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Paperback The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life & Times of Harvey Milk Book

ISBN: 0312560850

ISBN13: 9780312560850

The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life & Times of Harvey Milk

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Book Overview

The Mayor of Castro Street is Shilts's acclaimed story of Harvey Milk, the man whose personal life, public career, and tragic assassination mirrored the dramatic and unprecedented emergence of the gay community in America during the 1970s. Known as The Mayor of Castro Street even before he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk's personal and political life is a story full of personal tragedies and political intrigues,...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A Man Without Fear

Author Randy Shilts was a journalist before he became a best selling author (And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, 20th-Anniversary Edition, Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military). His chronicling of the life of Harvey Milk from New York to San Francisco bears witness to the everyman struggles of gay men of that period. From the arrests and harassments in bars to the ultimate victory of being the first gay man elected to United Sates office, Shilts details every aspect of Milk's life. People famous then and now supplied detailed information on the kind of human being that Harvey Milk truly was. (Mind you, this book was written in the early eighties). Told in a quickly paced and unrelentingly thorough style, Shilts shows how an ordinary man like Milk can make a global change (all after age forty). Milk did this before he was assassinated, making his story all the more intriguing, tragic and poetic. The recent Gus Van Sant film does a great service to the novel, but Shilts is the one that truly gets under the skin of Harvey Milk and displays a man full of integrity, conviction and humility. In his reporter's style, Shilts also describes Milk's associates, friends and coworkers, pulling together the fabric of a life cut far too short. There is a great deal of inside information like Feinstein getting caught with a gun in her purse, Feinstein literally trying to keep Harvey Milk and Dan White away from each other on that fateful day and the bizarre fact that Harvey Milk recorded his obit 1 year and 9 days prior to his assassination. Of course, see the film and the documentary, but read this book to truly comprehend how an ordinary man can turn into a hero for not just a minority, but also any underdog.

Remembering Harvey Milk

Shilts, Randy. "The Mayor of Castro Street", St. Martin's, 2008. Remembering Harvey Milk Amos Lassen Harvey Milk is an icon in gay history and now with the film, Milk" with an amazing performance by Sean Penn, there is a renewed interest in the man that did so much to advance gay rights. St. Martin's has reissued Randy Shilts' biography of Milk, "The Mayor of Castro Street", which is a remarkable study of Milk as well as social history and a look at the world of politics. The book is not only a powerful character study but a fascinating history of the California gay movement and an intense look at city politics. Before he was even elected to political office, Harvey Milk was known as the mayor of Castro Street. Shilts takes a look at Milk's personal and political life and his assassination and these reflect the mood of gay America and the real beginning of the emergence of gay rights and the road to gay political power. Here is a history of personal tragedy and political intrigue, of rioting in the streets and how justice was miscarried. However more than that, this is the story of gay power and gay hope. Randy Shilts always gives a good reading experience and it is too bad that he is no longer with us. "The Mayor of Castro Street" was his first book and he chose a great topic to begin his literary career. He looks at how we, as gay men, were treated in the 1940's and 50's, writes about what happened at Stonewall and then shifts the scene to San Francisco and the Castro, the California center of gay life during Milk's time. We learn of how Milk began his political quest and we feel his sense of humor and dramatics. There is a lot of information here and added plus is the author was once a friend of Harvey Milk which gives us a little more insight. The book is episodic in nature and each episode begins with a tag line that leads into what was happening. The volume reads like a non-fiction novel as we get a chronology of the gay rights movement in 380 pages. Shilts also knew how to appeal to human emotion and there were instances when I read with tears in my eyes. Milk was an epic hero who lived a somewhat epic life but Shilts manages to let us know him as a simple man with a simple dream. Shilts also leaves no stone unturned and his research is meticulous--including his interviews with two of Milk's lovers. Another interesting aspect is that even though Shilts and Milk were friends, the author is able to maintain objectivity throughout. His sense of detail is also wonderful and with that he draws the reader in and holds him. Shilts gives an honest and illuminating portrait of the champion of gay rights; one that should be read by any member of the community who wants to know where we were and how far we have come.

