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Nonfiction: History
Unabridged   11.5 hour(s)
Publication date: 06/19/2018

2019 Edgar Award Winner
Library Journal Best Book 2018
Shelf Awareness Best Books of the Year


The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781684413089
Digital Download ISBN:9781684413096


An essential work of American civil rights history, Tinderbox mesmerizingly reconstructs the 1973 fire that devastated New Orleans' subterranean gay community.

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Product Description

Buried for decades, the Up Stairs Lounge tragedy has only recently emerged as a catalyzing event of the gay liberation movement. In revelatory detail, Robert W. Fieseler chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman on June 24, 1973, at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until 2016. Relying on unprecedented access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates an indelible portrait of a closeted, blue-collar gay world that flourished before an arsonist ignited an inferno that destroyed an entire community. The aftermath was no less traumatic—families ashamed to claim loved ones, the Catholic Church refusing proper burial rights, the city impervious to the survivors' needs—revealing a world of toxic prejudice that thrived well past Stonewall. Yet the impassioned activism that followed proved essential to the emergence of a fledgling gay movement. Tinderbox restores honor to a forgotten generation of civil-rights martyrs.


“Heitsch tenderly and tirelessly brings the horrendous fire and the sometimes callous attitudes toward gays to life, imbuing his narration with great sensitivity.” —AudioFile Audio

“Fieseler's work is an essential piece of historical restitution that takes us from 1973 to 2003, when homosexuality was finally decriminalized in Louisiana. Powerfully written and consistently engaging, the book will hopefully shed more light on the gay community's incredible and tragic journey to equality. A momentous work of sociological and civil rights history.” -Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“A vivid, fast-paced, and essential LGBTQ and social history.” -Library Journal Starred Review

Author Bio

Robert W. Fieseler is a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship and the Lynton Fellowship in Book Writing. A writer for The Big Roundtable, Narratively, and elsewhere, he lives in Boston.