Fire Island is a thin barrier island off the southern shore of Long Island, New York, known for its private beaches, posh family-oriented communities, and, increasingly since the second half of the 20th century, its queer party scene. In this excellent blend of history, cultural commentary, and memoir, Jack Parlett traces the island’s roots and significance through its early queer residents and their artistic output.
I went into this book with optimistic trepidation; Fire Island is as infamous as it is legendary, easy to romanticize without discussing its thornier aspects. I needn’t have worried—Parlett manages to both celebrate the Island’s legacy and interrogate its complex fabric. He is unafraid to address issues of classism and racism within the community through writing that is informative, vulnerable, and extremely engaging. Parlett shares his own connections to the Island without overpowering the broader narrative. The result? A rich reading experience that kept me turning page after page.
A final bonus: the “A Fire Island Reading List” Appendix, full of wonderful suggestions of plays, books, and films, will make readers go down the ultimate Fire Island rabbit hole. I highly recommend this for all fans of queer history and literature.