Click topic below for commentary.

Letter to Councilman LaBonge
Real People as Fictional Characters
Female Actors, Part Two
One Culture Hero Award
Adelante Gay Pride Gala
Best Work of Fiction?
Tom of Finland: Sexual Liberator or Enslaver
Lying Writers
Review of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson
Promiscuous Thoughts
A Crime of the Heart
A Letter to Michael Silverblatt
"Have you no decency, sir?"
Political Incorrectness: Female Actors and Trojans
He Hugged Moms and Dads
What is a Girly Man?
Review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
From Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive
The Gay Mammies
A Writer Protests
Review of Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
A Spirit Preserved in 'Amber'
The Supreme Court Case
Review of Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal
Review of Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951 by Christopher Isherwood
Review of Out For Good
Review of Hoyt Street: an Autobiography
Review of Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict.
Review of Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
Review of Whores for Gloria
Muscles and Mascara
Review of "Blonde"
Brother Paul, Sister Jan, Brother Hinn, God and the Folks
Advice to the Next Generation
Sins of the Fathers
Beatin' Around the Bush

Cruise Not Gay! The Judge Has Spoken

The Horror, The Horror
LA--a Cliché?
Dominick, Mark & Orenthal
Holy Drag!
Ms. Hill & Mr. Tom
Mrs. guy Ritchie 
Supreme Court 
Tom Cruise 
New Times Article 

A Letter to Michael Silverblatt

August 1, 2005

Mr. Michael Silverblatt
KCRW Radio
1900 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Dear Mr. Silverblatt:

I was gratified to read in the article "Exploring Typecast Writers" by Scott Martelle (Los Angeles Times, Calendar, pp. E-8-9) that the topic of your series of radio interviews reflects arguments that I have been making for many years about the problems of minority-identified art and a resultant "new closet." Since I am not familiar with your interviews, that impression is based solely on Mr. Martelle's account.

I began exploring the topic several years ago as keynote speaker at literary conferences and as guest lecturer at Duke, UCLA, Yale, USC, among other universities and colleges. At Harvard in 1997, I titled my lecture "The Outlaw Sensibility.

Last year, a collection of my essays, Beneath the Skin (Carroll & Graf, 2004), was published and contains a further developed essay on the topic; it is titled "The Outlaw Sensibility: Liberated Ghettos, Noble Stereotypes, and A Few More Promiscuous Observations." (That book was sent to you and Mr. Martelle by my publishers.)

To illustrate parallels between my views and your approach, I quote from that essay, pp. 160-161:

"There is counterattack by the `mainstream' to consider. One of its main tactics to effect that countering is through the creation of `liberated ghettos'. When book-chains assign labeled sections to `Chicano literature,' `Gay Literature,' `Women's Studies,' they segregate. So do `mainstream' publishers who aim minority books only at minorities and who promote such works, if at all, with restricted advertising.

"Herdings of minority writers doggedly appear in The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek.... [T]hese purport to name the `best' Hispanic writers, the best `women writers,' the best `gay' writers--often proclaiming one as `the best,' suggesting that the range of such literature is so narrow, its artistry so limited, that such an absurdity is possible.

"To applaud such meager tokens of recognition as `success' is to accept and contribute to segregation. There is a vast difference between proudly proclaiming one's identity by ethnicity, gender, color, sexual orientation, and accepting the use of labels to separate one into a new, if somewhat relatively spacious, closet, where certain artists see and are seen, hear and are heard, only by each other. This is literature; this is minority literature.

".... [R]estrictive tagging clings to the names of minority writers.... `Political correctness' increasingly threatens the individual voice. The demand is often made on ... the writer, to avoid aspects considered unflattering to one's own group...."

In Writers and Their Craft (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Fall, 1990, Nicholas Delbanco and Laurence Goldstein, editors), I wrote:

"[O]penly identified, [minority literature] is more easily shoved into another closet. [D]ubbed as a new genre... (and sentenced in bookstores to a corner labeled `alternative lifestyles'), it will be reviewed obscurely if at all... Prejudged by narrowing labels, it will not be considered by those whose views determine `importance.' It will not be allowed into the flow of literature...."

The following is from my lectures at Harvard and UCLA:

"A subtle but insidious assault on minority voices is the recurring insistence that the artist be a `role model.' The artist as role model! What a reckless retroactive judgement on the great individualistic artists. What a shackling of artistic exploration. I suggest that the demand for "role-modeling" is a disguised insidious call for conformity, with its accompanying exhortation that `stereotypes' be banished."

As a gay Mexican-American who continues to shun restrictive labels, I am glad that you are addressing a subject I have long explored and feel deeply about.


John Rechy

Back to top 

Original material by John Rechy appears frequently on these pages.

© John Rechy, 2001-2005. All rights reserved.
Original material may not be used without author's permission. 
For questions please contact