Robert Fieseler w/ Sheri L. Wright

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Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 7:00pm

Join us for a free virtual event with Robert Fieseler and Sheri L. Wright. Register for the event ahead of time here:


An essential work of American civil rights history, 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, 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.


Robert W. Fieseler is the 2019 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association "Journalist of the Year" and the acclaimed debut author of Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, winner of the 2019 Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime as well as the 2020 Louisiana Literary Award. Queer literary icon Andrew Holleran reviewed the book as "far more than just a history of gay rights," and Michael Cunningham praised it as "essential reading at any time." Fieseler graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia Journalism School and is a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship. He lives with his husband and dog (a senior Cairn Terrier named Chompers) in New Orleans.

Kentucky Poet Laureate and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Sheri L. Wright, is the author of seven books of poetry. Her award-winning visual work has been shown throughout the Ohio River Valley. Wright is the producer/director of the documentary Tracking Fire, which chronicles the Up Stairs Lounge fire/Pulse Nightclub shootings - the deadliest mass killings in LGBTQ history in the US.

Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631491641
Availability: Not currently on our shelves, but available in 1-3 days.
Published: Liveright - June 5th, 2018

Winner • Edgar Award (Best Fact Crime)
Winner • Lambda Literary's Judith A.

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