Illegitimate and orphaned at birth in 1922, James Fugaté was adopted by a couple in Kansas and joined the Navy during WWII when he was twenty. First, he sailed from San Francisco for Guadalcanal then landed in Chicago for officers training... all of which he used in his groundbreaking gay novel Quatrefoil published under the name James Barr in 1950 when he was twenty-eight. Set in Seattle, San Francisco, and Oklahoma, it's a love story between two cultured young manly men, self-accepting Tim and still-struggling twenty-three year-old Phillip, both of whom abhor "the average homosexual's" degeneracy and all effeminate men. The book was a best-seller but caused two problems: When Fugaté rejoined the Navy and needed Top Secret clearance he was discovered to be Barr, prompting an eight-month investigation that ended with a general discharge under honorable conditions. The other problem, cited in Drewey Gunn's brand new book 1960s Gay Pulp Fiction, was a five-year obscenity case against his publisher who ultimately settled for a fine and a promise to keep Quatrefoil and the two other offending titles out of print. Fugaté's discharge politicized him and he began writing articles for ONE and The Mattachine Review, including a landmark essay about his Navy case penned under his real name. Sixteen years after his debut, he finally published his second novel The Occasional Man in 1966. Suddenly single after a fifteen-year relationship, the protagonist meets a wide swath of NYC queer characters, from a humpy young drifter to a wise black bar-owner to a rich European count with potent sexual powers. After returning to Kansas to be with his mother in her final years, Fugaté went back to New York, then moved to Claremont, Oklahoma for more than a decade. He died there at seventy-three.
Read Tripp Evans' breakthrough biography, Grant Wood: A Life [Kindle] exploring how the artist's coded work was influenced by being closeted in Iowa in an unfriendly era. Evans reprints in color many of Wood's paintings that are more interesting and more beautiful than his more famous American Gothic. The book's revelations extend beyond Wood's life and times; it may change the way you look at paintings, period. In awarding Evans the 2010 Marfield Prize for Arts Writing, the judges said
"Grant Wood: A Life examines the ways in which collective national identity emerges from the unstable ground of myth. In this case, that of a presumably all-American, homespun artist whose life and art, most famously American Gothic, have become stubborn icons for traditional small-town American values. Evans explores the contradiction between Wood’s folksy public image as “America’s Painter” and the realities of his European training, sophisticated use of art-historical sources, complex family relationships and his closeted homosexuality."