Cherry Grove, Fire Island
Sixty Years in America's First Gay and Lesbian Town
For thousands of gay men and lesbians in America, Cherry Grove - the oldest continuously inhabited resort on Fire Island - has meant freedom. Not simply the leisure-time freedoms from work and noise and pollution, but the far rarer freedom to socialize in public without risking a beating, to stroll arm in arm without hesitation, to leave the curtains open without fear - in short, to live the American dream that was denied to gay men and lesbians on the U.S. mainland. In her rich and detailed cultural history of Cherry Grove, Esther Newton tells for the first time the full story of this unique community, the oldest gay and lesbian town in America. Covering the years from the 1930s to the present day, Newton has captured the lives of "oldtimers" the people who created Cherry Grove's gay life decades ago, as well as the lives of relative newcomers. Interviewing nearly a hundred people, Newton shares with us the words of the men and women who have built the houses, tended the businesses, preserved the land, and conserved the rich identity of the Grove. The resort's first gay residents were deeply involved in the arts, and the early chapters of the book recall the lasting impact of the many Grovers on the world of New York theater, magazines, and nightclubs. In addition, Newton recounts the Grove's land battles, community disputes, and interpersonal rivalries as well as episodes of violence, police harassment, exploitation by the media, and hatred from straights. Grovers survive, Newton finds, by relying on their own brand of camp culture - a blend of theatricality, partying, and cross-dressing that is at the heart of the community's distinctive and autonomous gay sensibility. Vivid recollections of the Grove's outrageous parties and productions, especially the well-known "Invasion" of the neighboring Pines resort, are woven together with the residents' recognition of the toil that encroaching old age and the onslaught of AIDS is taking on Grove's life. Sustained throughout by the author's personal observations and reflections, Cherry Grove, Fire Island illuminates both the history of America's first gay and lesbian community as well as the significant role of gay men and lesbians in twentieth-century American history.
Boston : Beacon Press, c1993
xiii, 378 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm