My Desire for History

Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History

By Allan Bérubé, Edited by John D'Emilio, Estelle B. Freedman

344 pp., 6.125 x 9.125, 24 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7195-9
    Published: June 2011
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7798-2
    Published: June 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8575-3
    Published: June 2011

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Awards & distinctions

2013 John Boswell Prize, The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, American Historical Association

This anthology pays tribute to Allan Bérubé (1946-2007), a self-taught historian and MacArthur Fellow who was a pioneer in the study of lesbian and gay history in the United States. Best known for his Lambda Literary Award-winning book Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II (1990), Bérubé also wrote extensively on the history of sexual politics in San Francisco and on the relationship between sexuality, class, and race. John D'Emilio and Estelle Freedman, who were close colleagues and friends of Bérubé, have selected sixteen of his most important essays, including hard-to-access articles and unpublished writing. The book provides a retrospective on Bérubé's life and work while it documents the emergence of a grassroots lesbian and gay community history movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Taken together, the essays attest to the power of history to mobilize individuals and communities to create social change.

About the Authors

Allan Bérubé (1946-2007) was an independent scholar and community historian.
For more information about Allan Bérubé, visit the Author Page.

John D'Emilio is professor of history and of gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
For more information about John D'Emilio, visit the Author Page.

Estelle B. Freedman is the Edgar E. Robinson Professor in U.S. History at Stanford University.
For more information about Estelle B. Freedman, visit the Author Page.


“D’Emilio and Freedman deserve our unreserved thanks for rescuing these significant Bérubé writings from obscurity, and for making his courageous life’s story available to us all. My Desire for History will be a rich and thought-provoking addition to your library. Do yourself a favor and buy it.”--Gay City News

“Particularly engaging.”--Gay & Lesbian Review

“The essays adapted from the acclaimed slide shows that Berube produced are powerful.”--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"In his smart, heart-felt, and now classic essays on class, labor, race, gender, and sexuality in lesbian, gay, and transgender history, Allan Bérubé lives again. An excerpt from his unfinished book about the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union and his editors' moving overview of his life and work ensure that, though Bérubé has left us, his soul keeps marching on."--Jonathan Ned Katz, historian, co-director of

"Allan Bérubé was a meticulous archival researcher, a gifted oral historian, and a concise and graceful writer. In addition, he thought creatively about the process by which scholarship can contribute to making a more just world. This collection beautifully demonstrates these strengths; in truth, I often couldn't put the essays down."--Elizabeth L. Kennedy, University of Arizona

"This collection of Allan Bérubé's finest essays offers a history of gay and lesbian movements, the challenges, frustrations, triumphs, and despair that characterized these movements, and a remarkably honest and vitally important critical assessment of the varied approaches that constituted this activism. Thanks to the work of D'Emilio and Freedman, two preeminent scholars of sexuality, Bérubé's extraordinary words and life are now accessible to all."--Leisa D. Meyer, The College of William and Mary