Cherry Grove, Fire Island

Sixty Years in America's First Gay and Lesbian Town

Cherry Grove, Fire Island

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 21 illustrations Published: November 2014

Author: Esther Newton


"Newton shines, weaving stunning anecdotes of violence and humiliations among her descriptions of fabulous parties and sex. . . . Her empathy conveys the enormous integrity of people whose most radical gesture was to be fabulous in the face of hate."
Village Voice

"An ambitious history. . . . Newton should be applauded for writing sympathetically about people who were remarkably resilient in the face of enormous homophobia."
The Nation

"Life at the Grove is always viewed through the prism of history, showing how such events as the Great Depression, World War II, McCarthyism and, of course, the 1969 Stonewall riots, which marked the beginning of the modern gay and lesbian rights movement, affected gay Grovers. That attention, and [Newton's] obvious affection for her subject—and subjects—propels the book effortlessly through the decades."
Boston Globe

"A monumental achievement and invaluable contribution to gay and lesbian studies."
— Donna Penn, GLQ

"Groundbreaking." — Carl Luss, Gay & Lesbian Review

"Newton has written a soundly researched cultural history of this unique homosexual summer retreat. . . . Based on interviews with 46 former and current residents, [Newton] chronicles the colony's development from an isolated few cabins to a thriving, commercial, publicized community with Mafia-run discos and occasional police raids."  — Publishers Weekly

"Esther Newton documents the town's history from its gay beginnings in the 1930s through the first decade following Stonewall, utilizing as her primary resource interviews with . . . Cherry Grove residents. All of these narrators . . . love their town, and repeatedly tell of their joy in first finding themselves there. . . . Although the Grove has had its share of straight-gay and owner-renter clashes, and has never been free of racism, anti-Semitism, or misogyny, it still emerges as a special place; Newton's affection for it is palpable."  — Vera Wisman, Women's Review of Books

"Newton foregrounds the role of lesbians and analyzes their invisibility and minority status in the community. She is also sensitive to how race and class function in the Grove, considering both the community's heterogeneity and the structures of exclusion that limit its boundaries. . . . The patience and love with which Newton . . . [has] acted . . . to make [her] narrators' histories heard provides a wealth of material for analysis."  — Ann Cvetkovich, Signs

"Cherry Grove, Fire Island stands as an important document of gay and lesbian life in the twentieth century. Newton makes a convincing case for Cherry Grove as America's first gay town and its influence on gay culture by describing the central place of drag in Cherry Grove history, the impact of the Arts Project as the first theater by gays for gays, and the need for a place such as Cherry Grove where gay men and lesbians could associate in public."  — Karen Wilson, Lambda Book Report

“Newton has done her homework, including in this book of love and of labor, impressive scholarly Notes and References Cited, plus a 10 page Index. … Bringing her anthropologist's eye to the Island, Newton sets the more isolated goings on in the Grove against the bigger picture of gay life in 20th Century America.”  — Rita Plush, Fire Island News

"This text will continue to resonate for those interested in exploring the imbrications of anthropology and queer history; it is particularly notable for its methodological clarity, and I would especially recommend it to those using life-histories to understand historical transformations around space and identity.  It is also a must-read for those interested in understanding the ways that race, gender, and political-economic factors have shaped sexuality throughout the twentieth century." — Christopher Baum, Association for Feminist Anthropology

"This perceptive and engaging book reconstructs the extraordinary, campy, and sometimes heartbreaking history of gays on Fire Island since the 1930s in astonishing detail. But it also offers a broader analysis of the class, racial, ethnic, and gender divisions in the lesbian and gay world and of the profound ways in which gay culture has changed in the last half-century that is sure to be pondered and debated for years to come."
— George Chauncey, author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940

"Newton digs beneath the myths and legends to provide us with a rich account of a community unique in the annals of American history. She tells the story of Cherry Grove with wit, affection, and insight.The result is a compelling account of how gay life—and American society—has changed in the last sixty years." — John D'Emilio, author of In a New Century: Essays on Queer History, Politics, and Community Life

"Esther Newton presents her material with the scholarly thoroughness of an anthropologist and the skill and brilliance of a storyteller. Her fascinating account of Cherry Grove as a mecca for gay men and women over a period of sixty years is a crucial contribution to gay and lesbian history."  — Lillian Faderman, author of Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Esther Newton is currently Term Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, and Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Kempner Distinguished Professor at Purchase College, SUNY. She is the author of Margaret Mead Made Me Gay: Personal Essays, Public Ideas, published by Duke University Press, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America, coauthor of Womenfriends: A Soap Opera, and coeditor of Amazon Expedition: A Lesbian Feminist Anthology.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Preface to the 2014 Edition xv

Prologue 1

Part I. How the Grove Became Gay: 1936–1945 13

1. "Built upon the Sand" 15

Part II. The Gay Country Club: 1946–1959 37

2. The Battle for the Beach 43

3. Conviviality and Camp 68

4. Trouble in Paradise 94

Part III. The Nation Takes Shape: 1960–1969 109

5. The Rise of Gay Commercialism 113

6. The Geometry of Gay Prejudice 142

7. Plays, Parties, and Sex 170

Part IV. The "Lithuanians" and the "Doughnut Rack": The Lesbian Minority, 1936–1980 203

8. The "Fun Gay Ladies" 207

9. "Just One of the 'Boys'" 221

Part VI. The Grove after Stonewall: 1970–1980 235

10. The Ad Hoc Committee to Save Cherry Grove 243

11. Bored on the Fourth of July 266

Epilogue 285

Appendix on Methods 301

Notes 305

Narrators 349

References Cited 353

Index 369
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5553-3
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