On the Closing of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop

Posted on February 25, 2009
Filed Under Queer Lit News | 274 Comments

oscarBy now, you’ve probably heard the sad, sad news that our beloved Oscar Wilde Bookshop will soon be closing.  Recent visitors to the Oscar Wilde Bookshop probably didn’t realize they had arrived at a historic location.  Older queers might have recognized this.  But the rest of us would have to rely on David Carter’s Stonewall to fill in the blanks.  Reading Mr. Carter’s 271 page Stonewall history, it occurred to me that Craig Rodwell’s Oscar Wilde Bookshop was even more important in queer history than was Harvey Milk’s camera store.

It’s a shame that Craig Rodwell’s name is not universally known in the queer community.  It was Mr. Rodwell’s rhetoric against the Stonewall Bar that began to raise queer people’s concsiousness.  And his message was reinforced by the fact that his bookstore was also an ad hoc queer drop-in center.

Is it an exaggeration to say that without the Oscar Wilde Bookshop there would have been no Stonewall riots and thus no modern gay rights movement?  Yes.  The truth is, if there weren’t a Craig Rodwell, someone else would have come along.  And if there weren’t the Stonewall riots, something else would have happened.  And we would have kept on fighting.  But Craig Rodwell was there and he created the Oscar Wilde Bookshop and then two blocks from there the Stonewall rioted.  And that’s what started the modern gay rights movement.

So put a plaque on this building.  Learn the history.  And never forget.

David Carter’s Stonewall:  The Riots that Sparked a Gay Revolution is published by    St. Martin’s Press.

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