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On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 7 Mar 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (7 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143106961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143106968
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 0.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 731,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Without indulging in sensationalism or special pleading but making it clear that he was writing directly from his own experience, [Miller] bridged the gap between the 'straights' and the 'gays' in a way that few recent writers on the subject have done. He also put himself on the line as a well-known writer, who was not afraid to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality."--"Publishers Weekly"

About the Author

Merle Miller (1919-1986) was an editor at "Harper's Magazine," "Time," and the "Nation," and was the bestselling author of several books, including the novel "A Gay and Melancholy Sound "and" Plain Speaking," a biography of President Harry Truman.Dan Savage is the internationally syndicated columnist of "Savage Love" and the author of several books. With his husband Terry Miller, he cofounded the It Gets Better project and edited the "It Gets Better "collection.Charles Kaiser is an author, journalist, and blogger. His books include "1968 in America" and "The Gay Metropolis," which was a "New York Times Book Review" Notable Book. He lives in New York City.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Jan 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In 1970, the essayist Joseph Epstein wrote an article for Harper's Magazine in which he said 'if I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of this earth' and, of his sons, 'nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual'. Novelist Merle Miller was outraged that such an article should appear in such a well-respected liberal magazine. In response he wrote 'What it means to be a Homosexual' for the New York Times Magazine and in doing so came out, at the age of 51, to many of his acquaintances, as well as to millions of readers.

Merle Miller is an excellent writer and his response is characterized by calm argument, personal reminiscence, and a measured anger. The piece prompted much discussion and Miller received over 2000 letters in response, many of which applauded his bravery or gave thanks for giving a voice to their feelings. This Penguin Classics edition contains an expanded version of the original article, another piece by Miller in which he wittily explains how the article came to be written and the response to it, a forward by Dan Savage, an afterword by Charles Kaiser which puts the piece in its historical context, various appendices (including a letter Miller wrote to his ex-wife informing her of the article's imminent publication), and explanatory notes.

Despite this wealth of material this book is still very short (74 pages in all) and as a result it does seem rather expensive. It is, however, attractively presented, enjoyably well-written, and gives insight into a key moment of gay history. I first came across Miller by reading his recently re-published novel A Gay and Melancholy Sound (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries) and I was very glad to be able to read more about the man himself.
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By Galina on 29 Aug 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Concise. To the point. Great contributions from Dan Savage and Charles Kaiser. Important piece of modern history. Essential reading for all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Still as important as when I read it at 13 28 Sep 2012
By Mark M - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I stole this book from the local bookstore in Elkhart, Indiana, when it was new and I was 13 years old. The only reading material besides it available to me were books I ordered from the Psychology Today Book Club and that my mother eventually discovered. I distinctly remember hiding it under my jacket, probably an army jacket, which was still a fashionable item with young hippies just past the end of the hippie era. Along with Patricia Nell Warren's iconic 1974 novel `The Front Runner`, it was one of those two or three books that helped me make it through. It deserves to be remembered and I can't be happier to see it being offered again to a world very different, yet in many ways the same, as when Mr. Miller first published this book. I needed him and his book all those years ago, and they were there. Bravo. Mark/lgbtSr
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Celebrating Differences 14 April 2013
By Vivek Tejuja - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I remember the time I came out to my family. I had to. There was no other way. I could not live the way I was. Almost a double life. It does not work this way and it should not. I did not want to go through having to lie every time I had to step out or make any random excuse. More than this I guess, I wanted to live my life on my own terms. I did not know how it would be at eighteen though. Today I know better and also am aware that maybe our country has miles to go before homosexuality is accepted in all walks of life, without looking at it as something "queer" or "odd" or "different". We think we are okay with it. We almost would like to believe it. The story is however different. There are so many friends I know of who would never want their children to be gay. They cannot fathom that and they are okay with me being who I am. Which makes me think: Are they really okay? Would they even let me close to their children? And it was at this time, I read a book which made perfect sense to me and was a right read at that time - "On Being Different" by Merle Miller.

