WORD BK Presents: James Polchin for INDECENT ADVANCES

06/27/2019 - 7:00pm


Join us at WORD Greenpoint for a discussion with James Polchin, author of the new book Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall. James will be joined in conversation by author Jim Downs. 

Please note that admission to this event requires either a purchase of Indecent Advances OR a $5 admission voucher. Books and vouchers can be purchased online in advance or at the door on the day of the event; advance orders will be available for pickup at the store on the day of the event. The admission voucher functions like a gift card and is good toward $5 off anything in store at WORD on the day of the event only. 


In Indecent Advances, author James Polchin provides an important look at how queer men were portrayed as perpetrators of the same violence they suffered. He traces how the public interpreted true crime stories about the murder of men by other men from the end of World War I to the Stonewall era, when gay men came to be seen as a class both historically victimized and increasingly visible.

Using extensive historical research, Polchin tells the story of how queer men were systemically criminalized in the American popular imagination— from the sex panics of the 1930s, to the Kinsey study of male homosexuality in the 1940s, and the Cold War panic of communists and homosexuals in government. Polchin illustrates the vital role true crime stories played in circulating ideas of normalcy and deviancy, and how those stories were used as tools to discriminate against and harm queer men. More importantly, Polchin shows how this discrimination was ultimately transformed by activists to help shape the burgeoning gay rights movement in the years leading up to Stonewall riots of 1969.

A cast of noted public figures—Tennessee Williams, Leopold and Loeb, J. Edgar Hoover, Alfred Kinsey, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Patricia Highsmith, James Baldwin, and Gore Vidal—is threaded through the story of this complex subject. Politicians, law enforcement officials, and psychologists weigh in to explain the dangerous historical relationship between homosexuality and violence.

And one needs to look no further than the recent TV series about Andrew Cunanan’s murder spree leading up to his shooting of Gianni Versace to ascertain, perhaps, how little things have changed in the policing and reporting of these kinds of crimes against gay men. Polchin’s vital history is as important today as it was then.


James Polchin, Ph.D. has taught at the Princeton Writing Program, the Parsons School of Design, the New School for Public Engagement, and the Creative Nonfiction Foundation. His writing has appeared in several places, including The New Inquiry, Lambda Literary, Brevity, and the Gay and Lesbian Review / Worldwide, where he is a contributing writer. A clinical professor at New York University, he lives in New York City with his husband, the photographer Greg Salvatori, and a Labrador named Albert.


Jim Downs is the author of Stand By Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation.  He is the author and editor of five other books on activism, race, and history.  He has published articles in The Washington Post, Time, The New York Times, Slate, The Advocate, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among others, and has been cited as an expert on CNN , NPR, the BBC, Wall Street Journal and The Economist.  He is Professor of History and Director of American Studies at Connecticut College. 

Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall Cover Image
ISBN: 9781640091894
Availability: In stock at Brooklyn or Jersey City -- click for more details
Published: Counterpoint LLC - June 4th, 2019

" A] fascinating new book on the treatment of gay men in true crime and crime fiction that] reexamines the violence that people at the Stonewall Inn had faced every day, and the rage crackling up underneath . . . What makes Polchin's readings stand out is the way he pursues an underlying story across several seemingly separate crimes." --Alexander Chee, The New Republic

SKU: polchintix

$5 admission to this event at our Brooklyn store. Your $5 admission voucher functions like a gift card and can be used toward anything in store on the night of the event only.