Synopses & Reviews
New York Times Best Seller and New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. One of The Washington Post's Top 50 Nonfiction Books of 2020.
From a young Harvard- and Cambridge-trained historian, the secret history of the fight for gay rights that began a generation before Stonewall.
In 1957, Frank Kameny, a rising astronomer working for the U.S. Defense Department in Hawaii, received a summons to report immediately to Washington, D.C. The Pentagon had reason to believe he was a homosexual, and after a series of humiliating interviews, Kameny, like countless gay men and women before him, was promptly dismissed from his government job. Unlike many others, though, Kameny fought back.
Based on firsthand accounts, recently declassified FBI records, and forty thousand personal documents, Eric Cervini's The Deviant's War unfolds over the course of the 1960s, as the Mattachine Society of Washington, the group Kameny founded, became the first organization to protest the systematic persecution of gay federal employees. It traces the forgotten ties that bound gay rights to the Black Freedom Movement, the New Left, lesbian activism, and trans resistance. Above all, it is a story of America (and Washington) at a cultural and sexual crossroads; of shocking, byzantine public battles with Congress; of FBI informants; murder; betrayal; sex; love; and ultimately victory.
“Ambitious and exhaustive...Readers interested in the origins of the LGBTQ rights movement will be deeply informed by this meticulous account.” Publishers Weekly
“When Frank Kameny was dismissed from his job in 1957, the army lost an astronomer and the cause of freedom gained a general. For the next fifty years, having found his real life's work, Kameny stood on every front line of the gay rights movement. Because of him, more than anyone else, hundreds of thousands of federal employees — including soldiers — now go off each morning, without fear, to earn their livings and serve their country. The Deviant's War thrillingly gives Kameny his due, putting this brave, sometimes impossible, iron-willed man at the center of an epic struggle for liberty.” Thomas Mallon, author of Fellow Travelers
“Eric Cervini has gifted us that rarest of treasures, a guidebook for real activism. Page by page, in painstaking detail, we see our flawed and beautifully idealistic hero Frank Kameny fight for basic human rights. Equal parts inspiring and sobering, The Deviant's War avoids empty valorizing and focuses instead on what it takes to survive in a world that wants to erase you. Should be required reading for queer people and straight allies.” Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased
About the Author
Eric Cervini is an award-winning historian of LGBTQ+ culture and politics. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Gates Scholar. The Deviant's War is his first book.