In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology



In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology

This edition

"In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology." Ed. Joseph Beam. Boston: Alyson, 1986. 255 pp.

Other editions, reprints, and translations

● "In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology." Ed. Joseph Beam. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: RedBone, 2008. xxv+223 pp. (with new intro. by James Earl Hardy and updated biographies and resource listing)

Table of contents

(from WorldCat):
Stepping out. The boy with beer / Melvin Dixon -- With my head held up high / Gilberto Gerald -- Cut off from among their people. On not being white / Reginald Shepherd -- Beautiful blackman / Blackberri -- Don't turn your back on me / Stephan Lee Dais -- Cut off from among their people / Craig G. Harris -- Creating community. Why a black gay church? / James S. Tinney -- A light that failed / James Charles Roberts -- Creating ourselves : an open letter / Daniel Garrett -- Sister Lesbos / Donald W. Woods -- Brother/father/lover/son. Isn't it funny / Essex Hemphill -- Better days / Essex Hemphill -- Cordon Negro / Essex Hemphill -- Discharge USN '63 / Oye Apeji Ajanaku -- Protest poem / Brad Johnson -- The buddy system / Brad Johnson -- Getting your rocks off / Melvin Dixon -- Serious moonlight / Essex Hemphill -- Subway trilogy / Donald W. Woods -- 19 a poem about Kenny : portrait of a hard rock / Jerry Thompson -- I want to love you / Craig A. Reynolds -- Passion / Sidney Brinkley -- The hitter / Brad Johnson -- Weekend plans / Craig G. Harris -- Etymology : a father's gift / Melvin Dixon -- A father's need, a parent's desire / A. Billy S. Jones -- When I stopped kissing my father / Philip Robinson -- Color him father : an interview / Joseph Beam -- A poem for Eric / Donald W. Woods -- Speaking for ourselves. Emmett's story : Russell County, Alabama / Joseph Beam -- Blackberri : singing for our lives / Bernard Branner -- Samuel R. Delany : the possibility of possibilities / Samuel R. Delany and Joseph Beam -- Bruce Nugent : Bohemian of the Harlem renaissance / Charles Michael Smith -- Stepping into tomorrow--. For my own protection / Essex Hemphill -- By the year 2000 / Max C. Smith -- Brother to brother : words from the heart / Joseph Beam -- Risin' to the love we need / Assotto Saint.

Anthology editor(s)' discourse

In his introduction, Beam states that "visibility is survival" and speaks of being inspired by the work of Black and Latina lesbian writers: "I was fed by Audre Lorde's 'Zami,' Barbara Smith's 'Home Girls,' Cherrie Moraga's 'Loving in the War Years,' Barbara Deming's 'We Cannot Live Without Our Lives,' June Jordan's 'Civil Wars' and Michelle Cliff's 'Claiming an Identity I Was Taught to Despise.' Their courage told me that I, too, could be courageous. I, too, could not only live with what I feel, but could draw succor from it, nurture it, and make it visible" (quoted in Fullwood 2009: 239-40).

Commentary on anthology

Brim, Matt. "James Baldwin's Queer Utility." ANQ 24.4 (2011): 209-16:
Joseph Beam's "groundbreaking 1986 anthology of black gay male writing entitled 'In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology' was one of the first collections explicitly to make the visibility of black gay men its primary focus" (209).

Nero, Charles. "The Souls of Black Gay Folk: The Black Arts Movement and Melvin Dixon's Revision of Du Boisian Double Consciousness in 'Vanishing Rooms.'" Black Intersectionalities: A Critique for the 21st Century. Ed. Monica Michlin and Jean-Paul Rocchi. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2013. 114-26.
Nero refers to "the Black Gay Generation of 1986": "The year 1986 refers to the publication of Joseph Beam's pioneering 'In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology,' the first collective expression of African American gay identity. That anthology was followed five years later by a sequel, 'Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men,' co-edited by Beam and Essex Hemphill. Together the two anthologies defined a generation of black gay writing. Some of the notable writers and culture workers in the two anthologies, in addition to Beam and Hemphill, were Assotto Saint, Reginald Shepherd, Craig G. Harris, Samuel R. Delany, Marlon Riggs, Isaac Julien, and Kobena Mercer. Although the anthologies were published by a small independent gay press, their wide readership and incorporation into the cultural landscape signaled the emergence of a movement of black queer artists in the American (and European) mainstream. The choreographers David Rousseve and Bill T. Jones, the artist Glenn Ligon, the performance group Pomo Afro Homos, and the bestselling E. Lynn Harris, whose first, self-published, novel, 'Invisible Life,' was about urban black men negotiating their queer sexual and racial identities, also arrived on the American cultural landscape in 1991, although they did not appear in either of the two anthologies. Many contributors to the anthologies were casualties of the first decade of the AIDS pandemic" (114).

Fullwood, Steven G. "Always Queer, Always Here: Creating the Black Gay and Lesbian Archive in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture." Community Archives: The Shaping of Memory. Ed. Jeannette A. Bastian and Ben Alexander. London: Facet Publishing, 2009. 235-49.
"Toledo, Ohio, circa 1982. Much like any other black Midwesterner, I was born to working-class people who were products of a post-industrial town in a post-Civil Rights moment. . . . // As a teenager, my thirst for a language to describe what I thought I was or at least was becoming ravaged my consciousness. The library became my sanctuary. I regularly perused the shelves for anything Black and homosexual. A friend went to the public library in Cleveland, and discovered 'In the Life: a black gay anthology,' edited by Joseph Beam, a book that was a precursor of my future as an archivist. She made photocopies of essays and poems and gave them to me. My heart raced. _Writings by several self-identified Black gay men_. I read those pages repeatedly. These writings expanded my mind about coming out, sexual encounters, homophobia, HIV/AIDS, romance and political activism" (235-36).
Fullwood began working at the Schomburg Research Center, which housed the papers of "Joseph Beam, editor of 'In the Life: a black gay anthology.' In less than a decade I went from carrying around wrinkled photocopied pages of that book to having access to Beam's papers filled with original submissions, drafts of the manuscript and correspondence with writers such as Barbara Smith and Audre Lorde, founders of Kitchen Table Press, who were inspirations for Beam and scores of other Black queer people. Reading what he read and considering his process of taking an idea to publication resonated with me. Through that seminal publication, he turned on a light in my head as an archivist" (239).

See also

● Beam, Joseph. "Making Ourselves from Scratch." "Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men." Ed. Essex Hemphill. Boston: Alyson, 1991.

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Title Alternate label Class
In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology (2nd ed.) Other editions, reprints, and translations Bibliographic Resource
Title Alternate label Class
Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men See also Bibliographic Resource
Sojourner: Black Gay Voices in the Age of AIDS See also Bibliographic Resource