Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"What'chu Readin', Girl?" : The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts

So begins my regular post, "What'chu Readin, Girl?" where I tell you about what I'm currently reading.  And not just the high falootin' stuff either.  All of it.  Even the slightly embarrassing romance novels. 

Earlier this summer, I started reading And the Band Plays On by Randy Shilts, a non-fiction book that chronicles the discovery and spread of AIDS.  It was fascinating and incredibly well written, but obviously extremely sad and horrifying.  I wasn't employed at the time so most of my time was spent reading this book, Googling all of the people, places, and AIDS related things I read about, and then regaling my friends with HIV/AIDS related facts and figures.  Which, in case you are wondering, isn't the best conversation starter among people hoping to have a good time.  After a series of AIDS related nightmares and a polite, but firm, overdue notice from the library, I decided to return the book before I'd finished it.  Hoping to find my own copy, I wandered over to my favorite local bookstore Green Apple Books.  While I didn't find And the Band Plays On, I did find another book by Randy Shilts, titled The Mayor of Castro Street, a biography of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States.     

I knew a little about Harvey Milk from the 2008 film Milk (which is excellent!) starring Sean Penn, but this book gives a much more detailed account of Milk and the life he led before coming out and moving to San Francisco.  Most interesting is Shilt's (a longtime San Francisco reporter) account of the city's rich history, specifically it's gay community.  I love learning about the people that have created this incredibly unique city and reading about places I've been that were witness to historic San Francisco events.

I've actually owned this book since August, but was reluctant to start it.  I randomly chose it from my bookshelf last week when I was craving some non-fiction.  It turned out to be a fitting choice, as November 27th marked the 34th anniversary of Milk's (and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone's) assassination, a day still marked in San Francisco by memorial ceremonies, marches, and candlelight vigils. 

Great Read for Fans of...
biographies, non-fiction, San Francisco history, LGBT history and rights

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