Review of Mark Segal’s “And Then I Danced-Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality”

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Akashic Books/Indiebound/Amazon/Barnes & Nobles/

Synopsis, Taken from Akashic Books:

On December 11, 1973, Mark Segal disrupted a live broadcast of the CBS Evening News when he sat on the desk directly between the camera and news anchor Walter Cronkite, yelling, “Gays protest CBS prejudice!” He was wrestled to the studio floor by the stagehands on live national television, thus ending LGBT invisibility. But this one victory left many more battles to fight, and creativity was required to find a way to challenge stereotypes surrounding the LGBT community. Mark Segal’s job, as he saw it, was to show the nation who gay people are: our sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers.
Because of activists like Mark Segal, whose life work is dramatically detailed in this poignant and important memoir, today there are openly LGBT people working in the White House and throughout corporate America. An entire community of gay world citizens is now finding the voice that they need to become visible.

Review:

Complimentary copy of book given, in exchange for an honest review.

In lieu of the landmark Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage, I thought this memoir written by Mark Segal, a very prominent, well-known figure/advocate for LGBT rights in Philadelphia,PA, would be a very pertinent title to review for readers of this blog. I love memoirs for their ability to vividly tell the story of an individual’s life, mainly through their eyes. This permits all of us the opportunity to do as Elizabeth Bishop often encouraged, which is to learn the ability to envisage life through another’s eyes, their particular hardships, and the defining perseverance they used to endeavor to succeed in overcoming a litany of different challenges thrown in their direction. For the LGBT community, the fight for rights, in some ways, saw its most visible impetus during the Stonewall riots, which the writer of this memoir Mark Segal was involved with and provides a unique perspective of his experience during this and many other important events in the latter half of the twentieth century..

Interestingly, the memoir is broken up into individual vignettes, which tell different unique stories in his life that are ripe with humorous moments, and of course, more poignant and even tragic moments. For the most part, these stories are mostly engaging, though the main problem I had with some of them was that they sometimes didn’t form a completely cohesive whole, when read together. Meaning in parts, they were fairly entertaining, but there was almost a sense of discontinuity between these stories. Also, I really wished more time was spent on describing his childhood, growing up in a Jewish family within Philaldelphia; I thought there was a lot of potential to really give us a more substantial, insightful look at his upbringing within a city that I am familiar with.It would certainly have given readers, perhaps even more insight into the characteristics of Mark that really infused him with the characteristics of being a political activist. I’m one of those memoir readers that always really enjoy the gradual chronological story of a person’s life that has a more unified theme. And this lacked that unified feeling I most appreciate in memoirs.

Nonetheless, the work is still something I feel contributes a powerful portrait of the sheer integrity and strength of this one man, who has managed to overcome the different setbacks in his life with remarkable courageousness. From the standpoint of serving as a primary historical source, it was an excellent historical recollection of sorts, as Mark really details many iconic events that happened within the seventies/eighties, as he become more increasingly involved with the lengthy fight for the rights of LGBT individuals. It goes through the raw tragedy of the AIDs epidemic in a very somber, respectful manner, and we learn first-hand just how much the LGBT community, at around the time of the outbreak, not only faced the fear of contracting the disease, but more important, faced the dispiriting stigma they faced from society as a whole; some of whom felt the disease itself was some kinda of karmic fate for identifying as something they saw as unfit and unnatural to their society. It made it that much harder for these individuals to find solace from their community as a whole, who instead, sometimes ostracized them. And to think how far we’ve gone is pretty astonishing for anyone reading history, the twentieth century was a very unprecedented century for social change.

These portions of Mark Segal’s riveting story were the heart and soul of this novel, aside from the many sequences detailing the Stonewall Riots in earlier parts of the story. They both were the most interesting portions to me, which shed a lot of light on the political turmoil of the time, and in that sense, this novel is a fairly interesting, mostly well-written memoir I think any reader interested in this part of history will greatly enjoy. It certainly helps readers better understand just how fraught with anxiety and uncertainty this period was for the LGBT community, specifically, but of course, the sixties to the seventies were an unparalleled time for great social progressiveness, in general.

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