Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider.
Schulman makes sure readers know where failure has occurred: the marginalization of queer voices, gentrification as a physical urban phenomenon, and the gentrification of artists, collective memory, the AIDS crisis, queer politics, queer literature, and our own expectations. Schulman is certainly witness to a lost imagination, and her witness is one of the most important contributions to queer literature in recent years ... Schulman is brilliant at conveying how devastating and surreal it was to live during the AIDS crisis, and in examining its impact on the living, she draws connections between the gentrification of cities like New York and the coincidental timing of the AIDS crisis ... But Schulman doesn’t leave the reader outraged and helpless. She carries optimism and innovation throughout the collection, especially in her conclusion.
As a thinker, lesbian activist Sarah Schulman runs the gamut from exhilarating to irritating. But that's what makes her so interesting ... It's a beautifully written screed (not a bad word in my books), but it does have its limitations ... Most of her commentary applies only to the U.S. ... The ideologue in Schulman loves to equate queer authenticity with marginalization. Her easy dismissal of those promoting gay marriage, for example, ignores the basic cruelty of discrimination ... Schulman shines when she taps her deep knowledge of the AIDS movement - she was a key founder of ACT Up - and the New York art scene to honour those artists who are gone and forgotten ... She can be brilliant.
Sarah Schulman’s provocative new book, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, reckons with the intellectual and spiritual consequences of this displacement, with an eye to its impact on queer politics and queer communities in the wake of the AIDS crisis ... As Schulman provocatively argues, the seemingly astounding success of the gay rights movement over the past five years is itself a symptom of a gentrification of gay politics ... Schulman swings a lantern over deprivations we’ve forgotten or repressed ... But in leaving out any evidence of actual progress, she does some forgetting of her own. She asks, for instance, to see a New Yorker story with a lesbian theme written by a lesbian, but there’s been at least one of those ... lesbians and gay men simply are not always and everywhere out in the cold. That complicates Schulman’s limited view of what constitutes political progress ... Schulman resurrects a city that is equal parts myth and memory for younger queers, offering rich history lessons for which I am grateful. Yet she is surprisingly unforgiving of the new kinds of sacrifices the city requires of its residents now.