Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Jul 19, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 512 pages
9 Reviews

Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.

After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicago's notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros.

Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow—but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation.
Secret Historian is a 2010 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gayla.bassham - LibraryThing

Compelling and depressing. Unsettling. An interesting portrait of an all-but-forgotten literary figure. Interestingly, I found the tattooing a little uncomfortable to read about; I had no idea I was so squeamish, but I was squirming during a couple of chapters. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ritaer - LibraryThing

The amazing career of a writer who never reached his full potential because same sex relationships were not the stuff of mainstream novels for a writer born in 1909. Steward spend years as a professor ... Read full review

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About the author (2011)

Justin Spring is a writer specializing in twentieth-century American art and culture, and the author of many monographs, catalogs, museum publications, and books, including Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art and Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude.

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