“I found so much joy in the archive,” said Aaron Lecklider, a professor of American Studies at UMass-Boston, about researching his newest book, “Love’s Next Meeting: The Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture.” It’s a history of the intertwined stories of activists who sought both political revolution and sexual freedom, during a political era often considered long on doctrine, short on pleasure.
“I started digging into the archives of some gay leftists and following threads,” Lecklider said. “The more I dug, the more I found.” Rather than dour revolutionaries, he added, his research revealed people who were “really excited about the world they were building. What they were pursing a lot of the time was joy and pleasure and trying to imagine a world that would be more vibrant and more exciting — trying to envision a life-affirming form of radicalism, and sex is part of that.”
For Lecklider, it was important to include their voices — in their poetry and letters — to fully illustrate these people and their lives. It also makes for a lively read. “I did try to write the book in a way that people who aren’t familiar with the arcane language of academia would be able to access it,” he said. “I wanted to do that while also writing a book that would be of value to scholars, because that’s also important to me.”
If the book feels timely now, well, “I think we’re at an important crossroads in terms of activism,” Lecklider said. “I think there’s a lot of powerful forces that want the past of queerness and the past of radical organizing to be silenced or made invisible. And I think it’s really important for activists and queer people to be able to know where they came from and to take some inspiration from the people who came before.”
Aaron Lecklider will read and be in conversation with Avram Finkelstein at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a virtual event hosted by Harvard Book Store.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.