life during wartime | OUTVisions for LGBT Professionals

life during wartime

my queer war

life during wartime
alex johnston

My Queer War, by James Lord; Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, available in paperback (2011)

It was hard for me to resist a coming of age memoir for a young, gay man serving in the American military during the Second World War. Acclaimed biographer James Lord was never a combat soldier, and his story is largely one of waiting for the army to find a job for him, while wandering through post-occupation Paris. These idylls are punctuated by assignments in Displaced Persons depots, which he paints as quite possibly the most horrific environments in Europe outside of Nazi concentration camps. Lord’s ‘queer’ has a double meaning: not only is he navigating the gay soldier’s underworld in the Second World War, but he is also describing a deeply surreal experience of wartime — Pynchon and Heller would be at home here.

Even after being initiated into the lively secret world of gay servicemen, his adolescent guilt and fear of being outed continues to haunt him. Watching his fellow ‘good guys’ commit indignities on vulnerable people in the chaos of the war and its aftermath, just as Nazi death camps are being exposed and the dawn of the nuclear age, Lord begins to meditate on a kind of universal guilt associated with silence — the silence of the ashamed closeted gay man.

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