie.' At Beyond Chron, we are privileged to have him as a columnist (we jokingly call him our 'religion editor') – as he balances op-ed writing with a full-time job counselling tenants at the Housing Rights Committee. Tommi is an eloquent voice against gentrification in the Castro, and in 2006 many progressives urged him to run against Supervisor Bevan Dufty. But as Tommi told me at the time, he is more of a 'smash the church, smash the state' kind of guy – making the book title appropriate. . . There are many who now say the American era of conservatism is over – and we are now seeing a progressive transformation. As the queer community elaborates where it is going, Smash the Church, Smash the State should not be viewed as a mere historical anthology – but as a critical examination of where to go from here." - Paul Hogarth, BeyondChron
"Tommi Avicolli Mecca's new anthology, Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, offers a fascinating look at the rise of gay liberation and its place in the era's radical panoply. . . Avicolli Mecca's collection is unique in bringing together first-person accounts from people who lived the life and some of the key manifestos that inspired them." - Liz Highleyman, Bay Area Reporter
"Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, is the new anthology edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, himself a veteran of the earliest gay liberation struggles, and today an activist, gender-bending performance artist, and writer well-known to San Francisco queers. . . The personal testimonies collected for Smash the Church, Smash the State!, augmented by manifestos and documents of that early period and biographical sketches of important movement figures, help recreate those heady, joyously rambunctious days of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll" as queers, influenced by the hippies, Yippies, and Zippies, built their own radical wing of the prevailing youth counterculture, and created their own influential publications." - Doug Ireland, Gay City News
"To many Americans, the gay liberation movement began sometime in the 1960s as a seemingly sudden phenomenon of all manner of queer men and women doing silly things, militant things, and serious things to express their dissatisfaction with what they viewed as a repressive social order. According to Mecca, editor of this engaging anthology and a dedicated participant in gay liberation, the movement actually began decades earlier, possibly as early as 1949. This anthology is a collection of stories shared by many individuals from the perspective of their lives inside the movement." Book News
"The book makes crystal clear that it was the organizing that followed the dust-up that made Stonewall the start of the modern gay liberation movement. . . . kudos to Tommi Avicolli Mecca for being the driving force behind assembling and publishing this important history of the early, radical LGBT movement." —Bob Schwartz, The Freedom Socialist
"Let's posit the Stonewall riots that rocked New York City in 1969 as the Big Bang of the gay movement. Ater that, all things seemed to be loose in the universe. It was a cultural, sexual and political revolution, or, as Thomas Foran commented at the time, 'a freakin' faggot revolution.' And it was about time. Edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Smash the Church, Smash the State! (City Lights, $18.96) is a lively account by many of the people who were there at the revolution and others whose lives were changed forever by the push for gay liberation." —John Mitzel, The Guide
"When everyone hates you, it's natural to hate them right back. Smash the Church, Smash the State!: The Early Years of Gay Liberation is a look at the early days of gay liberation where much of society grew finally tired of hiding a major part of them and took a stand for their rights. A fight that rages on to this day, the stories of those who threw the first stone are inspiring and will motivate current civil rights fighters to stand their ground. Smash the Church, Smash the State! is an ideal addition to any history collection focusing on civil rights." —James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review
Book News Annotation:
To many Americans, the gay liberation movement began sometime in the 1960s as a seemingly sudden phenomenon of all manner of queer men and women doing silly things, militant things, and serious things to express their dissatisfaction with what they viewed as a repressive social order. According to Mecca, editor of this engaging anthology and a dedicated participant in gay liberation, the movement actually began decades earlier, possibly as early as 1949. This anthology is a collection of stories shared by many individuals from the perspective of their lives inside the movement. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Forty years after Stonewall, a look at the origins and influences of the Gay Liberation movement.
About the Author
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a former member of Gay Liberation Front who has never stopped being an activist for queer and social justice causes. His writings have appeared in various anthologies over the years, most recently, "That's Revolting" (Soft Skull) and he is a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, SF Examiner, and SF Bay Guardian, among other newspapers.
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