"If a bullet should enter my brain..."

Randy Shilts's intricately researched biography of one of the greatest gay activists of all time, Harvey Milk, is not only a political biography, but a chronology of an entire political movement. This is the second book I've read by Randy Shilts, the first being And the Band Played On. While there are certainly some differences between the two, Shilts's imaginative narrative writing is the same. The Mayor of Castro Street is proof positive that he [the author] can turn even the most mundane of political machinations into high drama. Starting out when Harvey Milk was growing up in Woodmere, New York, the book traces his life from there. From his high school athletic career, to his college years, his time with the Navy, and his Manhattan years. When Harvey makes the move from New York to San Francisco, the book changes pace, and a gay political hero is born. The book is filled with snippets of his speeches, and in the back appendices, the eloquent words of Harvey Milk come alive, as some of his more famous speeches are reprinted there. At a solid 380 pages (including appendices and sources) the book never drags. Everything appears to be cause and effect, which makes for some white-knuckle reading even if the reader is already familiar with the budding gay movement, Harvey Milk's participation in it, and the untimely tragic assassination of he and Mayor George Moscone by a homophobic zealot. I must admit, there were certain parts of this book that gave me chills: Harvey Milk's beautiful speeches, the candlelight vigils, the many marches, and the White Night Riots. The sheer epic proportions of it all can overwhelming. However, epic or not, this remains the simple story of a man and his dream, vision, and hope for his gay brothers and sisters, and all of humanity.

Gay History Well Worth Reading

In The Mayor of Castro Street, the late Randy Shilts paints a vivid picture, not only of the life of gay politician Harvey Milk, but of the fight for gay rights in 1970's San Francisco and the nation as a whole. After a description of the events immediately following Milk's death, Shilts begins the book with Milk's youth in New York City. He briefly describes Milk's years in New York, and spends the vast majority of the book on Milk's last five years in San Francisco. It was during his San Francisco years that Milk made his critical contributions to gay history, including encouraging the development of the Castro into a gay Mecca, and running for, and finally winning, elected office as an openly gay man in a time when most thought such things simply couldn't happen.Shilts is a meticulous reporter. In his section on source material he details how he extensively interviewed Milk's former lovers, including Scott Smith and Joe Campbell. Many of the dialogues for the biography come directly from the personal diary of Michael Wong, a longtime Milk supporter. According to Shilts, dialogues with others who knew Milk virtually always corroborated those in Wong's diary. Shilts's history of the Castro area came from over one hundred interviews he conducted with area residents. One of the best qualities of the biography is its astonishingly objective posture. Achieving something like objectivity is a tremendous challenge for the author of any modern-day history, and nowhere is this more true than in histories of the gay liberation movement. The living participants in that history inevitably portray it in a range of ways and often fight vigorously for placement of credit where they feel credit is due. Shilts allows those participants to speak for themselves, and focuses on telling the details of the story, rather than interpreting that story for the reader. It is this author's unique degree of commitment to researching and conveying all the details that allows him to present such an apparently unbiased account. It is also Shilts's attention to detail that makes the book so tough to put down. It reads more like a novel than a history, and each segment leads into the next with a sense of a tremendous plot unfolding. In a style that would come to characterize his later books, such as And The Band Played On, as well as Conduct Unbecoming, Shilts manages to draw the reader into multiple stories of individuals that end in cliffhangers, only to be picked up again in a later chapter. It is these stories that make up the fabric of gay history in San Francisco and a portion of that larger tapestry called gay liberation.


this is an excellent recollection of the life, times, deeds and death of a man who dared to stand and die for the rights of not just gays but all minorities

The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk Mentions in Our Blog

The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk in October is LGBT History Month
October is LGBT History Month
Published by Beth Clark • October 01, 2018

LGBT History Month began with Missouri high school teacher Rodney Wilson in 1994, and its overarching goal is to provide role models, help build connections, and highlight the contributions of the LGBT community worldwide.

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