Jack Parlett at Harvard Book Store


Fire Island:
A Century in the Life
of an American Paradise

in conversation with MICHAEL BRONSKI


June 15, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes writer, poet, and scholar JACK PARLETT for a discussion of his new book Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise. He will be joined in conversation by MICHAEL BRONSKI—Professor of the Practice in Activism and Media in the Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. 

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to re-introduce in-person programming this season. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Fire Island

Fire Island, a thin strip of beach off the Long Island coast, has long been a vital space in the queer history of America. Both utopian and exclusionary, healing and destructive, the island is a locus of contradictions, all of which coalesce against a stunning ocean backdrop.

Now, poet and scholar Jack Parlett tells the story of this iconic destination—its history, its meaning and its cultural significance—told through the lens of the artists and creators who sought refuge on its shores. Together, figures as divergent as Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, Carson McCullers, Frank O'Hara, Patricia Highsmith and Jeremy O. Harris tell the story of a queer space in constant evolution.

Transporting, impeccably researched and gorgeously written, Fire Island is the definitive book on an iconic American destination and an essential contribution to queer history.

Praise for Fire Island

“A beautiful, beguiling journey to the ultimate queer utopia, a site of riotous hedonism, wild creativity and immense loss. Fire Island is a fascinating, throbbing history that asks the most urgent of contemporary questions: what does paradise look like, and who does it exclude?” —Olivia Laing

"Jack Parlett’s Fire Island is that rare book: a compelling social history of a time and place that, through carefully assembled detail and astute analysis brilliantly illuminates American culture as well as its topic. Its expansive cast of characters—Frank O’Hara, W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers Tennessee Williams, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patricia Highsmith—demonstrate that Fire Island was a crucible of brilliance and creativity as well sexual and personal freedom. Interlacing insightful observations with flashes of personal memoir Parlett beautifully conjures Fire Island as myth, metaphor, and microcosm of queer culture that profoundly changed American culture." —Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States

"The zingy tale of one magnetic place — as well as a sprawling rumination on the intertwined urges to get away and get together. Clued-up but insatiably thirsty, poignant, packed with literary intrigue, Fire Island is a beaming beach read." —Jeremy Atherton Lin, author of Gay Bar

Jack Parlett
Jack Parlett

Jack Parlett

Jack Parlett is a writer, poet and scholar. He currently holds a Junior Research Fellowship at University College, Oxford, where he also teaches. He completed a PhD in English at Cambridge University, which he adapted as a monograph entitled The Poetics of Cruising: Queer Visual Culture from Whitman to Grindr, published by the University of Minnesota Press. His new book, Fire Island: Love, Loss and Liberation in an American Paradise, is published by Hanover Square Press. He lives in Oxford.

Photo Credit: Alex Krook

Michael Bronski
Michael Bronski

Michael Bronski

Michael Bronski is an independent scholar, journalist, and writer who has been involved in social justice movements since the 1960s. He is the author of numerous award winning books including The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash and the Struggle for Gay Freedom (1998) and Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics (2015). His most recent is A Queer History of the United States for Young People (2019). He is Professor of the Practice in Activism and Media in the Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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