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Author to discuss the many sides of Harvey Milk at Buena Vista Branch Library

Author to discuss the many sides of Harvey Milk at Buena Vista Branch Library
Author Lillian Faderman will be speaking about her latest book, "Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death," at the Buena Vista Branch Library on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Harvey Milk-Scott Smith Collection, San Francisco Public Library)

It is difficult for author Lillian Faderman to think of slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk as an old man.

However, she believes that if he were still around today, Milk would be proud of efforts to better the world. Milk became California's first openly gay man elected to public office when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was assassinated about a year later by a former county supervisor.

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In her latest book, "Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death," Faderman goes into how Milk became a dedicated activist known widely as "The Mayor of Castro Street."

Faderman will visit the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss the newest addition to Jewish Lives series published by Yale University Press.

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"There were so many iterations of Harvey Milk," Faderman said. "He was a school teacher, a jock, a deep-sea diver in the Navy, a Wall Street securities analyst, a [Barry] Goldwater supporter, a small business owner and politician."

Faderman said that Milk carried out a Jewish concept called "tikkun olam" — the moral responsibility to heal the world — in whatever he was doing during various times in his life.

"As a politician, he really thought that gay people shouldn't just fight for their own causes," she said. "They had to make coalitions with racial and ethnic minorities, and he fought for their causes. He was very much a defender of the rights of senior citizens. He fought for rent control."

Faderman added that Milk, who was also an environmentalist, would have had a heart attack if he knew that there was a terminal named after him at San Francisco International Airport.

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"In fact, one of his first proposals on the [San Francisco] Board of Supervisors was to limit the expansion of the San Francisco Airport," she said. "He'd be proud of the honor, I think, but he'd be a little disgusted that the airport has just gotten bigger and bigger because he opposed noise pollution and wanted to keep San Francisco small."

The new book was released May 22, which would have been Milk's 88th birthday.

During her upcoming talk, Faderman said she hopes those in attendance learn the lesser-known sides of Milk.

"I want to introduce them to things that they may not know about him — how he not just worked for gay causes but for other oppressed and discriminated-against groups," she said.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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