This book is a must-read for anyone born after 1950, especially gay men and women but also any minority people. Howard Brown tells his own story as well as the story of other people he knew personally or heard of through letters, and describes poignantly what life was for gay people in the pre-stonewall era. Often sad, even a bit depressing, it never ends on a downward note. It is a very optimistic book - one that says "here is how terrible life has been for me and people of my generation, this is why it must change and how it is changing as I speak".
But more than a gay book, it is also a very insightful view into his own experience and path toward self-acceptance and self-esteem. Understanding how he (and others) were made to feel so guilty, so unworthy, even criminal, that he never even thought of rebelling against this worldview until a younger generation showed him the way. It is a fascinating window into the working of the human mind, and how others' opinion of you can turn you into what they think you are. If they think you're worthless, you'll make yourself worthless. This is true whether you're gay, transgendered, African-American, ... This book must have been very cathartic for Brown, probably better for him than the years of pointless therapy he did - and yet, it's never self-involved, never self-centered. You walk with him through his realizations, and you understand and feel them too.
The most heart-wrenching for me was knowing all along that Howard Brown didn't survive to see the changes. Born in 1924 and dead in 1975 (heart disease), he was only 51 and never got to see that almost everything he had worked for during the final years of his life came to be.