We're Here, We're Queer by Owen Keehnen , Prairie Avenue Productions, 485 pages, softcover, $19.
I have a few conflicts of interest reviewing this bookbecause of my occasional collaboration over many years with the writerbut I want to plow right through them to get to the heart of the matter: This is an important and highly recommended collection of interviews.
Owen Keehnen wrote for Outlines newspaper ( which purchased and merged with Windy City Times in 2000 ) . I was publisher of Outlines and I am now publisher of WCT. Keehnen has always been among my favorite writers. He loved the art of writing, and he respected the work of activists, writers and other cultural pioneers. He interviewed top names in those areas, and he syndicated some of the interviews beyond Chicago.
Keehnen and I also co-wrote Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow; he submitted pieces to my book Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community; and he and I are co-writing another book, Jim Flint: The Boy from Peoria ( coming out this December ) . And he used my Prairie Avenue Productions imprint for this book, though Keehnen did all the work and receives all the profits. So, clearly I like working with him, and really respect his energy and writing.
In the pages of his newest book, We're Here, We're Queer, we are treated to just an amazing time capsule of legends in our community, most interviewed in the 1990s for Outlines, and many of the people have since been lost to AIDS and other causes. Gathered all under one "roof", this is an impressive book.
Here is a list of just some of the more than 100 interviews in the book: Quentin Crisp, Edmund White, Samuel Steward, the Daughters of Bilitis founders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, Harry Hay, Dorothy Allison, David Wojnarowicz, E. Lynn Harris, Tommy Tune, Joan Nestle, Holly Woodlawn, RuPaul, Darrell Yates Rist, Sarah Schulman, Paul Monette, Chuck Renslow, Jerry Herman, Sapphire, Susie Bright, Michael Cunningham, Dennis Cooper, Janis Ian, Pam Tent, Jewelle Gomez, Michelangelo Signorile, George Chauncey, Camille Paglia, Scott Heim, Scott O'Hara, Joan Jett Black, Kate Bornstein, Charles Busch, Nisa Donnelly, Emma Donoghue, Mark Doty, David Drake, Robert Ford, Kenny Fries, Jack Fritscher, Rudy Galindo, Jewelle Gomez, Allan Gurganis, James Earl Hardy, Jerry Herman, Ann Heron, Andrew Holleran, Allan Hollinghurst, David Leavitt, Eric Marcus, Scott McPherson, Leslea Newman, Felice Picano, John Preston and Dick Sargent.
All I can say is "whew" and what a critical work for our community's legacy. Keehnen also includes brief intros to some of the interviews, giving us a context and a perspective. The tragedy of so many voices now silenced quickly adds up. The book includes many interviews with people who were in their prime, but were lost to us during their most creative years.
"Collectively these primary source interviews provide substantial insights into an era that may have been only a few decades ago, but was also a world away," Keehnen said of this book. "It was a time of combustible urgency when out of dire necessity everything changed. There was no going back to the place where we had been. Suddenly we were everywhere and our message was a simple one, We're Here, We're QueerGet Used To It."
Keehnen's work has been featured in hundreds of periodicals and anthologies worldwide. He co-edited Nothing Personal: Chronicles of Chicago's LGBTQ Community 1977-1997. He is also the author of the horror novel Doorway Unto Darkness as well as the forthcoming gay novel The Sand Bar.
The book is available on Amazon and in Chicago at Women & Children First and Unabridged bookstores.