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The Gentrification of the Mind

Witness to a Lost Imagination

Sarah Schulman (Author)


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In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), 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 vivid memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider. Interweaving personal reminiscence with cogent analysis, Schulman details her experience as a witness to the loss of a generation’s imagination and the consequences of that loss.
Introduction: Making Record from Memory

Part I. Understanding the Past
1. The Dynamics of Death and Replacement
2. The Gentrification of AIDS
3. Realizing That They’re Gone

Part II. The Consequences Of Loss
4. The Gentrification of Creation
5. The Gentrification of Gay Politics
6. The Gentrification of Our Literature

Conclusion: Degentrification—The Pleasure of Being
Sarah Schulman, Distinguished Professor of English at CUNY, Staten Island, is the author of nine novels, five books of nonfiction, plays, and films.
“This bracing, powerful, and well-reasoned work reaffirms the author’s stature as a distinctive American woman of letters. Ideal for an academic setting, it will also precipitate discussion among all those interested in learning more about this painful chapter in U.S. history. Highly recommended.”—Richard Drezen Library Journal
“The book that’s inspired me more than any other this year is Sarah Schulman’s Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, a razor-sharp memoir of New York in the heyday of the AIDS crisis.”—Jason King Slate
“Schulman is brilliant at conveying how devastating and surreal it was to live during the AIDS crisis. . . . [the book is] teeming with ideas, necessary commentary, refreshing connections and examination of the status quo.”—Lambda Literary
“A brilliant critique of contemporary culture. . . . This is the most important book of the year.”—Jeff Miller Cult MTL
“Schulman’s personal recollections... are sharp and vivid.”—Gay & Lesbian Review/Worldwide
“This is a very good, very sad book about the aftershock of the AIDS crisis in New York. Schulman is a truly gifted thinker . . . wherever your politics lie, Schulman’s book is a reminder that you need to fight for them everyday if you want to make a difference.”—Alex Frank Fader Magazine
“Schulman uses gentrification, the phenomenon of wealth moving into ‘sketchy’ urban neighborhoods where artists live and making them desirable and unaffordable, as a metaphor for what's happened in literary and arts-world culture over the years. The author, a true woman of letters, makes a persuasive case.”—Roberto Friedman Bay Area Reporter
“This is why the book is so successful and demands our attention: through a focus on the pulse of the queer community (of the 80s), it touches upon the individual condition (of today).”—Marcie Bianco Velvetpark
“To her [Schulman’s] mind, the undigested, unacknowledged trauma of Aids has brought about a kind of cultural gentrification, a return to conservatism and conformity evident in everything from the decline of small presses to the shift of focus in the gay rights movement towards marriage equality. The sorry thing about this is that the true message of the Aids years should have been that a small group of people at the very margins of society succeeded in forcing their nation to change its treatment of them. The memory of this lost moment of accountability drives Schulman’s final, stirring call for degentrification, her dream of a time in which people realise not only that it’s healthier to live in complex, dynamic, mixed communities than uniform ones but also that happiness that depends on privilege and oppression cannot by any civilised terms be described as happiness at all.”—Olivia Laing New Statesman
"The most rousing thing I've read this year."—Jessa Crispin Bookslut
"It's that time of year, when everyone is compiling their Best Of 2013 lists. . . . Do we even need to say again, that Sarah Schulman wins the year with Gentrification of the Mind?"—Jessa Crispin Bookslut
“No book has rocked my world in recent times more than Sarah Schulman’s ‘The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination’ . . . [it ranks] among the best alternative histories published in the last 50 years.”—Don Shewey
“A galvanizing account of the transformation, both external and mental, in New York City life.”—Emily Douglas Los Angeles Review Of Books
“It’s a beautifully written screed (not a bad word in my books). . . . 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. Her rage at the developers who swooped in like vultures to snap up AIDS victims’ apartments is righteous, and her pain at how little a younger generation knows about AIDS is palpable. In one of her most insightful moments, she compares the assimilationist tendencies among gays whose community was ravaged by AIDS with the survival strategies of post-Holocaust Jews: do nothing to get noticed; do everything you can to gain acceptance; remain silent. She can be brilliant.”—Susan G. Cole Now
“The essence of what Schulman calls gentrification is to pretend that privilege and difference do not exist and that any attempt to remember that they do is mere ‘political correctness’ rather than facing up to the reality to who does what to whom. To forget these things, is to deceive ourselves—and Schulman’s harsh, bitter prose is a useful way of waking ourselves up.”—Roz Kaveney Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"Sarah Schulman, as always, hits the nail on the head. I can't imagine a more insightful probe into gentrification and its inhumane consequences. Everyone needs to read this book."—Martin Duberman, author of Stonewall

“Sarah Schulman's The Gentrification of the Mind is a bulwark against the collective loss of memory. AIDS, gentrification, the struggle for gay rights, the class war that has driven entire communities of artists, immigrants, and outsiders from the neighborhoods they created—all these things have been erased by the official culture. Schulman's book will make you rage and weep, and then—just maybe—organize.”—Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

"Hard-headed, sensitive, and informed, this book will make the confused world of urban redevelopment and gentrification make notably more sense. Schulman has a mind as clear as a bell in evening. You'll be glad you read it. I was."—Samuel R. Delany, author of Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders

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