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Tricentennial Reading List (LGTBQ Literature) with Frank Perez - Part 1


In this edition of the Tricentennial Reading List, Susan Larson continues her look at 300 great New Orleans books with Frank Perez, author of "In Exile: The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and Its Oldest Gay Bars", to talk about LGBTQ histories and anthologies.


  • Love, Bourbon Street: Reflections of New Orleans, edited by Greg Herren and Paul Willis
  • My Gay New Orleans: 28 Personal Reminiscences on LGBT+Life in New Orleans, edited by Frank Perez and Jeffrey Palmquist

Historical events

  • Tinderbox: the Untold Story of the Upstairs Lounge fire and the Rise of Gay Liberationby Robert Fieseler
  • The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar, June 24, 1973by Clayton Delery
  • Out for Queer Blood: The Murder of Fernando Rios and the Failure of New Orleans Justiceby Clayton Delery

 Part of the Culture

  • Unveiling the Muse: The History of Gay Carnival in New Orleans by Howard Philips Smith
  •  Southern Decadence in New Orleansby Howard Philips Smith and Frank Perez
  •  In Exile: The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and Its Oldest Barby Frank Perez and Jeffrey Palmquist



Susan Larson: Let's talk first about your book, In Exile, The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and Its Oldest Bar, which you wrote with Jeffrey Palmquist. 

Frank Perez: That's right. We wrote that. It's been six, or seven years now. Around that time, around 2010, I became very interested in learning more about our local LGBTQ history and was very frustrated to discover there wasn't a whole lot out there. Somebody once said, "Whoever gets the vision gets the task." We started out just researching the bar, Cafe Lafitte in Exile, which was the oldest gay bar in the city. The more we got into that we realized we're going to have to situate the narrative of how the bar evolved into a larger context. In Exile, the book, really just scratches the surface and establishes the setting for the LGBTQ history of New Orleans. It's not an exhaustive or definitive book by any means but it is the first one that was ever written. We're proud of that. 

Susan: And then the division and the task grew to include the archives? 

Frank: Yes. The book, In Exile, opened up a lot of doors for me. It opened up a door with Ambush Magazine, which invited me to start writing a history column on local LGBTQ history for them in 2012, which I'm still writing. Those essays will be compiled into a book at some point. It eventually led to the creation of the LGBT plus archives project of Louisiana, which is a non-profit organization that works to preserve our local history. 

Susan: Excellent. Now, two of the books that I think people read are anthologies. One of them is Love Bourbon Street, reflections of New Orleans, edited by Greg Herren and Paul Willis and you also edited with Jeffrey My Gay, New Orleans 28 personal reminiscences on LGBT + Life in New Orleans

Frank: That was a fun book to edit. I don't think anyone who's ever edited a book will tell you it's a pleasure to do but we were very fortunate in that we got a lot of great submissions. Our vision with that book was to capture a cross-section of the LGBTQ community here in New Orleans. I think we were successful with them. 

Susan: Now, I have to say, the LGBTQ community brings a lot of joy and flamboyance and art to New Orleans culture. Two new books celebrate that, one is Unveiling the Muse, the History of Gay Carnival in New Orleans by Howard Philip Smith, which is the big gay coffee table book, don't you think? It's fabulous. [chuckles] 

Frank: It is an amazing book. It weighs about 50 pounds but just the pictures alone, there were 600 illustrations, make it worth the price of the book. Howard spent over 20 years researching that book. It is without question the definitive book on gay carnival in New Orleans. It's a wonderful book, lot of illustrations, lot of pictures from Carnival balls, lot of costume sketches, early invitations, posters, and whatnot. It is treasure trove . 

Susan: Great photographs. Everybody needs that book. It's just a beauty. 

The Reading Life in 2010, Susan Larson was the book editor for The New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988-2009. She has served on the boards of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library. She is the founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Women's National Book Association, which presents the annual Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community. She is also the author of The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans. If you run into her in a local bookstore or library, she'll be happy to suggest something you should read. She thinks New Orleans is the best literary town in the world, and she reads about a book a day.

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