“Jim Foshee was an intrepid community-based researcher of LGBT history who, long before historic newspapers and books were digitized, read through them page by dusty page, and sent me amazing discoveries, enriching my own work to recover an unknown past. I’m delighted that Jim’s own fascinating, poignant history is now honored in this wonderful biography.”
~ Jonathan Ned Katz, author, Gay American History, Gay/Lesbian Almanac, and Love Stories
“This compelling story recounts the life of a gay man born in the late 1930s. He is defiant and resilient, flawed and complicated. This touching narrative left me feeling that I belong to a lineage of older, passed, LGBT individuals who lived in the complex, troubled, gay humanity of the 1940s, 1950s and beyond—embedded with burden yet conquered through perseverance.”
~ Dr. Ramon Silvestre, San Francisco GLBT Historical Society
“Steele draws you in with the first chapter, California Here I Come, taken out of an otherwise chronological context, describing Foshee’s first of many escapes from the confines of religious and heteronormative suffocation in a small Idaho town. “The parishioners at my parents’ churches always ranted and raved and claimed that California was the place where all the queers and fruits were located,” Foshee is quoted, “so I figured that’s the place for me!” In Hollywood at 15 Foshee finds himself, if not his dream, only to be arrested and expected to finger an adult who befriended him. The fact that he refused is the first indication of a precocious proclivity of purpose, nearly unwitting. This story of a kid enmeshed in The System through no fault of his own—other than his gumption—shines as an example of how utterly unredeemable our institution of policing was, is, and will be, if it’s not dismantled.
As I said, Chapter 1 is only one of several iterations. Many of us have pushed that runaway envelope to a greater or lesser degree; it’s a rite of passage. But for Foshee the euphoria obtained by on-the-edge existence was a smack that smote him: flagellation, ostracization, incarceration, starvation, prostitution. And finally a kind of stultification when he settled down in Denver. Domesticity led to distraction, and Foshee began volunteering with the Gay Coalition in Denver and eventually with chronicler Jim Kepner in Los Angeles and historian Jonathan Ned Katz in New York. A speed reader, Foshee combed newspaper microform to reveal forgotten same-sexers in the Rockies—including Native Americans. One could say he’s the accidental archivist, but it was curiosity that compelled him to leave comfort and conformity in the first place.
Banned from California has the quality of an oral history because of author Steele’s access to the many interviews of Foshee that he conducted—and fact-checked. And so the book has a remarkable amount of detail; too much, some might think. There’s also a fair amount of repetition. But those are minor faults in a work that is quite readable on several levels. Students of history, culture, penology, sexuality (and fluidity), consanguinity, criminology, and the politics and compassion of resistance will want to pick this up.”
~ David Hughes, TangentGroup.org