At the same time, it was not easy for the gay community back in the 70s, living in the United States of America. It was looked down upon. People were losing their jobs if out of the closet. There were no gay rights to speak of. In short, it was either treated as something that did not exist or something that existed but more as a mental disease than love between same genders. Merle Miller, an American writer, and journalist then decided to retaliate against an article written by Joseph Epstein for Harper's Magazine called, "The Struggle for Sexual Identity", in which Epstein publicly lashed out against homosexuals. Miller did not understand the article and why the hatred against homosexuals. He wrote an article in retaliation titled, "What it Means to Be a Homosexual" for the New York Times. It later became a book called "On Being Different", with a forward by Dan Savage and an afterword by Charles Kaiser, which I have just finished reading.

I did not love the book because I am gay and I have to love it because it is about gay people or gay rights. I loved it because it was honest. It came from a place which everyone has been to - a place of alienation, of wanting to fit in and at the same time on their own terms, to be treated as equals with the same rights for all, and that to me is primary in any civilized set-up. Miller's essay is so relevant to the society I live in. He talks of how his straight friends do not want their children to mingle with gay people, in the fear that they might be seduced and lured. He speaks of the atrocities in an angry tone and at the same time speaks of changes that need to occur. It was very difficult for me to imagine that this was written in the 70s, when challenges surrounding gay rights were abound. Teenage gay boys were committing suicide instead of coming out to their parents. They were scared. There was no one to turn to. Miller with his essay made people see the reality of the situation. Gay-Straight Alliances were set up and slowly and steadily changes came about in the United States of America.

The writing of the essay is razor sharp and sparse. Everything is said in about 30 pages or so. There were times while reading the book, I was thinking of my life. I have gone through my own share of ridicule for being gay, for perhaps walking and talking in the manner I used to, for thinking about men the way I did, and of course for never expecting a straight man to understand how I felt. At the same time, I also believed at the end of reading this book, that everyone should read this essay. Just to understand how we sometimes unintentionally or intentionally mock something or some people who are different. How maybe it is time differences are embraced and we learn to co-exist. After all, love knows no gender. People's minds on the other hand are a different story. "On Being Different" is just that - an essay, a meditation on accepting differences, without prejudices, without any judgments, because maybe the time is right.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Very interesting look at modern LGBT history 4 Nov 2012
By Michael Kazarnowicz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
A short and quick read, it gives a good perspective on the progress of LGBT acceptance in the US. The essay in itself is very interesting, and reading the additional comments and stories adds a lot. Being gay, I'm versed in LGBT history but this book was still worth the while. I'd definitely recommend anyone to read this to get an insight. Much better than The Cross in the Closet, a book with similar aspirations that I read just after this.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A must for any gay person's library! 27 Oct 2012
By Bob Lind - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Climb into your literary "time capsule," and journey back to a time when the Stonewall uprising was still a topic of discussion, and Patricia Nell Warren was about to release a groundbreaking gay romance novel called "The Front Runner."

Originally an essay in New York Times Magazine in 1971, "On Being Different" was one of the first books that specifically addressed being gay in (then) modern America, addressing the homophobic stereotypes of that era, as depicted in magazine articles and films of the day. It also provided insight into the work of the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA), a group that began the fight for equal civil rights that - sadly - continue now, more than forty years later.

In this reissue edition, the foreword by Dan Savage and the afterword by Charles Kaiser put the late author's work into perspective, as something that has affected their own work as gay authors and activists. An important and vital addition to your library. Five stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Classic for Social Justice 28 Jan 2014
By James D. Held - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this a fascinating read, recommended by Dan Savage, often outspoken columnist and frequent guest on Bill Maher. It's essential reading if you want to follow the history of gay rights in America. The current fight for equality and same-gender marriage started with people like Miller who, perhaps reluctantly, wrote about their lives and feelings before it was fashionable. I have come to realize that, as the book posits: What does it matter who you love so long as you love? Gender equality and marriage equality is so clearly a civil rights issue that I have little doubt that even our right-leaning Supreme Court will continue to support it. It is, after all, the state that issues marriage licenses...not churches, so if some churches cannot find it in their souls to support the love of any two people committed enough to marry, then go to the state and lose the church! How sad!
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