A Novel Collaboration

New Harvest Foundation awards grant to the University of Wisconsin Press to distribute Gay American Autobiography: Writings from Whitman to Sedaris

With library usage up and library budgets down in difficult economic times, libraries are finding new ways to provide their readers with continuing supplies of new and important reading material.

Hoping to make a broad range of reading available for their patrons, 81 public and college libraries in a seven-county area of south central Wisconsin will receive copies of the book Gay American Autobiography: Writings from Whitman to Sedaris as gifts from The University of Wisconsin Press.

The donation is made possible by a grant from the New Harvest Foundation. The grant application submitted by UW Press said in part, “The presence of the books in the public libraries and colleges will provide opportunities for public education and reading pleasure of both gay and straight citizens, including family members of LGBT individuals.”

“Public libraries make books freely available to everyone,” said UW Press Director Sheila Leary. “They provide a safe place to read and seek information without judgment or censure.”

Gay American Autobiography documents a range of life experiences that encompass tattoo artists and academics, composers and drag queens, hustlers and office clerks. Each selection provides important insight on the wide spectrum of ways gay men have defined and lived their lives, highlighting how self-awareness changes an author’s experience.

A sampling of writers includes: Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Henry James, David Sedaris, Edmund White, Martin Duberman, John Rechy, Justin Chin, and Ned Rorem.

These writings are selected and introduced by David Bergman, Professor of English at Towson State University. Bergman is the author and editor of over a dozen books on gay literature.

UW Press Senior Acquisitions Editor Raphael Kadushin said, “The Living Out series, celebrating its twelfth anniversary next year, is the only book series in the world devoted to gay and lesbian autobiography. Gay American Autobiography is one of the fitting high points of the series, presenting the rich tradition of gay life writing and underscoring the continued importance of telling our own stories.”

Striving to fulfill this mission, the UW Press and the New Harvest Foundation hope that the presence of Gay American Autobiography in these libraries will provide opportunities for public education and reading pleasure of both gay and straight citizens.

New Harvest Foundation Co-chair Woody Carey said, “New Harvest is very happy to support the distribution of this book, hoping that it will broaden the public’s awareness of how our lives have been enriched by LGBT authors, often without awareness of their orientation. In one way it does not matter, but at a deeper level it very much matters because it honors these persons for who they really are.”

UW Press has published almost 100 books of gay and lesbian memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, travel writing, and social/political issues. These books have received many, many national awards, not only from LGBT organizations, but from academic and library organizations as well. A recent memoir, Butterfly Boy, won an American Book Award. UW Press has received both the national Publisher Service Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation and the local Organization of the Year award from OutReach. UW Press’s Kadushin, who acquires and develops the list of LGBT titles, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UW-Madison GLBT Alumni Council for his work.