Let the Faggots Burn
Title: Let the Faggots Burn: The Upstairs Fire
Author: Johnny Townsend
Length: 333 pages
Available: Amazon.Com and Amazon.Ca
In June of 1973, an arsonist set fire to the Upstairs gay bar in New Orleans. The fire claimed over 30 lives. The early 1970s was a period of high levels of homophobia. Possibly because of wide-spread societal homophobia, the Upstairs fire does not get the prominent place in gay history and in broader American history that it deserves. Johnny Townsend's book, Let the Faggots Burn, helps fill a void of readily accessible information about this very tragic event.
When I purchased the book from an online bookstore, I was concerned that the book would contain so many gruesome details about the Upstairs fire that I would have difficulty reading the book. Fortunately, Let the Faggots Burn has no photographs of the bodies and does not contain a lot of details about state of the victims' bodies.
Possibly what will make this book appeal to the average reader is something that will frustrate history buffs. The book tells the stories of the major personalities who died in the Upstairs fire and the major personalities of those who survived the fire, without the stories being interrupted by footnotes and references. Because there are no footnotes and references, the book reads like a series of short stories. Those who are serious history buffs might be turned off by the lack of footnotes and may find the book lacking historical rigour. While there are no footnotes, there is a nine page bibliography at the end of the book.
Let the Faggots Burn gives the victims of the Upstairs fire what many people attempted to deny them in 1973 - a fitting public memorial. The stories of the people who died in the fire need to be told to honor them and their loved ones and to help society understand that crimes against all people, including members of sexual minority groups, need to be taken seriously. The stories in Let the Faggots Burn show that members of the gay community are generally fairly ordinary people. Victims of violence are very much like other people and do not deserve to die just because they are different.