by Lynn Childs -
Special to the SGN
ROBERT C. STEELE
BANNED FROM CALIFORNIA: JIM FOSHEE: PERSECUTION, REDEMPTION,
LIBERATION&AND THE GAY CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
$25.95 hardcover/$15.95 paperback (also on Kindle)
Banned from California is the enlightening biographical tale of Jim Foshee, a 15-year-old runaway whose stories of "persecution, redemption, and the gay civil rights movement" use the culture and history of homosexuality in America as a backdrop for his many travels. Written by Robert C. Steele, a long-term friend of Foshee's, many of the stories are taken from narratives by Foshee about his life.
The opening chapter captures the reader while explaining why this young man's journey is important not only then but now. In 1954, Foshee hitchhiked 800 miles from his abusive family in Idaho to the land his church folk called a place populated by "queers and fruits": Los Angeles. He had not been in California for very long before he was apprehended by the police for a trumped-up theft charge and essentially deported back to Idaho.
Thus began a series of travels, since Foshee refused to stay home. Despite various institutionalizations - a reform school, an orphanage, and a mental health facility - he appeared able to counteract all of those attempts to stifle his freedom.
Later, he was convicted of theft, and the Texas prison system became his home for six years. Difficult stories capture the essence of an effeminate male living in the harsh reality of one of the most notoriously gay-unfriendly places in the US.
There are also many anecdotes of people Foshee met and places he traveled to - drag queens, hustlers, good cops, and bad cops pass through his life. The book also chronicles his contributions to the gay community. Through his involvement in radio and the press, he was a researcher of gay history and an activist for freedom of speech and freedom of the press for the LGBTQ family.
In following this one man's path through life, readers are witness to 70 years of American culture: the Beatniks, hippie culture, the beginnings of gay Pride, the liberal '70s, and the AIDS outbreak and lack of federal response.
The amount of research that was required by this book is quite evident. The bibliography, footnotes, and index are expansive, and the 71 photos further illuminate this man and his eventful life.
More information is available at BannedCA.com.