Quick Book Review: “Gay Bar: Why We Went Out” by Jeremy Atherton Lin

In this book, the author recounts a decades long journey through the gay bars that have played important roles in his life in the many cities that he’s lived in, both in England and the U.S.  The book, however, is much more than just a (often sordid) memoir of parties, sex, and drugs (prudes beware).  Every chapter asks, in some way, what is means to be gay and to have safe spaces in which to congregate.  The book is well researched, and I really enjoyed hearing the history behind some of the iconic bars he’s frequented.  The combination of the personal and historical really worked well here.  Hearing of his personal experiences in the many bars he’s visited was very nostalgic, especially since I read the book during the pandemic, where mingling in bars has been limited or curtailed.  Whether the author is stretching things a bit when he says that identity is “not just inscribed in our bodies, but articulated in the places we inhabit” is debatable, but these spaces have served as a place of community, protest, and possibility for multitudes of gay men over the ages, and this book is a fitting homage.  

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