Two days ago, Random House published Tom Brokaw's Boom!: Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today, which purports to explain that decade's "profound social, political, and individual changes" and "the impact of the 1960s on our lives today" in exhaustive detail throughout nearly 700 pages. Readers who eagerly anticipate how Brokaw will weave the story of the birth and explosive growth of the gay rights movement into the larger narrative fabric of the times, as well as wondering how he will convey the Boomer generation's catastrophic losses from aids, will be disappointed. He doesn't. His book about the social upheaval of the Sixties, and the Sixties as midwife to emerging and enduring political movements never mentions the Mattachine pickets of the White House (1965) or Stonewall (1969) or annual gay pride parades that began on the first anniversary of Stonewall in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and now span the globe, or any gay political group. No. Instead, 1969 is noted for Woodstock, and 1970 is highlighted as having the first Earth Day. In the context of shifting mores on sex and the changing dynamics of what makes a family, gay life is ignored. Gay death is ignored too, because the index has no entry for aids. The emergence of gay visibility in entertainment, education, religion, and business is completely erased. The book virtually never even acknowledges gay people. No Harvey Milk, no Frank Kameny, no Barbara Gittings, no Larry Kramer. David Geffen is mentioned, once, simply as a friend of Berry Gordy's. Oh, but there is a recap of Dick Cheney telling Wolf Blizter he was "out of line" to mention Mary.
Where there ought to be an index entry for gay or gay rights it says see homosexuality--a Victorian, not a Sixties, term--whose thirteen subcategories are shown above. Study the names: Buchanan, Cheney, Fallows, Greenhouse, Huerta, and Webb. They're all straight. (Imagine, for a moment, a sweeping social and political history book in which all the names beneath the entry for black were Asian people, or if the entry for Jewish listed only half a dozen Catholics.) Even these arbitrary six heterosexuals offer no true analysis of gay issues; usually their references only include gay rights in a list of political issues or cases before the court. The other subcategories refer to passages that are equally meaningless. "And the women's movement" might be a springboard for a fascinating, complex comparison of the two movements but in fact page 195 only gives the subject half a sentence, saying, in addition to dealing with tensions over the race, the women's movement was "also divided along ethnic lines and by sexual orientation." Every reference is that shallow. Even for Brokaw's brand of History Lite, the omission is appalling. Gay Boomers, what happened to you? And what are you going to do about it?