An essential work of American civil rights history, Robert W. Fieseler's Tinderbox mesmerizingly reconstructs the 1973 fire that devastated New Orleans’ subterranean gay community. Buried for decades, the Up Stairs Lounge tragedy has only recently emerged as a catalyzing event of the gay liberation movement.
In revelatory detail, 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.
“This was a book which reaffirmed and renewed in my own heart the quest, the yearning for dignity and justice in my homeland.” -- Walter Holland, LAMBDA Literary
“A momentous work of sociological and civil rights history.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“As in a Shakespearean tragedy, the ghosts of the closeted and disrespected dead resurrect to tell their stories in Robert Fieseler's Tinderbox.” -- Ronald K.L. Collins, Harold S. Shefelman Scholar, University of Washington Law School
“Fieseler unflinchingly recounts the fire and sets it firmly in the context of the times.” -- Chicago Tribune
“Vivid, fast-paced, and essential.” -- Library Journal (starred)
Books & Anthologies
Liveright Publishing, June 2018
My Gay New Orleans Anthology, July 1, 2016
Columbia Journal, March 14, 2017
Hippocampus, April 1, 2016
Concis, November 13, 2015
(nominated Best of the Net 2015)
RKVRY Quarterly, October 2015
(Finalist, nonfiction 41st New Millennium Literary Awards)
Buzzfeed, May 30 2018
The Big Roundtable, forthcoming
Quartz, November 12, 2015
Narratively, March 25, 2015
Narratively, October 7, 2014
The Big Roundtable, June 9, 2014
(The Atlantic's "Roughly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism" 2014)
ABOUT THE author
ROBERT W. FIESELER
Robert W. Fieseler is a journalist and nonfiction author who currently resides in Boston. He graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship and the Lynton Fellowship in Book Writing.
His essays and feature stories have appeared widely and been recognized in roundups of best nonfiction by The Atlantic, etc. He writes about marginalized groups and overlooked people who make the world better for themselves. As such, his heroes tend to be exiles and outcasts seeking their own strange forms of freedom.
Fieseler's favorite childhood movie was The Wizard of Oz because he related to the witch. He melted everywhere as a kid, including one time in the middle of Cook Country traffic court. Now, he owns an opinionated Cairn Terrier – same breed as Toto – who accompanies him to the library. Perhaps unsurprisingly to his mother, Fieseler grew to be a proud gay American.
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